By ADAM RITSCHER
“Conversion therapy” is a reactionary, psuedo-scientific set of practices designed to “cure” people of same-sex attraction. Techniques of this horrible practice range from electric shock to ice-pick lobotomies and chemical castration.
For years, LGBT activists have been calling for this destructive practice to be banned. But so far their calls have gone unanswered. Such has the case been in both Wisconsin and Minnesota, where neither the Democratic nor Republican parties have made a major effort to address the issue. As a result, numerous local groups of activists have adopted the tactic of bringing the issue before their local governments, where they’ve won a number of victories.
One such victory was won on Aug. 20 in Superior, Wis., where the city council voted unanimously to ban the use of conversion therapy on minors within the city limits. But as is always the case in these matters, it took a mobilization of community members to make sure it got passed.
On the night of the vote, dozens of community members filled the otherwise sleepy city council chambers to speak in favor of the ban. One of them was Justin Hager, who as a youth had founded the Gay-Straight Alliance at the Superior High School. He gave a chilling account of a what conversion therapy had been like for Sam, a friend of his who had been made to go through it: “At the age of 14 (Sam) was strapped to a gurney, had ice water poured over his body and then was hooked up to electrodes while he was forced to look at images of men holding hands in the hope that he would associate same-sex attraction with torture and pain. Please don’t sit on your hands and let that happen here.”
When city councilors began to discuss the issue though, they began vacillating. A motion was made to table the whole matter, and pass the buck to the county. At that moment one of the LGBT activists in the room shouted “shame on you!” at the councilors, which was loudly applauded by the whole room. And next thing you know, practically at the same time as security was escorting the activist out of the chambers, the motion to table was defeated, and instead the council unanimously passed the ordinance.
It was a powerful demonstration how even in a small town, it’s the power of the people, not the machinations of politicians, that gets things done.
In passing that ordinance, Superior became the eighth city in the state to do so. Now similar efforts have spilled over into neighboring Minnesota. Across the bay from Superior, activists have been meeting in Duluth, Minn., to try to get their city to follow suit.