A shocking new survey reports that nearly one in seven transgender people in the United States have been subjected to conversion therapy.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), around 187,923 trans Americans have undergone efforts to change their gender identity. Given that the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) think tank The Williams Institute estimates that 1.4 million people in the U.S. identify as transgender, that figure represents a massive 13.5 percent of the country’s trans population.
Just as critically, the AJPH findings also represent an extremely large share of the overall number of people who have reportedly undergone conversion therapy. If The Williams Institute claims 700,000 individuals in the U.S. are survivors of the discredited practice, that means one in four are transgender.
According to researchers, trans people living in the Mountain West were most likely to report having been forced into conversion therapy at some point in their lives, including more than one-fifth of trans people in Montana and Wyoming.
The report’s author, Jack Turban, told NBC News his team was surprised by the results.
“Our research team was extremely concerned to find that this practice, which is widely discredited by major medical organizations, was so prevalent,” said Turban, a resident physician in child and adolescent psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Conversion therapy is a term which refers to a loosely defined set of practices ranging from “pray the gay away” therapy to shock treatment and water torture. It has been condemned by every leading U.S. medical association and has been outlawed in 18 states and the District of Columbia, but remains legal at the federal level.
Earlier this year, openly LGBTQ+ House Reps. Angie Craig (D-Minn). and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill to ban the use of Medicaid dollars for conversion therapy but that legislation has yet to become law.
Other studies on orientation change efforts have indicated why it remains critical for lawmakers to address the issue. According to a report published by the youth suicide prevention organization The Trevor Project in June, more than four in 10 LGBTQ+ young people who had been subjected to conversion therapy within the past year (or 42 percent) reported that they attempted to end their lives.
Amy E. Green, director of research for The Trevor Project, says the AJPH study should only further encourage lawmakers to take action.
“The study shows just how pervasive conversion therapy still is,” Green tells Out in an email. “We know the real-life harms of conversion therapy. In our latest survey, youth who reported having undergone conversion therapy attempted suicide at more than twice the rate as those who did not. In addition, more than half of transgender and non-binary youth surveyed seriously considered attempting suicide.”
Green adds that the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization is “proud to work with local coalitions and national organizations to end the discredited practice in all 50 states.” She says, “We know that with support, transgender and non-binary youth are resilient in the face of such harmful practices.”
Note: If you or a loved one is experiencing thoughts of suicidal ideation, please call The Trevor Project at (310) 271-8845 or access free text and chat services via their website. You can also call Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860 or visit their webpage at translifelife.org.