Back in December, a transgender teen by the name of Leelah Alcorn committed suicide.

The 17-year-old was hit by a tractor trailer in Cincinnati. The incident was ruled a suicide due to a note left by Alcorn detailing her experience as an “out” transgender individual.

Her parents’ lack of support, her forced isolation and conversion therapy all combined to push her over the edge, so much so that she felt she could no longer go on living.

Her parents have received much criticism and backlash due to the way they handled having a transgender child.

Being transgender was against their Christian beliefs and, in order to make Alcorn behave according to those beliefs, they isolated her from her supportive friends and sent her to conversion therapy, a process which aims to force LGBTQ+ individuals to conform to heterosexual norms.

I don’t doubt that Alcorn’s parents loved their child deeply and I do express sympathy for their loss, but the dangers of conversion therapy cannot go unnoticed.

Conversion therapy is nothing but a product of ignorance that is justified by religiosity.

Christians who support the “treatment” will say that, because they have the freedom to practice their religion, so, too, should they be free to practice converting LGBTQ+ persons, despite the fact that notable institutions such as the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association warn of its negative effects, including causing depression in patients who undergo the therapy.

But the freedom to practice your religion does not equate the freedom to hurt others due to your religious beliefs. There is a fine line between not agreeing with someone’s “lifestyle choice” and damaging them because of this notion.

You can disagree with someone’s lifestyle and still refrain from hurting them physically or emotionally.

You are free to disagree; you are not free to cause harm to another person.

That being said, conversion therapy, an outdated method of controlling people who don’t fit societal gender norms, should be banned.

It’s not a matter of religious freedom; it’s a matter of ensuring that innocent people aren’t forced to undergo something so demeaning that they are pushed to the point of suicide.

I’ve said this before in previous columns and I’ll say it again: I am tired of religious beliefs being used to justify the harm of individuals who do not comply with those beliefs.

When you claim that your beliefs justify your maltreatment of another human being, that’s when they lose validity. Period.

The fact of the matter is, conversion therapy doesn’t help anyone, no matter how much you believe it does.

A better way to help the transgender community, along with banning harmful, ineffective faux treatments, is to educate people about gender identity and the struggles that transgender persons face.

We need to keep the transgender community visible and, in doing so, dispel myths and combat ignorance.

This is how we should be treating transgender individuals; with respect, understanding and acceptance.

We need to stop pretending that the religious beliefs behind conversion therapy are valid enough to keep the practice alive. Transgender persons do not need to be “healed” by religion.

Instead, people should educate themselves as well as others and refrain from engaging in harmful behavior, regardless of their religious ideals.

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