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Bill Would Protect Oklahoma Kids From Conversion Therapy

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A state representative is aiming to keep youths in Oklahoma from being subjected to conversion therapy.

House Bill 3872 by Oklahoma City Democratic Rep. Jason Dunnington would add practicing conversion therapy on kids to a list of offenses that can get a health professional’s license revoked.

While conversion therapy has been widely debunked as a method of changing someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, Troy Stevenson with the Trevor Project said LGBTQ youth must be protected from it. A survey by the Trevor Project showed 42% who underwent conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the past year. That number jumped to 57% among transgender and non-binary kids.?

"So, the harm is they’re killing children, basically," Stevenson said.

Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Allie Shinn said conversion therapy is also widely understood to lead to problems like depression, anxiety and drug use.

"Every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades has. said, 'This doesn’t work, and what it does do is lead to lasting harm for the youth who are forced to undergo this practice,'" Shinn said.?

The bill leaves room for nonmedical entities like religious groups to continue the practice. Shinn said advocates are trying to stop conversion therapy one step at a time.?

"We think that when Oklahomans really understand the implications of this, it will become a practice that we see used less and less in any arena, because Oklahomans don’t want to stand for practices that hurt our children," Shinn said.?

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.