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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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Conversion Therapy Laws

Conversion therapy, also referred to as “Reparative Therapy” or “Ex-Gay Therapy,” is a widely discredited practice that attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Practices to “cure” individuals of their same-sex sexual orientations and transgender identities include a number of techniques ranging from shaming to hypnosis to inducing vomiting to electric shocks.

There is broad consensus in the medical community that sexual orientation and gender identity are immutable traits—and that attempts to change these characteristics through conversion therapy or other means are not only unnecessary and ineffective, but also very harmful. Research shows long lasting damage, including negative mental health effects (including anxiety, depression and suicidality), guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, substance abuse, stress, self-blame, decreased self esteem, increased self-hatred, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, high-risk sexual behaviors, and deterioration of relationships with family.

Laws protecting LGBT children from conversion therapy are needed to ensure that therapists who are licensed by the state are providing competent care and are not harming patients. These laws are especially needed to protect minors, who are almost always forced or coerced to undergo conversion therapy rather than opting to undertake these treatments on their own.

Related Resources

Report

LGBT Policy Spotlight: Conversion Therapy Bans

Updated July 2017 - This report offers an overview of laws protecting LGBT youth from conversion therapy practices that attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. These practices, which may include techniques such as shaming, hypnosis, inducing vomiting, and electric shocks, have been widely discredited and renounced, including by groups like the American Psychological Association. The brief also includes policy recommendations to ban harmful conversion therapy practices.

MAP

Conversion Therapy Laws

Conversion therapy laws prohibit licensed mental health practitioners from subjecting LGBT minors to harmful "conversion therapy" practices that attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. This map shows states with laws banning conversion therapy for minors.

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