Feature-length documentary Pray Away, which examines the enduring harm of conversion therapy and the “pray the gay away” movement, is now available on Netflix. In the film, former leaders of the “pray the gay away” movement contend with the aftermath unleashed by their actions, while a survivor seeks healing and acceptance from more than a decade of trauma.
This heartbreaking documentary tells the story of how the conversion therapy movement started and the lives traumatized in its wake. The ex-leaders of this movement describe their motivations and subsequent guilt after realizing it was all a scam and no longer being able to live the lie that they had become straight.
For the hundreds of thousands of 2S-LGBTQIA+ people who have endured these now-debunked efforts to turn them straight through prayer, faith, and the Bible this will be an all too relatable film.
The story is woven together by former members of Exodus International, a group founded in the 1970s by five “ex-gay” men in an evangelical church who felt prayer and their faith could cure them of their homosexuality and find out why they were that way. The group became a sensation as so-called ex-gay leaders shared their stories on TV shows across the United States. Conditioned by society and religion that being gay was a sin and perversion was the impetus for the movement, however, the lies that it was working from those involved were what helped it achieve massive uptake. It offered an alluring roadmap to those who were vulnerable through shame, self-loathing, and confusion. People from other countries including Canada were attracted to the programs leaving victims scattered around the globe.
In addition to telling the story of Exodus International, the largest organization involved in so-called conversion therapy, Pray Away also features Julie Rodgers, a former leader of the ex-gay movement who went through conversion therapy and became a prominent spokesperson. The film tells her story of trauma, survival, and redemption.
Viewers should be mindful that so-called conversion therapy and other efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression are still widely practiced among Christian groups who believe that homosexuality is a sin and being transgender is a discrepancy caused by sin.