A group of individuals who formerly identified as members of the LGBTQ community gathered in Washington, D.C., this week to protest two House bills that would strengthen LGBTQ rights in the U.S., according to NBC News.
Fifteen members from two California-based groups — Church United and Change — travelled to the East Coast hoping to raise awareness of the existence of “formers.” All previously identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and believe LGBTQ lifestyles are a choice.
Despite their prior experiences, the group members oppose legislation that would beef up LGBTQ protections, specifically H.R. 5, the Equality Act, and H.R. 3570, the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act.
The Equality Act would “update federal civil rights legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education and federal programs,” NBC News reported.
The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act addresses so-called “conversion therapy,” which aims to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity and has been debunked as baseless and proved harmful to those who undergo the treatment. The bill would classify conversion therapy in exchange for money as fraud.
Elizabeth Woning, co-founder of Changed, said the group wants to “share our experiences and bring awareness to the fact that we exist.”
Some members of the groups claimed that discrimination against LGBTQ people is a non-issue in the U.S., backing up their assertions with personal stories of living discrimination-free when they were part of the community.
They also said that conversion therapy is not the wide-spread problem that LGBTQ advocates claim, though the groups agree that such treatment is harmful.
“I’ve never been a part of a ministry program that promotes conversion therapy,” said Kathy Grace Duncan, a member of Changed. “I do think conversion therapy should be banned, but first we need to prove that it’s actually happening.”
However, Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and public affairs at The Trevor Project, which is a suicide prevention nonprofit for LGBTQ youth, told NBC News that research shows “more than 700,000 LGBTQ adults have been subjected to conversion therapy at some point in their life, and that an estimated 80,000 LGBTQ youth will be subjected to the practice in the coming years.”
Brinton, himself a survivor of conversion therapy, said, “It is still widely practiced at the expense of the mental and emotional health of LGBTQ people.”
Woning, the co-founder of Change, insisted that the groups are “not actively trying to push against LGBTQ people.”
“We’re just trying to tell our stories,” she told NBC News. “These bills are based on the premise that LGBTQ people only have one option and that there are no other ways forward, when we know from our own lives that this is not true.”