Letters to the Editor.

LETTER – Courtenay doctor responds to letter regarding conversion therapy concerns

Dear editor,

First let me tell you how disappointed I am that you have published Mary Osberg’s letter of Oct. 4, 2020 (Conversion therapy ban concerns Comox resident).

This person is misinformed and, as a result of her opinions, is furthering the issue of transphobia experienced by gender diverse youth and adults.

“Conversion therapy,” sometimes known as “reparative therapy,” is a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Such practices have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades, but due to continuing discrimination and societal bias against LGBTQ people, a few practitioners continue to offer it.

Minors are especially vulnerable, as conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, homelessness, and suicide.

Some right-wing religious groups (and people like Osberg) promote the idea that an individual can change their sexual orientation or gender identity, either through prayer or other religious efforts, or through so-called “reparative” or “conversion” therapy. The research on such efforts has time and again shown that these approaches in social engineering are completely ineffective and often harmful. Beyond studies focused solely on reparative therapy, broader research clearly demonstrates the significant harm that societal prejudice and family rejection has on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people, particularly youth. Furthermore, there is significant anecdotal evidence of harm to LGBTQ people resulting from attempts to change their sexual orientation.

The Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey, completed in collaboration with universities and health researchers across Canada between October 2013 and May 2014, was the first and largest of its kind in Canada. The survey included 923 individuals between the ages 14-25, from all provinces and territories except Nunavut and the Yukon. They were asked a range of questions in English or French on their home and school life, physical and mental health, access to health care, and gender identity.

A few key findings of this study were:

• Eighty-three per cent of participants lived in their “felt gender” at least part-time; half lived in their felt gender full-time. Those who lived in their felt gender all the time were almost 50 per cent more likely to report good or excellent mental health.

• Nearly two-thirds of youth reported self-harm within the past year. More than one in three had attempted suicide.

• Seventy per cent of participants reported sexual harassment. Two-thirds reported discrimination because of their gender identity.

• More than one in three, or 36 per cent, of the younger participants (ages 14-18) had been physically threatened or injured in the past year.

• One in three youth did not have an adult in their family they could talk to about problems, and seven in 10 felt their family did not understand them. When they felt cared about and supported by family, they reported better health.

• Only 15 per cent of youth with a family doctor report feeling comfortable discussing their transgender-specific health care needs.

I would be more than happy to provide your publication with a detailed bibliography of Canadian and international research related to this topic.

Please consider retracting Osberg’s inflammatory letter and instead provide this much-maligned group with the community support that they need. I hope that your publication will be guided by science rather than misguided and harmful personal beliefs.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Sharmeen Mazaheri MD CCFP


Mother, LGBTQ2S advocate, physician and PROUD gender-affirming care provider

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since the online publication of Mary Osberg’s letter, it has come to the attention of the Comox Valley Record that her letter was not her own words, but rather a copy/paste of a form letter. It is The Record’s general policy not to run form letters. As Ms. Osberg’s letter was not received in the same fashion as most form letters, but rather, emailed directly to the editor, with a hometown (and it was the only one we had received), this was not recognized as such a letter at the time. The letter that prompted this response from Dr. Mazaheri has been removed. We feel that Dr. Mazaheri’s response is still relevant, and have chosen to leave this response on the website.

Letter to the Editor

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