The Youth Mental Health Protection Act (HB 2307) would ban licensed mental health providers and psychologists in Oregon from providing “conversion therapy” to minors. Conversion therapy is a largely discredited practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. HB 2307 passed in the Oregon House 41 to 18 on March 17 and now heads to the Senate.
More than 20 people showed up at the Capitol in Salem in early March to testify on HB 2307. Among them was Alyssa Chiampi, a student from Western Oregon University. She used her personal story as testimony because she says it proves that conversion therapy is a very real threat to LGBT youth in Oregon today.
In December of 2014, Chiampi says her mother convinced her to try going to a session with a licensed psychologist who provides conversion therapy. Chiampi had recently come out as pansexual — or someone who is potentially romantically or sexually attracted to anyone, regardless of gender identity — and when her mother found out, she turned to the internet.
“She Googled places that provide conversion therapy,” Chiampi says. Her mother found a psychologist close to their home in Medford, and Chiampi agreed to go. She now remembers that hour as the most uncomfortable hour of her life.
If HB 2307 were the law, Chiampi says she would not have had to go through a “step backwards” last year in her coming out process.
“This bill would have been my backbone in order to stand up to my mom, to say that I wasn’t going to go,” Chiampi says.
Basic Rights Oregon, a nonprofit LGBT rights organization out of Portland, brought HB 2307 to the Legislature. BRO Policy Director Nico Quintana says it is a high-priority bill because of the number of people BRO has worked with who have been harmed by conversion therapy. By banning the practice, he says the state will fulfill its obligation to balance the rights of parents with the safety of youth.
Supporters of HB 2307 include the American Counseling Association, the Oregon Psychological Association and the Oregon Nurses Association. The American Psychological Association also supports it and recently released a report that discredits conversion therapy. These mental health professionals agree that being LGBT is not a mental disorder, so efforts to “cure” patients are not permissible practices.
If passed, it will be up to mental health professional associations to regulate the new law. Quintana says the bill is very narrowly focused, and it does not restrict free speech or violate privacy rights — concerns brought by groups including the Oregon Family Council. It would only ban licensed therapists from doing conversion therapy on minors.
Chiampi says she hopes her story proves that HB 2307 is needed badly today.
“In Medford, I know people that are scared of coming out to their parents because they know their parents will make them go to conversion therapy,” she says.
The bill passed out of the House Health Care Committee on an almost party-line vote. Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend) joined the five Democrats on the committee to vote in favor of it.
According to BRO, conversion therapy puts youth at risk for depression, substance abuse and suicide.
This story originally identified Chiamp as pangender. She is actually pansexual and cisgender (she identifies with the gender of the body she was born with).