Quick Hit: New Jersey may ban “gay conversion therapy”

Following California’s lead, New Jersey may become the second state to ban “gay conversion therapy” for those under 18. The debate comes nearly a year after Dr. Robert Spitzer, credited with research said to legitimate such homophobic practices, recanted his own poorly-designed study on the “gay cure.” USA TODAY reports:

The contentious practice is on the brink of banishment in New Jersey. A bill outlawing such therapy to those under 18 is headed to the Senate for a vote after the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee passed it by a 7-1 vote March 18.

The legislation brings to New Jersey’s forefront a much-criticized practice while exposing the schism between those who believe a person is born gay or lesbian and those who think it is a choice…

In New Jersey there is even dispute over what to call the practice. Most organizations refer to the therapy as “sexual orientation change efforts,” or SOCE. More common references like reparative therapy and conversion therapy are rejected by proponents as politically charged buzzwords.

Last week the issue took hold in the budding race for New Jersey’s governorship…. [Gov. Chris] Christie said he did not have a “hard-and-fast position” on the practice, but that it might be one of the exceptions to his conservative belief of letting parents parent. The next day a Christie spokesman said the governor does not believe in conversion therapy.

Although a ban would be great news, I’m not wild about the paper’s framing of the issue as one of birth versus choice, as though someone who did actively choose same-sex desire (whatever you take that to mean) would deserve shaming and torture. To defend queerness as an innate, immutable trait is to give up the fight before its begun; choosing to be LGBTQ is only bad if the identity itself is condemnable. I know queer people who understand their sexual orientations as unchangeable cores of their selves, set since birth, while others find agency in rejecting an essentialist explanation of their desires. Do we really need to know the origin of these preferences to decide whether the cruelty of “conversion therapy” is excusable?

You can read the whole article here.

Washington, DC

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at Feministing.com. During her four years at the site, she wrote about gender violence, reproductive justice, and education equity and ran the site's book review column. She is now a Skadden Fellow at the National Women's Law Center and also serves as the Board Chair of Know Your IX, a national student-led movement to end gender violence, which she co-founded and previously co-directed. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she is the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future. She has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice at campuses across the country and on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, and NPR.

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at Feministing.com.

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