It was not that long ago when a father called me to ask me for help to care for his son. His 18-year-old son, who while, a student in a yeshiva, was hospitalized for a suicide attempt. He was going to bring him home and wanted me to help heal him. The background he gave me was that his son was learning in the school and had told one his rabbis that he had homosexual feelings. The rabbi referred him to a doctor who “repaired” men of their gay feelings through radical therapies and hormone injections. The student, as a gesture toward his rabbi and a desire for acceptance, endured the “conversion treatment” for a few months. In that time, he had become increasingly despondent and suicidal. The father of this young man said,”I want a living son who is gay, not a dead son.”
Virtually all health and mental health organizations have determined that there is no treatment for homosexuality because being gay is simply not a disorder. Being gay is part of the human condition. Most individuals are heterosexual some are not. The evidence has been mounting for decades that sexual orientation is likely inborn. Despite the fact that there are still health care professionals who believe that homosexuality is caused by having a mother who is too protective or an absent father or having been abused in childhood there is no evidence whatsoever to support these or similar facile conjectures. Individuals may choose how to deal with their sexual orientations but they cannot benefit from deceptive help to change it.
If a therapist or doctor is accused of doing reparative therapy, that is, pretending to have a treatment that will alter or convert a person’s sexual orientation, that practitioner is committing malpractice and runs the risk of losing their license to practice. I have spoken with several attorneys who specialize in malpractice cases. They were unanimous in stating that if a health care professional is accused of trying to change a patient’s sexual orientation their malpractice carriers will likely not defend them should the case go to court.
Not only will they have no legal protection for their license but there are other legal consequences. A recent civil case in New Jersey is a clear indication for this and offers an apparent civil precedent to this as well. The JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing) case recently ended finding in favor of the plaintiffs (https://www.timesofisrael.com/jewish-groups-gay-conversion-therapy-is-fraud-jury-says/). JONAH, a referral organization for those seeking to be “healed” of their homosexuality was found by a jury to be guilty of consumer fraud and “unconscionable business practices” for attempting to “heal” young men of their homosexuality.
The JONAH cases almost concurrent conclusion with the US Supreme Court ruling in favor of Gay marriage set a certain group of religious professionals ablaze. Chicken Little became their model, seeing the end of civilization as we know it. Without a careful reading of the Court’s findings or a willingness to understand the scientific literature on sexuality it might seem that society is telling us to all become homosexual or at least bisexual. But that is simply untrue. The Court stated plainly that all people are given equal protection under the law. This is not a religious or belief ruling it is a legal one based on the Courts understanding of the Constitution of the United States. It in no way requires religious believers to alter their spiritual or pious devotion.
Additionally, the JONAH case simply found what should have been anticipated – snake oil salespersons are committing fraud. Treatments do not exist for disorders that are not disorders.
Health care professionals treating individuals with homosexual desires that are having difficulty coping with these desires are not prevented from doing so. They are prevented from claiming to be able to change sexual attractions and trying to do so. Any individual suffering from anxiety or depression because he or she has a same sex attraction and feels unaccepted in their community can receive psychotherapy for those issues. Many therapists have dealt with these issues along with people who choose to remain celibate or who marry simply to maintain a community façade but have sexual relations with homosexual partners.
There is however a significantly broader issue that we must be willing to address. Homosexuals are people deserving of respect, no less than any other person. What goes on behind closed doors is none of our business. We will likely be seeing gay couples joining our communities in a more open manner. We should develop a protocol for acceptance. We really have no option. They are not ill, they do not need to be healed, nor do they need repair or sexual conversion. They are people simply trying to cope with the vagaries of a life defined by their humanity – nothing more.