Image Credit: ‘Conversion,’ Gravitas Ventures

Whether or not we realize it, conversion therapy is not just a thing of the past—to this day, the unethical practice remains a threat to the LGBTQ+ community, and particularly to queer youth.

And the sobering statistics don’t lie: According to the Williams Institute, there are an estimated 698,000 conversion therapy survivors living in the U.S. today, 42% of whom have reported considering or attempting suicide in the past year.

Last December, a report in Time warned that some version of the practice still exists in almost every state—despite being banned and discredited in 22 of them. An estimated 35,000 young queer people will be subjected to conversion therapy over the next five years.

When survivor and filmmaker Zach Meiners learned his own former “therapist” was still active, he was inspired to reach out to others like him, to use his storytelling skillset to amplify and empower their voices and “expose the secretive and often deadly industry.”

The end result is the eye-opening new documentary Conversion, a deeply personal yet wide-reaching film that actually lets the survivors tell their stories.

Image Credit: ‘Conversion,’ Gravitas Ventures

Meiners shares his own experiences, alongside other courageous individuals who have managed to take this dark time in their lives and turn it around to help others. Among them is Elena Joy Thurston, founder of the Pride And Joy Foundation which works to reduce the rate of suicide and homelessness in the LGBTQ+ community.

And then there’s Dustin Rayburn, perhaps better known to many as Dusty Ray Bottoms, the talented NYC-by-way-of-Kentucky queen who competed on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10. By bravely sharing their story on national television, Meiners felt inspired to reach out, thus kicking the documentary into motion.

“When I first shared my story with conversion therapy, I had never talked with someone who had also gone through conversion therapy,” Rayburn told INTO in late 2022. “So it wasn’t until that played on national television that people were messaging me, ‘yo, me too.’ That’s when I had my first “me too” moment with that. And that was really eye opening for me.”

Rayburn—who details their harrowing memories of undergoing exorcism-like practices—knows first-hand how impactful it can be just to share these stories; merely making people aware that conversion therapy still exists can save lives, which makes a documentary like Conversion all the more necessary.

“It was a really hard, scary, treacherous journey, but so much better for it now,” they shared. “And I know that what you put out there, it comes back to you full circle.”

In addition to survivors, the film features thought-provoking interviews with doctors, experts, and even the founder of one of the most expansive conversion networks in the country. Providing powerful insights into this “underground industry” that’s always re-branding, Meiners’ film ultimately aims to tell a story of hope and speak directly to a younger generation who may not yet have the resources or ability to find their way out of the trauma that is conversion therapy.

After a festival run over the past year, Conversion the film will finally be widely available on all major VOD platforms beginning July 2, via Gravitas Ventures. Check out the official trailer for the film below:

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