As a 12-year old boy, James Guay relied on books and prayer to overcome his attraction to men. Eventually his parents led him to an “ex-gay” psychologist who promised to help Guay become attracted to women within six months to a year. Two months ago, Guay testified in a hearing presenting a new California bill to prohibit “gay cure” therapies such as the one he went through.
This is the first bill of its kind to be presented in the United States. Bill proponents expect the legislation to be signed and approved by Governor Jerry Brown (D) in late August. The bill will make it illegal for licensed therapists to use such treatments on minors.
"I wanted parents to understand that this therapy is crazy," said Sen. Ted Lieu, the bill’s author.
The bill, known as the SB 1172 is one many recent actions taken to abolish the practice. Mental health organizations such as the American Psychology Association and the American Psychiatric Association have renounced “gay cures”. The World Health Organization said that the therapies "lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being" of patients.
Robert L. Spitzer, a psychiatrist who once applied and created a study supporting the “gay cure” recently apologized for his work.
"I believe I owe the gay community an apology," Spitzer said.
For over three decades Exodus International created widespread campaigns promoting methods that could change a person’s sexual orientation. In June, the non-profit’s president released a statement acknowledging that there was no cure for homosexuality and those who claim that there is one are creating false hopes for gays.
However, there are still supporters of “gay cures” since there has been no scientific evidence proving that such therapies cause harm. David Pruden is one of those supporters.
Pruden, the vice president of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality views the bill as a “solution in search of a problem."
He believes that "with the help of a well-trained therapist, [they can] move through a process where they grow away from homosexual attraction and move towards heterosexual attraction."
Pruden pointed to an example of a child molested by an adult of the same-sex.
“Now this bill is saying that for a therapist to suggest to someone that they're not gay is somehow illegal or would be wrong," he said.
Authors of the bill were very careful in determining the bill’s terminology as to not restrict help to minors who may simply want to turn to a therapist as they explore their sexuality.
"Quite naturally there are many times when an adolescent is exploring their sexual identity and they may want to talk to a therapist about that," said Jo Linder-Crow, the executive director of the California Psychological Association. "We wanted to make sure that legitimate therapy would not be caught up in the definition used in the bill."
In America’s early years, homosexuality was considered a mental illness and sodomy was punishable with jail time. After World War II, therapy became the most common practice in comparison to institutionalization or jail. In the 1970’s, the American Psychology Association removed homosexuality from the list of mental illness and the therapy practices were abandoned. But, they were later adopted by Christian organizations such as Exodus International.
"People have had these concerns about it for a long time," said Clinton Anderson, the director of the American Psychological Association's office for LGBT issues. "What may be different is a sense that there's a political will, at least in certain places, to do something more significant about it."
Guay spent a year with his ex-gay therapist and became involved in a relationship with a woman. But, it did not work out.
"I ended that relationship and began a relationship with a man," Guay said.