Utah's Conversion Therapy Bill

legislation Feb 23, 2019

An open letter to Utah's State Legislature.

Dear representatives of the citizens of the beautiful state of Utah,

You currently have under consideration HB399, aimed at prohibiting "conversion therapy" for minors.

As a man who experiences same-sex attraction and has received therapy that would be considered "conversion therapy" under the language of the bill, I am very concerned about the effect this bill would have on youth if passed into law.

The most common stories of "conversion therapy" are of aversive and coercive treatments. Such treatments have been used in the past in an attempt to change sexual responses in those who experience same gender attraction. I would be surprised if any of these therapies were still in wide use today. Were these therapies the sole focus of the bill, I would not be concerned nor opposed to it. However, the language of the bill is quite broad, including any therapy meant to "change, eliminate, or reduce behaviors, expressions, attractions, or feelings related to a patient or client's sexual orientation or gender identity."

While the bill does have some exemptions for unlawful or unsafe behaviors or discussion of a client's religious views or practices, that is not sufficient to protect people in my situation.

The therapy I have received never had change of my "orientation" as its goal, but it did have change of my perception of my feelings and my sexual response and behaviors to them. I have seen great benefit from this therapy. I have seen reduction in my sexual response to other men. I have become more confident, more assertive, and happier. My sucidal impulses have disappeared. Some of the things that I discussed with my therapist, had I been a minor, would not be allowed under this law.

Never once was this therapy shaming, coercive, or suggestive that I had to change. It was my choice to have change as my goal.

I wish that I had received this therapy while I was a teenager. It would have saved me a lot of problems. I didn't even try to get help for my attractions until I was 36, but I am grateful that I did and that I did not listen to the loud voices proclaiming that some amount of change is not possible.

It is important to note that I have a very specific definition of change. I don't expect or want a change in my core feelings, which I believe are natural or normal and meant to form friendships with men. It is my sexual response to them that I have seen change. Please see other articles on my blog at bystudyandbyfaith.com for more details.

There are a lot of other men like me. We don't speak up often because we are consistently vilified by the media and bullied by some in the LGBT movement. All we want to do is live our lives in peace, building and teaching our families and communities.

Please consider amending this bill to focus on specific therapies that are harmful, or reject it altogether.

If you wish to discuss this with me further, I would be happy to do so. See my contact information below.

Stephen Done
Orem, UT
srdone@gmail.com
(phone number provided on request)