For the third year in row, Citizens Project is supporting legislation in the Colorado Legislature that would prohibit “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ children by licensed mental health care providers. This harmful practice seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attraction or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.
We urge you to contact your representative and let them know that you SUPPORT House Bill 1156.
Two friends of Citizens Project have shared their personal stories (given at the Colorado Legislature) of conversion therapy to help others understand how damaging this practice is.
Good afternoon Madam Chairwoman and members of the committee, my name is Esteban Lee-O’Neal and I am here today to support House Bill 17-1156. I was involved in Evergreen, the Mormon Church’s “conversion therapy” program for over a decade. I participated with 15 local men in Denver, and 5 of those men committed suicide because of the abusive treatment they received. 80% of us were married fathers with children, and all of us were funneled into Evergreen after seeking help from our religious leaders, who shamed us, and sent us to professional counselors that directed us into the program.
As a child born and raised into the Mormon Church, and being told my entire life that homosexuality was a sin as grave as murder, I was desperate to change. Nothing seemed to work, and they convinced me that I was abhorrent, and mentally ill. I was told that conversion therapy would cure me, and they disputed that the American Psychiatric Association rejected conversion therapy, and other major medical and mental health groups did, too.
During the time I was active in conversion therapy, I became emotionally unable to live a healthy life, and I was taught that homosexuality was the same as drug addiction. I tried each conversion therapy session to convince myself that I was an addict; however, using the techniques given me to cure myself only made me feel emotionally worse and more depressed. I was taught to act straight, and I would be straight. I was married at the time, and I was acting a part that was driving me to insanity.
I can only imagine the impacts this so-called therapy would have had on me if I were under the age of 18! As an adult I was being pressured by my parents and my church to see a therapist who wanted to change who I was, and as an adult I was feeling suicidal. The data shows that conversion therapy is mental abuse, and emotional torture. The extremely dangerous practice of conversion therapy can lead to depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, and even suicide.
After coming out and leaving the Mormon church, I am now a mentally healthy, gay father of six successful children with my husband. My homosexuality was never a sin, and there is no cure. Those people forcing me to attack myself for being homosexual was what made me depressed and feel suicidal. Living openly and honestly as a gay parent, the same as all heterosexual parents do, is what brings me true joy.
I now know that conversion therapy is a dangerous and discredited practice that is based on the false claim that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is something that needs to be “cured.” House Bill 17-1156 will protect LGBT youth and I urge a “yes” vote. Thank you for your time.
Note: This testimony was given in 2016 (House Bill 16-1210) when Silas was living as “Sarah” the gender assigned to him at birth. He has since begun female to male transition.
Thank you Madam Chair and members of the committee. I am Sarah Musick and I am here today in support of House Bill 1210.
I had a lovely childhood. I sincerely did. My parents were hardworking, god-fearing, loving people with big imaginations. They taught my siblings and I “If you can dream it, you can find a way to make it happen.” They took the twenty acres my grandfather gave them and built a stunning log cabin. It took them five years to complete. They cut 115 straight, tall, poplar trees to build our home. In hindsight, they wanted their children to be like those poplar trees. Straight. And tall. I aspired to follow in the footsteps of my father and my father’s father and become a Southern Baptist preacher. I couldn’t because I was a woman, so I settled on being a missionary instead. I attended Jerry Falwell’s, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Coincidentally, I also met my first girlfriend at Liberty University, while saving my virginity for my husband, of course. Things were complicated.
It ate away at me like a dark cancer. I dressed myself in guilt, shame and confusion daily. Eventually, I confided in our Resident Director about the relationship and she reported us. We were both placed in corrective therapy with strict orders to have absolutely no contact with each other. I completed my Bachelor’s degree quietly and with my head down in December of 2004.
Then, in January, after a painful confession of my “sins” to my parents I was sent cross-country to none other than Colorado Springs to receive ex-gay therapy at Focus on the Family. My parents felt this would protect my father’s reputation in his church and allow me to seek the help they thought I needed. I was cooperative. I even tried. My early days here were spent with a Gender Issues Analyst at Focus. I came here to be degayed through corrective therapy. I often joke that I flunked out of the Focus program. It’s simultaneously funny and horrifically sad. During and after my time at Focus I came out to my parents at least three times. Finally, I told them how I was going to live my life and they chose to have no part in it.
In 2006, while working at my first full time job and racing mountain bikes I met the woman of my dreams. I fell in love instantly but, truth be told, I was still a disaster. Erika’s perseverance, courage and kindness astounded me at every turn. My now wife is the most remarkably beautiful person I know. In May of 2010, I attempted suicide. It was grand and by most measures I should not be here speaking to you. I spent that summer in an inpatient psychiatric unit. The doctors diagnosed me with severe, chronic depression due to an existential crisis. Their clinical analysis was spot on, but it was my now wife who truly saved me: she found me just before I left this world and she pumped air back into my lungs and blood back into my heart, without breaking one rib.
In May of 2012 Erika and I gathered with nearly a hundred family, friends and our brilliant son Jack to vow our love and lifelong commitment. Then, in November of 2013 we welcomed our gorgeous daughter, Wren, into the world. We know our family is a valued part of Colorado and we devote ourselves to giving back to this community. Colorado should value all of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people for exactly who they are – not allow them to be subjected to practices trying to change them. Please vote YES on House Bill 1210. Thank you for your time.