Appleton Board of Health to consider conversion therapy ban

Published: Dec. 9, 2019 at 6:47 PM CST
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Appleton may become the next city to ban conversion therapy for minors. Places like Milwaukee and Madison already have similar bans in place, which are designed to protect youth from potentially harmful therapy practices.

Now Appleton's board of health will be considering a

later this week.

"I've been working on this resolution for a number of years now,” said Alderperson Vered Meltzer.

Meltzer is one of the authors behind the "Youth Mental Health Protection" resolution, which seeks to ban conversion therapy being used on minors by state-licensed therapists. It would fine a person $1000 each day they are found to have practiced conversion therapy.

In the resolution, conversion therapy is described as “the practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” A practice organizations like the American Psychiatric Association report can lead to patient depression or even suicide.

"Conversion therapy is a specific type of therapy that imparts in the patient feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety,” said Meltzer.

Meltzer says he has received a lot of support in creating this resolution, but there are some who don't agree with the idea at all, and others who are concerned with how this particular resolution is written.

"I do recognize there are abusive practices that happen and those should be stopped,” said Jessica Anderson, who lives in Appleton. “But their definition of conversion therapy is so broad that it would cover, as far as I can tell, many things that would not be abusive."

Anderson has specific concerns when it comes to children who feel they may be transgender, but possibly aren't.

"It's very appropriate to have, as one of your therapy goals, for the feelings of gender dysphoria to go away. But this law as far as I can tell would prevent that being a goal of therapy," said Anderson. "I do not think it is inherently abusive to try to help a child become comfortable in and accepting of the body they were born into."

But Meltzer says the ban would simply prevent therapists from treating someone questioning their gender or sexuality as problematic or shameful.

"Having conversations about confusion, that's not conversion therapy and that's not what this resolution is targeting," said Meltzer.

He says many of the people who support the ban feel it's a long-time coming.

"[It's] an important step for any city to take to protect kids from abuse," said Meltzer.

The Appleton board of health will decide whether or not to recommend the conversion therapy ban to city council Wed. at 7 a.m.

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