Sunday, August 8, 2021

Pray Away [Conversion Therapy] A Review


  Pray Away

By

  Kristine Stolakis

  Jessica Devaney  

  Anya Rous

  Carla Gutierrez

Reviewed by

Geoffrey W. Sutton

Pray Away is a documentary film about the experience of American Evangelicals who identify as LGBTQ and conversion therapy. I watched the show last week on Netflix and I recommend the film to those interested in the topic.

One of the leads is a man named Jeffrey who identifies as ex-trans. He no longer identifies as trans as he says, “I lived transgender but I left it all to follow Jesus.”



The film tells part of the Exodus story. Exodus was a large Christian organization based in Orlando Florida. It began in 1976 and quickly expanded to help people who identified as gay or lesbian change their same-sex attraction. The process was called conversion therapy or reparative therapy. Exodus closed in 2013.

The film, Pray Away, tells the story of people who continued to struggle with same-sex attraction, which never went away. Despite the closing of Exodus, Christian groups continue to encourage LGBTQ people to change rather than accept or affirm an LGBTQ identity. The film focuses attention on the harm suffered by those who participated in these conversion efforts.

On their website, Kristine Stolakis expresses her goal:

“My ultimate goal is to tell the truth of the "pray the gay away" movement's enduring harm. I hope that  in a few years following the film’s release, a family member or struggling LGBTQ Christian searching for information on conversion therapy finds PRAY AWAY, learns about our subjects’ compelling stories, and finds their way to affirmation and self-acceptance.”

Randy Thomas was one of the Exodus leaders. A friend’s suicide caused him to evaluate what was going on with the movement. Here’s what he told npr last week:

"It crushed me to know that the ideology that we had both ascribed to, that we had both lived by, that I had been promoting, had killed my friend," Thomas told NPR. "This ideology was something that I promoted and was spreading around the world was actually destructive and deadly. It's a regret that I will carry with me for the rest of my life."

Some Thoughts

The filmmakers are open about their goals as noted above.  I appreciate the fact that there is no hidden agenda. They know about the pain so many experience. This harm continues to impact so many who experienced conversion therapy. Mental health organizations like the APA do not view same sex orientation as a mental disorder and recognize the distress experienced by people who are upset with their own sexual orientation or those of others. The APA also reminds clinicians that the research has not documented the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation.

The film mentions bisexuality but bisexuality does not get a lot of attention. We do not know how many people who report successful change are actually bisexual who learn to focus on and enjoy heterosexual relationships while inhibiting same-sex desire. Hypothetically, one may wonder to what extent it is easier to claim a successful change when sexual desire is bisexual rather than strongly homosexual.

The film does not address the longitudinal issues so important to wellbeing. That is, gender identity and sexual orientation change overtime. Same-sex marriage is still a recent phenomena as is increasing acceptance and affirmation of people identifying as other than a straight man or woman. Ongoing research should help us learn more.

What the film does do is remind viewers of the deep pain associated with changing gender identity and sexual orientation for large numbers of people who have sincerely tried to change. For every person involved in the change process, many others are negatively affected such as parents, partners, children, and friends.

The negative impact should not be minimized. Depression, anxiety, and suicide are serious concerns.

Finally, the filmmakers offer resources on their website. These include faith-based organizations: https://www.prayawayfilm.com/resources

Link to US National Suicide Hotline [1-800-273-8255]

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

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Some Related Posts

Gay and Christian: Matthew Turner

Conversion Therapist Comes Out and Apologizes

Christian Apologizes to LGBTQ community

Sexual Orientation, Identity, & Attraction

Shocking Conversion Therapy LGBTQ+

Identities in Conflict: Sexual and Spiritual

How do Youth View Sexual Identity, Attraction, and Behavior?

 

A Christian Resource

A House Divided: Sex, Morality, and Christian Culture

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