Nebraska can and should ban conversion therapy

Graphic by Maria Nevada

Will Patterson; Opinion Editor

Nebraska state senator Megan Hunt has proposed legislation that would ban conversion therapy in Nebraska. Conversion therapy is an umbrella term referring to services aimed at changing an LBGTQ+ person’s sexual orientation or gender expression to conform with heteronormative standards.

Hunt was inspired to tackle the issue after observing several unicameral sessions. She said that there was a lack of fellow senators wanting to take charge on the matter and that she felt it was time the issue be addressed.

“I’m a bisexual woman, and I’ve been aware of conversion therapy for a really long time,” Hunt said. “You don’t have to be part of the LGBTQ community to know people that are impacted by this.”

 Hunt’s bills would ban the advertising and sale of conversion therapy services. Some organizations have been advocating against the proposed legislation, claiming the law would limit religious freedom and expression.

“You can still think whatever you want,” Hunt said. “You just can’t pay a therapist to tell your kids this.”

The goal of actual therapy is to help a patient process difficult emotions and thoughts. Conversion therapy does the opposite. Instead of pursuing a healthy resolution, the method makes patients feel uncomfortable or shameful for identities they have already adopted.

It should go without saying: conversion therapy is wrong. It will never be acceptable to force someone—almost always a minor from an anti-LGBTQ+ family—to attend sessions where they are told by a “professional” that their sexual orientation or gender identity is invalid. The practice is quite clearly a form of abuse. It’s time that Nebraska recognizes that.

Jean Amoura, a physician, associate professor and director of the Transgender Clinic at the University of Nebraska Medical Center/Nebraska Medicine,advocated for the ban of conversion therapy in an editorial piece published in the Omaha World-Herald. She has worked closely and consistently with transgender patients over the past several years.

Amoura said that Hunt’s proposition is revealing what is wildly known in relevant fields, such as therapy and counseling, into the law. Conversion therapy is known to be ineffective and cause serious damage to mental health.

“For the therapist then to say, ‘you need to reject this part of yourself that you told me about,’ feeds back to that individual that their identity is not okay,” Amoura said. “You now see people in denial that are unable to speak to this supposed professional they just disclosed too.”

Fifteen states and Washington D.C. have banned conversion therapy. This is a chance for Nebraska, a historically conservative state, to abolish an obviously amoral practice. The conversion therapy ban is sweeping the country. Why should Nebraska trail behind while propping up bigoted beliefs?

In addition to ethical standards, there are economic benefits to passing legislation such as conversion therapy bans. Hunt said it’s confusing to hear to fellow senators talk about attracting a millennial workforce to the state and then pass laws the alienate demographics like the LBGTQ+ community. Building a more welcoming Nebraska is key in attracting young, talented minds.