Why conversion therapy is harmful

As in other scientific disciplines, developmental psychology has not been free from prejudices and homophobic practices. Proof of this has been the long and until recently canceled presence of homosexuality as a clinical category in psychopathology; as well as the creation of their corresponding “conversion therapies”, “corrective restorative therapies” or “sexual reorientation”.

Although in many contexts the latter he is not only discredited but legally sanctioned; elsewhere, the medieval and violent idea that homosexuality is a disease or a disorder which can therefore be reversed, remains in place.

With the intention of analyze why conversion therapies are harmfulIn this article, we’ll start by going over what these therapies are and where they come from, and finally see what some of their effects are.

    Psychopathology and the logic of correction

    The idea of ​​”cure”, or rather of “correction”, is a logic which crosses all the production of psychopathology, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly. This idea easily becomes a fantasy that fills in the gaps of the most conservative Western ideology, and at the same time, psychopathology easily offered itself as a powerful control strategy; in this case, homosexuality.

    As Foucault would say in the 1970s (quoted in Montoya, 2006), from its inception, psychiatry was offered as an option that was not useful for “healing” in essence, because what it did was was to intervene in the event of an anomaly. organic foundation.

    What could he do then? Correct this anomaly or try to control it. Beyond the reduction of mental distress, psychiatry acquires a function of social protection; that is, to seek order in the face of the danger posed by what is morally considered “abnormal”. In this context, sexuality, or rather non-heterosexuality, it was not left out of the gaze of pathology. Initially, it is controlled by the corporal, and later by the psychic.

    Thus arises an inseparable relationship between morality, which can be read in statistical terms of normality; and medicine, which is later derived from psychopathology. As a result, heterosexuality has been understood in many contexts as normal and synonymous with health. And homosexuality as abnormal and synonymous with disease, or at best, as disorder.

      Sexuality is always in the spotlight

      To be a fundamental part of the human condition, sexuality has remained very present in philosophical, scientific and political debates Deeper. Sometimes these debates have taken the form of moral prescriptions on sexual behavior; which in turn had an impact even on desires, pleasures, practices, identities and in general visions of sexuality.

      In fact, until recently, it was difficult to make public the doubt generated by the biological foundations of sexuality, under which the latter it is reduced to the reproductive capacity of men and women. Not without having been absent from other eras and societies, it was not until the middle of the last century that sexual dissent took to the streets to demand the free exercise of sexuality as a human right.

      With the so-called “Sexual Revolution”, many lives, identities and pleasures that neither morality nor pathology had succeeded in capturing are gaining visibility; this in particular in the European and American context.

      With this arise the struggles for equal rights and for eradicate forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Not only that, but finally, in 1973, the APA withdrew from its collection of mental disorders with homosexuality. The WHO did the same until 1990, and in the first year of our century, the APA also publicly rejected the implementation of conversion therapies.

      On the other hand, but also in the United States, a strong conservative current emerges which fights in the opposite direction, that of denying sexual diversity, and advocates the granting of rights only if sexuality is experienced in a heteronormative way. Faced with the problem of making it heteronormative, also conservative psychology and psychiatry offer the solution: a series of corrective therapies they can “reverse” or even “cure” homosexuality.

      Questions about the immutability of sexual orientation

      For its part and although in a minority way, another part of science has generated knowledge that has allowed us to firmly question the idea of ​​homosexuality as a pathology.

      Montoya (2006) tells us about some research that analyzes, for example, gonadal, brain and psychological development and diversity. The last question the essentialist and immutable vision of heterosexuality, In addition to making visible that no anatomical or behavioral factor has been found that can fully explain sexual orientation.

      Thus, sexual orientation is not something predetermined and immutable but a “process of continuous interaction between the biological and psychic structure of the person and the environment in which he expresses his sexuality” (ibidem: 202 ).

      Emergence and conversion therapies

      We have seen from a Foucaultian perspective that, at its beginnings, psychiatry is conceived as a corrective technology, where sexuality plays a leading role. When we thought that the latter was outdated, it comes in the 21st century to condense all of the above into the emergence of techniques that are offered as a corrective option for homosexuality.

      Restorative therapy first appeared in 1991, one year after the WHO withdrew homosexuality from the collection of diseases. The term is attributed to the American clinical psychologist Joseph Nicolosi, who proposed it as a therapeutic model that would go from homosexuality to heterosexuality. In essence, the idea of ​​”therapy” generally assumes that homosexuality is, in fact, latent heterosexuality, and that it is a condition which generates unhappiness or significant mental distress; with which it is necessary to correct it.

      The therapist thus positions himself from a homophobic paternalism which suppresses the autonomy of the person. And some of the options available are from aversive conditioning with electroconvulsive therapy to celibacy by reinforcing guilt.

      From this, corrective therapies are not seen as options based on a holistic, holistic and respectful view of diversity, which allows discomfort to be explored beyond the subject itself (for example, due to difficulties in expressing sexuality socially), but as an attempt to correct the person for living in a non-normative sexuality.

        Damage and ethical issues

        The APA (2000) states that “psychotherapeutic modalities aimed at changing or repairing homosexuality are based on developmental theories of questionable scientific validity” and also recommends that ethical physicians refrain from attempting to change the orientation of homosexuals.

        the last these may be psychological effects that include increasing internalized homophobia (With the consequent interruption of sexual freedom and rights), but also clinical manifestations of depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.

        In his bioethical analysis on the subject, Montoya (2006) tells us that the main ethical questions which, because of their damage, can be asked of conversion therapies, are broadly the following:

        • There is not enough scientifically validated knowledge to support it the effectiveness of restorative therapies.
        • From the above, it can hardly be said that there are really trained professionals to apply them; individual ideological criteria are easily imposed.
        • Informed consent emphasizes the chances of success, that is, the false consequences restorative and damage is minimized.
        • They assume that homosexual behavior and identity is morally unacceptable and therefore pathological.
        • They don’t know respect for autonomy and dignity of the person.
        • They involve techniques of deterrence by reinforcing the person’s idea that his or her sexuality is pathological, inferior or objectionable.
        • They are not harmless: They increase homophobia and increase the risk of suicide.
        • They are unaware of the magnitude of human, sexual and reproductive rights.
        • They hide human diversity.
        • They distort the power of a doctor.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Montoya, G. (2006). Bioethical approach to restorative therapies. Treatment to change homosexual orientation. Acta Bioethica, 12 (2): 199-210.
        • APA (2000). Position statement on therapies focusing on attempts to change sexual orientation (restorative or conversion therapies). Official actions of the APA. Retrieved July 25, 2018.Available in the APA-Centered Therapies Position Statement.

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