Scrolling through Netflix the other night, I landed on an interesting looking documentary called, “Pray Away”. Being a parent of a gay teen and a Catholic School “Survivor” myself, this piqued my interest.
Let me just say this in advance; If you are easily triggered by unfair representation or agenda regarding the LGBTQ community, save your energy. Pass. Hard pass on this nonsense.
When I tell you that I was shouting at the TV after this was over, that is not hyperbole. I ranted about the nonsense I had just watched. The nonsense Netflix paid to show on their service.
This happened three days ago, and I am still in such a state that I’ve had to take my hands off my keyboard three times just since starting this post. I have so many emotions about this documentary, I don’t even know how to unpack it from my brain to relay it to you in anything other than shouts and groans.
The whole thing starts bizarrely with a man offering prayers in front of a grocery store – presumably in the south based on his accent – as he tells the unsuspecting shoppers and the camera about his experience as a reformed transgender man. See, the Lord helped him realize the sin of not only being gay, but also being transgender and he “quit”. He is no longer transgender. (but unclear where he lands on not being gay now)
Now, i’m all about a religious wacko. Bring ’em to me all day long. I will sit in silent judgement as you spout all of your love and devotion to Jesus. Baby, adolescent, or grown ass Jesus, I’m not even picky. You want an audience? I’m it. Don’t expect me to raise hands or worship with you, but you do you, Boo Boo. Get it. Get that holy spirit. Why? Because you have every right to your faith, religion, opinions, and dress code.
I do, too. I have every right to not buy in to what you’re trying to sell. I have the same right to sit quietly and watch the show.
The special then goes on to introduce a program that began in the 70’s – the nineteen seventies, y’all – called Exodus International. INTERNATIONAL. This program begun when five men in a Bible study group wanted to leave the homosexual lifestyle. As per the doc summary, “…they quickly received over 25,000 letters from people asking for help.”
Okay … still havent lost me. I’m still seeing a religious based support group for men who have yet to accept their homosexuality. Remembering that it’s the 1970’s and so many people were presumably living in the closet then, I can understand the need for this. Where it lost me was when the Bible thumpers started preaching that homosexuality needed to be removed from folks. Being gay was unthinkable, unlovable and unacceptable. Jesus and his Mom – who managed a solo pregnancy and expected her husband to stand by her – would not allow you into heaven if you were a man who liked peen or a lady all about the vajine.
This one organization was the gate to all salvation. Churches banded together to form their own
hate groups, circle jerks, homo haters, hopeful conversion groups where children, teenagers, and adults alike could get together and try to pray away their gay.
Now imagine you are a parent of a child in 1981. You are busy working your single job, questioning your failed marriage, wondering how you are going to get to the store to pick up your TV dinners and get home in time to check junior’s homework. Junior needs to pass the sixth grade, and he’s been home alone watching ‘Jem’ and ‘He-Man’ all afternoon alone and you know he hasn’t even started his math yet. As you are tucking him in you hear the evening news in the background talking about a new virus running rampant through the gay community. It’s so scary it isn’t even called by name. It’s an acronym. AIDS. Big scary AIDS and they don’t know where/what/why/how yet. .. and your little junior says, “Mom …. I have something to tell you …. I’m gay.”
You don’t know what to do, but you just know you want your kid safe. You want your kid protected from harm and hate… so who do you call when your soul’s in trouble? Jesus! The church tells you aaaaaaall about a program that “helps” kids realize the error of their ways and how to make the right choice. So you drop your kid off at Conversion Care and cry and hope for the best.
There is a whole roster of folks who tell you their own personal stories. Women who gave up women. Men who no longer crave men. It’s possible!! Look, some of them are even married, most of them even managed to produce a child from an actual impregnated woman, they MUST be straight!
Wait, you’re still fantasizing about the same sex? What’s wrong with you? If all of these people believed they could because they wanted God’s love enough, why can’t you? Do you not want it enough?
This goes to very dark places. There are people on these committees for churches all over the country who vomit the same rhetoric. How do we know? Because once a year there’s a huge summit where they all converge and have an auditorium ho down to pray away the homo in you. And if prayer isn’t enough, they have a doctor who says that it’s possible to psychologically treat you. Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. He wrote a book, so he must be right, right ?!?
My blood began to boil when the nonsense started to finally come around to a belated point toward the last 20 minutes or so of the show when one of the founding five of Exodus, Michael Bussee, and a long standing supporter, member, recruiter, and public speaker, Yvette Cantu, and the self-proclaimed face of conversion therapy, John Paulk, all eventually condemn the process. After decades of encouraging the self-hate of thousands, and hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian human beings these people can finally bring themselves to publicly admit that A. They lied, and B. They’re sorry.
Ummm, excuse me? You’re sorry? That’s it? All three of the main players in Pray Away were massive pushers of this mentality and plastered their faces all over the media in the name of saving people from their inner demon – Homosexuality – and all they can say is “Sorry.”?! They lived for that adoration and admiration from crowds of people who wondered at the sheer will it took for these people to overcome something that was insurmountable. (LITERALLY) Now they are on camera showing off how contrite they are?
Yvette Cantu was a large part of the Prop 8 agenda in California banning same sex marriage. That law passed, preventing the recognition of same sex marriage.
Youths in these conversion therapy church groups established because of Michael Bussee were committing suicide and self mutilation. Incomprehensible acts of self hate.
And the most ridiculous human, John Paulk, who preened and pretended all over television in the 80’s showing off his hetero marriage cannot get enough of himself as he is now quaffed and dyed and tanned judging the whole conversion circus but now is compelled to be honest for a camera and interview so he can apologize?
When I tell you this makes me seethe with rage and disgust .. what have these people done to actively change laws and lives? Yvette has now realized she must be bisexual as she is still in a marriage to a man. Excuse me while I don’t give a shit, but what have you done to make up for your work passing a law preventing the recognition of same sex marriage in the third largest state in the country? But you’re sorry … oh, nevermind then.
Michael Bussee is 1/5 responsible for the network of church organizations who played with the souls and lives of children and young adults fearing they would never be worthy of heaven, let alone an earthbound respect or love. But he’s now helping support groups believe the truth … OOOohhh, okay then… nevermind. We’re good.
I’m glad that these people are sorry. It’s great that they’ve managed to eek out some growth and perspective at the cost of thousands of lives, and the trauma of thousands more. How about you take that sorrow and let it fuel your fight to be just as visible and loud and consistently obnoxious about the ACCEPTANCE of the LGBTQ+ community? How about you turn it all into something equally big and polarizing instead of participating in only the projects that get to make you continue feeling good about your “work”?
I have a revolutionary idea. How about this: When you decide to have children, commit to raising someone who can be the best version of themself as possible, not the best version of yourself. We each have our own life to live, our own struggles and gifts. Each individual person is just that. Individual. When you are bringing up a child, it’s not about you, the parent. It’s about them, the person. The individual. It’s not my son’s job to fulfill all of the things in this world I did not do. Do I wish my children exist beyond me? Yes! Do I hope they surpass my own opinions and education and life experiences? Yes! Do I hope some of the experiences my kids have are the same things I did? Sure! But it’s not mandatory.
The point of humanity is to learn from each other. Respect each other. Appreciate what individuals bring to an encounter. If I wanted to hang out and chat with my friends because I get mirrored all of the sameness that exists in me, how boring is that? What would be the point? What am I learning from that interaction? I want to hear about their experiences, their views. Do we differ on things? YES! That’s what makes it interesting, frustrating, endearing, entertaining, supportive.
Stop insisting others live the same as you. This goes for everyone. Gay, straight, bi, Black, Asian, Indian, Native American, Norwegian. Teachers, Doctors, Preachers, Stay at Home Moms, Lawers, Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Blind, Paraplegic. Why is it so hard to acknowledge different experiences and give them value? Who do you want to raise? A respectful, intelligent, logical human with integrity, or someone who insists on hate and dominance? And what gives an individual the right to preach one agenda based on their own interpretation of a millinias old writing that has been translated countless times? Who is to say that they alone have the keys to Heaven?
Stop giving value to only those who think and look like you. There’s a reason evolution is how we managed to get where we are. Let’s not stop now.