Born Perfect

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Born Perfect: Leading the Fight to End Conversion Therapy

This survivor-led movement is passing legislation across the US to protect LGBTQ youth, working to reconcile families, and upholding the human right to be who we were born to be

When Mathew Shurka was 16, his father took him to a licensed therapist who claimed he could make gay people straight. It was the start of years of cruel and damaging “therapy” that left Mathew estranged from his family and his own identity. Then he decided to take action.

Mathew posted his personal story on YouTube, where it went viral. It was the start of his journey to forgive his father and therapist, reconcile with his family, and lead a nationwide battle to end conversion therapy.

“Conversion therapy is based on a flawed, unfounded, and discredited notion that LGBTQ people are sick and in need of treatment,” Mathew wrote in TIME magazine in 2015. “It victimizes impressionable young people as they search to define their identities. It’s hard to think of anything that could be more detrimental to developing adolescents.”

Today Mathew is a strategist and spokesman for Born Perfect, a survivor-led movement working with legal experts to pass legislation outlawing conversion therapy. Launched by the National Center for Lesbian Rights in 2014, the campaign has pushed through new laws that have banned conversion therapy in 20 states and almost 70 municipalities.

Leading these efforts is Shannon Minter, legal director for NCLR. For three decades, the renowned civil rights attorney has been at the forefront of legal battles affecting the LGBTQ community in the states and before the U.S. Supreme Court. He fought to establish marriage equality. He challenged Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military. And he’s spoken out in cases now before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging job discrimination for LGBTQ people.

Through Born Perfect, Mathew and Shannon are leading on the state-by-state effort to ban conversion therapy. The laws, including one most recently passed in Virginia, guard a basic human right: the right of children and youth to acceptance and dignity as they are, free from the cruel coercion of discredited pseudo-psychology.

Through Born Perfect, NCLR and its allies are fighting in courtrooms to ensure the safety of LGBT children and young people, and raising awareness of the serious harms caused by conversion therapy.

So-called “reparative therapy” has been condemned by every major medical and mental health organization in the country, yet it remains legal in a majority of states. Almost 700,000 LGBT adults have undergone conversion therapy at some point in their lives.

Despite being professionally discredited everywhere, conversion therapy continues to cause widespread harm to LGBT youth and their families. Attempting to change a young person’s sexual orientation and gender identity has been linked to increased depression, substance abuse, and suicide.

For more than 20 years, Shannon and his team have been fighting to protect youth from these dangerous practices, securing legislation in California in 2012; New Jersey in 2013; Washington, D.C. in 2014; Oregon and Illinois in 2015; Vermont in 2016; Connecticut, Nevada, New Mexico, and Rhode Island in 2017; Washington state, Maryland, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Delaware in 2018; and New York, Massachusetts, and Colorado in 2019.

“We have an amazing litigation team, and we have drafted every single one of these state laws,” he says.

A trans man, Shannon grew up in and still lives in a conservative area of rural Texas. With its work protecting LGBTQ youth and restoring families torn apart by conversion therapy, Born Perfect is uniquely positioned to bridge the partisan divide, he says.

“The heart and soul of this work is really all about reaching the families — the public, conservative people as well,” Shannon says. “We want to keep LGBTQ young people in their families, in their communities, and in their faith communities.”

By fighting conversion therapy, Born Perfect is addressing the core issue of what it means to be LGBTQ, Mathew says. When people come to accept others as they are, discrimination in the workplace and military, bullying and violence, depression, substance abuse, and suicide will be alleviated.

“We are already starting to have a domino effect, which is why we take conversion therapy so seriously,” Mathew says. “We’re getting to the source of the issue.”

Through Born Perfect, Mathew and Shannon are working with legislators and LGBT leaders in dozens of states to expand protections nationwide. Their goal: to end these dangerous and stigmatizing practices everywhere..

“We believe that every LGBT child is born perfect and that any young person’s identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender should be honored, celebrated, and supported. We are committed to ending these dangerous and stigmatizing practices across the country, once and for all relegating them to the dustbin of history, and ensuring every child knows they were #BornPerfect.”

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