I am really offended by the debate going on as to whether the state of Utah should ban conversion therapy.

LGBTQ people are good people who just want the freedom to openly express who they are and live their lives to the fullest — which includes the freedom to love who they choose and have families. The fact that some people think they are “sick” or need fixing is wrong and insulting.

The sexual orientation of LGBTQ people is not a choice. It is not a symptom of child abuse or childhood trauma. The fact that someone like Ed Smart struggled with his identity for 65 years should be proof of that. Whether to accept LGBTQ people for who they are and allow them to lead full lives is, however, a choice.

My youngest child (not exactly a child any longer) is an LBGTQ person who identifies as non-binary and uses gender neutral pronouns. They are one of the most conscientious, caring, supportive, intelligent and beautiful people I know. Being their parent I might be a little prejudiced, but many friends and acquaintances have expressed similar assessments of them. There is nothing wrong with them and I wouldn’t change anything about them.

How would you feel if you had to hide who you are and were not be able to express love for the person you care about? Essentially, this means that society does not “see” you. You are invisible.

Utah has one of the highest suicide rates of teens and young adults — many of them from the LGBTQ community. What can you expect when many LGBTQ people are confronted with church/family/community members who think they are immoral and even inherently evil (apostates). My youngest says that many of their friends have struggled with suicidal thoughts. Some have actually tried to kill themselves.

Many times this is because LGBTQ people do not have supportive families. Their families have either disowned them or are estranged from them because of their sexual identity. It’s tragic and so unnecessary.

I know it can be difficult to understand those who are inherently different from us. My husband struggled with this in the beginning, mostly from a perspective of knowing this would make life more difficult for our child. I have struggled with the pronouns. Old habits die hard. But I love our child unconditionally, fully support them and respect them enough to make a concerted effort to address them as they wish to be identified.

LGBTQ people’s humanity is no different from yours or mine. They have a lot to offer. Diversity benefits us by exposing us to different ideas and cultures. It expands our experience and enriches our lives.

The state of Utah should ban conversion therapy. It is destructive and inhumane.

LGBTQ people are not threatening your lifestyle, your marriage or society. Let them be accepted and able to live fulfilling lives. Don’t shun them. Embrace them.

Mary Ann Erickson

Mary Ann Erickson is a retired IT manager who lives in Salt Lake City.