Perhaps it was inevitable: New York City has now banned therapists from helping those with gender dysphoria to accept the sex of their natural bodies and from assisting those with unwanted same-sex attractions to overcome their unwelcome desires.
Per a law passed last year, it is now illegal for a hired therapist to “seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or seek to change a person’s gender identity to conform to the sex of such individual that was recorded at birth.” This law is being challenged in court by an Orthodox Jewish psychotherapist, who contends that it violates his rights and those of his adult patients, most of whom share his faith.
New York’s Meddling Is Inappropriate
He is right. This law inhibits free speech and the free exercise of religion while attempting to force identities on people that they do not want. It seeks to lock people into aspects of their personality that they do not wish to preserve, and that conflict with what they believe to be their essential identity. It deprives people of professional assistance in their pursuit of the sexual and gender identities and expressions that they desire to have.
So much for personal autonomy. The people loudly proclaiming that consenting adults should be free to do whatever they want with each other sexually, however violent or degrading it may appear, have decreed that ordinary therapy—consisting of talking and listening—must be banned if it seeks to help the patient achieve a desired change in sexual orientation or gender identity.
Why? What business is it of the NYC government if, for example, a woman with gender dysphoria wishes to reconcile herself to her natural body, and hires a therapist to help? Defenders of the law may argue that “conversion therapy” is ineffective and harmful, and that their goal is to ensure quality, scientific medical care and therapy. They are liars and hypocrites.
A quick internet search shows that the Big Apple is inundated with providers of acupuncture, crystal healing, and the rest of the holistic and alternative “medicine” parade of frauds and shysters. Nor is there a shortage of dubious therapists. For instance, those with a taste for combining bad metaphysics and bad psychology can engage in past life regression therapy. In New York City, a therapist can tell a man with gender dysphoria that he is a reincarnation of Napoleon, but not that he is a man.
The New York City government is not interested in clearing out quacks and charlatans; it wants to drive out religious nonconformists. This attack on the First Amendment rights of religious minorities is both inconsistent and unconstitutional.
Supporters of laws like NYC’s often caricature their targets as engaged in “Clockwork Orange”-style aversion therapy, or “pray the gay away” religious indoctrination. But that is not the norm now (if it ever was), nor is it what the plaintiff in this case does. He simply listens to his patients and speaks to them. To prohibit this voluntary practice of therapeutic dialogue, supporters of the law must declare that gender identity and sexual orientation are intrinsic, and that any attempt to modify them is so harmful that the state must interfere.
Fluid Identities That Change?
However, LGBT advocates have for years proclaimed that sexual orientation and gender identity exist along a spectrum and are often fluid. For examples, recall the Gender Unicorn and the Genderbread Person, bits of LGBT propaganda designed to teach children that gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, physical attraction, and emotional attraction are all separate attributes that fall along a spectrum.
A necessary corollary of this dogma of fluidity along spectrums is that sexual orientation and gender identity are not entirely intrinsic and immutable but, to some degree, changeable. This comports with science, art, and experience, which all testify that our desires and identities are shaped by the complex interactions between our biology, circumstances, culture, and choices.
Therefore, it is possible that therapeutic efforts to influence them could succeed, which means a patient may reasonably request such efforts. For example, a bisexual man who is married to a woman might wish to get therapy to help keep his same-sex desires in check in order to remain faithful to his wife. But NYC has made this illegal.
Nor would these therapeutic efforts necessarily oppose LGBT identities. A gender-nonconforming gay man might seek therapy to reaffirm his identity as a man, rather than as a trans woman—one of the overlooked aspects of the trans movement is that it pressures gender-nonconformists to identity as trans—but this sort of therapeutic affirmation is also illegal in NYC.
Recognizing the injustice and inconsistency of the new law does not require accepting broad critiques of LGBT identity, such as those traditional Christians or Orthodox Jews might make. Nor does validating those who identity as LGBT does require closing therapeutic options for those who do not wish to identify as such.
The freedom to define one’s sexual and gender identities must include the freedom to define them in ways that LGBT advocates dislike and have personally rejected. This freedom requires that therapists remain free to assist patients in their efforts to define their gender and sexual identity as they wish. The commissars of New York City should not dictate to people which parts of their identity they must preserve.
If people are to be free to live according to their authentic selves, they must be free to abandon LGBT identities if they so choose, and to obtain therapeutic help in shaping their identities in accord with their convictions.