Conversion therapy, ‘Pray the Gay Away,’ would harm 77,000 LGBT youth, study says

WESTWOOD — A new study estimates that more than 75,000 LGBT youth in the United States and before they reach adulthood will be subjected to the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy from a licensed healthcare professional or a religious or spiritual advisory.


Conversion therapy — which has been called “Pray the Gay Away,” lampooned on “South Park” and outlawed by several states — is a disproved treatment intended to change the sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression of LGBT people. It is grounded in the belief that being LGBT is abnormal and wrong — which we all know is bullshit.

ALSO READ: Federal bill would ban conversion therapy



A number of prestigious, professional health associations — including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics — have issued public statements opposing the use of conversion therapy and several have asked Congress and state legislatures to pass laws outlawing the practice.

ALSO READ: How dangerous is conversion therapy?



Nine states and the District of Columbia have outlawed licensed healthcare professionals from using conversion therapy on youth under the age of 18, and more than a dozen states will consider similar bans this year.

ALSO READ: Horrors of conversion therapy detailed in ‘Kidnapped for Christ’


Details from the study, which was published by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law:

  • Approximately 20,000 LGBT youth in the U.S. between the ages of 13 and 17 will receive conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before the age of 18.
  • An estimated 57,000 LGBT youth will receive conversion therapy from a religious or spiritual advisor before they reach adulthood.
  • About 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S have been subjected to conversion therapy at some point in their lives.
  • About 350,000 of the adults received conversion therapy as adolescents.

Conversion therapy for gay and lesbian teenagers became infamous after the 2007 “South Park” episode “Cartman Sucks.” Butters Stotch’s parents thought he was “bi-curious” and sent to him a “Pray-the-Gay-Away camp,” where several youth committed suicide after being told they were sexually confused. Photo: Comedy Central.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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