Conversion Therapy Panel Discussion


[upbeat intro music]
>>michael munson: –kind of a juxtaposition of panel talking, and there’s some videos
that we were going to show, just to kind of paint a picture of what conversion therapy
is, what some of the risks are, some of the things that we can do about it; there’s
some things that are in front of the Common Council right now, so what we can do locally,
as well as maybe what we can do nationally to try to curb the momentum that might be
flowing from some places. And a lot of times we hear language like “conversion
therapy”, and I’m not sure that we all know what it is, and I’m not sure that there
is a definitive definition of what conversion therapy is, or “reparative therapy” is. And so we were going to start with just a
really short video that was created by the National Center for Lesbian Rights. They actually serve not just lesbian folks,
but the whole LGBT community. And they had this campaign a few years ago–I
think it was in 2015 it started, maybe?–called Born Perfect. And, Ashley, since you’re over there, can
you press the–can you move the mouse to click on the play button? [somber music]
>>Samantha Ames: So, reparative therapy–you might also know it as “conversion therapy”
or “ex-gay therapy” or “sexual orientation change efforts”–is a series of these dangerous
and completely discredited practices engaged in by mental health practitioners trying to
change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.>>Shannon Minter: It was an absolutely devastating
experience for a young people to go through, and most of the young people who are subjected
to that suffer lifelong–really permanent–damage.>>SA: And they will subject these kids to
these awful, awful treatments that in the past have ranged from electroshock therapy
to nausea-inducing drugs that–now are primarily talk therapy–but that, still, even when you
take the electroshock therapy out of it, they result in substance abuse, they result in
depression and anxiety, and a lot of the times they result in suicide, and we have lost way
too many of our survivors along the way because of it.>>SM: That’s why we are so grateful to
have a chance to work with survivors like Ryan Kendall, who somehow managed to survive–not
only survive that experience, but to turn his life around completely, going from being
homeless, living on the streets, completely separated from his family, with very bleak
prospects for the future, to–he was just so determined to not let that experience destroy
his life. And he was able to go to school. He’s going to law school now. We’re so proud of him. And he has worked with us to pass the first
law ever in the entire country that bars therapists in California from trying to change a young
person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. He’s now helped us to pass a similar law
in New Jersey, and we are working on other state laws in an additional 20 states now. Thanks to Ryan, and our partnership with him,
we are really changing the country on this issue.>>SA: It takes years, sometimes decades,
sometimes a lifetime, before people can actually come out and talk about this. Sam is somebody who is willing to get up in
front of a roomful of people and tell a story that I cannot imagine having to relive as
often as Sam does, with vulnerability and humor and genuine sweetness, and willingness
to connect to an audience that might not always know how to ask the right questions, that
might sometimes make it worse. Sam is willing to put themselves on the line–and
honestly, their own wellbeing on the line–to make sure that these people know what happened,
know what still happens, and are engaged and committed to making sure it doesn’t happen
again. Sam is also an MIT student in nuclear engineering
technology. Sam has never let what happened years ago
be the defining factor. Sam is a force. I cannot wait to just keep being a friend,
keep being a colleague, and keep watching what happens to the world as Sam grows up
in it. [music ends]
>>mm: So that’s a quick kind of “What’s conversion therapy?” and I’d love to hear
what each of you or some of you want to share about: What’s conversion therapy? What do medical or mental health professionals
say about conversion therapy? Or anywhere you want to go in that general
rough area.>>Kim Skerven: I feel like this is my time
to shine!>>Shelly Gregory: Yes! Let’s–
>>all: [laughter]>>SG: I was going to say, let’s let Kim
start.>>KS: –what I have to say about it! [laughs] Ahh! I might blow it. Okay, so I would say conversion therapy sometimes
is called “reparative therapy”, and just–the idea is that you have an a priori destination,
which means that you have a destination in mind before the therapy begins about where
it’s supposed to go, which is typically about undoing or changing someone’s sexual
orientation or gender identity. That’s kind of the essence of it. So I’ve been following this. This, actually–I brought this with. This is super near and dear to my heart. It’s from 2009. And the APA actually had a task force to review
all of the research that had been done, basically, on responses to sexual orientation in therapy,
and they were unveiling this report when I was at the APA convention in Toronto. And it was standing room only, of all these
psychologists. And then they had one box of the original
reports that people had to literally battle for. [audience laughter] And I sprinted from the
back of the room up to get it! And I got it! So this is it. If anyone wants to look at it, this is the
original one. I think it’s a really really nice piece
of work. And, clearly it misses things because it’s
about sexual orientation and not about gender identity. And so, this is helpful, but I think what’s
actually more helpful–and many of you have seen this–but, the SAMHSA report that I brought
to–it looks like this. It’s a long report, and it’s–so, it’s
by SAMHSA, which is a federal organization, and what I think is really really cool about
this one is that they actually brought together–I tagged it so I could find it–they brought
together 13 experts from multiple different mental health areas. So there were 10 psychologists, 2 social workers,
and 1 psychiatrist, so it wasn’t just psychologists, it was kind of a cross. And they literally did presentations and talking
for two days and came up with these consensus statements that are meant to kind of represent
a consensus across mental health providers. And there’s different consensus statements
in here. One of them is specifically the professional
consensus statement on conversion therapy with minors. So this is kind of the thing. And this one is is from 2009, but this is
from 2015, so it’s pretty recent. So this is the one that I tend to go to more. Can I read the three?>>mm: Mm-hm
>>KS: There’s only three points. There’s multiple consensus statements in
here, but here’s the professional consensus statement on conversion therapy with minors,
which is really what we’re talking about in what’s been proposed at the City Council. “Number One: Same-gender sexual orientation,
including identity, behavior, and/or attraction, and variations in gender identity and gender
expression, are a part of the normal spectrum of human diversity and do not constitute a
mental disorder.” That actually is important when we’re talking
about “therapy” and “treatment”, right? Because they’re clearly saying this is part
of normal human variation. “Number Two: There is limited research on
conversion therapy efforts among children and adolescents. However, none of the existing research supports
the premise that mental or behavioral health interventions can alter gender identity or
sexual orientation. Number Three–” This is what I was talking
about before. “Interventions aimed at a fixed outcome,
such as gender conformity or heterosexual orientation, including those aimed at changing
gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, are coercive, can be harmful,
and should not be part of a behavioral health treatment. Directing the child to be conforming to any
gender expression or sexual orientation, or directing the parents to place pressure for
specific gender expressions, gender identities, or sexual orientations are inappropriate and
reinforce harmful gender and sexual orientation stereotypes.” That’s the consensus statement. So. And I can talk–there’s questions later
about larger issues, and I think the “reinforcing stereotypes” thing is going to come around
later again. So.>>mm: And when we get to the later slides
today, I’ve got a link to that report in there–
>>KS: This report is great.>>mm: –so if you’d like a copy of the
PowerPoint, I’m happy to send it to people that signed in, if you’d like that.>>KS: Yeah.>>mm: Other folks have comments about either
“What is conversion therapy?” or “What are other professional organizations saying
about it?”? And you guys can pass if you want to.>>Tony Snell: Well, I mean, there’s plenty
of data and statistics that prove that this type of so-called “therapy” is junk science. I’m just going to keep this real simple. I think, you know, conversion therapy is trying
to change someone, change their innate self, and how do you do that? And I’ll just bring up an anecdotal side
of it. So, think about if the community found out
that there was a gay couple who had a child who was straight, and identified a certain
way, and they tried to convert their child to be gay, or identify or express differently. What do you think the community would do? It would probably go crazy, wouldn’t it? You’re actually changing a heterosexual
into a homosexual? Or someone who was born with this kind of
anatomy into this gender? They would stand up. But they don’t see it the other way around. You’re trying to convert kids who are LGBTQ
into something they’re not.>>mm: Want to add anything?>>Shelley Gregory: Yeah, the only thing I
would add onto what Kim said is that we–all of the really major, you know, both medical
and mental health organizations and bodies in this country–have said two things about
conversion therapy, across the board. That there is no evidence whatsoever, after
studying it, that it works. It just doesn’t do anything. It is not likely to produce any active change
in terms of what people are looking for it to do. And, second–and I think more importantly–it
is incredibly harmful, as the video indicated, to our youth. And so we’re talking about–you know, there’s
a list here–the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American
Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Counseling Association. And I suspect we’ll probably talk about
this a little bit as we get into this a little bit more, but some of these organizations
are providing–and Kim can speak to this–ethical guidance to counselors and therapists, to
licensed counselors and therapists. And so we’ll probably talk in a bit about
licensed counselors and therapists versus other individuals who are providing these
quote-unquote “services”, and how these laws and measures to prohibit these practices
affect these individuals based on who they are and whether they’re licensed counselors
and therapists or not, and what their relationships are to these bodies. But these institutions that ostensibly are
overseeing health care and mental health care in our country are telling us this stuff doesn’t
work, and it’s hurting our youth.>>mm: So, not to throw a curveball in, but,
Kim–>>audience: [laughter]
>>KS: [laughs]>>mm: –she’s usually like, “I want to
be in the background–”>>KS: In the background.>>mm: –kind of slide beyond.>>KS: [laughs]
>>mm: You know, you’ve got letters after your name. That can go with this.>>KS: [laughs]
>>mm: So–>>KS: Maybe.>>mm: So I’m wondering if you could talk
a little bit about–you read the consensus statement–
>>KS: Mm-hm>>mm: –that says that things are not a mental
health disorder–>>KS: Mm-hm, yeah.>>mm: –and if trans folks are still getting
diagnosed as having gender dysphoria, how does that play–how does that kind of balance
out?>>KS: Mm-hm
>>mm: You know, homosexuality got removed from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual)–
>>KS: Right.>>mm: –in 1977, I think it was?>>KS: Oh, I think it was earlier than that. It was ‘72.>>mm: Yeah, ‘72. Thank you.>>KS: Mm-hm, yeah.>>mm: Do you want to comment on any of that? I mean, there’s some reasons that it’s
there–>>KS: So–
>>mm: –and, well–>>KS: Sure, and gender identity disorder
was also removed–>>mm: Right
>>KS: –in the latest Diagnostic Manual. Gender dysphoria stays. But dysphoria is more about a person’s–kind
of suffering, or distress around–around a lot of things, but the actual gender identity
itself is not considered what’s the problem. That’s not a disorder.>>mm: Right
>>KS: Right. And so–and I kind of foreshadowed this a
little bit, but–and we’ll talk more about this, but–affirmative therapies really are
meant to help people transgress categories and transgress boxes and figure out their
own identity within a culture that imposes a lot of things, right? And that, in and of itself, can cause dysphoria. If you want to substitute a word in for dysphoria,
just kind of think “distress” and what that would feel like. So I think what is currently–as it currently
stands, it’s not the gender identity that’s the “problem”–
>>mm: Right>>KS: –or that’s the “disorder”.>>mm: Mm-hm.>>KS: Does that help?>>mm: And I think that’s one of the places
that–>>KS: Mm-hm
>>mm: –people get stuck. “Well, it’s still in this Diagnostic Manual–”
>>KS: Mm-hm>>mm: “–so therefore it must be a mental
illness, and there’s a problem,” and then people can go down that line–
>>KS: Right.>>mm: –but what you just said, it’s like
anxiety, or distress, or–>>KS: Mm-hm, yeah.>>mm: It’s a feeling of discomfort or dis-ease–
>>KS: Mm-hm>>mm: –not a disorder.>>KS: Right.>>mm: That’s–
>>KS: Yeah, absolutely>>mm: –more accurate.>>KS: Yeah, and I think different clinicians
would conceptualize where that discomfort comes from, but I think, you know, if you
look at just research on minority stress and what that does to people psychologically and
physically, clearly there’s a component that’s really important about–again, imposition
around categorizations and things, that I think is important.>>mm: That’s good.>>KS: Does that help?>>mm: That’s really great. I think that’s a really clear answer. And that kind of does lead into kind of the
next question, which is around: How does conversion therapy harm both the trans community, nonbinary
people, families, partners, and loved ones, communities–so, LGBT communities or other
kinds of communities, faith communities–or society? So, when we have conversion therapy in place,
how does that harm all those different levels of beings, entities, groups of folks?>>TS: I think the premise to any of this
is that they want to–they want you to acknowledge that it’s a choice; that it’s a choice
to be gay, that it’s a choice to be whatever gender, whatever gender you express. So by continuing this argument, that it’s
a choice, it thwarts the ability–or it thwarts the ability to have equality and to break
down the discrimination in a government sense. Again, this helps substantiate the idea that
it is a choice. So when you’re dealing with legislative
matters over and over, they’ll say, “Well, it’s a choice, and so you shouldn’t have
this right, because it’s not an innate situation to be protected.” So we want to thwart the idea of conversion
therapy, because we don’t want to advocate this thought of “choice”. As I think I posted on Facebook, I’m “gay
by birth and proud by choice”, and so it’s a birth. And it’s a hard fight, and they don’t
want to give this up. And this is, of course, the religious sector. And by giving up on conversion therapy, they’re
giving up on the “choice” argument as well.>>KS: I think about it in different ways. I think–I mean the bottom line is, there’s
not really research on mental health outcomes because people don’t research this. So, I certainly have read a lot of cases where
you’re going to look at things like depression and anxiety and suicide risk. I think–one of the things I think a lot about,
particularly with this ban that’s been proposed, is that there are really really super important
ways that social context influences people’s mental health. And I just–I wrote myself a note to remember
to say this–but, we know that once marriage equality passed nationally, the suicide rate
in LGBTQ kids went down substantially. Right? And so the idea of making contributions to
that larger social fabric we’re all living in, that stuff makes an actual real measurable
difference in mental health indicators. It’s really really really important. So I think there are individual–obviously–things,
or outcomes. But I think, socially, there are really really
important outcomes. So when I think about society and communities
and things, that’s really important. We know that minority stress–which is basically
stress that comes from being a member of an oppressed group–that there are a lot of negative
outcomes of that, physically and psychologically. We know that internalized stigma that happens
from living with that puts people at higher risk for depression and anxiety, relationship
problems, substance abuse disorders, really just about anything that you can say. And all of that is connected with the social
context. So I think that part of–in addition to being
able to directly protect people, stuff like this makes a different in the larger consciousness
of us, and I think can affect a lot of people that way.>>TS: So positive and affirming messaging,
even from the city–>>KS: Mm-hm
>>TS: –in a municipality, creates that positive message that resonates beyond the borders
of Milwaukee.>>KS: Mm-hm.>>TS: It’s that kid who’s out there,
maybe a few miles away, outside of the city, who’s living in a rural community, who gets
up every Sunday and hears his preacher, or her preacher, or their preacher say things
against them, their parents saying things against them. But then they hear that there’s a city of
Milwaukee who’s making a step to be affirming and accepting. That makes a big difference in that person’s
life. It does. It really does. Particularly when they think that there’s
no hope and they’re the only one. But they hear that there’s more. And they see the faces, and they see individuals
that are speaking on television, or testifying, or Common Council. It’s–you know, they might not understand
the Common Council, they might not understand all of the politics, but the end message comes
out: that we have a law that’s protecting you, and there are more of you than you think
there are.>>KS: Mm-hm. Yeah. And I would say that that research that I
was talking about, about marriage equality–now that I see it, I think, “Well, of course! That makes complete sense! It completely resonates with how you think.” But when I first read it, I remembered being
like, “Wow!” I think the number that I saw was like a 14%? Does anyone know? That may not be exactly right, but like a
14–I think it was a 14% decrease in suicide attempts. Like, that’s significant! And, yeah, it’s really really really important. And who would have thought, you know, that
it would work like that? But then again, of course it works like that. People live in a society and a culture.>>mm: You know, it’s a challenge when–you
know, a lot of us were looking at kids who are being affected, and if the parent comes
in and has that endpoint in mind, and the therapist or the faith person is helping to
the parents’ end, you know–is the clinician or the faith person the one that’s kind
of “at fault”, doing conversion therapy, or is it the parent that’s trying to–
>>KS: Right>>mm: –or the school that’s trying to? And where is the slippery line of providers
who are saying, “Oh, well, it’s just a phase” or “Are you sure?”? And so, is that doing harm? Well, sure, it’s doing harm, but it’s
not exactly conversion therapy. So where is that–where is kind of that line? And it sounds like there’s some–
>>KS: It’s really complicated.>>mm: –there are some things that are spelled
out really clearly, and then there’s this big gray area–
>>KS: Mm-hm. Yeah.>>mm: –to figure that out.>>KS: And part of what I think–and definitely
correct me if I was off on this–part of what I heard the chairperson at the committee saying
was, his concern was about parents’ rights to make treatment decisions for their children
and government overreach–>>TS: Mm-hm. Yes.>>KS: –and it becomes really complicated. And trying to figure out how to actually do
that in actual practice, like “What would this look like in actual practice?”>>TS: Well, we protect children in so many
different ways, in municipalities and states and even on the federal level every day, protecting
them from lead again–to bring that subject back up–protecting them in so many ways. And I think–I’m not the legal one, you’re
more the legal mind right over here, but some of this won’t be parsed out by the judicial
branch of the city when it goes for clarification and definition, and I’m confident that–I
feel fairly confident that those serving on the bench would acknowledge the reason and
the intent of this law, and see that. But that’s a great question. Thank you.>>KS: Mm-hm
>>mm: And, you know, you brought up government overreach, and I’d like to kind of move
us forward, just for the sake of time, so we can maybe address some other things. I wanted to briefly talk a little bit about
kind of the national or political landscape that we’re living in right now, and I wanted
to share a video first, and then share some quotes about what’s going on with the world. So a lot of folks in this room might know
who Leelah Alcorn was. She was a young person, young trans person,
who committed suicide in 2014.>>Rachel Maddow: Okay, this petition was
inspired by Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender kid from Ohio. In December, she posted a note that her life
was not worth living, that she had been kept from transitioning by her parents, that instead
she’d been taken to religious therapists who told her that she was wrong. After she posted that note, Leelah Alcorn
committed suicide. She threw herself in front of a truck. 17 years old. A week later, this petition surfaced on the
WeThePeople website at the White House. “Enact Leelah’s Law to Ban All LGBTQ Conversion
Therapy.” The petition told Leelah Alcorn’s story. It asked President Obama for his help in banning
therapy to try to “fix” or “cure” sexual minorities. And they got enough signatures to qualify
for a response. They met the new and higher threshold of 100,000
signatures in one month’s time. And tonight, they got their response. The White House tonight says President Obama
will, in fact, call for an end to so-called “conversion therapy” or “reparative
therapy”. The New York Times, reporting tonight that
the president will not call for an explicit federal ban, but he will say that “he is
open to conversations with lawmakers in both parties” about how to deal with this issue
and stop this kind of of “therapy”, end quote. The “therapy”. Scare quotes around the “therapy” is what
I was trying to do there. In the official response to the petition tonight,
White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett noted that lawmakers in more than a dozen
states have introduced bans on so-called “conversion therapy”. She said that New Jersey governor Chris Christie
signed such a ban into law back in 2013. Well, this is still very new news. We don’t yet know how this is going to play
out exactly, what exactly the president is going to announce or what it is going to lead
to, but this is real news from that petition site, which previously has been treated mostly
like a joke. This is real news, and a surprise tonight. Stay with us. More ahead.>>mm: So one of the things that–that was
in 2015, so Obama was still in office, and the law never moved to being passed. So I think it’s just sitting there. It’s probably not sitting there anymore,
given our current state. One of the things that has been interesting,
in kind of a perverse sort of way, has been watching what’s come out of the federal
government, and what’s come out of people’s mouths who are either currently in the cabinet
or formerly in the cabinet–I have a hard time tracking [audience laughter] who’s
still in the cabinet–>>TS: Let me check Twitter.>>mm: Yeah, we can check Twitter about these
things. But these are words or phrases that came out
of high-level folks in the federal government. So things like trans folks are “abominations”
or trans folks are “abnormal”, “Being trans doesn’t make any sense,” so just
kind of this blanket statement of being trans is just this weird thing. Or, “A leopard can’t change its spots,”
so you’re always your assigned birth sex. Or “Trans people are the height of absurdity.” So, folks like Ben Carson, Jeff Sessions,
Pompeo, lots of folks that are still in place made these comments. And I just want to review a couple of things,
because like Kim was saying, there’s a really powerful effect when something is coming from
those high places, and it can be a really positive thing when it’s, like, marriage
equality, and it can be a really negative thing and set the tone when it’s not such
a positive thing. So, like, a lot of folks know that the first
day that Jeff Sessions was in office, there was some rollback on Title IX, so the trans
students got less protection. Guidance was pulled, even though the law is
still in place. We also–somebody mentioned Mike Pence, and
we know that Mike Pence is kind of known for being for gay conversion therapy, wants federal
money to go towards that, so we’ve got somebody second-in-charge who’s very much in favor
of conversion therapy. We have things like North Carolina, where
one of the first bathroom bill was made public, things. Some of the repeals of those bathroom bills
are encouraging other states to do the same thing. We have folks like Jeff Sessions who are ending
workplace protections for trans people under the Civil Rights Act, so there’s a lot of
ways that–there can be some undermining of rights in lots of different ways. Many of us saw the CDC that banned these seven
words, and some of those seven words were “transgender” and “diversity” and–
>>KS: And “evidence-based”.>>mm: –“evidence-based”. [audience laughs] You know, it’s like, the
CDC banning “evidence-based” is just kind of crazy. But those kinds of things are just coming
down from the top. We know that things like the Department of
Education is no longer investigating claims around bathroom discrimination; so it’s
still not right, not legal, to have that discrimination there, but they’re just not going to pursue
any cases that go towards them. We know that Trump administration plans to
minimize civil policies and efforts in multiple different areas, so, again, those different
branches of the government. Some of us know some of the things around
Religious Liberty or Religious Freedom laws, so rights that are getting pulled away from
our health care axis and who can treat us, or who can choose to treat us or not. So those are just kind of a couple–those
are–I don’t know how many those were–but, ten–
>>TS: Too many.>>mm: Mm-hm, yeah, too many out of quite
a few dozen of rollbacks. And what kind of impact does it have? And does that kind of influence the momentum
that religious groups might have, or conservative therapists might have, to say, “Oh, well,
you know, if the feds are saying this, we’re going to push this forward too.” So I’m curious, for folks on the panel,
if you want to talk at all about how those federal-level shifts–if they are affecting
what’s happening in churches or faith communities or churches, or what’s happening in therapy,
what’s happening–are they related or are they not related?>>TS: Very much so. It all intersects. All those conversations. All of this messaging. It creates uncertainty in our country. We don’t know where we’re going. And it has impacted even Wisconsin. When I look at the North Carolina bathroom
bill–wow, that was a situation that was totally volatile. North Carolina, I think, learned its lesson,
economically and beyond. But guess what? Wisconsin proposed a bill in the legislature
this year to control municipal laws and ordinances that directly relate to employment protections. And in Milwaukee, we recently–last year–amended
the local ordinance for the Equal Rights Commission to add protected classes that are not protected
by the state or the federal government in employment, public accommodation, and housing
discrimination, which will include people with HIV status, transgender people–gender
identity / gender expression, I should say–and some other protected classes. So, here they are in Madison, in the legislature,
saying, “Oh, no no no no no no, we don’t want that.” So, they said, “We wanted to develop a consistent
policy across the state for employment protections.” And that’s great! That’s a good idea, maybe, right? So we turned around and said, “Okay, you’re
going to include all of these protected classes that Milwaukee protect, or Madison, or La
Crosse, and these seven other municipalities that have extended protections.” “Oh, no no no no no no, we’re just going
to apply the state law as it is to everybody, and you can’t go beyond that norm. You can’t go beyond what we said.” Again, this goes back to what they’re hearing
in Washington and beyond, that they can now develop these policies that favor what their
thinking is and what their base would want to hear. It goes beyond that. It goes to Religious Freedom Acts that are
taking place. It goes to the cake baker. You know? It’s not about a cake. [laughs] It’s not
about a cake. It’s about discriminating against someone
and refusing service to someone because of who they are or who they express, or their
identity, and you can’t do that! That’s going back to maybe even “separate
but equal”, if you think about that. Now that’s more on the legal side, but all
of this messaging has created an upheaval, and I think it only creates a public health
situation. It’s been harmful to our communities. It’s harmful to all of you here, and all
of us here.>>KS: I also–here’s the thing that I cling
onto–I wrote a note to myself to remember to say it [laughs]–is that yes, and also,
minority stress research also suggests that there can be positive things that can happen. Like, this. It kind of gets people to show up, and to
show up for each other, and I wrote down “make new structures” and “reaffirm our values
that we have and actually increase cohesion”. So I think there’s also this really interesting
other side, that really has a lot of potential, where things can get sparked, and that’s
why this is happening right now, and people are awake [laughs], I think, in a way, and
when people show up for stuff, things can happen.>>mm: You’re so right, Kim. And we saw right after the election–the national
election–the Women’s March the next day, and we’ve just got–there are so many intersectional
ways that people are showing up. People are showing up for people that’s–a
different issue from what their personal issue is–
>>KS: Right.>>mm: –and that momentum is really powerful–
>>KS: Right>>mm: –when we show up for other people,
even if it doesn’t personally affect us, because it does really affect us if we care
about somebody else’s issues, which is really kind of cool. Can we move on and share a story? Because I think one of the things that we’ve
kind of hinted at but not talked about specifically is that a lot of times conversion therapy
really is about religious-based or faith-based things, and sometimes we forget about the
institutionalization of folks, and I’d like to share with you–some of you know who Dylan
Scholinski is; a really cool trans guy, and he’s done a lot of really fascinating art
projects. Let me show you a clip from “Diagnosing
Difference”, which is just a fantastic film. It’s a little bit dated right now, but it’s
a really good film. And it’ll share some things that are a little
bit different than some of what we’re talking about, but still shares a little bit about
what conversion therapy is. [gentle music]
>>Dylan Scholinski: You know, all of those things are part of my identity, just the same
as, like, I’m a Red Sox / Cubs fan. At the age of 15, after two suicide attempts–and
certainly I’ve been involved with counseling ever since I was probably about 5, of some
sort, which most of that had to do with gender stuff–at the age of 15, my parents were concerned
for my happiness, concerned for my safety, and went to the school counselor, and the
school counselor said, “Well, what we can recommend is that you lock her up.” You know? Like, that was really, like, the only alternative
that was given to them. And at that point, you know, if they wouldn’t
have locked me up, they would have been seen as bad parents, you know? So I end up going to the hospital, very much
against my will. And within a half an hour I’m diagnosed
with this gender thing. “Present since grade three” is how it’s
written down in my chart. And then basically spend my entire high school
experience in mental hospitals being treated with–like, pretty much extreme femininity
training, which–you know, they were really successful, as you can tell. I’m really femme now. I entered the hospital in 1981, which coincidentally
is around the time that Gender Identity Disorder was “invented”, and so I was part of that
first wave, and they grabbed onto it tight, and they certainly wouldn’t let it go. Behavior modification was the treatment–most
of the treatment that I received. I was on a point system where I would earn
points for good behavior and lose points for bad behavior. My treatment was designed mostly to be about
trying to make me act like a girl. Most of my treatment was about makeup, learning
how to–like, to care about what boys like sexually. I was actually being treated more for how
other people were feeling. Like, I wasn’t being–I wasn’t learning
how to love myself, you know? I was learning how to perform so other people
could love me, and that’s not sustainable. They’re basically training me to kill myself
later, because–you know, I’m never going to be something that I’m not. Like, I can’t sustain that. You can’t make me sustain that. Years and years later, it’s still something
that affects me every day, just in terms of that memory. I frequently have nightmares. I wake up sweating and crying, or hugging
a pillow so tight that it’s about to kind of burst out the ends. I–you know, it disrupts me. And the power of that system, you know, once
they have a label for you and they have something that they can treat you for–you know, some
people, I think, can be given that diagnosis and have it be empowering, you know, like
it becomes something like now they understand something about themselves. Maybe it gives them access to health care
to help them with those things? That was not my experience at all. I found it to be emotionally crippling. It erased me and removed me from the world.>>mm: As we kind of move towards the end
of our time, let me share another video with you. It’s also from the Diagnosing Difference
film.>>Speaker #1: The most important part of
the expression “trans people” is the second part, “people”. Your trans clients are still your clients. They are fundamentally people.>>Speaker #2: What I would really like medical
and health care professionals to know about trans people is that they’re people.>>Speaker #3: We’re people! [laughs] First
and foremost, we’re people. We’re biological beings. And so all of your training has to come into
play.>>Speaker #4: What I would like my mental
health and medical professionals to know about working with me as a trans woman is that I’m
a human being. My being trans, at a certain point in my life,
was a very very big deal to me. My being trans, at this point in my life,
feels like less of a big deal to me, and somehow, sometimes, more of a big deal to people that
don’t even know me.>>Speaker #5: I think what they miss by the
way that they treat us is that we’re just people, and that we’re human beings, and
that if they take the time to get to know us, they can appreciate us for who we are. You know, you don’t have to like everybody,
but you can at least give them respect for who they are and who they’ve chosen to be. It’s a hard choice to do that. I mean, you fight so many things inside yourself
to get to realize that you’re a transgender person, so they need to respect that. They need to give us that respect. “Well, this person made a conscious, clear,
informed decision that this is what they want, and as a medical person, let me help them
get there.” Not, “Let me throw up every obstacle I can
to keep them from getting what they need, or making them feel as if they–it’s a crazy
person’s decision–that they’re little, that they don’t count, that they don’t
matter, and that if they die tomorrow no one would care,” and they push and foster that
all the time.>>Speaker #6: A lot of trans people have
experienced lots of discrimination in their life. It would be really beneficial for the medical
community and the mental health community to learn more about how to be more sensitive
and more open to these individuals coming in and accessing service. What we all want is very basic, and it’s
not different from anybody else. We just want respect.>>mm: So that kind of brings us to the “How
can we embrace or uplift or celebrate all gender identities and expressions?” So, in all these different places that we
might be looking at. Thoughts? Or just do it?>>SG: [laughs]
>>KS: Just do it! There is a psychologist–Ruth Bassinger, her
name is–who has a really awesome kind of narrative therapy model. It’s called the NICE Model–which actually
stands for something, but also there’s, like, that nice “nice-nice” thing. But a lot of what she talks about is this
idea, like I was talking about earlier, about the transgressing of categories, I think. That’s important, I think.>>mm: Mm-hm. What else can we do to uplift, celebrate–
>>SG: You know, well, I’ll say this, michael. I’m not–I don’t tend to think of myself
as terribly naive or overly optimistic, but I’ve been doing a lot of training and public
education in the last year or so in Milwaukee, and the more I do that, the more requests
come back after you do those, as you know–>>mm: Mm-hm.>>SG: –and I have been pleasantly surprised,
actually, in the last five to six months, particulaly in the mental health field, how
many requests that I’m getting for trainings and education and particularly in the mental
health field around youth, social workers that work with youth, and I find that really
really really heartening, that folks at least are–I think–are really starting to pay attention
to gender diverse youth that are in their care, and they recognize that they really
need to be paying attention to doing right thing for our youth, and doing more than “doing
no harm”, but doing the right things for supporting them.>>mm: Exactly. And I don’t do a lot of training here, I
do a lot of training across the country where we’re doing the same thing. I train in rural areas, I train with a lot
of law enforcement officers which tend to be conservative, just places and people that
you think would not get it, and they do get it–or they want to get it. You know, I think that sometimes what we see
on the media are this really small percentage of folks that are in this anti, oppositional
place. And really, I think the common folks that
are living every day are like, “You know, it’s okay.” You know? They invite the kids over for a playdate at
their house and, you know, they’re this really conservative Christians who are inviting
the kids over, and the kids can play with whatever they want. So, I mean, we’re seeing stuff happen which
is really really good, so I think we kind of need to hang on to those–that knowledge
that it’s moving forward, and try to ignore some of those “bad words” and those “bad
slides” before, and not think about it too much. So I wanted to thank our panel before we do
the free book thing. so thank you all for being here.>>TS: Thank you, michael.>>KS: Yay!>>TS: Thank you, FORGE. Thank you michael.>>KS: Thank you all for coming. [upbeat background music]

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