Iowa proposes bill to become third state to ban ‘gay conversion therapy’

Morgan Kelly

The Iowa Senate voted along straight party lines to ban therapy practices designed to change the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. 

The bill is expected to stall in the Republican controlled the House, but if it somehow passes, Iowa would join two other states and the District of Columbia in banning “conversion therapy” practices. 

The American Psychiatric Association declared homosexuality would no longer be classified as a mental disorder in 1973. In 1998, the organization said it “opposed any psychiatric treatment, such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy,” according to

Wayne Glass, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Student Services volunteer intern and practicum graduate adviser, said he agreed with the American Psychiatric Association in that conversion therapy isn’t necessary and doesn’t work.

“My friends who have gone through it truly hate themselves and this is a case where the word ‘hate’ really fits,” Glass said. “They were forced into it and came out worse than they went in.” 

Conversion therapy, sometimes referred to as reparative or sexual reorientation therapy, is a practice based on the idea that people can change their sexual orientation, “converting” from gay to straight.

“Obviously we think it’s unethical to push therapy practices on someone who doesn’t want it,” said Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference. “We are just more concerned with some of the definitions in the bill and how it’s currently written up.”

In Catholic schools, licensed counselors may have students come to them with a behavior they want to fix or an issue they are having. Chapman said the counselor may suggest abstinence and this bill could make the suggestion illegal.

“That’s the reason people go to counselors,” Chapman said. “They know they have a problem or an issue and they’re seeking change and guidance. Some of the language in the bill is just too broad at this point.” 

Brad Freihoefer, director of LGBTSS, said he has worked with, and is still working with students who have gone through this type of therapy.

“Their stories and experiences are hard to hear,” Freihoefer said. “I find that a lot of the therapy practices confuse sexual orientation with gender identity and expression.”

Sexual orientation is defined as the sex of whom one is attracted to romantically and sexually, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Gender identity is defined as a sense of one’s self as male, female or transgender, and gender expression is the way a person acts to communicate their gender in their given culture, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

“We’ve seen and heard stories where in the therapy sessions they have people practice things like gender roles based on their biological sex,” Freihoefer said. “It’s confusing to the people going through it because it’s not the same thing.”

Glass and Freihoefer said they were in agreement that therapy is still around because people have a need to know and understand the unknown, and the myths surrounding sexual orientation and gender roles are still prevalent in society.

Freihoefer said myths like “are you born gay?” are still being asked and discussed on a regular basis, which begs the rebuttal, “why does it matter?”

“As a human race, we need to become educated, informed and comfortable with the unknown,” Glass said.