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Council Member Patrick Mcgee speaks at a city council meeting Monday, August 22, 2016. (CAMILLE FINE | FOR THE POST)

City Council: Members discuss ban on conversion therapy

Athens City Council members discussed banning conversion therapy in the City of Athens during their meeting Monday night, saying conversion therapy could lead to the harm of LGBT youth.

delfin bautista, the director of Ohio University’s LGBT Center and a survivor of conversion therapy, spoke in favor of the ban at the meeting.

“Studies and anecdotal therapies have clearly demonstrated that conversion therapy does not work and does harm, period,” bautista said.

bautista, who uses they/them pronouns and a lowercase spelling of their name, said they were not aware of any conversion therapy going on in Athens, but it is important to be proactive.

“Passing this ban demonstrates to queer youth that they matter,” bautista said.

Councilwoman Michele Papai, D-3rd Ward, who is also a licensed mental health professional, said conversion therapy was unprofessional.

“Conversion therapy is not evidence-based,” Papai said. “(Mental health professionals) use evidence-based practice models.”

Colleen Dempsey, a practice associate at the Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, used the example of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen who died by suicide in 2014, to illustrate how dangerous conversion therapy can be.

“Conversion therapy is harmful,” Dempsey said. “It is based on the notion that being gay or trans is wrong. There is no medically valid basis for trying to prevent homosexuality.”

The ban specifically prohibits conversion therapy by licensed professionals on minors under 18.

The ban was proposed by a petition with nearly 500 signatures that was started by Kerri Shaw, a local social worker.

In the petition, Shaw describes conversion therapy as “a dangerous and discredited practice aimed at changing one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression.”

“No young person should ever be shamed by a mental health professional into thinking that who they are is wrong,” Shaw said in the petition. “Mental health professionals should provide care that is ethical and affirming for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people.”

According to an article by The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights organization in the country, a study by the American Psychological Association found young people who undergo conversion therapy are more than eight times more likely to die by suicide than average LGBT youth.

Council members also held the second and final public hearing regarding the city’s upcoming gas aggregation program, but no questions or concerns were brought up. The city will now move forward with the program, which council members have previously said could save residents money.

Additionally, Athens Mayor Steve Patterson gave council members an update on the city’s Water Treatment Plant upgrade. Patterson said he would soon be asking council members to authorize the auditor to enter into a bid to pay for the project, which, according to a previous Post report, is estimated to cost around $6 million.


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