Today, the Pan American Health Organization, the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization, condemned ex-gay therapy in a new position statement, calling it a “serious threat to the health and well-being — even the lives — of affected people.” Not only does the PAHO statement identify the therapies as ineffective and a threat to personal autonomy and personal integrity, but concludes that those who offer such therapies are reinforcing stigma and should be penalized:
Health professionals who offer “reparative therapies” align themselves with social prejudices and reflect a stark ignorance in matters of sexuality and sexual health. Contrary to what many people believe or assume, there is no reason — with the exception of the stigma resulting from those very prejudices — why homosexual persons should be unable to enjoy a full and satisfying life.
The task of health professionals is to not cause harm and to offer support to patients to alleviate their complaints and problems, not to make these more severe. A therapist who classifies non-heterosexual patients as “deviant” not only offends them but also contributes to the aggravation of their problems.
“Reparative” or “conversion therapies” have no medical indication and represent a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons. They constitute unjustifiable practices that should be denounced and subject to adequate sanctions and penalties.
PAHO also offers numerous recommendations to limit the impact of ex-gay therapy:
- Governments should ban ex-gay therapy for its violation of human rights and sanction clinics that offer it.
- Schools should train health professionals about sexuality and sexual diversity to combat stigma.
- Professional associations should reject ex-gay therapy and continue to educate members about it.
- The media should expose homophobia as “a threat to human dignity and human rights” and reject any positive publicity for ex-gay therapy.
This condemnation for ex-gay therapy is appropriately bold and unwavering. Ex-gay therapy is a stain on society that serves no purpose but to encourage internalized stigma and perpetuate falsehoods about the nature of sexual orientation. PAHO should be applauded for its defense of LGBT health and human rights.