Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds used his band’s triumph at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards Wednesday to deliver a sobering call to action against so-called conversion therapy.
“I just want to take this moment to say there are still 34 states that have no laws banning conversion therapy ― 34. And on top of that, 58% of our LGBTQ population live in those states,” Reynolds told the star-studded crowd, accepting the Top Rock Artist award with his bandmates.
“This can change, but it’s gonna take all of us taking to our state legislation, pushing forward laws to protect our LGBTQ youth,” he added, noting a surge in depression and suicide rates among those who have undergone conversion ― otherwise known as “ex-gay” or “reparative” ― therapy. “It’s not working, needs to change.”
The discredited practice of conversion therapy is aimed at ridding an individual of same-sex attraction, based on the false assumption that such attraction is a mental disorder. It may include such methods as talk therapy, electroshock therapy and even treating LGBTQ identity as an addiction, not unlike substance abuse disorders related to drugs or alcohol.
The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among other professional groups, have denounced the practice, which is banned among minors in 16 states, including New York, California and Hawaii. Still, it continues to be promoted in conservative religious communities.
Reynolds’ remarks were a stark contrast to the self-congratulatory speeches that dominated the rest of the night. For Imagine Dragons fans, however, the singer-songwriter’s words came as no surprise, given his outspoken commitment to LGBTQ rights.
The 31-year-old Las Vegas native, who identifies as straight, was profiled in 2018’s “Believer,” an HBO documentary that explored his efforts to reconcile his passion for LGBTQ causes with his Mormon upbringing. That film won a GLAAD award for best documentary earlier this year.
Reynolds is also the driving force behind the LoveLoud Festival Powered by AT&T, a daylong Utah music festival benefiting LGBTQ advocacy groups and organizations now in its third year.
“I’m about as privileged as you can get,” he told HuffPost of his LGBTQ advocacy efforts last year. “I’m a white, male, heterosexual frontman of a rock band. So the weight I feel every day is, ‘What are you doing with that?’ If you’re not doing anything, well, then you don’t deserve to be where you are.”