Why Conversion Therapy needs to be halted in Puerto Rico!
Conversion Therapy didn’t end in Puerto Rico in 2019, and here’s why!
In March 2019, Ricardo Rossello, the then governor of Puerto Rico signed a landmark executive order banning conversion therapy on LGBTQ+ minors. Conversation therapy is a harmful practice seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation, behaviors, gender identity or gender expressions.
The order became legal immediately and sent directions to the secretary of health to forward regulations within 90 days to prevent licensed health care professionals from administering the practice.
The executive order defined ‘conversion’ to be a form of therapy performed by an entity or a licensed professional to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a minor.
The order intended to bring to an end the systematic torture in existence with society.
“I firmly believe that the idea that there are people in our society who need treatment because of their gender identity or whom they love is not only absurd, it is harmful to many children and young adults who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect” added Rossello as he announced the executive order.
Three years down the line, conversion therapy still exists in Puerto Rican society, with the order limited to the executive powers. Any future governor has all means to revoke the order, leaving the security of the minors in jeopardy.
It was a promise unfulfilled.
The Refusal to Vote
The original bill in 2019 sought to ban conversion therapy entirely among all licensed medical professionals and all religious institutions that receive state funding. Still, the house refused to vote on the bill or continue to listen to survivors of conversion therapy hearings.
This was because the house presumed that conversion therapy was a broader topic and could include other forms of therapy such as rehabilitation and the focus on drug addiction.
But the recent developments saw the introduction of another bill to the Senate where it provided further support and minor to be protected from physical and mental health and prohibit the practices against conversion therapy against LGBTQ+ individuals.
Senate Bill #184 was another leap forward from the ban in 2019, where it defined conversion therapy as child abuse, but legislation bars the bill from implementation.
The Harsh Reality
Conversion therapy has been woven into Puerto Ricon society from as early as the opening decades of the 20th century. Conversion therapy in its earliest form included hypnosis, inducing nausea, electric shock, and castration.
But fast forward from the dreadful times, the situation has not gotten any better. Today conversion therapy in Puerto Rico occurs with the consent of health professionals and the enforcement of religious sector and includes medication and shame aversion.
Here, minors especially undergo physical abuse and are traumatized both emotionally and psychologically in a bid to revoke their sexual orientation.
Children were continuously exposed to such abuse forcibly without consent leaving them damaged for life.
The situation in Puerto Rico is where youth were barred from expressing their sexuality due to the repercussions. The tales of the ones who did express it out have stories beyond horror tales to share.
Several stories emerged from survivors of conversion therapy in the run-up to the 2019 bill to ban minors forced into conversion therapy.
The Washingtonblade news article from March brought insight into the physical and mental suffering the victims underwent with conversion therapy.
One such story is of Alvin A. Rivera, who was 14 years old in 2014 when his mother forcibly took him to church because he felt attracted to men. The pastor performed several exorcisms to combat homosexuality and also charged his mother for the services.
After several occasions, the pastor had told Alvin and his mother that he cured him and the demons have left him.
Alejandro Santiago was another individual who underwent conversion therapy from 2008-2013. During the time at church, he was told to fast for long hours to cure homosexuality. The fast usually began at 5.00 a.m. and ended at midnight.
The victims were summoned to the congregation at the church. There, hundreds of people used to pray to claim the homosexuality demon out of the body. The aftermath of all this saw Alejandro suffering from depression and anxiety for years.
The above stories are just two of the many cases that are happening in Puerto Rico. While the legislation denies that there is any form of conversion therapy in the region following the bill in 2019, the reality is that conversion therapy still exists.
The ban applied only for minors, and it was only on counselors and psychologists licensed under the government. The lapses in the legislation gave a loophole to religious administrators to continue their therapy practice without any hindrance.
In the aftermath of conversion therapy, research from the Williams Institute shows that at least 28% of the LGBTQ Youth have attempted suicide compared to the 12% of the LGBTQ youth to those who were not exposed to therapy.
This situation will only be increased, which is why there needs to be an abrupt actionable change in the structure.
The Actual Picture
For centuries homosexuality was viewed as a crime, and these unjust justifications led to psychiatry classifying homosexuality as a crime in 1952. Under this belief, it was assumed that homosexuality was a mental disorder and that patients need to take on conversion therapy to change their sexual orientation.
But what is the intended impact of this torturous conversion therapy?
To find out if conversion therapy had an impact, the American Psychology Association developed a study to understand the different therapy models.
In 2007, the association established a task force to look at the evidence about conversion therapy.
The results that arrived revealed that conversion therapies are highly unsuccessful, and they end up hurting people, especially minors, and open the patients to high risk.
The American Psychology Association stated, “Therapy directed at specifically changing sexual orientation is contraindicated since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.”
But, did we even need a study? There is nothing to change about these minors. Should the end result of this study have been to instead prove that these conversion therapies are a form of child abuse?
The LGBTQ community is tired. They need to feel valued!
The community in Puerto Rico has been through several mishaps and struggles. A majority of the population still believes that homosexuality is wrong, according to a 2014 poll conducted by Pew Research Center. Much of this motion is owing to the country’s Catholic faith.
With 57% of Puerto Rico's residents being Catholic, most feel that homosexuality is still a mental disorder.
But this number is changing. People are coming to terms that everyone deserves to be respected and recognized irrespective of their sexual orientation.
The LGBTQ community in the country has had some wins despite the oppression. In April 2018, allowed transgender people to change their gender on their birth certificate.
The change was a significant win for the community and allowed individuals to discover themselves and not reveal their identity to society.
At LSC Swag, we believe that everyone deserves to be recognized and appreciated regardless of gender and sexuality.
In the world we live in, everyone deserves to have the equal right to speak out their concerns while having a safe space.
That is the environment that we at LSC Swag want to bring through with our clothing line and to provide everyone the opportunity to speak out and feel represented.
Time to call it an end for Conversion Therapy!
The time has come for Conversion Therapy, which came into existence in the early 19th century, to cease its existence. It’s a practice national organizations are agains, is against the law in several states and is a direct violation of best practices.
It is about time that everyone appreciates each other for what they genuinely are and does not disrespect or disregard each other based on their genders.
The need to build a society with greater tolerance, normalization, and celebrating diverse sexual orientations and gender identities should be the focus topic. Puerto Rico is in need of well established programs in schools to educate students, professionals and practitioners on tolerance, and ethics.