After screening this film with my mother, she shared that as a nurse, she often worked in pre and post op of many Transpersons who were having metoidioplasty surgery. She shared a story of one particular patient who had a significant other. Her boyfriend, a painter, showed up every day to visit dressed in all white with flowers in hand until she was released. Mommy said it was so touching to see the love they had for one another. Not one time, did she make mention that their love was seen as ‘vile’ or ‘wrong.’
Pray Away takes us to the 1970s introducing five men struggling with being gay in their Evangelical church who started a Bible study to help each other leave the “homosexual lifestyle.” They quickly received over 25,000 letters from people asking for help and formalized as Exodus International, the largest and most controversial conversion therapy organization in the world. But leaders struggled with a secret: their own “same-sex attractions” never went away.
After years as Christian superstars in the religious right, many of these men and women have come out as LGBTQ, disavowing the very movement they helped start. Focusing on the dramatic journeys of former conversion therapy leaders, current members, and a survivor, this doc chronicles the “ex gay” movement’s rise to power, persistent influence, and the profound harm it causes.
Immediately, my mind went to a film a screened a few years back called “Boy Erased,” which chronicled the true story of Garrard Conley. Conley, he son of a Baptist preacher unwillingly participated in a church-supported gay conversion program after being forcibly outed to his parents. It begs the question of how can religion lie and manipulate the truth about being one’s authentic self? This film brings up feelings of witnessing friends being able to exchange vows because the passage Prop 8 (strongly urged by the Obama Administration) allowed them to do so. Yet, that law resulted in hundreds protesting those rights.
Many staunch Christians believe that being gay, trans or lesbian is a lifestyle, a choice that can be ‘prayed away.’ It’s not. These conversion camps had leaders like Ricky Chelette and Anne Paula who encouraged participants to transparently communicate stories of being raped or admitting their ‘lust’ for another. Exodus, which started in 1976, was a ministry notorious for claiming to assist those wanting to move away from homosexuality. At the end of the day, all they really accomplished was humiliating thousands of human beings while trying to mind manage their ‘urges.’ Watching Pray Away was frustrating. The more I watched, the angrier and sadder I became. Why do we live in a society that won’t let just people live, flourish and thrive as humans.? What difference does it make what the gender is?
It’s so incredibly hypercritical, mean, disrespectful and unnecessary. Am I gay? No, I’m not, but I am a staunch advocate for anyone deemed as different. Being a different is a label I’ve had to endure my entire life as a woman of color. These people are bullies of the worst kind. The kind that will drive someone to commit the unthinkable – taking their own life. Did you know that approximately, 700,000 souls have gone to some form of conversion therapy in the US alone and that a national survey found that LGBTQ youth who experienced conversion therapy were more than twice as like to attempt suicide? Yup…that part.
Let’s break this cycle right now! If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide or self harm, crisis resources are available at http://www.wanntalkaboutit.com or for more resources, visit http://www.prayawayfilm.com. Be the change you want to see in the world. Produced by Ryan Murphy, Pray Away is streaming on Netflix will light a fire within that won’t be extinguished any time in the near future.