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Conversion ‘therapy’ imposes predetermined outcome 

The “therapists” told me that if I came out as gay, my wife of 12 years would leave me, I wouldn’t see my five children anymore and that my entire family would disown me. They said I would become a drug addicted alcoholic and die alone of AIDS.

 I was terrified and would have killed myself rather than risk such a fate. 

I know now that they were using scare tactics to alter my reality and I paid them to hear it. It was part of something called “conversion” or “reparative” therapy.  

It is rooted in the belief that a therapist, through myriad debunked practices, can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Conversion therapy imposes a predetermined outcome: they contend the patient is broken, someone is to blame, and with their therapies, patients can be “cured.”

Conversion therapy is condemned by the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and every other respected professional association. 

It is banned in 20 states but remains legal here in Arizona. We have an opportunity to ban it this year. If lawmakers care about the health and safety of minors and families, they must vote to do so. 

The state regulates all state licensed professionals to protect the public from fraudulent and abusive practices. 

The proposed conversion therapy ban was crafted in collaboration with mental health professionals and religious leaders to protect children from licensed therapists who practice it.

I entered conversion therapy on the advice of my faith leaders, with the support of my wife. For over three years, I met with a conversion therapist in Mesa twice a week, going to group sessions as well as monthly activities where our group “practiced our masculinity.” 

Through every session I was told the same thing: that I was a broken, damaged, sex addict. I was desperate to be “fixed” and grew more depressed as the promised “fix” didn’t come. 

The longer others in the program stayed, the more depressed they became, the more help they needed, and the more “services” they required. We were caught in a vicious cycle that didn’t help patients but perpetuated our pain.

It was also harming our families, breaking the ties with those we love, when we needed them most. 

I broke free when I finally saw this process for what it really was. When I did, my world did not end. I did not lose my children; I did not contract AIDS nor die alone.

 When I came to terms and admitted who I really was, my depression and unhealthy behaviors began to fall away. I also have full custody of my children. 

A close friend of mine in the program was not so fortunate. He killed himself after years of what he called “white knuckling it” through conversation therapy.

That this practice is allowed for children is a shameful scar on Arizona.  As the father of five children I cannot sit on the sidelines knowing this torturous “therapy” is being practiced on minors. If sharing my pain can save even one child or one family from this same fate, I have to tell my story.

The Legislature has an obligation to protect children and families from harm done by licensed professionals. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, nor is it even an LGBTQ one.

 It’s a simple matter of regulating professionals from being able to commit fraud and abuse. Lawmakers must ban conversion therapy to prevent more abuse, harm and suicide, particularly for Arizona’s kids. 

-Roger Webb

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