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An in-depth look at Lexington's conversion therapy ban

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Posted at 4:22 PM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 19:29:10-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Mayor Linda Gorton signed an ordinance on Thursday making conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors officially illegal in Lexington.

To get a better understanding of conversion therapy we asked licensed therapist Wendy McCants.

"Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, is the approach is a heteronormative approach to correct, sexual orientation, and in some cases gender identity as well," said McCants.

The potential mental impacts and ethics of the practice are why McCants says prominent professional medical associations like the American Medical Association, The American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all oppose it.

"Conversion therapy is incredibly harmful to anybody, mainly on the youth that I sometimes work with who are coming in already trying to sort out who they are, figure out what it really means to be LGBTQ+ in Kentucky. much less in their families, and increases the rates for suicidal thoughts, self-harm suicide attempts, substance abuse, later in life," said McCants.

She says it's an orthodox practice that most mainstream licensed professionals don't agree with.

However, it does still happen. The UCLA School of Law did a study where they found that 698,000 people reported receiving some form of conversion therapy and they also found that 16,000 minors would receive some form of conversion therapy by the time they reach 18.

This includes trans youth.

For youth advocate Lauren Sherrow, even one is too many.

"Having one kid being told that they're not enough or they're not, they can't be who they are, that's damaging and so if it helps one kid, that's perfect but I have a feeling it's gonna help way more kids than just one," said Sherrow.

Liz Sheehan, Council member for the 5th district says there are 7 practitioners in Fayette County. Four are licensed by the state and 57 total in Kentucky.

Those numbers are based on research done by a group in support of the ban, Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky.

The Human Rights Commission will take complaints, investigate, and hold hearings about violations that occur.

"We actually had a few people come forward who experienced conversion therapy themselves so just for us to be able to say that this is something that our community should no longer experience is a big deal," said Sheehan.

Kentucky is one of 30 states that has not passed a statewide ban. Lawmakers introduced a ban in 2020 and entered discussions, but it never made it out of committee.

Practitioners in cities outside of Louisville, Lexington, and Covington can still engage in the practice.