Guest opinion: Spencer Cox: Protecting Utah’s ‘Most Vulnerable’?

Dave Robinson 01

In last week’s interview with Equality Utah’s Troy Williams, I was struck by a comment Lt. Governor Spencer Cox made.  In particular, Cox stated the reason he is a Republican and belongs to the Party of Lincoln, is because he cares about “protecting those who are the most vulnerable”.

We are often reminded of the energy Cox has directed toward addressing the vulnerability of LGBTQ teens. And yet, while Cox claims to be a protector of Utah’s children and of having tremendous respect for a parent; the results of his actions prove otherwise. 

I know a little bit about that topic. I was raised Mormon, large family, active in the church, served an LDS mission, etc.  I knew at an early age that I was a little different, although, at the time, I didn’t know why.  But, apparently, my father did.  With no disrespect to my father, the simple truth is; he hated me.  As a young teenager, desperately needing to escape the conflict; I transferred my school records and moved out.

Over the years, my father’s hatred turned into an obsession. There’s more, much more, but looking back, I am filled with empathy and sorrow toward my father.  He was old school. Like many in that era, he had no understanding, no tools, no one to turn to, and nothing to help him deal with a child who might be queer.  At times, I literally saw the doubt, fear, and helplessness in my father’s eyes, which turned into anger and hatred. 

Based on this experience, I have always felt we should do everything we can to strengthen and reassure parents; to encourage better communication and better understanding between a parent and a child; especially on the sensitive topics of gender identity and sexual orientation.  Unfortunately, I believe Cox’s “leadership” regarding LGBTQ youth does the opposite. 

I believe Cox not only adopted the Democrat’s playbook of never allowing a crisis go to waste, but he went further; Cox outdid the Democrats and actually helped create the crisis in order to take advantage of it.  I know of no better example than his involvement in conversion therapy. 

You see, prior to the 2019 Legislative Session, many people, if they had ever heard of conversion therapy, understood it to be child abuse: the antiquated, basically extinct attempts at trying to change someone’s gender identification or sexual orientation through methods of physical or psychological abuse such as electroshock therapy, forced consumption of syrup of ipecac or physical or mental intimidation. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Pride Center, LDS Social Services, licensed therapists, when asked, all confirmed they do not practice conversion therapy.  In fact, no one could direct me to any licensed therapist currently practicing conversion therapy. 

However, almost overnight, Cox’s progressive partners leveled lurid allegations of child abuse via conversion therapy.  It seemed the hashtag #itsstillhappening was posted nearly everywhere.  Articles claimed as fact: conversion therapy is “alive and well in Utah”.  Many proclaimed young LGBTQ kids will commit suicide in large numbers as the result of conversion therapy unless we do something and do something now. 

I watched as Lt. Governor Cox sat on the floor of the Capitol and filled with emotion, apologized to LGBTQ teens that claimed to be recent victims of conversion therapy.  It wasn’t long until Governor Gary Herbert apologized in writing to the same teens.  Furthermore, Cox tweeted a note of apology, stating, “I am so sorry that you are hurting.  Please know that I am hurting too.  I worked on this bill since November and thought we had a chance”.  

What I cannot understand is, after working on “this bill” for several months, why didn’t Cox publicly state the facts instead of fanning the flames of crisis and hysteria?  The facts include:

  1. There is no crisis regarding abusive conversion therapy.  In the last 5 years, there have been no reported cases of conversion therapy-related abuse in Utah; no investigation, no disciplinary action, no loss of license; not one
  2. Under State and Federal Law, any person who even suspects child abuse must report the suspected abuse to legal authorities; yet none related to conversion therapy has been reported
  3. Despite the headlines, the suicide of minors (10 – 17 years old) is the smallest demographic of those who commit suicide each year in Utah; LGBTQ children make up a very small portion of minor suicides, and conversion therapy-related suicides are statistically a very small portion of that.

Although Cox did not set the record straight, one would assume he at least followed the law and immediately reported the alleged abuse after he tweeted an apology to a hurting victim. Unfortunately, a simple GRAMA request reveals he did not.  

As a father, an attorney, a prior Mayor, County Commissioner, legislator, and religious leader, surely Cox must know the importance of following the law and due process. Cox cannot have it both ways; he cannot claim to help the vulnerable, publicly apologize to alleged victims of child abuse related to conversion therapy, and yet, not report the abuse.  Lt. Governor Cox’s elected office does not exempt him from the law.  

Knowing there were no recent reported victims of conversion therapy, it appears Cox and his progressive partners had to quickly broaden the very meaning of conversion therapy in order to try and convince Utahns the abuse exists.  Now, according to Cox’s partners, a parent is engaging in abusive practices when they encourage their effeminate son to learn to play basketball or their masculine daughter to learn to sew. 

While Cox and his progressive partners congratulate each other, claiming LGBTQ suicide rates are going down due to their actions, Cox seems to not be alarmed at the real tragedy occurring with our minor children in Utah.  Surely Mr. Cox knows that in the last five years, the same five years he has been the Lieutenant Governor, there has been a 10,000% increase in the number of Utah’s small children beginning cross-sex hormone treatments, as the second step after puberty blockers, in preparation for a sex transition.  Cox doesn’t seem at all concerned, in fact, his progressive partners applaud when parents subject their child, as young as 10-years-old, to puberty blockers, then to irreversible cross-sex hormone treatments and sterilization, under the euphemistic pretense of “gender affirmation”.  The parents are presented as compassionate and loving; fulfilling the true wishes of their 10-year-old child. 

In this last legislative session, Cox had numerous opportunities to insert himself into the dialog about puberty blockers, cross-sex hormone treatments, and sex changes for minors, much like he did the session before regarding conversion therapy. It was a critical time for Cox to protect the vulnerable.  Where were his tweets drawing attention to the horrible fact that cross-sex hormone treatments used on a small child most often sterilize them and place them on a path toward a “gender-affirming transition”, i.e. a sex change that includes castration, penis inversion, hysterectomy, breast removal or augmentation, and more? 

Spencer Cox’s silence was deafening.

I believe it is reasonable for Utahns to wonder how Lt. Governor Cox determined to spend his time and efforts solving a crisis with no reported victims in the last 5 years, but he turns a blind eye to the hundreds and hundreds of children, the most vulnerable amongst us, who are now on their way to irreversible sterilization and sex change. 

Thanks to Cox and his activist friends, it is easier for a concerned Utah parent of a gender-confused minor to find a therapist who recommends “gender-affirming” irreversible cross-sex hormone treatments, than finding a therapist willing to neutrally discuss puberty and gender confusion with a minor.  Utah parents, already fearful and confused, much like my dad was, are now left even more helpless in their efforts to arrive at a place of acceptance, support, and love with their child. 

Therapists now fear their neutral therapy might be seen as offending Lt. Governor Cox’s overly broad Professional Licensing Rule, believing they will suffer the professional, political, and personal consequences of unfounded accusations and threats against them by activists who advocate for gender change and sterilization of minors.  

To be clear, I am opposed to:

  • Child abuse including the antiquated, traumatizing practice of conversion therapy that includes the forced attempt to change a child’s gender identity or sexual orientation via electroshock therapy, forced ipecac, mental or physical intimidation, etc.
  • Small children, minors, being subjected to cross-sex hormone treatments, sex changes, sterilization, etc.  
  • Elected officials, including Lt. Governor Cox, who claim to protect the vulnerable, acknowledge alleged victims, yet do not follow the law and report the abuse to law enforcement, DOPL, Child and Family Services, etc. 

But, I am in favor of: 

  • Parents having access to neutral, responsible guidance and counsel from licensed therapists and religious leaders in order to foster understanding, support, and acceptance of their questioning children
  • Talk therapy that creates a better understanding, more compassion, and more empathy and love between a parent and child     

I believe Utah voters, especially parents and grandparents, deserve an explanation from Lt. Governor Cox on these critical issues.  Utahns deserve to know; 

  • Is Cox aware of any actual victims of the alleged conversion therapy child abuse? and if so, 
  • Why did Cox not report the abuse as the law requires; thus allowing due process?  Or, 
  • Did Cox simply fan the flames of unreported and unsubstantiated claims to cultivate votes and further the agenda of the progressive left?  

The stakes are very high and Utahns deserve answers. 

Dave Robinson, Republican and gay