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One of the most controversial practices dealing with LGBTQ+ youth is that of conversion therapy, which aims to counsel away same-sex attractions.

The practice has been widely condemned by medical experts. The American Medical Association has said it “has no foundation as scientifically valid medical care and lacks credible evidence to support its efficacy or safety,” while the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has said conversion therapies “lack scientific credibility and clinical utility” and “should not be part of any behavioral health treatment of children and adolescents.”

Even so, conversion therapy is only banned in 20 states. Some jurisdictions in Missouri — including the cities of Kansas City and Columbia — have implemented bans on the practice, although a statewide ban has never made headway among lawmakers.

Astonishingly, lawmakers in some states, including Oklahoma, are even trying to protect it. Oklahoma Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula, who is also a licensed psychologist, recently told CNHI Oklahoma that he plans to propose a bill protecting conversion therapy, which he believes can be a “wonderful help and wonderful change” in the lives of those who undergo it.

But those who work directly with LGBTQ+ youth say the practice has the opposite effect. Conversion therapy can be harmful and downright dangerous, they argue.

According to recent data from The Trevor Project, which supports LGBTQ+ youth, approximately 10% of LGBTQ youth reported undergoing conversion therapy, with 78% reporting it occurred when they were 18 or younger. Young people who reported undergoing conversion therapy reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared with those who did not.

As a result, advocacy groups are taking action. The Trevor Project has just given $165,000 to organizations in 22 states, including Oklahoma and Kansas, to promote efforts to end conversion therapy practices. The goal, organizers say, is to protect young people from the “fraud” of a therapy that is discredited and unsafe.

We welcome this effort. LGBTQ+ youth need laws to protect them from adults imposing this dangerous practice onto them, and they need to understand that their sexual orientation is not a disease that needs to be cured.

Our four states — Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas — should step up and ban this practice once and for all.

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