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City moves toward ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth

Allison Kite, The Kansas City Star on

Published in News & Features

KANSAS CITY, Mo.--Kansas City took a step Wednesday toward becoming the second city in Missouri to ban conversion therapy for minors following more than an hour of emotional testimony from a packed room of LGBTQ residents and advocates.

Conversion therapy, often associated with religious groups, is intended to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Last month, Columbia banned the practice for minors.

Critics, including LGBTQ groups and leading medical and mental health professional associations, contend it's not effective and is often dangerous. More than half of young people who have been through conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the last year, according to a survey by the Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.

"It makes you believe that you are unworthy of existence," said Sam Brinton, head of advocacy for the Trevor Project, who went through conversion therapy. "The very idea that a flip can be switched and we are no longer LGBTQ is a lie."

Brinton said they wished someone had been able to help.

"This hurt me and it needs to stop," Brinton said.

 

The council's Finance, Governance and Public Safety Committee voted unanimously with little debate to approve the ordinance, which was introduced by Mayor Quinton Lucas. The full council could vote on the issue as soon as Nov. 14.

Lucas, who announced on Twitter last month that he would pursue the proposal, said he took notice of Columbia's decision to ban the practice.

"I find it to be interesting, progressive and helpful legislation that could keep people from harm," Lucas said. "And so I thought it was important that our office take the lead on that as well."

Proponents recounted personal stories of extreme methods of therapy and suicidal thoughts. Zachary Mallory said he went through conversion therapy at his church, where the pastor would show images of sexual acts and use shock therapy if Mallory became aroused.

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