We just got conversion therapy banned in Appleton. This is my testimony; others did more of the heavy lifting and this was the final public meeting about it. It was initially promoted by two council members – Katie Van Zeeland and Vered Meltzer – after which it went to the Board of Health twice, then went to Council this past week.
We won, and that’s fantastic. We celebrated.
What’s harder to talk about is that a few days later, after all the hullabaloo ends, the bad taste remains in your mouth: for four hours we were in a room, and for four hours LGBTQ+ people spoke, listened to each other, supported each other. But we also heard the side that wanted to keep conversion therapy – or at least not ban it outright – and while you know, in the moment, that people are saying ignorant and hateful things, dragging out every negative trope of gay life you can imagine – recruitment, disease, moral depravity, etc – you have to stay focused. You think about what you’re going to say. You hug people and thank people who are on your side.
But on Sunday, a few days later, you can still taste all the bile the other side spewed. Most are smart enough these days not to say that they hate gay people outright – they feel sorry for gay people instead, etc. – but the effect is the same: you leave knowing there are people in the world who think LGBTQ+ people are wrong, bad, needing fixing.
It won’t stick, and I know that. I’m writing this mostly to check in on all the other people who were there Wednesday night, who are hearing similar things in their cities and counties, who go online and read about whatever new transgender ban is out there. As you’ll hear in my own testimony, it’s not like you can miss it: these messages are everywhere.
I’m glad to have done my little part in removing this thread from young people’s lives. I am happy I’m able to find something to say to a group of elected officials that they might take to heart. I’m perhaps most pleased that I can channel my rage long enough to say something, anything, at least.
What I’ve learned to do is this: do what you can when you can and then try to do a little more.
To my elders: Listening to the haters here – who use the word “homosexual” as if it causes them physical pain even to say it – made it feel like 1965, or 1975, or even 1985. I can’t imagine what it was like for you when there was no friendly side, when there were no allies, when we were dying of ignorance. Thank you for finding some magical way to believe in yourselves and in the future.
To the kids: so many of us will do whatever we can, whenever we can, to make sure you find that person, that relative or friend or stranger on the internet, who will tell you that you are loved, you are worthy, you are awesome.
To my fellow activists: keep on. Hold tight. Rest and recharge and live to fight another day.