In January, a White House petition was started pleading the government to ban so-called “conversion therapy” for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teenagers. The petition came after 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, a transgendered teen, walked in front of a truck to end her life in December. In her suicide note, she explained how her parents pulled her from school and forced her to attend conversion therapy in an attempt to change her gender identity. Now, the White House has responded to the petition, which received over 120,000 signatures, to enact Leelah’s Law.
“As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors,” the statement, by Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama, reads. The response goes on to reference information from the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association and other health organizations that have condemned conversion therapy, which seeks to force a person to accept that they are a different gender identity or sexuality, and warned of the negative impact it can have on a mental well-being.
In an interview with the New York Times, Jarrett noted that unfortunately, Alcorn is not alone in her tragic experience:
“It was tragic, but I will tell you, unfortunately, she has a lot of company. It’s not the story of one young person. It is the story of countless young people who have been subjected to this.”
The statement also notes that a national ban would require Congressional action, so instead, the White House is encouraging state legislators to look at the clear information provided on the consequences of forcing minors into conversion therapy, and to take action to ban the practice on a state level. As Jarrett wrote, “California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have all banned licensed professionals from using conversion therapy on minors. Since last year, lawmakers in 18 other states have introduced similar legislation.”
To further show the Administration’s support of gender equality, CNN reported that the White House officially opened a gender-neutral bathroom this week, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the West Wing.