News this week has been a-buzz with developments from the queer-o-sphere and, while not all of it is particularly pleasant, they are each part of the beginning of a larger conversation toward change that we will be seeing in California and the rest of the U.S.
No conversion therapy in California
This past week, Sen. Ted Lieu, with the support of Equality California, brought a bill to the the Senate floor that would make it illegal for therapists and psychologists to provide “conversion therapy” for sexual orientation to minors. Additionally, adults who would like to undergo therapy sessions would have to give written consent to their practitioner.
The bill is a welcome relief that is long overdue. Both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have disavowed the effectiveness of this means of conversation therapy for those with same-sex attraction. According to the American Psychological Association’s website, “To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons.”
This news is not new though; the APA removed gay, lesbian and bisexual orientations from their list of mental disorders in the 1970s. Since then, these types of conversion therapy have been harming youths by making them think that their sexual orientation is unnatural. Individuals that have undergone this therapy experience depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide, according to a 2009 APA study the bill cites.
While the bill will not include prohibiting conversion therapy for transgender individuals – and the debate over whether or not gender identity disorder should be included in the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders still rages on, – this step proposed by SB1172 is still a monumental step in the right direction.
Against gender conformity!
In other queer news this week, the lead singer of the punk band Against Me! came out as transgender. Formerly Tom Gabel, Laura Jane Grace told Rolling Stone that she will be beginning her transition from male to female and that her bandmates and family, particularly her wife, have been very supportive of her coming out.
I was pleased with the initial Rolling Stone coverage of Grace’s transition, as they used her preferred pronouns and used the proper word “transition” instead of “sex change” or any other term that would make the assumption that all transgender people want to have have sex reassignment surgery. Although in conversation with a friend, it was pointed out to me that the article did use the term “gender dysphoria” as though her gender identity was an illness. I’ve also been very pleased with the fans’ reactions to Grace’s transition. They have mostly been concerned with whether or not it will affect her singing voice if Grace decides to begin taking estrogen.
I admire Grace’s courage for coming out publicly and hope to see more acceptance and understanding of trans identities as an outcome.
North Carolina’s Number One
It seems that the most important priority for North Carolina is making sure “the gays” don’t get hitched. This past week, SB514 passed with an overwhelming 61 percent, officially defining marriage in the state as “one man, one woman.” North Carolina is the thirtieth state in the union to create such a law.
It is not too surprising that a Southern state would create this law. What is interesting though, and potentially disheartening, is that North Carolina is a swing state. As this is an election year, it will be interesting to see how North Carolina votes this November in the wake of President Obama’s recent statement on marriage equality.
Obama comes out
Now, about that statement.
Regardless of how you feel about Obama’s announcement that he supports same-sex marriage – it was too late; his story about his daughters was too cutesy – he said it. While I have my own reasons as to why marriage equality should not be at the top of the queer list of priorities, we cannot ignore the reality that we still live in a world where constitutional amendments explicitly exclude individuals from social privilege. To have a current president say that he supports marriage for same-sex couples is a huge move.
It’s an election year. This move on Obama’s part, particularly because of North Carolina’s amendment, puts the state of the election in an interesting position. Though Obama took the Afircan American vote in the last election, they overwhelmingly voted against same-sex marriage. This was while Obama’s opinion was still “evolving.” Regardless of his stance now, will people of color opt out of voting for Obama because of the issue? Is the issue important enough to make them switch to Team Romney? Or will people of color, who are already less likely to vote because of a system that encourages them not to (see Florida 2000), just not turn out at the polls? While the outcome is unclear, I have hope that this declaration is truly echoing the voice of the American populus.