BREAKING NEWS: California General Assembly’s Committee on Business, Professions And Consumer Protection voted 5-2 to endorse S.B. 1172, a bill to protect LGBT persons from the harmful “treatment.” The measure now heads to the full Assembly.
Ryan Kendall, a fact witness in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, or the federal “Prop 8″ case, testified before the California State Assembly today in support of Senate Bill 1172, a measure that would ban “sexual orientation conversion “treatment”.
Kendall urged the Assembly to adopt Senate Bill 1172 calling it a choice between “the forces of anti-gay intolerance and junk science, or to stand up for LGBT youth who deserve our protection.”
Senate Bill 1172 would prohibit a psychotherapist from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with a minor patient, regardless of a parent’s willingness or desire to authorize such “treatments.” The bill passed the Senate in May and now is being considered in the Assembly.
Kendall was forced into “reparative” therapy at 14 years of age by his parents when they discovered he was gay after reading his diary. He spent about a year and half in this conversion therapy with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, then-executive director of NARTH (National Association for Reparative Therapy of Homosexuality) and a so-called therapist, via weekly phone sessions, before he eventually ran away from home and arranged to have himself legally declared “independent” of his parents. Nicolosi asserts that persons can be successfully “cured of being gay” and can resume happy heterosexual lives.
After the federal Proposition 8 case was filed, Kendall became a witness in the case based upon his personal experience of abusive and cruel treatment by these so-called therapists. In contrast, following publication of new social science research, the American Psychological Association overwhelmingly endorsed marriage equality in 2011.
Kendall’s testimony follows:
As a young teen, the anti-gay practice of so-called conversion therapy destroyed my life and tore apart my family. In order to stop the therapy that misled my parents into believing that I could somehow be made straight, I was forced to run away from home, surrender myself to the local department of human services, and legally separate myself from my family. Though I lived in Colorado, the conversion therapist my family relied on practiced out of Southern California.
At the age of 16, I had lost everything. My family and my faith had rejected me, and the damaging messages of conversion therapy, coupled with this rejection, drove me to the brink of suicide. For the next decade I struggled with depression, periods of homelessness, and drug abuse.
I am here today because as a young teenager I dreamed that one day adults would pass legislation to protect people like me. I am here because youth subjected to these discredited therapies deserve a voice in the room. They are the ones living the trauma and horror that conversion therapy inflicts on people for no reason, with no evidence, merely because of who they are. If any of these youth are listening, they should know that there is nothing wrong with them; they are perfect, beautiful, and deserving of love.
It took me a decade to rebuild my life, but we know that too many people are not so fortunate. Conversion therapy inflicts harm by sending the message that there is something defective or immoral about people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. It justifies discrimination by arguing that we can and should change and do not deserve any legal protections. It misleads families into believing that there is something wrong with their child or their loved won. Tragically, it harms the most vulnerable among us – children. This must stop.
Today, this committee is faced with a simple choice – to side with the forces of anti-gay intolerance and junk science, or to stand up for LGBT youth who deserve our protection. These kids are worth it.
Please, send Senate Bill 1172 to the Assembly floor for a vote. It is the right thing to do. Thank you.
Kendall is now a student at Columbia University in New York City where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Image of Ryan Kendall provided by Mr. Kendall.
Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches human rights in East Central Europe and former Yugoslavia. She is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s. Domi has also worked internationally in a dozen countries on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues and media freedom. She is chair of the board of directors for GetEQUAL. She is currently writing a book about the emerging LGBT human rights movement in the Western Balkans.
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