The Harm Of Conversion Therapy: My Testimony On Colorado House Bill 17-1156

This is a human rights issue.
Me with Rep. Paul Rosenthal after the testimonies on February 28, 2017.
Me with Rep. Paul Rosenthal after the testimonies on February 28, 2017.

The following is a transcript of my testimony to the Seventy-First General Assembly of the State of Colorado in support of House Bill 17-1156 which seeks to make conversion therapy on minors from licensed mental health professionals illegal in Colorado.

Good Afternoon mister chairman and committee:

My name is Brandan Robertson and I am an LGBT+ evangelical minister and author currently based here in Denver.

Four years ago, I was a senior studying at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. During my senior year, I began to confess to a few trusted professors about my “struggle” with same-sex attraction. Very quickly, I was told that I needed to begin work to overcome this “sin” in my life. One professor ordered me a famous reparative therapy textbook and told me to begin reading it and reporting to her what I thought. She also very forcefully suggested I begin meeting with another professor for a very mild version of conversion therapy.

Every week for my entire senior year, I met with this professor who had studied the pseudo-psychology of conversion therapists. In addition to the program she offered me, she encouraged me to begin treatment with a number of “licensed conversion therapists”. Every week I would come to my professors office and be asked to confess my “sinful” attractions, looking deep into my past to find the periods of abuse that made me gay, and using holy water, crucifixes, and intense prayer, we asked God to heal those wounds and to help me overcome these dangerous same-sex attractions.

Thankfully, being 20 years old at the time, I was able to find a supportive community in Chicago that helped me realize that what I was experiencing in these sessions was not only scientifically unfounded but psychologically harmful, I was able to maintain some degree of health and eventually, in 2015, come out as an openly LGBT+ evangelical.

For so many young people throughout Colorado, finding a community of support to counteract dangerous narratives and pseudo-science isn’t an option. Studies are consistently showing that young people are coming out at earlier and earlier ages, and if they find themselves in a conservative Christian home, there is a high likelihood that they will be forced to participate in conversion therapy programs much more damaging and intense than what I experienced.

Studies show that LGBT+ youth that come from Christian homes are significantly more likely to attempt suicide than those who are not, because so many families have been fed false information by therapists about the development of sexual orientation and gender identity and the value of conversion therapy.

Because conversion therapy is framed as a matter of faith in God’s ability to transform “sinful” struggles, so many parents cannot even entertain the idea that conversion therapy is harmful, because to do so would be a contradiction to their faith.

This leaves thousands of LGBT+ youth forced into these programs, either out of misinformation and deception, or against their will, and the damage that is done will take decades to work through and may even cost them their lives.

Today, I am here to support this bill, which will protect LGBT+ youth from dangerous and discredited practices that seek to change their God-given sexual orientation and gender identity. This bill aimed at state-licensed therapists who are falsely claiming that being LGBT is a mental illness and therefore take advantage of youth and their parents, doing immeasurable harm.

This is a human rights issue.

As an evangelical Christian, I am compelled to stand up for the voiceless and to speak truth to power. The LGBT+ youth across this nation have far too often been silenced by church leaders, parents, and therapists practicing this discredited version of therapy, need a voice. They deserve to be protected from being subjected to pseudo-therapy such as what I went through. They need lawmakers and faith leaders to stand up on their behalf and defend them from these destructive practices.

That’s why I am here today. As one who has survived and is now thriving as both an Evangelical and an openly LGBT+ person, I am here to let these youth know that there is hope for them. And I am here to ask you to not allow one more child or young person to be forcefully subjected to the damaging and discredited practices of conversion therapy. Lives are truly on the line, and we cannot continue to stand by while young peoples futures are severely hindered by the damage done by licensed therapists practicing this irresponsible and disproven practice of conversion therapy.

Thank you so much for your time.