A delegation of American LGBT activists is traveling to Geneva, Switzerland tomorrow to make the case to the UN Committee on Torture that “conversion therapy” is a form of torture and should be designated as such in international law.
They intend to ask the Torture committee to declare “conversion therapy” a violation of international law under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) that President Ronald Reagan signed in 1988 and was ratified under President Bill Clinton in 1994.
The Torture Convention defines torture as a “public official” intentionally causing physical or mental pain in order to obtain information or a confession, or causing pain and suffering as a punishment.
LGBT activists claim that receiving “psychological” treatment intended to alter the sexual orientation of a person falls within the definition of torture and will ask the committee of ten experts from around the world to intervene. Though the UN Committee on Torture has no authority to impose its views, getting the Committee to opine on the issue would be used in domestic court cases and in legislative debates in efforts to ban such therapy.
The #bornperfect campaign of the National Center for Lesbian Rights is leading the delegation to Geneva. Among the #bornperfect spokesmen expected to testify is Samuel Brinton, an MIT grad, who will tell the committee that blocks of ice were placed on his upturned hands that had been strapped to a table, that copper heating wires were wrapped around his arms, and that electrodes were connected to his fingertips. He claims all were used to inhibit his positive response to pictures of men.
Some therapists in the field are skeptical about such claims.
Dr. Elton Moose, who has practiced therapy in Springfield, Ohio for a quarter century said, “These types of shock-therapy accusations have been around for many years, but I have not actually known a practice that has used this therapy.”
Last year, when the New Jersey legislature was considering banning reparative therapy, Brielle Goldani told a Senate committee that as a 12 year-old he was sent by his parents to a conversion therapy torture camp run by an Assemblies of God Church in Columbus, Ohio. He said electrodes were attached to his hands for two hours at a time, also that he was forced to endure IV injections that made him vomit, and to masturbate to heterosexual images.
Former homosexual and reparative therapist Christopher Doyle spoke to church officials in Ohio and to state officials who said no such camp called True Directions ever existed. Doyle did find that the young man’s story bore a striking resemblance to a 1999 RuPaul movie called “But I’m a Cheerleader,” where the lead character is tortured with electrodes at a conversion therapy camp called “True Directions.”
Therapy for unwanted same-sex attraction is hotly debated. Professional associations of psychologists and psychiatrists insist that same-sex attraction is not a mental disorder and are generally critical of efforts to treat unwanted same-sex attraction. Some psychologists disagree, however.
Last year, Dr. Nicholas Cummings, former head of the American Psychological Association and sponsor of the 1975 resolution by which the APA removed homosexuality as a mental disorder, published a USA Today column in support of reparative therapy. He said he and his team treated 18,000 patients for same-sex attraction between 1959 and 1979. Most were treated to become more comfortable and accepting of their same-sex attraction, but that many of them wanted to change. Cummings wrote, “Of the patients I oversaw who sought to change their orientation, hundreds were successful.”
During a hearing earlier this year, the Committee grilled Vatican representatives about Church teaching on abortion, though abortion is not included in the Torture Convention. So, it would not surprise experts who follow the Committee that they may side with LGBTs who say conversion therapy is a form of torture and therefore a violation of international law.
“Reparative therapy” for minors is now illegal in California and New Jersey. #bornperfect wants to eradicate such therapy in the United States within five years.