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Nathan M. Schaefer

Coming of age in the most supportive of environments can be a grueling process for any adolescent. Coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation or gender identity in a state that allows so-called therapists to try to change who they are can be devastating. Minors do not have full, legal control over their health care, but a bill before the New York State Legislature would protect them from being subjected to quackery judgments that they’re anything but normal.

The damaging practice of trying to change LGBT minors and deny them their authentic identities needs to stop. Every major medical association has agreed that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is not a disorder and opposes attempts to “cure” it. In fact, the American Psychological Association cites negative effects of so-called “reparative therapy,” such as depression, suicide and anxiety.

California and New Jersey have led the way on this. Now many others are stepping up, including the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Our own state’s proposed law is sponsored by Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan, and Sens. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, and Michael Gianaris, D-Queens.

As it did during the marriage movement, the Buffalo community is once again leading the charge to achieve this priority for the LGBT community. That’s why today Sen. Tim Kennedy and Assemblyman Sean Ryan, both D-Buffalo, are throwing their weight behind this key issue.

We must pass this law in New York and in states all around the country to send a strong message that our identities are to be respected, and that the medical professionals we look up to to provide compassionate and supportive care are not stuck in last century’s mindset. Public opinion is in our favor – equal rights for LGBT people has more support than ever before and this is one common-sense bill that most can get on board with.

Even some of the most notoriously vocal LGBT opposition groups on this issue are changing their tune. In June 2013, after 36 years of leading the “ex-gay” movement, Exodus International disbanded amid growing skepticism of its top officials and board members that sexual attractions can be changed. President Alan Chamber apologized, saying he was “sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized patients.”

We cannot allow so-called therapists to continue to render the next generation of LGBT Americans insecure, confused and psychologically inflicted. We all call on New York and the country to support our children as they grow into the beautiful, diverse and authentic adults they’re meant to be.

Nathan M. Schaefer is executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda.