Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Conversion Therapy: California SB 1172

Governor Brown recently signed Senate Bill 1172, banning therapies that supposedly cure homosexuality*. If I'm reading the peanut gallery correctly, the concern is over coercion: aggrieved parents sign their gay kids up for ex-gay conversion therapy, in which the kids are subjected to treatments of questionable efficacy that could be described as harassment in, say, a workplace context. I am insufficiently familiar with the therapy to comment on it in much detail; the little I know about it is from clearly biased sources, but I believe the presumed coercion is relevant to the conditions of EE and worth considering.

So, I imagine the legitimate problem is the coercion, yes? Parents shouldn't force their kids to alter a fundamental part of their innate personality just to suit their misguided moral proclivities, right? What if a kid wanted to opt in to the treatment? What if a rational adult wanted to? Would there be a EE condition still violated? Is there an expectation of regret? A BATNA disparity? Is there some presumption that personality traits aren't up for auction?

I suspect that the moral intuition behind this ban is aesthetic and probably tied to atavistic teamsmanship. People with forager moral norms think attempts to subvert human nature is abhorrent. However, this argument won't fly with those who hold farmer norms, so the arguments are easily couched in anti-coercion terms. Note that the therapy itself was banned rather than the coercion. Recall that the medical profession has oodles of experience in detecting coercion (viz. living wills, euthanasia, cool-down periods et al).

So what do you think? Under what conditions is ex-gay therapy euvoluntary? Even when it is euvoluntary, would you still be comfortable banning it anyway on other deontological grounds? How about aesthetic grounds? Is there an intermediate solution? How can the state protect folks against private coercion without preventing consenting adults from engaging in mutual acts of commerce?

*For the purposes of editorial clarity, I have elected to refrain from peppering today's comments with quotation marks. I hope you will appreciate my restraint and will understand that my failure to clearly and forcefully comment on the nature of the therapy itself is not meant to either endorse or condemn the practice.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe this is just my forager values talking, but I do think attempts to change human nature are abhorrent, and I think when applied to children this sort of treatment should be considered child abuse. For adults who elect therapy, I think it's unlikely to have a significant treatment effect, but that's up to them. Why can't the practice just be banned for kids, it's not like that hasn't been done before..


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?