Editor’s note: The folllowing is an op-ed submitted to the INDY following the introduction of three pro-LGBTQ equality bills in the NC House, including one to prohibit conversion therapy.

Every day in our work across North Carolina, we listen as people talk about what matters most in their lives. Over and over in these conversations, the same idea emerges: People want to be treated with dignity and respect and to do everything possible to protect our children and build a better future for them in the years to come.

We believe that every young person in North Carolina – including LGBTQ young people – should be treated with respect and dignity, loved for who they are, and encouraged to live as their authentic selves. That’s why we strongly oppose “conversion therapy,” a dangerous type of therapy that falsely promises to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Conversion therapy” techniques can be extreme and barbaric, including tactics like electroshock treatment or institutionalizing young people against their will. The emotional and psychological trauma inflicted on LGBTQ minors often follows them for the rest of their lives. Every leading professional medical and mental health association in the nation has rejected “conversion therapy” as a credible practice because it is unnecessary, ineffective, and dangerous to an individual’s health and well-being.

In recent years, seventeen states, including Colorado and Massachusetts in the past month, have banned conversion therapy to protect LGBTQ youth. But in North Carolina, and a majority of states, this practice remains legal.

That’s why this week Equality North Carolina and the Campaign for Southern Equality have launched Born Perfect NC, a joint statewide campaign to protect LGBTQ young people and support the passage of the Mental Health Protection Act. This legislation will prohibit licensed professionals from using conversion therapy practices on minors and disabled adults and prevent clinicians or organizations who practice conversion therapy from receiving state funding.

Born Perfect NC aims to not only help pass the Mental Health Protection Act that will safeguard the health of LGBTQ young people but also send a message to queer people all across the state that they are #BornPerfect exactly as they are.

We live in a diverse state full of LGBTQ young people – many of whom are growing up in homes and churches that aren’t yet supportive of their identities. These queer youth need us to stand up for what’s right and protect them from harmful attempts to change innate parts of their identities.

Having conversations about the issues that matter to everyday North Carolinians is a vital part of our work as advocates for equity and social justice. This spring, we’re looking forward to a statewide conversation about the need to protect LGBTQ youth from “conversion therapy.”

But we can’t do it alone: Join us in the fight for the next generation of North Carolinians, the fight for a world where LGBTQ young people are free to live openly – and without fear. Learn more about Born Perfect NC and urge your representatives in North Carolina to take a stand and ensure our LGBTQ youth know that they are Born Perfect exactly as they are.  

Kendra R. Johnson is the Executive Director of Equality NC. Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara is the Executive Director of Campaign for Southern Equality. Learn more about the Born Perfect NC campaign at www.BornPerfectNC.org.