Forty-eight states, including Texas, still allow conversion or reparative ‘therapy,’ better known as the practice of trying to change the sexual orientation of someone who is not heterosexual. Here’s the problem: My sexuality isn’t a phase or something that needs healing.
Many Republicans from the Harris County Republican Party (HCRP), however, have taken the repugnant step of incorporating reparative therapy into their platform, including counseling and psychological treatments that aim to turn people straight—a practice that is condemned by professional organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association.
The platform is a non-binding set of principles for the party, but it serves as an important political statement, indicating their intolerant view that members of the LGBTQ community have a problem that needs to be ‘cured.’
For years, the Texas GOP’s plank on homosexuality said that “the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit.” This year the party replaced this platform with a plank that also suppresses the rights of the LGBTQ community. The platform now states that homosexuality is a “chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nation’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.”
However, a recent Pew Poll revealed that today, 61 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning individuals under 30 favor same-sex marriage while just 35 percent oppose it. The truth is that many in the Republican Party, and most of its leaders, are culturally out of touch with life in 2014’s America.
In March, Paul Simpson defeated the longtime chairman of the HCRP in what was a remarkably divisive and high-profile race to head the largest county GOP in the nation. Simpson, a candidate I proudly endorsed, affirmed that to rebuild the party, reform must start from the top. However, we have seen no mention of reconfiguring the values of our party. Days after the midterm election, the state of Texas chose to elect the same Republican candidates who have failed to protect the rights and mental health of LGBTQ youth.
Simpson has failed the Republicans who support same-sex lifestyles. Even Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri has publicly lamented the adoption of language supporting gay conversion therapy and explained that he had been outflanked.
Allowing this practice to continue clearly has harmful effects for LGBTQ youth. Research conducted at San Francisco State University found that “highly rejected” LGBT young people were more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide than those who had more family support.
It is important to remember that reparative therapy isn’t really therapy at all; it is simply anti-gay malice. As with any societal prejudice, anti-homosexual bias negatively affects mental health, contributing to an enduring sense of stigma and pervasive self-criticism.
It’s time for the Republican Party to begin to re-invent themselves for the 21st century, beginning with the HCRP. Not only has our state party chairman come out against the endorsement of this widely discredited practice, but so has fellow Republican Governor Chris Christie—a presidential contender for the 2016 race—when he outlawed such therapy in his state.
When I campaigned for, endorsed and voted for Paul Simpson I did so in hopes that he would effect change within the HCRP. My hope is that he will now pivot and work on constructing an inclusive and tolerant party. I have faith in my fellow Republicans to build a bigger tent where we all can thrive.
Local politics are the most effective. To appeal on a national level to independent voters, young voters and the LGBTQ community, the local party must amend its ossifying image as an old-fashioned refuge for individuals who rebuke modernity itself. Although Christie defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, he stood up for the rights of LGBTQ youth by outlawing conversion therapy, and Simpson should follow in his lead. An acknowledgement of my lifestyle as one that does not need healing and an embrace of my basic human rights, even a partial one, is a great place to start.
Carlos G. Perrett PZ ’18 is from Houston, Tex., and serves as the Republican Chairman of Precinct 181. He is on track to double major in political and secular studies with a concentration in Secular Governments.