Tonawanda News

October 2, 2012

LEFFLER: Child abuse can take rare forms

By Scott Leffler
The Tonawanda News

— I was incredibly fortunate growing up. I lived in one house from birth until I left for college. My parents were always married. I had two loving sisters in whose presence I always felt comfortable and safe. I was never made to feel ashamed at any choices I made and I never questioned my family’s support.

Now grown up, I have two beautiful daughters. I love them exactly as they are. And if they were the exact opposite of themselves, I’d still love them precisely as they are. I’m not always thrilled with the decisions they make but our occasional differences of opinion don’t cause me to love them any less. And I don’t feel the need to “fix them.”

That’s in stark contrast to some parents who feel the need to mold their children in their own image — to the point of forcing their religious and social views on them. To be sure, I’ve shared by religious and social views with my girls, but I don’t expect them to grow up to be me. In fact, I hope they don’t.

In sunny California, Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed off on legislation banning so-called “conversion therapy,” which takes perfectly happy, healthy children and attempts to alter their “defect” so it better aligns with their parents’ morality. This “defect,” it should be known up front is the kids’ sexuality.

Yes, in California — and likely other places — it is apparently common practice to bring your gay kids to a shrink so they psychologist can “scare the gay out of them.” It’s literally “scared straight,” a program that shows troubled youth the inside of a jail in hopes that they’ll never want to live there. It is, if you will, fat camp for gay kids.

While I have no doubt believing that gay kids have more difficulties in dealing with the cruelty that is adolescence, the parental attempts to “straighten” their kids out in order to avoid that situation is misguided at best. And bringing their kids to a licensed therapist (although really would anyone who wasn’t a complete quack do this “therapy”) only serves to further strengthen in these children that there is something wrong with them.

Given that sexuality is not a choice, forcing children to endure “conversion therapy” is basically telling them that they’re broken. God made them wong. And they need to be fixed.

Statistics that I found online say that there is a 50 percent “success rate” for the therapy. They also say that conversion therapy patients are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide. I have a feeling the first stat is overstated by about 50 percent. And the second stat is likely overstated as well, although not by as much.

To quote Mark Twain: “There are three types of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics."

Of course, I dropped my statistics class on my very first day when the professor said it had nothing to do with baseball.

I got sidetracked. Sorry. Back to my point, though.

In California, Gov. Brown has signed legislation outlawing this quackery. And the radical right is all up in arms about it, claiming that it is usurping the rights of parents on how best to raise their kids.

What a crock! Parents of teenage children have every right to tell their kids what they can and can’t do. And they have similar rights to expect that their children should listen to them. They can’t, however, tell their kids what they can and can’t think. Brainwashing is child abuse. And standing up for it makes the radical right look just as out of touch with reality as they are.

Not only does it potentially harm their relationship with their child, it potentially harms the psyche of that child. And it could lead to death.

Maybe these wackos should stop trying to hard to raise perfect children and start loving the ones they have.

Scott Leffler finds the push to theocracy by the radical right to be not only annoying, but a threat to his liberty. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.