Utah is lining up to be the 19th state to ban the practice of conversion therapy for minors.
Conversion therapy aims to change an individual’s sexual identity, a practice that has been ruled as harmful by many organizations, including the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The American Psychological Association has shown that conversion therapy can cause long-lasting psychological harm by increased feelings of guilt, self-hatred, isolation and suicidality. The APA removed homosexuality from its list of psychological disorders in 1987, yet in 2019 this form of therapy still occurs nationwide.
Those who support abolishing conversion therapy are hoping a compromise can be met and put this new rule into effect as early as Tuesday.
Matt Quackenbush, co-host of the “Finding Strength” podcast and lead therapist at the Deer Hollow Recovery and Wellness Center in Draper, has been working with individuals forced to attend conversion therapy by their parents as children. Quackenbush states the treatment is “hurtful” and “harmful” to these individuals.
“Individuals that try and change a part of them that is their sexuality, they feel ostracized from the world, they feel ashamed, they feel like there’s something wrong with them,” says Quackenbush. This ultimately leads to substance abuse and suicidal tendencies in these individuals, as they try to numb the feelings of abandonment and rejection from their parents.
“Children just want to feel loved and be accepted for who they are, instead of trying to convert people, why don’t we focus on loving them instead? The people in our lives need to be loved, accepted and understood rather than be told the way they are living is wrong,” Quackenbush states.
Peter Moosman, affectionately known to students as “Captain Gay” has been with SLCC for just over 10 years now. Moosman came out as gay in 2015, stating that “my entire life before that was trying to pray the gay away, just be better at being faithful, maybe it will go away.”
Moosman put himself through his “own type of gay conversion therapy” because he wanted to fit in; he wanted to have his faith community and he was willing to do whatever it took to maintain it.
It wasn’t until Moosman changed the way he looked at things and asked himself, “What should I do with this?” that he found his true calling helping others and knew it was time to come out.
Moosman recalls moments he shared with friends that have gone through conversion therapy. Most of his friends went through what they call a “journey into manhood” camp, where they discussed healthy male relationships and aimed to diminish their attractions to the same sex in order to live their church’s teachings.
“Marry the gay away, pray the gay away,” he explains.
Luckily, none of Moosman’s friends leaned on drugs to cope with their anxiety, but many of his friends are left with chronic depression and serious triggers. Some friends had to separate themselves from their religion, and sometimes their own family, in order to thrive as adults.
“Often, people who don’t go through a formal conversion therapy put themselves through a conversion therapy of their own,” Moosman states.
He worries that it speaks to a much broader concern.
“People feel the need to change who they are in order to fit in by suppressing a part of who they are, so why are we asking people to change?” Moosman asks.
Moosman now supervises SLCC’s new Gender and Sexuality Student Resource Center at South City Campus. He hopes this new center will be a safe space for students to go and be “a beacon of hope, a space that is radically supportive of the marginalized of the marginalized.”
“Protest got us to where we are today, people standing their ground and taking action, that is what is going to take us where we want to go. We want students to be able to organize and come together in this space,” Moosman states.
Working with both teachers and students, Moosman wants to create positive changes.
“If we’re noticing a culture of intolerance or hate developing, we want to nip it in the bud,” says Moosman. “We eventually want to put ourselves out of business.”
The goal for the Gender and Sexuality Student Resource Center is to expand across the institution so that no matter where a student goes, they feel safe, wanted and included.
It’s time to focus on building a more inclusive world, and Moosman is ready to scream from SLCC’s rooftops: “We see you, we honor you, we respect you and we want you here!”