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Texas lawmakers revive push to end controversial conversion therapy

Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 6:55 PM CST
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Three state lawmakers have filed bills to end the controversial practice of LGBTQ conversion therapy among children in Texas.

Conversion therapy involves attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity or expression of someone.

House Bill 560 by state Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, who has filed similar bills the last few sessions, would deem it “unprofessional conduct,” subject to state disciplinary action, if a mental health provider practiced conversion therapy.

“There are concerns that it, basically, if people fall into these programs, that they maybe actually are at greater risk than finding support and help they need,” said William Schroeder, a licensed professional counselor and co-director at Just Mind in Austin.

“It teaches people to be able to compartmentalize their emotional world, and that’s the challenge within it is it creates even more pressure in a system where there’s already pressure for them,” he said.

Conversion therapy is banned in 20 states and 80 cities across the U.S.

The practice has been discredited by the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization, among other organizations.

Meanwhile supporters of the practice say that parents should have the right to decide what’s best for their children.

Some therapists who practice conversion therapy have also argued that bans on the practice violate their free speech rights — and a judge in Florida agreed with them.

“Looking back, it was like taking a cheese grater to your body and trying to remove things that didn’t need to be removed, but they caused a lot of harm and scars,” said Justin Tidwell-Davis who attended conversion therapy in Waco and Arlington.

“A lot of people don’t make it to where I am today — you know, be it drugs or suicide or death by suicide,” he added.

He said the bills are a “huge step forward” and could “save countless lives,” but they do have some blind spots.

“It sets ethical standards for licensed professionals, which is good,” Tidwell-Davis said.

“But the majority of conversion therapy is still practiced through churches, or these ministries or organizations that have religious affiliations,” he said.

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