Jackson becomes the first Missouri county to ban conversion therapy

The Jackson County Legislature holds a vote to ban conversion therapy March 20. // Photo by Sarah Moore.

Jackson County became the first county in Missouri to ban conversion therapy, yesterday. The Trevor Project commended the legislators and the county as a whole for being a leading example and taking a huge step to ban this practice across the state. 

This issue was turned down when it was first introduced March 20, but passed with a unanimous vote yesterday, pulling a sigh of relief from the crowd followed by a round of applause. 

“We applaud the leaders of Jackson County for taking bold action to protect LGBTQ young people in their community, sending them a powerful message that ‘you are loved and accepted for who you are,’” Troy Stevenson, Director of State Advocacy Campaigns for The Trevor Project, says.

The Trevor Project is the leading suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ young people. They work to conduct studies and increase awareness of the harms affecting children across the country. 

This organization is also the leading advocate for LGBTQ youth mental health in preventative and intervention efforts. They are working at the federal, state, and local levels to address legislation that puts LGBTQ youth at a higher risk of suicide. Passing this ordinance in Jackson County gives hope to the Trevor Project that more counties will follow suit.

“Young LGBTQ Missourians and their families, friends, and allies are looking to their elected officials to be beacons of hope and progress,” Stevenson says. “As Missouri lawmakers at the state level continue pushing forward harmful and dangerous anti-LGBTQ legislation, we call on local and county leaders across the state to join Jackson County and do everything in their power to enact proactive LGBTQ protections in their governments, creating a ripple effect of support for LGBTQ young people all across Missouri.”

Conversion therapy, sometimes called reparative therapy, is a majorly discredited practice that attempts to change an individual’s LGBTQ identity. Methods range from talk therapy to physical methods including shock therapy. All forms of this practice are extremely harmful to someone’s mental and physical health.

During the meeting on March 20 when the ordinance was first introduced, Legislator Jalen Anderson (1st district At-large) shared his personal experience of being forced into conversion therapy while in school. He recounted experiencing mental and physical punishments, including being forced to sit outside in extreme weather with his hands tied to bricks.

According to The Trevor Project’s 2022 U.S. National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health by State, 1 in 5 LGBTQ youth in Missouri reported being threatened with or subjected to conversion therapy. The mental and emotional toll put on these children often result in depression and anxiety. Reportedly, LGBTQ youth who underwent conversion therapy are more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide.

Jackson County joins Kansas City, Independence, North Kansas City, Roeland Park, and Prairie Village, as the few Missouri areas that have a law prohibiting conversion therapy against minors. However, unlike the city bans, Jackson County put in place a penalty provision, so conversion therapy will be treated as a petty offense.

Amongst anti-LGBTQ legislation flooding in throughout the United States, Jackson County took a big step to protect LGBTQ youth. While the Trevor Project and other advocates continue to fight for more conversion therapy bans in the state, they can point to this ordinance as a roadmap for changes that can be made.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting 678678.

Categories: Politics