I’ve been meaning to get rid of my Hulu for a while now (Golden Girls apparently belongs to Disney now, so “thank you for being a friend”, my favorite sitcom!). When one of my old youth pastors mentioned a new documentary on Netflix called Pray Away, I looked up the trailer and immediately found my reason to get Netflix. Holy cow.
Pray Away is a heart-wrenching, brutally honest look into both the height of the “ex-gay movement” during the 90’s thanks to the infamous group Exodus International, and the regret its truthfully LGBTQ leaders feel after leaving it behind. This documentary shows the cult-like lure and lies of “conversion therapy”, a demeaning practice condemned by medical experts such as the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
I found this excellent look into Exodus International from MSN, and oh boy, this organization…they were influential for sure, and their legacy is responsible for the lingering, obsessive and wrong belief that you can “change” your sexuality. And we take for granted, as their article warns, that this horrible practice is still legal on the federal level. YUCK.
Ah, and here’s the ultimate plot twist folks: Exodus was started by five gay men who were desperate to change themselves. And as it is, the vast majority of these movements are led by “ex-gay” individuals who claim they’ve converted into an ideal straight person.
See, this is why I’m still so angry about those six Bible verses being woefully mistranslated from warnings against pedophiles and shrine prostitutes from 2000+ years ago…into cherry-picked “condemnations against homosexuality”. This is a key example of the lingering damage done by that choice. And I’m not done being angry.
Watching the documentary was almost triggering, which shows how powerful it is when I’m one of the lucky gay kids who never had to deal with this nightmare. I no longer take for granted being raised in my liberal United Methodist environment. I wish so badly that my uplifting youth experience with my church was what all other LGBTQ kids could experience for themselves.
It wasn’t so for the brave souls who gave their testimonies in Pray Away. From John Paulk, one of the most famous “ex-gay” men from the 90’s, to Julie Rodgers, a Millennial survivor, the ripple effects of Exodus International’s ill intentions are painfully prevalent. John Paulk forced himself to marry an “ex-gay” woman and act as the poster boy for this “righteous” movement. Julie Rodgers is painfully relatable for youth like me who’ve been filled with self-loathing at any point in time for the truth that we can’t change who we are, no matter how hard we try.
(Content/Trigger Warning: Self-Harm and Sexual Violence)
I’m heartbroken and enraged at what she was put through during her time in this movement. She used burning-hot quarters to scratch her shoulders after the pain of the “therapy” sessions she went through on a weekly basis while at college.
John Paulk is an Ohio native, and a humble soul determined to advocate against the harmful movement he used to lead. As the documentary sadly noted, he now stands in opposition to his ex-wife Anna Paulk, who to this day has remained a proponent of conversion therapy.
Folks, the meager summary I’m giving here is merely a glimpse into all of the truths Pray Away has to offer. Please, please watch it. It’s just as vital as Prayers for Bobby.
Let it End
I hope and pray that at some point in the near future, conversion therapy will be ended one way or another. I’m disgusted that anybody thinks it’s ok to suggest you can change somebody’s sexuality like this. What “good fruit” is there to be taken from this, when conversion therapy leads to LGBTQ youth being twice as likely to attempt suicide?
There is no mercy or compassion behind this movement. You know, this is why so many of us LGBTQ Christians have had to actually consider whether or not our faith/relationship with God is valid. If we’re true to ourselves, does that mean He’ll abandon us to Hell, like so many Christians either imply or outright shout?
Heck, I begged God multiple times in the months after I came out at 18 to take this away if He didn’t want it. Well folks, I’m still pretty damn gay, if I say so myself. And with all of the dreams/visions that God’s given me of my future husband, it’s been made crystal clear to me that He doesn’t intend for me to drown in loneliness for the rest of my life.
May the eyes and hearts of conversion therapy’s proponents be opened, so that all of us LGBTQ folk may at last have the peace we deserve, that God intends for us to have.