Pray Away (2021)

In one of my recent posts, I wrote about having a free weekend and being able to unwind. During this weekend, I devoted some time to watch whatever I wanted to watch on Netflix. One documentary I had my eye on for a while was Pray Away, a documentary detailing the rise of Conversion therapy and why it’s so psychologically damaging. For those who are unfamiliar, Conversion therapy is a form of “therapy” (I put therapy in quotes because I wouldn’t call this therapy) surrounding the idea that gay people can be cured and converted back into being straight. Pray Away was a heartbreaking documentary, but one I would highly recommend watching.

Pray Away interweaves the stories of survivors of conversion therapy along with several prominent Conversion therapy activists. As the history of Conversion therapy unfolds, it seems that what was being sold to the public was completely false. John Paulk was a major voice in Conversion therapy as he was a “former” gay man who was now married to a woman. His wife, Anne, also went through Conversion therapy and that’s how John and Anne met. John mentions in the documentary that he, “ached to be loved by a man”. Hearing him tell his story about how he was selling something he didn’t believe in made me feel for him. Today, John has divorced his wife and is now openly gay.

Another story that the documentary focused on was Julie Rodgers. Julie came out to her family at a young age and was taken to Conversion therapy. She was there for many years and was encouraged to speak at various religious conferences. During Conversion therapy, she was coerced into telling a deeply personal story in front of many people. Julie eventually was able to get out of therapy and has just married her lovely wife. This story showed clips of her wedding and how she was able to get married in a church. I will admit, I sometimes have a negative bias towards religion, however, seeing Julie reclaim her religion for herself was so endearing to me.

I couldn’t imagine what it must be like to not be able to love the person you’re meant to be with. As I spent time writing my vows this week, it made me think back to the lives shown in Pray Away. While many who survived Conversion therapy went to live long and authentic lives, so many didn’t because of the psychological damage of not being able to cure being gay. Suicide was prevalent amongst Conversion therapy, and I’m glad to see strides being taken to ban this form of “therapy” altogether.

Pray Away was a well-made, engaging and thoughtful documentary. This documentary did take an emotional toll, so I would only recommend it if you’re in the mood for something a bit more emotional. Pray Away can be watched on Netflix.

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