When you go to a professional for care, it’s very hard to deal with a betrayal, much less demand that the professional be held accountable. This week’s hero stood up for himself and found an organization committed to helping him.
Max Hirsh of Eugene, OR, went to a psychiatrist to get help with his depression and his ability to form romantic relationships. He told the doctor that he was gay (he’s 22 and has been out since he was 19) at the beginning of therapy. Over the course of the first few sessions, however, the doctor kept pushing issues like Hirsh’s athletic abilities, his teenage relationships with girls, and how many positive male role models he had in his life. These seemed like distractions to Hirsh, who was stunned when the doctor finally told him, “But you’re heterosexual.”
Realizing that the doctor’s strategy was to change his sexual orientation, a practice known as conversion therapy, Hirsh terminated therapy. After a few weeks of family pressure to continue working on his depression, he returned to the doctor, however, who assured him that he was “fine” with Hirsh being gay. Nevertheless, the stealth conversion therapy continued. Hirsh terminated again and has filed a complaint with the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the Oregon Psychiatric Association. Helping him with the complaint is the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has taken a strong stand against anti-gay activity in recent years.
Because the complaint is still under investigation, the doctor’s name has not been disclosed. The APA has stated, however, that they take such charges seriously. Not only would this behavior violate informed consent, the APA came out clearly against conversion therapy in 2009. Christine Sun, deputy legal director at SPLC, wants them to be even firmer, stating,
Our immediate goal is for the APA to take these allegations seriously and ultimately ban conversion therapy by its members.
That’s a goal worth fighting for. I hope to eventually be able to publish the name of the psychiatrist because he is a danger to the LGBT community.