Sexual orientation conversion therapy, a range of treatments that aims to turn the sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, is controversial in many countries (Haldeman, 2002). While conversion therapy is banned in some countries due to its ethical concern, its efficacy is debatable. This article argues that homosexual should have the right to choose whether to be treated or not, the ban exploit the right of homosexual and leading them no choice but to hold the sexual orientation. The essay begins with a brief historical overview of the development of conversion therapy, and then moves on to anaylse in detail the arguments of the ban in relation to the following aspects: ethic concerns, effectiveness and the right of homosexual. The essay concludes that homosexual should have to right to choose whether to attend the therapy or not, and therefore the sexual orientation conversion therapy should not be banned. Sexual orientation conversion therapy includes a wide range of approaches, from psychoanalytic approaches to behavioral approaches.
Aversive treatment, which is included in behavioral approaches, includes the application of electric shock or drugs. Apart from these cruel methods, sexual orientation conversion therapy also makes use of social skills training and visualization (Haldeman, 2002). After the sexual orientation conversion therapy is introduced, many ethical concerns have been raised. The main ethical concern is whether homosexuality or bisexuality should be considered as illnesses or not. According to Tozer and McClanahan (1999), the introduction of sexual orientation conversion therapy indicates that homosexual, which was declassified as mental illness for nearly three decades, can be “treated” is violating the ethical guideline. Therefore, it can be believed that the introduction of sexual orientation conversion therapy may imply discrimination on homosexual. Base on this concern, some countries have banned sexual orientation conversion therapy.
However, on religious basis, homosexual is unacceptable in some religion. Therefore, homosexual will be discriminated in their social network and have no choice to change the situation because of the ban. The self-esteem of homosexual may then be hurt. Spitzer (2003) suggests that leaving the choice to the homosexual clients is “fundamental to client autonomy and self-determination”. It is questionable and unethical to place the homosexual in a helpless situation that no alternative is provided. The right of homosexual may be exploited in this case. Other than the ethical concerns, the efficacy of sexual orientation conversion therapy is also doubted by educators since there is no evidence indicating the effectiveness of it (Tozer and McClanahan, 1999; Haldeman, 1994). However, Spitzer (2003) has conducted an experiment on the efficacy of sexual orientation conversion therapy which shows that homosexual can be converse into heterosexual after the treatment. This study has overthrown the claims of the educators who challenged the efficacy of sexual orientation conversion therapy with the reason of no evidence on its effectiveness Nonetheless, Moran (2007) argues that the studies of sexual orientation conversion therapy with positive results include sampling bias.
It is admitted that there is methodology limitations on the studies of conversion therapy, but it cannot prove that the therapy has no efficacy. On the other hand, the harmful effect caused by the failure of treatment is stressed by the warring factions of sexual orientation conversion therapy. Depression, avoidance of intimacy and lower self-esteem are frequently considered as the harmful effects of sexual orientation conversion therapy. It can be believed that some of the countries ban the sexual orientation conversion therapy may due to the fear of these harmful effects. In fact, the methodology problems of the conversion therapy studies with positive results stated by the opposition also imply on the reports of harm done by conversion therapy (Haldeman, 2002). In this case, it is unfair to stress the harm of sexual orientation conversion therapy. Even though there are potential harms caused by the failure of the treatment, many clients can make a rational decision to minimize their unwanted homosexual attractions after providing them with informed consent about the risk if the therapy fails (Spitzer, 2003).
It is believed that every medical treatment has its own risk, there is no exceptional case for sexual orientation conversion therapy. Therefore, it may not be suitable to ban the sexual orientation conversion therapy due to its risk. Another point is that the disadvantages discussed above which include the potential harms caused and the ethical concern can actually be alleviated by setting regulations on sexual orientation conversion therapy. Regulations such as prohibiting the use of drug in the treatment, it can protect the right of clients and lower the risk of suffering the harms due to the failure. Instead of banning the whole sexual orientation conversion therapy, it may be better to regulate it since it can provide an alternative to homosexual which they can choose the way of living. One more point is that the development of sexual orientation conversion therapy is still not mature since it is a rather new treatment. Therefore, it is not surprising that the success rate is not high.
However, banning the whole sexual orientation conversion therapy is obliterating the possibility of its success in the future since the development of it is stopped completely by the prohibition. In other term, it is obliterating the hope of some homosexuals who crave for turning into heterosexual. In this point of view, it is questionable that the prohibition is beneficial to homosexual. Haldeman (2002) supports that people should not turn away from the sexual orientation conversion therapy due to the difficulties faced in the development of sexual orientation conversion therapy. In conclusion, banning the sexual orientation conversion therapy harms the right of homosexual since they have no choice on their way of living. The harms reported by some psychologist are questionable due to the methodology problems.
Even though the success rate of sexual orientation conversion therapy is relatively now in present, room should be left for its development. Having regulations on sexual orientation conversion therapy may be a better alternative than prohibiting the whole sexual orientation conversion therapy. Risks and harms can be lowered by introducing the regulations, it also provides an opportunity for those who have strong desires on sexual orientation conversion. And therefore, the sexual orientation conversion therapy should not be banned.
Haldeman, D.C.(2002). Gay rights, patient rights: The implications of sexual orientation conversion therapy. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 33(3), 260-264 Haldeman, D.C.(1994). The Practice and Ethics of Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62(2), 221-2 Moran, M.E. (2007). An examination of women’s sexuality and spirituality The effects of conversion therapy. A mixed method study (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Digital dissertation consortium. (UMI No. 3252403) Spitzer, R,L.(2003). Can Some Gay Men and
Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32(5), 403-417 Tozer, E.E. & McClanahan, M.K.(1999). Treating the Purple Menace: Ethics Consideration of Conversion Therapy and Affirmative Alternatives. Counseling Psychologist, 27(5), 722-42