Gay man feels betrayed after psychiatrist tries to turn him straight

Gay man feels betrayed after psychiatrist tries to turn him straight

PORTLAND, Ore. - A gay student from the University of Oregon has filed a complaint with two psychiatric associations that is aimed at preventing the use of a controversial technique to convince homosexuals they are really straight.

The technique is called conversion therapy - also known as reparative therapy - and it's been criticized by major psychiatric and professional counseling organizations. A few therapists still use it, however.

After Max Hirsh, who is currently a junior at the U of O, came out to friends at a university in the Midwest, he moved back to Portland. But he said he was ridiculed, became depressed and sought help from a psychiatrist in Portland.

During six months of therapy, he said the doctor, who is not named in the complaint, insisted he wasn't gay; instead, Hirsh said the doctor blamed his relationships with men.

"I was almost ostracized again, or bullied again by the person I was seeking to get help with my depression and that's just shocking and betraying, I guess," Hirsh said.

He said he felt betrayed by the experience and doesn't want it to happen to anyone else.

Hirsh's attorney, Christine Sun, who works with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed the complaint asking for the ethics investigation, said the practice has been discredited. And she said it is often the basis for denying rights.

"If you look at the materials for antigay groups, their No. 1 reason why equal rights should not be given to gay people is that gay people can change their sexual orientation. And there's something wrong about being gay in the first place," Sun said.

About a decade ago, The American Psychiatric Association warned that conversion therapy has a risk of making depression, anxiety, even suicidal thoughts worse.

The therapy looks at homosexuality as a mental disorder. But people still do practice it, often in conservative religious circles. Some religious groups say the treatment is on the rise, and many supporters say it can help gay people who are uncomfortable with their same-sex attraction.

Two therapists in the Portland area specialize in it but they did not return calls Tuesday for comment.

The state of California is considering banning the practice. It could be completely banned for minors, and adults would have to sign a waiver that it’s ineffective and may be dangerous. If the state bans the practice, it would be the first to do so in the nation.