Compulsory viewing

WATCH: New Netflix documentary explores horrific reality of conversion therapy

Pray Away (Photo: Netflix)

Netflix has dropped the trailer for Pray Away, a new documentary coming to the streamer on August 3. The film takes a look at the history of Exodus International.

The Christian evangelical organization was formed in the 1970s and claimed to be able to help gay and trans people to be straight and cisgender. It shuttered in 2013. Many of those involved with the organization were LGBTQ and claimed that prayer had helped them lead a straight life.

“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,’” says a promotional statement for Pray Away. “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.”

Related: Ex-‘ex-gay’ who opposed marriage equality: “I’m about to get married to a dude”

The so-called conversion therapy they peddled has been denounced by dozens of respectable psychiatric associations, including The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Conversion therapy is now banned for minors in 20 states, in recognition of the great harm it can do to the mental and emotional health of those subjected to it. It also simply does not work.

The documentary has been produced by Ryan Murphy and Jason Blum of Blumhouse Television. It was directed by Kristine Stolakis, who says she was inspired to explore the story after her own uncle, who is trans, attempted to undergo conversion therapy when younger.

Related: Bowen Yang opens up about undergoing conversion therapy as a teen

In recent years, comedian Bowen Yang and actress Alyson Stoner have spoken of their own experiences of undergoing conversion therapy, while the movie Boy Erased, starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, brought the subject to the big screen in 2018.

Pray Away features interviews with several of those involved with the Exodus International movement. As one man now explains, behind his claims of being helped by Exodus, he simply “ached to be loved and to love a man.”

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