“Conversion Therapy” Lawsuit Explains What It’s Really Like

Photo: Richard Drew/AP Photo.
A jury in New Jersey will soon decide whether a company defrauded clients who went through its "conversion therapy," the controversial and widely discredited practice that supporters allege can change a person's sexual orientation. Conversion therapy is already illegal in the state, as well as in California and Washington, D.C., and details from the plaintiffs' complaint show just how misleading the "therapy" label can be. Does sitting through a session in which someone hurls gay slurs like "fag," "homo," and "queer boy" sound like an effective form of therapy? What about stripping naked during group sessions, or snapping a rubber band at the thought of physical attraction to a member of the same sex? According to the Guardian, the complaint against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (or JONAH, the organization that conducted the therapy) included all of those allegations. But, those were not the strangest of the alleged "treatments." The four men suing Jonah also alleged in the complaint that they were ordered to beat an effigy of their mothers with a tennis racket. It's unclear what therapeutic function this could serve. With help from the Southen Poverty Law Center, the four men are suing the company under New Jersey's consumer protection act; they argue that because conversion therapy is unsuccessful, the company's claims that it can "cure" homosexuality were fraudulent. The National Center For Lesbian Rights has collected personal stories about conversion therapy programs. No major medical or mental health organization supports conversion therapy, and the White House called for an end to the practice in April.

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