Rachel Cornwell, a pastor who lives in Silver Spring, is a parent of a transgender child.

This legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly will consider the Youth Mental Health Protection Act , which would ban so-called conversion therapy in the state. Conversion therapy has been universally discredited by mainstream medical and mental-health associations. However, many people still seek conversion therapy for themselves or their children, particularly when their religious beliefs do not affirm homosexuality or non-binary gender identity.

As a Christian pastor and a parent of a transgender child, I believe Maryland needs this law. As parents, we want the best for our children. We want them to grow and develop into the people they are meant to be; to discover their true selves; to be happy, healthy and successful; to find love and belonging. Parents of children who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity also want the best for their children. According to a 2009 report from a task force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation convened by the American Psychological Association , therapy designed to change a person’s sexual orientation can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay and bisexual people — including confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidal thoughts , substance abuse, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal and even loss of faith. In addition, there is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

When my child told me, after months of struggle with his gender identity, that he believed he was a boy and not a girl as we had assumed, he put it this way: “When I was a star in the sky, I told God I was a boy. But God made me a girl, and now I have to live with it.” In church and at home, my child had always been told that what God made was good, perfect; that God doesn’t make mistakes. And we still believe that. We believe that when the book of Genesis says “God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them. . . . God made us male and female,” not male or female. I believe that God made my child a boy in a body that looks like a girl’s. With the support of an excellent therapist, our family, our faith community and our school, my child is living into the identity that God gave him in his heart and mind and soul, and he is thriving. He is happy and confident, and he knows that he is loved by his family, community and God.

The Youth Mental Health Protection Act would protect parents from being taken advantage of by conversion-therapy practitioners by making it clear these practices are ineffective and harmful to their children. It would protect children who are exploring their gender identity and sexual orientation to become the people they are meant to be in safe, supportive ways. And it would add Maryland to the growing number of states that protect LGBTQ youth from the abusive and fraudulent practice of conversion therapy.

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