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Kansas City Has Banned Conversion Therapy on LGBTQ+ Youth

Kansas City Has Banned Conversion Therapy on LGBTQ+ Minors

It's the second city in Missouri to pass an ordinance outlawing the discredited practice.

Kansas City has become the second city in Missouri to ban LGBTQ+ youth from being subjected to conversion therapy.

On Thursday, the City Council of Kansas City voted in favor of an ordinance banning any attempt to "change" the sexual orientation or gender identity of young people under the age of 18 years old. The vote was unanimous among its 13-member body, according to the newspaper Kansas City Star.

Although the regulation only applies to licensed medical providers and mental health professionals, critics of the ordinance claimed it was unnecessarily burdensome. For instance, the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph characterized the policy as an "inappropriate encroachment... into the work of professionals who are already well regulated by professional licensing standards and state law."

However, there are few statewide regulations that would prevent a psychologist or counselor from administering conversion treatments, which include everything from "praying the gay away" to shock treatment and water torture. Such practices remain legal in Missouri and 31 other U.S. states.

Just one other city in Missouri has taken action to ban conversion therapy: the capital of Columbia, which passed its own ordinance last month.

LGBTQ+ advocates and conversion therapy survivors applauded Kansas City, which has a population of just under 500,000 people, for taking action to protect queer and trans young people from a dangerous, harmful practice. Jesse Brace, who was present during debate over the ordinance, told the local news station WDAF that they "attempted suicide multiple times" during the six years they spent in treatment.

"When I started at 12, it was sort of a talk therapy," Brace said. "As it went on, it went to electroshock therapy, starvation, any method of torture that could be imposed upon someone in order to try and get them to do what you want them to do."

Unfortunately, experiences like Brace's are all too common. A study released by the national suicide prevention organization The Trevor Project earlier this year found that 42 percent of young people who had undergone attempts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity had attempted to take their own lives in the past year. The rate was even higher for trans and gender nonconforming youth: 57 percent.

Conversion therapy has been condemned as dangerous and ineffective by every leading U.S. medical organization, including the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, and American Medical Assocation. The United Nations and World Health Organization have both likened it to "torture."

But while Kansas City's ban is proof that support for outlawing the discredited practice is growing, the regulation is limited. Reparative treatments will remain legal in Kansas City for those over the age of 18 and for individuals who seek religious counseling.

RELATED | This Megachurch Is 'Glamorizing' Conversion Therapy on Instagram

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