Discredited by the World Health Organisation and opposed by LGBTQ+ charities, this new Netflix documentary explores the harmful legacy of 1970s gay conversion therapy.
“If you want to change, there’s a way to do it” is the ominous message that opens the trailer for Netflix’s new documentary, Pray Away.
Founded in the 1970s, Exodus International was one of the most influential gay conversion therapy organisations in the world until it was revealed some of the founders and leaders no longer believed in the therapies they were promoting.
“It was awful pseudo-psychology,” says one former therapy leader about the ideology that you could “pray away” homosexual thoughts and “become good” again.
Conversion therapy is discredited by the World Health Organization and activists have forged legislative and legal battles across the world to ban its forms.
LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall’s LGBT in Britain report found that one in twenty LGBTQ+ people have been pressured to access services to question or change their sexual orientation when accessing healthcare services. This rises to 9% of people aged 18-24, and 9% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.
With a focus on the journeys of former conversion therapy leaders, survivors and current members, Pray Away investigates the “ex gay” movement’s rise to power, its unscientific influence, and its legacy of profound harm.
Here’s everything you need to know about the ground-breaking documentary.
What is Pray Away about?
Its official Netflix synopsis reads: “In the 1970s, five men struggling with being gay in their Evangelical church 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 superstars in the religious right, many of these men and women have come out as LGBTQ, disavowing the very movement they helped start.”
Produced by Pose’s Ryan Murphy and directed by Kristine Stolakis, the documentary was set to premiere at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, but the pandemic pushed its opening to last month during this year’s edition of the festival.
Is there a trailer for Pray Away?
The emotional trailer can be watched in full below:
What are people saying about Pray Away?
As reported by Digital Spy, reviews for Pray Away so far have been glowing. The Hollywood Reporter deemed it a “sobering account of Christian intervention rooted in toxic homophobia”.
“While the documentary feels at times as though it is an excuse for past behaviour, it reaches into the depths of salvation, providing an understanding of why,” said Film Inquiry.
And across social media, many have already praised Netflix for tackling the topic and shedding light on the harmful practices.
“It’s about time they made a doc on this,” one comment read.
“Ryan Murphy continues to knock it out the park. This looks incredible and I can’t wait to watch. I can’t begin to imagine how traumatising these ‘camps’ must’ve been,” wrote another user.
“Heartbreaking…thanks Netflix for another amazing documentary,” praised one more.
Where can you watch Pray Away?
Pray Away will be available to stream on Netflix from 3 August.