- Meet Ted
- Media Galleries
- Contact Me
- Sign up for my newsletter
TORRANCE DAILY BREEZE - OPINON: Ryan Kendall: Senate bill could be a lifesaver for gay youths
June 22, 2012
By Ryan Kendall
I have known I was gay since I was a young boy growing up in a conservative, Christian household in Colorado. Back then, I tried to hide my sexual orientation from everyone around me -- including school classmates who tormented me with words like "faggot" because they thought I was different.
When I was a young teen, my parents discovered that I was gay and reacted harshly. The loving family I had known quickly became abusive. My parents found a counselor in Southern California who misled them into believing he could make me straight.
Instead, my weekly sessions with this man set me on a devastating, decadelong course of self-destruction. Each session made me sink deeper into depression and the therapy dove me to the brink of suicide.
Eventually, I realized that I had to leave home if I was to survive. At 16, when most young people are excited about learning how to drive, going to the prom, or even making college plans, my sole focus became finding a way to stay safe and alive.
I was forced to navigate my way through a complex social welfare system, surrendering myself to the Colorado Department of Human Services and taking legal action to revoke my parents' custody. Only then did my "therapy" finally end, leaving me to deal with years of depression, substance abuse and occasional homelessness.
In May, the California State Senate took an important step to protect others like me by passing a bill that would prohibit mental health practitioners from forcing young people to try to change their sexual orientation. This month the California Assembly can follow suit by voting for Senate Bill 1172, sponsored by Sen. Ted Lieu.
As someone deeply harmed by anti-gay conversion therapy, I add my voice to those urging the State Assembly to send this bill to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.
It took more than a decade, but I finally rebuilt my life. Unfortunately, many other young people who are subjected to these abusive practices aren't so lucky, sinking so deeply into depression that they are never able to see themselves as anything other than the "damaged" people these charlatans make them out to be.
I know firsthand how destructive it can be to believe that you are somehow defective or unworthy of love. The truth is simple: I did not choose to be gay any more than I chose to be Hispanic, brown-eyed or short. There is nothing wrong with who I am, just as there is nothing wrong with the other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths who are still being harmed by these discredited "therapies."
The counselor I saw continues to be a leading proponent of anti-gay conversion therapies for youths. Every day, he and others who have built careers on these false claims abuse their professional authority by subjecting other youths to the same harmful messages that I barely survived.
Every day, more families are destroyed and more young people lose the chance to grow up knowing they are deserving of love and support just as they are.
While some have expressed concern that this type of legislation is an inappropriate regulation of professional therapists, the government has an obligation to protect people -- especially children -- from dangerous and fraudulent practices. No therapist should be permitted to deceive parents or mislead vulnerable young people into believing they're worthless. I wish this law had been there to protect me. It can be there for others.
The state of California has an opportunity to take a landmark step to protect LGBT youth. The time to act is now.
Ryan Kendall is a resident of California who is currently studying political science at Columbia University.