'Outright Abuse of Children': Doctor Warns Amazon Not to Sell 'Extremely Dangerous' Books on Gay Conversion Therapy

After Amazon announced it would ban controversial books on gay conversion therapy, a group of House Republicans has accused the company of censoring free speech. But as family physician Dr. Natasha Bhuyan tells Newsweek, it is doctors like her who are left to pick up the pieces when LGBT folk endure the discredited practice and suffer its side effects.

Earlier this month, the tech giant said it would stop selling books by late clinical psychologist Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, who claimed his so-called "reparative therapy" could stop people being attracted to members of the same sex. His books include titles like A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality and Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality. Such approaches are rejected by the medical community, with the American Psychological Association concluding in 2009 that there is insufficient evidence to back claims they can change sexual orientation.

According to a handout seen by Vice News, which the outlet said was shown at a private meeting in the Capitol, the Republican Study Committee accused Amazon of "choosing to censor speech."

"Catholic psychologist, author and therapist Dr. Joseph Nicolosi (deceased) penned multiple books to assist men struggling with unwanted homosexual attractions, feelings and lifestyles," the document read according to Vice News. Over 70 percent of GOP House members are part of the caucus, the website stated. The Republican Study Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Newsweek or Vice.

In light of the reported pressure from the committee, Newsweek spoke to Dr. Natasha Bhuyan: a family physician in Phoenix, Arizona, that has treated multiple patients who have experienced gay conversion therapy. She told of how patients can struggle with health problems for years after their treatment stops—with some even taking their own lives.

therapy, counselling, mental health, stock, getty,
A stock image of a girl undergoing therapy. Mock-therapy sessions can constitute so-called gay conversion therapy. Getty

What can gay conversion therapy involve, and what are some of the most extreme cases you have encountered?

Gay conversion therapy involves behavioral and psychological abuse to try to change LGBTQ people. Per the American Psychological Association, this has included talk therapy rooted in shame, electric shock therapy, hypnosis and even more extreme Pavlovian methods to induce vomiting from patients while showing them homoerotic images and snapping their wrists with a rubber band. These techniques have all been discredited and are extremely dangerous.

What are the risks associated with gay conversion therapy?

There are many proven risks to conversion therapy, including an increased risk of depression, anxiety, feelings of guilt, stress and even suicide. Gay conversion therapy can have a tremendous impact on day-to-day life, even leading to feelings of anger, a loss of friends or potential partners, self-hatred and emotional disconnection with future partners.

Do you agree that banning these books on Amazon is "censorship," as the Republican Study Committee claims? Do you think they should be banned? If so, why?

Dangerous and homophobic literature should be kept off the Amazon platform in the best interest of the safety of the public. Conversion therapy has proven, harmful effects on the long-term health of people who are LGBTQ, including increasing their risk of depression, anxiety, insomnia, suicide and substance abuse.

How dangerous was Dr. Joseph Nicolosi? Is he notorious in the medical profession? Could he be compared to Andrew Wakefield, the discredited former doctor who falsely claimed the MMR vaccine causes measles?

Joseph Nicolosi does not have any prominence or notoriety in the medical community as his theories have been thoroughly debunked by science. He attempted to use science to lend credibility to an anti-LGBTQ movement; however, every mainstream medical organization (including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association) has denounced his work.

Dr Natasha Bhuyan, MD, phoenix, arizona,
Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a practicing family physician in Phoenix, AZ, who has treated multiple patients who have experienced years of negative effects from gay conversion therapy.

What have some of your own patients gone through?

One of my patients suffered from anxiety and depression as a result of conversion therapy. He grew up in the LDS (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) community and members of his faith organization encouraged his parents to pursue conversion therapy. He also ended up with a fractured family relationship and support

It took him years to recover from this and be able to lead a life where he embraced his true self and identity. The anxiety and depression, in turn, impacted his physical health—leading to obesity and diabetes. Another patient had issues with subsequent dating and relationships (with same-sex partners) from conversion therapy. My patients who have gone through conversion therapy now view it as dangerous lies and propaganda. I view it as outright abuse of children.

Would you like to highlight anything else?

There are long-lasting, harmful medical and social effects from conversion therapy aimed at people who are LGBTQ. Conversion therapy can literally be fatal and has resulted in the suicide of numerous youth and adults. As a medical community, it's our responsibility to protect people who are LGBTQ, as they are already subject to systemic discrimination in society.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) opposes the use of "reparative" or conversion therapy of LGBTQ individuals. The AAFP recommends that parents, guardians, young people and their families seek support and services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support and reduce rejection of sexual minority persons of all ages.