State by state, K-State alum plans to end conversion therapy

Sam Brinton, LGBT advocate and 2011 K-State alum, speaks to Stephen Kucera, senior in accounting and music performance, after presenting on conversion therapy at the Engineering Complex on Feb. 15, 2016. Brinton, a survivor of conversion therapy, is working to end the practice state by state. (George Walker | The Collegian)

K-State alum and congressional adviser on nuclear issues Samuel Brinton discussed a campaign to end conversion therapy during his during his “You Can’t Change What We Never Chose” lecture in the Engineering Hall on Monday. Brinton announced “Fight for Fifty,” a campaign for all 50 states to submit bills to end conversion therapy.

The alum, who calls himself a survivor of conversion therapy, advocates for ending the practice with the ultimate goal of putting the industry out of business.

Conversion therapy is “behavioral, cognitive, psychoanalytic and other practices that try to change or reduce same-sex attraction or alter a person’s gender identity,” according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ website.

“Blatantly trying to change a person from what they are to what you want them to be or what you want culture to see them as — that’s what conversion therapy is,” Brinton said.

Some of these practices include inducing nausea or paralysis while showing the patient homoerotic images, providing electric shocks, using shame to create aversion to same-sex attractions, orgasmic reconditioning and satiation therapy, according to the NCLR.

“Conversion therapy is by far one of the most abusive practices that we in the LGBT community face and sadly is legal in 45 states, including the great state of Kansas,” Brinton said.

California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois and the District of Colombia have passed laws preventing the licensed practicing of conversion therapy, Brinton said.

The risks of conversion therapy are extremely high and in some cases can be fatal, according to Brinton, who said he experienced suicidal tendencies because of the practice.

These risks of the practices include depression, guilt, self-blame, shame, social withdrawal, suicidality and much more, according to the NCLR.

“I would truly think, ‘I don’t want to be in a world where I’m this bad,'” Brinton said.

Some people believe, however, that conversion therapy is no longer an issue, Brinton said.

“Recognize that conversion therapy runs the gamut,” Brinton said. “We have current data saying that 1 in 3 LGBT people will go through some form of conversion therapy.”

With the amount of people experiencing conversion therapy, it is impossible to ignore the fact that it is happening in today’s society, Brinton said.

“I get over and over and over again, ‘The 1980s called, they want their issue back,’ and I remind them that a young woman named Leelah Alcorn died of suicide this year at 12 years old because of conversion therapy,” Brinton said. “This is happening now.”

Protecting youth should be a priority regardless of differing opinions of the LGBT community, Brinton said.

Brinton said he did not receive full support and protection here on K-State’s campus, but he wants to see that happen for future students.

“There are many times this university has a not lived up to its potential to support every student,” Brinton said during the Q&A portion of the lecture. “The first moment of that in my academic career was my sophomore year, just after coming out, and a professor saying, ‘Turn to your partner… Oh, wait that has a gay connotation to it. Just turn to the person sitting next to you.’ It showed me immediately that this classroom was not going to be a place where I was going to be able to learn to my fullest ability.”

Brinton announced during the lecture that he will be founding the first ever K-State scholarship specifically for LGBT students in the engineering program.

“It will show the community that it is OK to be here, that there is a place for you here,” Brinton said. “It gives me a chance to say, ‘As a K-Stater, I had a great experience, but I didn’t have the best possible experience, and I want to make it better for the next person.'”

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