Leelah Alcorn, 17 year-old transgender teen, committed suicide after coercion into conversion therapy by her parents. Her death shed light onto the widespread discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community across America. The public outrage after her death resulted in a virtual petition for President Barack Obama to outline a law to prohibit psychiatric therapies used to explore ways in changing sexual orientations of gay, lesbian, transgender, and queer minors.
Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy includes multiple treatments in attempt to transform homosexual individuals to heterosexuals. The technique has been heavily scrutinized for the dangers of seeking to change an individual’s gender identity which could lead to increased rates of depression, anxiety, homelessness, and suicide in minors.
According to the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, “Clinicians should be aware that there is no evidence that sexual orientation can be altered through therapy, and that attempts to do so may be harmful.” California, New Jersey, and Washington D.C are the only exceptions in the United States where conversion therapies are banned. In Virginia, there was an attempt to pass legislation, but failed once introduced. (National Center For Lesbian Rights)
If passed, the The Obama administration’s effort to ban conversion therapies nationally, is in favor of protecting America’s youth from violations of their rights through unethical and immoral practices. The White House released Obama’s decision in response to the petition that has made waves on multiple social media sites, especially Tumblr.
Hatred and discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community has not only resided in the States. Recent videos have surfaced the web of a gay man who was publicly executed in Montego Bay, Jamaica after being stoned while anti-gay chants were being shouted by those off camera. Though the exact date of the stoning was unknown, it is believed to have occurred within the past few weeks yet these acts of anti-gay actions are common on the island country. The hate crime is just one of the many that have been committed in the Jamaican community. In June, gay rights activist, Brian Williamson was murdered in Kingston, shedding light on the anti-gay vigilante groups that run wild in the country. Though being gay is not officially illegal in the country, Section 76 of the Offences Against The Person Act prohibit physical intimacy between multiple men.
While at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Obama spoke with young equality activists and addressed the widespread abuse of LGBTQ individuals in parts of Jamaica. He touched on ideas of hope and support from Jamaica’s current and future generations that will help spearhead change in favor of LGBTQ individuals and their families. Obama’s recent steps towards equal rights for children and teens across America affirms he is anything but silent about the rights of LGBTQIA+ youth in his last year of presidency.