I’m a clinical psychologist. I work with men with unwanted same-sex attractions and individuals with a wide range of addictions and traumas. Earlier this year, I shared my professional concerns about California Assembly Bill 2943 with the state legislature through testimony and private meetings.
I am therefore grateful that Assembly member Evan Low dropped AB 2943 on Friday, stating that he wanted to find a more inclusive, common-ground legal solution to abusive therapies. As written, AB 2943 was too far-reaching, would have limited client choices, and risked constitutional freedoms, despite its worthy goal of stopping abusive therapies.
Low and I disagreed on AB 2943, but we agree that gay and lesbian Americans are damaged by therapies that force changes and promise “results.” Many of these same people, however, also feel alienated from other LGBT people simply for exploring the option of heterosexuality.
Ostracized and alone, my clients and others seek an answer that fits their needs. That option is not the destructive and false conversion therapies Low and I oppose, but Reintegrative Therapy, which Low acknowledged in our meeting as distinct from “conversion therapy.” Like all legitimate therapies, Reintegrative Therapy takes place through client-led counseling to bring healing and peace to those who seek it.
Low’s decision to drop AB 2943 shows there is a need for greater distinction between evidence-based therapies and therapies that seek to shame people out of homosexual attractions. The core difference is that real therapies put clients in the driver’s seat. Harmful ones instead put politicians and counselors in charge, inserting their own therapeutic goals and impinging upon client freedom.
Clients describe three non-homophobic reasons for exploring sexual fluidity and heterosexuality. The first is to resolve trauma that resulted from sexual abuse. We sometimes hear this from Catholic men who were abused by clergy.
The second reason is related to deeply held personal beliefs about sexuality. Many of our Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Christian clients have this motivation.
Finally, many of our clients had taken on an LGBT identity and, years later, decided that these relationships were unfulfilling. They therefore wish to explore heterosexuality.
The new documentary “Free to Love” demonstrates how clients with these motivations have led themselves toward healthy changes in sexual attractions through counseling. By identifying the foundations for their unwanted sexual attractions, they discovered a heterosexual path. I was proud to be interviewed as part of the documentary, which the Reintegrative Therapy Association commissioned with a skeptical Hollywood filmmaker.
Compassion, healing, a safe space without judgment: these are values that ethical therapists, Low, and all who care about sexual health and resolution put first and foremost. Like Low, I hope all parties can reach an understanding that respects every person’s sexual identity and puts the client, not politicians, in charge of his or her own life goals.