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COLUMN: Pride Month carries special meaning

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.

In these volatile times, Pride Month is especially significant. The stigma attached to LGBT and “queer” identity put such individuals at higher risk for everything from violence to homelessness.

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association determined homosexuality isn’t a mental illness. This runs counter to beliefs of those who espouse a religion-based philosophy that homosexuality is a disorder or defect that must be cured.

During the 1980s and 1990s, faith-based groups poured millions of dollars into programs called “reparative” or “conversion therapy.”

The terms describe practices that attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity through repetition of negative stimuli, according to The Trevor Project (www.thetrevorproject.org). That is, conversion therapy advocates say it can eliminate the mental illness that causes homosexuality, bisexuality and gender dysphasia.

Young people tend to be the target of conversion therapy, usually at the behest of parents or guardians. Practitioners employ shaming, physical and/or emotional trauma and other methods, with the goal of ensuring patients will associate negative ideas and experiences with LGBTQ identities.

Since formal conversion therapy was developed in the United States, nearly 750,000 people have been subjected to it, according to the Williams Institute the the UCLA School of Law. An estimated 80,000 LGBTQ youth will likely undergo treatments in the next decade.

The reality is there is no evidence that conversion therapy changes a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. In addition, such tactics have damaged and ruined familial and church relationships among those who identify as LGBTQ as well as their advocates.

Even more troubling is the damage conversion therapy has caused to individuals subjected to it.

The number who actually claim conversion therapy changed their sexual or gender identity is low.

However, studies do show conversion therapy instills a deep sense of low self-esteem. This is because individuals feel unwanted and rejected by their families and faith communities.

A study by San Francisco State University shows young people who identify as homosexual or bisexual were six times more likely to say they were depressed and eight times more likely to attempt suicide if their families rejected them because of their sexuality. The study also reports an increase in substance abuse and homelessness among such young people.

Mental health and medical organizations have determined the conversion therapy is harmful to people who identify as LGBTQ. The practices are condemned by the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association.

Most states do not outlaw conversion therapy, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (https://www.splcenter.org/issues/lgbt-rights/conversion-therapy).

Conversion therapy laws prohibit licensed mental health practitioners from subjecting LGBTQ minors to conversion practices in an attempt to change sexual orientation or gender identity. These restrictions do not include faith-based counselors.

Partial bans consist of measures like prohibiting use of taxpayer dollars for such practices.

Twenty states and Washington, D.C., have laws that protect minors from being forced to submit to conversion therapy. Cities and counties in an additional 12 states have such laws, while a few have partial bans.

Iowa lacks a statewide ban. In April, Davenport became the first Iowa municipality to pass an ordinance banning conversion therapy.

Husband serves time for the sake of the kids

Dear Amy: I’ve been married to my wife since 2003. In 2011, I found her texting and flirting with a friend of mine. We ultimately broke up. It was pretty much a mutual decision.

I met another woman who was everything I dreamed of. I moved toward divorcing my wife. I wanted to move on with my life. Tragically, three years after falling in love, my fiance died ... right in front of me.

Well, it turns out, my wife never filed the divorce papers, so we are still married.

We have two sons (both born before the breakup). Concerned for the well-being of my sons, I worked things out with her, and we got back together.

Fast-forward to today. I feel like I’m serving a jail sentence with this person. My oldest son is on his way to the Marines, and my youngest is on his way to sixth grade.

I am married to a selfish, unemotional woman who doesn’t seem to have any love or compassion for me.

There is no communication, no intimacy, no anything!

I’ve got just over five years to go until my youngest will be 18. My plan is to move out the day after his birthday.

I’ve tried everything I can think of — from talking to her directly to even talking to her mother. I’m afraid she’s cheating again, but I have no proof. She just seems totally not interested in me at all. I love her, but my love is not reciprocated.

Should I ride this out until it goes down in flames — or stick to the plan of just staying under the radar until my son turns 18 and then leave and ghost her?

It feels like I’m just here to help with bills and kids. That’s it.

— Lonely Man

Dear Lonely: You sound depressed and very sad. You say you are staying in this prison of a marriage for your sons’ sake – but you and your wife lived separately once before. Your previous breakup lasted for several years, and your sons were in the picture during that period.

My point is that when you were motivated to leave the marriage previously, you did – and you found love with someone else.

Many parents in empty marriages say they are staying together for the sake of their children, but children don’t necessarily benefit from living with two parents who don’t want to be together.

Your five-year plan sounds like a very tough haul. Sessions with a marriage counselor might not bring your wife back to you, but you two would at least have the opportunity to come up with a workable plan for either staying together, or parting peacefully.

Dear Amy: When I go to the grocery store, I notice other customers not wearing their masks correctly (not covering their noses). The cashiers are the same! This gives me anxiety.

I want to say, “Hey, you’re not wearing your mask right!” but I hate confrontation.

Also, they have markers on the floor to indicate where you should stand so you are six feet apart, but three times I have had someone stand way too close to me as I waited in line. It just freaks me out!

I let them get in front of me and I scoot back to six feet.

What is the best way to ask someone to back up?

I am just fearful someone will curse me out if I ask them to back up or to wear their mask correctly.

— Anxious

Dear Anxious: In order to minimize your own risk/anxiety, you should make choices to shop at places where employees comply, and during times when there are the fewest other customers.

No – I don’t think you should call out another customer for wearing a mask incorrectly (because this involves them and their body), but yes – you should definitely ask someone to space themselves further from you (because this involves you and your body): “Hey, could you do me a favor and step back a little bit?”

Dear Amy: “Exasperated Mom” complained about not being able to get her teens to help around the house.

I come from a family of 12 kids. You can imagine the pile of shoes left around the living room.

One time my mom decided to put all the shoes in her and Dad’s bedroom, and we could redeem them for $.05 a pair. (It was a long time ago.)

— Good Memories

Dear Memories: Looks like they really were “cheaper by the dozen!”

Child is caught in toxic family crossfire

Dear Amy: Nine-year-old “Danny” lives with his dad and grandparents, and none of them get along. Danny is always caught in the middle. Danny’s dad (in his mid-30s) is a self-absorbed jerk and spends very little time with Danny, but he lives in the same house.