Words: Alastair James; pictures: Netflix / Pray Away
The trailer for a new documentary on conversion therapy, Pray Away, has been released by Netflix. The film is produced by Ryan Murphy and Jason Blum.
Directed by Kristine Stolakis the film is set to premiere on the streaming service on 3 August. It focuses on the American Exodus International (EI) movement, which appeared in the 1970s trying to convince people they could 'pray away the gay'.
As a practice, 'conversion' therapy has been condemned internationally, with activists here in the UK arguing for the widely-debunked practice, which seeks to change or suppress a person’s gender identity or sexuality, to be outlawed.
“I spent a lot of time thinking: how did I believe that?”
In the newly-released trailer for Pray Away, several members of EI are seen in archive footage on talk shows discussing how they’d been “converted” and were no longer part of the LGBTQ community.
“We’re just saying, that if you want to change, there is a way to do it” one man says.
The trailer then cuts to modern-day footage with one woman saying, “I spent a lot of time thinking: how did I believe that?”
According to the description for the trailer on YouTube, the documentary will see several former members of EI – who have all since come out as LGBTQ - discuss the organisation, being “superstars in the religious right” and how harmful it was.
“I ached to be loved and to love a man” says the same man from earlier. Elsewhere in the trailer - in archive footage - someone is seen asking another person, “how does it feel to be broken as I look at you?”
A third person can be seen shaking his head and almost convulsing as a response. The trailer also shows groups and individuals currently promoting conversion therapy.
"It's like an intrusive therapy session but very suggestive"
In the UK, the government announced plans to ban conversion therapy in May, as well as a short consultation into the practice. Such a ban was initially promised by former Prime Minister, Theresa May, in 2018.
In Attitude’s June issue, Amir (not his real name) shared his experience of visiting a psychiatrist on Harley Street in London after coming out to his parents. Amir says the psychiatrist told him, “When I was at university, I was very liberal and I used to follow this party, but as you grow older, your views change. Sexuality is basically like a political party and your political views can change.”
Amir says he was also asked all sorts of personal questions about sex and porn adding, “I had to discuss things with someone that I hadn’t even discussed with myself. I hadn’t done such a detailed exploration of sexual preferences or acts or any of those things.”
Attitude has also recently spoken to Daniel Harding, a journalist who went undercover to try conversion therapy as part of an investigation. He had a similar experience to Amir in one session.
“I had to talk about my sex life, masturbating, family upbringing. It's like an intrusive therapy session but very suggestive. For example, I was talking about my family, and I said, I've got a close relationship with my sister. And they said: 'that’s one of the reasons that you might be SSA (same-sex attraction) - you've obviously had a heavy influence of females in your life.' They might as well have asked me: 'Did you play with Barbies when you were younger?'"
Watch the trailer for Pray Away below.
The Attitude Summer issue is out now.