An LGBTQ advocate, who started an effort last year to ban the use of conversion therapy in all 50 states, said he hopes Indiana is among states that will pass such legislation in 2018.
Samuel Brinton, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with dual master’s degrees in nuclear engineering and tech policy, spoke Thursday evening at YES Cinema before a crowd of more than 20 people about the harms of conversion therapy.
Conversion therapy is described as “a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression,” according to the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBTQ equality.
The presentation was part of IUPUC’s Excellence in Leadership Initiative speaker series.
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Brinton spoke about his own experiences with conversion therapy growing up as a child. Starting at age 10, Brinton was subjected to the practice, which continued for two years while he lived in Florida with his parents, he said.
Brinton said his experience with conversion therapy, which was done at the urging of his parents, involved electroshock therapy and his hands being put in ice.
“I was told something was wrong with me and this was the way to fix it,” Brinton said, describing the experience as traumatic.
During an August interview with Business Equality Pride Magazine, Brinton described his sexual orientation as bisexual and his gender identity as gender-fluid. And during Thursday’s program, Brinton said he recently got engaged.
Brinton, who serves as head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youths, said part of his focus is to raise awareness across the country.
In December, he started the 50 Bills 50 States campaign, which works to ensure that every state submits legislation that works to end conversion therapy.
“Conversion therapy has been around for a long time,” he said. “It’s definitely still happening by the thousands.”
So far, legislation banning conversion therapy has been passed in nine states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont — in addition to Washington, D.C., Brinton said.
Indiana is one of the states Brinton said he hopes will pass legislation banning the practice during the 2018 legislative session.
“You will have a bill in 2018 working to end conversion therapy,” Brinton said.
He also urged people in attendance to discuss the topic with others they know, and to share Brinton’s campaign on social media using the hashtag #50Bills50States, adding that will help raise awareness of the issue.
“We need to keep this conversation going,” he said. “I really need this help in Indiana.”
Brinton said he is focused on raising awareness and pushing legislation.
“We must remember we are our legislators’ bosses,” Brinton said. “If legislators are willing to put in the time and effort, it can be possible.”
Brinton said he feels confident moving forward in legislation being passed in other states.
“This is something that no one thinks is happening anymore,” he said. “You see weddings everyday, but you don’t see conversion therapy, and I think we will make it stop, but it will take some time.”
B Watt Jorck, a member of First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, said she decided to attend Brinton’s presentation in part because she has a lot of empathy for the LGBTQ community and wanted to learn more about conversion therapy. She is part of the church’s More Light group, which works for LGBTQ individuals in society, she said.
Watt Jorck said she was moved hearing Brinton’s own personal experiences with conversion therapy and hopes to see a bill passed in Indiana banning the practice.
“Imagining my children at that age, it brought tears to my eyes to think of someone letting that happen to their children,” she said. “It’s so much easier to accept your children the way they are, as they are and the way they present themselves.”
The campaign, which works to end conversion therapy in all 50 states, was launched in December. To learn more, visit thetrevorproject.org/50-bills-50-states/
“I was told something was wrong with me and this was the way to fix it.”
— Samuel Brinton, speaking about conversion therapy.