Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ont. Conversion Therapy Ban May See Some Gender Identity Clinics Change Approach

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ont. Conversion Therapy Ban May See Some Gender Identity Clinics Change Approach

Article excerpt

Ontario's LGBT conversion therapy ban: Now what?


TORONTO - Ontario has banned clinicians from treating transgender children and youth with "conversion" therapy, a practice deemed unethical by major international medical and human rights organizations.

But what will that mean for doctors and clinics that specialize in counselling gender non-conforming kids and adolescents?

Conversion therapy, sometimes called reparative therapy, has been used by some practitioners -- often religion-based -- to encourage heterosexuality among gays, lesbians and bisexuals and to discourage those who identify as transgender from embracing their inner non-biological sex.

Ontario's new Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act, which was unanimously passed last week, prohibits doctors from using this type of therapy on LGBT kids and teens under 18, while delisting it as a covered service for adults under the province's health insurance plan.

"It sends an incredibly strong message to practitioners to stop doing it and to parents to be very careful when they're looking for help for their children," says Cheri DiNovo, the NDP MPP who sponsored the legislation.

Enforcement will be up to professional colleges that regulate doctors and other clinicians, based on a complaint being brought forward, she says.

Bill 77 was inspired by the December suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old Ohio transgender girl whose parents had taken her for corrective therapy. A note she left behind begged: "Fix society. Please."

"So that's essentially what we're trying to do," says DiNovo, who learned the practice of reparative therapy was more widespread than she initially thought.

"It is going on across Ontario and that to me was the most shocking aspect of this," she says. "I think it's safe to say it has gone on everywhere and that this will hopefully bring it to a stop."

For some clinics that specialize in helping youngsters with what's known as gender dysphoria, the new law will not alter current practice.

The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario doesn't try to convert or reconstruct a child's sense of who they are, says Dr. Stephen Feder, head of the institution's Gender Diversity Clinic.

"The approach we take is one of validation, exploration, getting to know the child and family in ways that helps all of us together as a team to determine where the child will go with this issue," Feder says.

But doctors do try to tease out whether other factors -- such as depression, body dysmorphic disorder or another mental health issue --may be affecting a youngster's behaviour and identity. Research has shown that not all young children who express a sense of being the opposite gender grow up to be transgender adults. …

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