Ed. Note: The live Q&A has concluded. You can check out the full conversation below:
Last week, the Obama administration took important steps toward LGBT equality and fairness. President Obama's Executive Order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination went into effect -- protecting about 1.5 million Americans from discrimination based on who they are or who they love. The White House also responded to a petition signed by more than 120,000 Americans about banning the practice known as conversion therapy: President Obama agreed.
To continue the conversation about last week's actions and the Administration's commitment to LGBT equality, we hosted a Tumblr Q&A on Friday with:
Here's the full conversation:
Hello All!! Welcome to our tumblr q and a. Excited to be here to answer your questions. Ask away.
If conversion therapy is banned, how will the federal government successfully enforce that?
A national ban would require legislation from Congress. In the meantime, we’re encouraging actions in the states. California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have all banned licensed professionals from using conversion therapy on minors. Since last year, lawmakers in 18 other states have introduced similar legislation. We think action in the states is the best route to progress on this issue.
It's been established for a while now that conversion therapy is not only ineffective, but generally leads to psychological damage to those affected. Does the Surgeon General have the ability to work with the professional organizations in that field to set guidelines for states to follow regarding licensing for therapy and counseling practices? If not, could this be directed so that it is at least not covered under health insurance plans?
You make a really great point! In my role, I can work to educate health care professionals, public health officials, community leaders and state and local elected officials. And that’s precisely what we’re going to do. As you point out, groups like the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have already raised serious concerns about the use of conversion therapy. I share their concerns. We in the Obama administration are committed to improving our understanding of the potential harmful effects of conversion therapy, especially on minors. -Dr. Murthy
Do you think that the advancement and widespread use of social media has lead to an increase in accountability and transparency for the government? If so, how has that affected you? Do you think its a good thing?
Yes! I think social media is a great way for us to interact and hear from the American people we are privileged to serve. You’re helping me prove that point right now :) -Dr. Murthy
What steps will you be taking to ensure this cruel practice ends? Do you think other laws will be created to help other people in the lgbt+ community? This law bans conversion therapy on minors, but what about adults? Just because they are legally adults doesn't mean those kind of people will stop trying to convert them in forceful manners.
The key here – whether we’re talking about parents and their children or about adults – is EDUCATION. As America’s Doctor, my job is to help raise awareness about sound medical practices and the steps we can take together to improve America’s health. Conversion therapy is NOT sound medical practice. Moreover, we all need to work together to build greater understanding and acceptance throughout our society. Doctors can and should be part of that effort. -Dr. Murthy
How do you feel about the LGBTQ community being treated in such a negative way and do you feel that you (as the government) can do to make them be seen in a more positive light or be accepted?
Every day, I read heartbreaking letters and stories from LGBTQ people across the country facing serious adversity. I want my daughter and future grandchildren to live in a world where everyone is treated equally and fairly, and discrimination of any kind has no place in our country. And we all have to work together to create that more perfect Union. -Valerie
(1/2) I don't have a question so much as a thank you. A thank you to the one president who was willing to be a voice for LGBT+ individuals. I have spent the better part of the past 6 years that President Obama has been in office doing exactly what the quote posted on Tumblr described. In the past 2 years however, I have come to an acceptance of myself and come out to my family and friends. While some reacted to the news better than others, every day it gets better.
Thank YOU for your comment and for your courage in learning to accept yourself. You know, in her suicide note, Leelah Alcorn wrote, “People say ‘it gets better’ but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.” Here’s the thing you and I know: It DOES get better… but only if we all work together to MAKE it better. That takes families and community leaders. It takes elected officials and health professionals. And it takes people like you. By coming out to your family and friends, you are changing America for the better. So, seriously. Thank you. -Dr. Murthy
How are you ensuring young LGBT people are not discriminated in school?
In 2010 we hosted the first ever White House summit on bullying and President Obama recorded an “It Gets Better” video. Since then, we’ve worked with the Department of Education to create StopBullying.gov and create resources to support LGBTQ young people in schools. With the work of of Gay-Straight Alliances, supportive administrators and teachers, and brave young people, we hope to continue to make schools safer and more welcoming for every student. –Valerie
Can we please make conversion therapy illegal at the federal level? States that still think that this is a good idea/legitimate form of therapy will not change their laws just because the President said it should be so. You should also note that this type of "therapy" INCREASES risk of suicide and other mental health issues, which is already alarmingly high among LGBTQ+ youth. Without a federally mandated law, you're leaving kids in red states behind, and some won't make it out alive.
Thanks for your question. This is an issue that is personal to me. When I was young, I lost an uncle to suicide because of an untreated mental illness. One of my priorities over the next four years is to bring a greater focus on mental health and emotional well-being. My predecessor, Dr. David Satcher, issued the first Surgeon General’s report on mental health in 1999. We need to advance that work and I am committed to doing so over the next four years while I am in office. -Dr. Murthy
Thanks so much for joining us for today’s Tumblr Q&A. Let’s continue to lift up the stories of brave young people who are working to change our nation. Until next time! -Valerie & Dr. Murthy