Gay conversion therapy and those affected by it take centre stage in new Netflix documentary, Pray Away.
Based in the US, Pray Away speaks to organisers and survivors of those who have gone through organisations that condemn homosexuality.
Declaring it a choice, harrowing testimonies reveal the extent of those denying their feelings for the same sex. Many eventually revert or even attempt suicide as they struggle.
But despite it being condemned by mental health and medical practitioners, the religious ministries remain across the world. So what about the UK?
Here’s what you need to know.
What is conversion therapy?
Conversation therapy, also known as reparative therapy, is an orchestrated attempt to get someone to ‘renounce their sexual orientation or gender identity’.
Religious groups and organisations, such as Exodus International, largely use gospel and evangelicalism to convince those ‘trying to quit the homosexual lifestyle’.
They also hold seminars, events, and counselling sessions.
The aim is to result in them in cisgender, heterosexual marriages, and living in stereotypical gender roles. But in reality, it often results in guilt about their feelings, often leading to further mental health issues including depression.
Some counsellors and psychoanalysts claim they can ‘cure the gay agenda’ with therapy sessions.
The American Psychiatric Association has stated the risks on those involved are massive. This includes encouraging depression, anxiety and self-destructive behaviour.
They added therapist alignment with the prejudice against LGBTQ people will exacerbate self-hatred the patient already has.
In rare and extreme cases, some ‘conversion groups’ even orchestrate corrective rape in a bid to ‘fix’ the person in therapy.
Is conversion therapy still legal in the UK?
Sadly, yes – despite the NHS and all UK medical bodies labelling the therapy as ‘dangerous’.
In 2018, the government announced plans to ban conversion therapy. However, it’s yet to come into effect.
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When asked about the progress of the ban in July 2021, prime minister Boris Johnson said it was still on the agenda.
“On the gay conversion therapy thing, I think that’s absolutely abhorrent and has no place in a civilised society, and has no place in this country,” he said.
“What we are going to do is a study right now on where is this actually happening, how prevalent is it, and we’ll then bring forward plans to ban it.”
Findings with the Gender Recognition Act come out this summer.
The Ban Conversion Therapy campaign said: “We’re delighted that Boris Johnson has listened to our calls for a ban on conversion therapy.
“Now we await action – LGBTQ+ people have been tortured for long enough.”
Pray Away is available now on Netflix.
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