Social workers reject changes to conversion therapies bill

By John McPhaul

The Social Work Professionals Association of Puerto Rico (CPTSPR by its Spanish initials) rejected on Monday amendments proposed by Popular Democratic Party (PDP) senators before the Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee in the upper chamber to temper Senate Bill (SB) 184 on conversion therapies.

The CPTSPR indicated in a written statement that the proposed amendments are not related to the main intention of SB 184, which seeks to prohibit conversion therapies, which have been characterized by violent practices, abuse and as violating human dignity.

“Wanting to talk about conversion therapies, affirmative therapy and transition therapies as equals or synonymous shows a lack of knowledge of the companionship and validation processes that should be promoted in professional relationships with the LGBT+ population,” said Lydael Vega Otero, first vice president of the CPTSPR.

Affirmative therapies were developed by Alan Maylon (1982) as a result of existing models -- understood as reparative therapies -- that sought to “repair” gender identity and sexual orientation.

The affirmative model is a conceptual framework that provides development opportunities for LGBT+ people. In addition, it addresses the internalized oppressions that an LGBT+ person can experience in the face of social rejection.

Transitional therapies base their practice on a medical perspective, but are not limited to it. In its statement, the CPTSPR made a point of clarifying that transition therapy is not one that validates trans identity.

“Transition is part of the process, but it is not everything, so we believe that including transition therapies in this bill is a mistake,” the CPTSPR said. “It should be borne in mind that the scenario for a transgender person in Puerto Rico is difficult given the vulnerability they experience due to the lack of access to health services, among others, and the timidity on the part of the State to protect their rights.”

The CPTSPR also established that both affirmative therapy and transitional therapy are helpful in promoting the full development of people who identify as non-heterosexual. Both have the rigor and scientific study necessary for their applicability, the group said. Unlike conversion therapies, affirmative and transitional therapies promote practices that are endorsed by professional associations, and they have scientific opinion and studies that validate their effectiveness, the CPTSPR said.

“Including affirmative therapies and transition therapies to be banned along with conversion therapies is to leave our sexually diverse populations without the opportunity to develop their identity, and their person,” said Luis Alejandro Santiago, a member of the CPTSPR’s board of directors. “These recommendations go against the noble spirit of SB 184.”

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