Review of “Pray Away”, Netflix’s new documentary of the ex-gay movement.

3 minute read

 I thought I knew what to expect in this documentary: trauma, manipulation, and discrimination. I have seen “Boy Erased”, another film that spreads awareness of the dangers of conversion therapy. While that is an important movie to see, this is not that movie. This documentary had so many more layers. I did not expect the stories of the ex-ex-gay leaders. Their sincerity, old and new testimonies, pain, and quest for healing.

Doing what they feel is right and best

               I was really struck by the passion of the movement’s leaders. They really wanted the best for people. One girl had multiple friends die from AIDS. She didn’t want any more of her gay friends to die. She didn’t want to die. These ex-gay leaders didn’t want to go to the hell they knew they were destined for. They wanted to be good and to help others be good.

Admission of Fault

               It is hard to admit to wrongdoing to one person. Imagine building an empire with thousands of followers then saying, “My empire is wrong. I hurt you. I’m sorry. I won’t do this anymore.” I think it took a lot of courage, not only for the leaders to step down from their positions, but to step up and speak out in this film.

Healing

               There were multiple accounts of psychological damage noted in this film, but there was also evidence of healing. The healing didn’t come easily. It took work. One woman allowed the viewer into a private counseling session. I think this was an especially important part of the film- to guide the way for others to make steps in their own healing journey.

Keeping the Faith

               I thought this film would bash Christianity, make Christianity out to be a cult of villains. I thought that the message would be that Christians are bad and don’t be a Christian because they hate the LGBTQ community. As a Christian, I disagree with that message, but it is a message that exists. What a surprise to see that rather than leave the faith, many of those traumatized by conversion therapy embraced their faith in a new way. They found communities of Christians that accepted and loved them. They learned that God loves them, and they are worthy of His love. What an invaluable message for every human.

Conclusion

               “Pray Away” is a story of good intentions, misguided beliefs, pain, and healing. Praying away the gay may not be right, but we can still pray. I pray for the continued healing of all those affected by the ex-gay movement. I pray for myself to continue to understand and love the LGBTQ community. Change starts with me. It starts with conversation and being open to being wrong.

Take Away/Call to Action

               I encourage you to watch this film no matter your beliefs. However, those who may be triggered, should proceed with caution.  Prior to watching film, I encourage you to look at the resource and discussion guide at PRAY AWAY (prayawayfilm.com). The viewers guide and mental health resources available here show that the film makers care about you. This isn’t just a documentary. This is a movement of healing.

Resources

LGBTQ youth are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who have not.

If you’re feeling suicidal call the Trevor Lifeline at 866-488-7386, call or see your mental health care provider as soon as possible, or go to your nearest emergency room.

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