KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The City Council approved an ordinance Thursday prohibiting conversion therapy in Kansas City, Missouri.
Applause and tears erupted inside council chambers as council members unanimously passed the ban on the controversial practice, which tries to change someone’s sexual orientation.
“I feel like we've made great progress, and I feel like we sent a message to LGTBQ youth that they are loved, accepted and appreciated in our city,” said Zachary Mallory, a LGBTQ advocate.
Mallory willingly went to conversion therapy when he was 17. He had supportive parents but the pressure from society, questioning his sexuality, got the best of him.
“I felt like I was wrong, like I was born in the wrong body, and I felt like I need to do something to change myself,” he said.
The 23-year-old said he didn’t realize how detrimental the practice would be on his life.
“The longer I was in conversion therapy, the more extreme it was going and that was kind of the like stop," he added.
The ordinance, which was introduced by Mayor Quinton Lucas, bars licensed professionals from administering conversion therapy to minors. The measure does not stop religious leaders from talking with young people about their sexuality or gender identity.
“I attempted suicide multiple times throughout conversion therapy,” said Jesse Brace, another LGBTQ advocate who attended the council meeting.
Brace said her parents forced to go to conversion therapy for six years.
“When I started at 12, it was sort of a talk therapy,” she recalled. “As it went on, it went to electroshock therapy, starvation, any method of torture that could be imposed upon someone in order to try and get them to do what you want them to do.”
Brace tried taking her life several times. It wasn’t until the 23-year-old met other LGBTQ people, who were confident about who they were, that she started to fully accept herself.
“I realized I didn’t have to give into those ideals,” she said. “I really felt like I could make it out of [conversion therapy] and be myself."
Major medical associations oppose conversion therapy because there is no proven science that it can change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
LGBTQ advocates said they’re now looking to neighboring communities to follow Kansas City’s lead and put a stop to conversion therapy.
“I hope they will start realizing we’re here and we’re not going to go anywhere, no matter what people try to say or do,” Mallory said.
Kansas City is the second community in Missouri, behind Columbia, to ban conversion therapy. St. Louis is considering similar legislation.