When the Minnesota legislative session started in January, I didn’t know it would threaten people like me.
The so-called “conversion therapy ban” says there is no legitimate way to counsel people like me who have dealt with same-sex attraction or acceptance of their biological sex. Any attempt to do so would become fraudulent under Minnesota law.
I’m a man who experienced same-sex attractions as a teen, now happily married to a woman for 14 years. I am also the father of three beautiful children.
You may not know other people like me, but we exist. Many are people of faith who have found joy in embracing the biblical vision for sexuality. Moreover, we value our protections under the Constitution just as much as anyone else. So when Minnesota lawmakers threaten to gag us and prevent us from telling our stories, we’re not going to let them.
My story is simple. Because of my religious faith, I decided to make different choices about my same-sex attractions. With the help of qualified mental health professionals and pastoral caregivers, I was able to bring my sexuality into full harmony with my faith.
I was not coerced or abused — I was honored and loved. I was given the power of choice and the dignity to think for myself.
How did we get to the point where politicians are trying to ban compassionate care? Mental health professionals sometimes help people with questions about their sexual orientation or gender identity in a way that affirms a traditional or biblical view of sexuality. In the past, this sometimes included harmful methods (known as “conversion therapy”) which have disappeared from the heavily regulated world of mental health counseling. Contemporary treatment (sometimes called “reintegrative therapy”) puts patients in the driver’s seat and lets them set their own goals for treatment.
Antiquated “conversion therapy” may only exist in the history books, but it was portrayed in not one but two Hollywood movies last year. Lawmakers, who are sometimes more concerned with Hollywood problems than Minnesota problems, decided the time was right to introduce a bill that bans mental health professionals from offering young people any treatment that addresses sexual orientation or gender identity except one that affirms and reinforces same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria.
Although this type of bill is a threat to free speech and freedom of religion, the most fundamental threat is to people like me. We’ve experienced same-sex attraction, but it’s not part of our fundamental identity. We want to move in a different direction, whether that’s actively overcoming same-sex attraction or living a celibate life. We want to change; many of us have changed, despite the widespread, mistaken belief that sexual orientation is 100 percent genetic.
It is not acceptable to take away counseling options for young people troubled by their sexual identity out of a sense of misguided compassion. The government should not step in and say, by extension, that our desire to live out our own views on sexuality is fraudulent. Lawmakers must face the uncomfortable truth that this broad legislation threatens the identity, and constitutional rights, of a whole class of people. This legislation would stigmatize the compassionate treatment that has been a lifeline to so many people I know.
This bill threatens a family with a child experiencing questions about gender. The only permissible answer a therapist could give to a young girl confused about her gender is that she was born in the wrong body. Counselors would not be allowed to use proven therapeutic methods to help a girl feel more like a girl — only the reverse, or risk losing their license.
This bill threatens a speaker at a ticketed conference who says that God can change hearts and that sexual purity is possible for everyone, even those with same-sex attraction. He or she could be charged with consumer fraud.
Finally, this bill threatens thousands of people who have experienced real change in their sexual identity. It calls our lives fraudulent and acts as if we don’t exist. No one deserves that sort of treatment, and the state shouldn’t get to decide who gets counseling and who doesn’t.
Sometimes when I tell my story, people call me a liar, a fraud, or worse. That’s their right, but that doesn’t mean I have to listen. But when the state of Minnesota tells me that my whole identity is fraudulent, that has legal consequences for thousands of people. We can’t just shrug it off.
I want to have a place in Minnesota. I want to belong here. I’m here to make my voice heard, and I won’t be silenced.
Nate Oyloe is associate director of Door of Hope Ministries.