LaCrosse joins Wisconsin cities banning gay conversion therapy, but practice remains legal in rest of state
Although Wisconsin is home to the first openly-gay U.S. Senator, the state lags behind many others in its protection of LGBTQ people. In fact, the Wisconsin legislature has taken steps to enshrine the practice of gay conversion therapy, a practice that uses a variety of techniques meant to change someone’s sexuality, which can lead to psychological damage and suicide.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order banning the use of state or federal funds on gay conversion therapy for minors, but there isn't an outright ban on the practice. That hasn't stopped cities from passing their own bans including Milwaukee, Cudahy, West Allis, and Shorewood, among others. LaCrosse is the latest city to join that group, in part thanks to the efforts of the Trevor Project, which is a group that focuses on suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.
"There’s no proven or known, or possible way to change an immutable fact about a person’s self. And that’s what’s so damaging about this practice. It's causing shame or trauma in these young people that are forced to hide or lie about what is happening to them in order to avoid family rejection or social rejection," says Troy Stevenson, senior advocacy campaign manager at the Trevor Project.
Stevenson says kids who go through gay conversion therapy face a lot of trauma, either through the verbal or physical abuse that is part of the practice. Kids who are forced to undergo this "therapy" are eight times more likely to attempt suicide, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Stevenson says, "We see high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, we see high rates of suicidality ... We quite often talk about the survivors of conversion therapy—those that made it through to the other side and found safety and found affirming care. But quite often, people forget about the victims of conversion therapy. Those that didn't make it through."