This summer Netflix released Pray Away, a documentary following the lives of former leaders of ex-gay ministries and survivors of conversion therapy. It’s a heavy film, filled with heavy topics like abuse and self-harm. This may not be the podcast for you if it hits a bit close to home with your story. But if you watched the film and/or feel ready for our conversation on it, we hope this episode can be a blessing as we walk through the film’s heaviness with you.
Join Tom, Ben, and Will for our Pray Away takeaways. While Tom only had positive experiences with Exodus International, Will had significant negative ones. Ben gives us his take as a married guy in a mixed-orientation marriage and how other marrieds might see themselves in this film. We share about our Exodus connections with some of the people in the film, as well as the annual conferences Tom and Will attended, and we ponder the notion of whether a “Side B” theology (traditional sexual ethic, LGBT+ identifying) was lacking amid the “Side X” (or “ex-gay”) and “Side A” (affirming) points-of-view in the documentary.
It’s perhaps our first try at a YOB “film club”? We hope you enjoy this episode.
COMMENT ON THIS EPISODE
What did you think of Pray Away? What was encouraging about the film, and what was challenging, if not devastating? Share only as you’re comfortable.
Thank you for this episode! I had never seen Pray Away, but decided to watch it before listening to this podcast.
Something I thought was interesting was seeing how John Paulk kinda lost it or just couldn’t take it anymore. He made a comment in the video where he said he was completely enveloped or surrounded by his wife and kids, but still didn’t feel content or seems like his needs weren’t met or wasn’t enough for him. I’ve seen this same thing happen with other guys who strive to make “mixed-orientation” marriages work and fail. The need to connect with other guys is a natural need all guys need – especially guys with a history of SSA need in their lives. If he was only spending time with his wife and kids, then there would be a hunger for emotional connection with men that kept growing and eventually couldn’t take it anymore and ended up at a gay bar. Those needs become sexualized when repressed. The men I talk to who experience SSA and are married to a women seem to spend regular time with other guys and this allows them to still get their needs for male intimacy met. Guys who don’t experience SSA also need this in their lives, but they aren’t ashamed about it and seem to do a better job of making it happen.
I think this need for guys with SSA is also evident in that in your podcast and also individuals in the video said that what they gained or appreciated the most from Exodus was the relationships or connections they made with other people. It seems important for people from a gender minority (or any minority group) to connect with others who experience the same things to feel supported and safe and that they can relate to others. I believe most people with SSA experienced some kind of wounding or didn’t get their needs met as they grew up and so that’s why these connections are so meaningful because they didn’t feel safe or loved or connected earlier on in life either due to trauma or just basic needs not being met or family or social situations they were placed in. Developing relationships are critical for mental/emotional health and also for self actualization. I think Maslow was correct when after listing needs for basic air, water, food – the next level is for safety and then love and belonging. It is a true need. It is also why YOB has been such a helpful resource for me and many others – providing a space to feel safe and like you belong!
Thanks for the kind words, Mark. And thanks for listening to this episode! I’m glad you watched the film in conjunction with our thoughts on it, too. We touched on a lot, but not nearly enough for a full recap or anything. I agree, men need men and women need women. Having all that hangout time with other guys was why I look back on my Exodus conferences with such fondness. Been a sobering process these last few years to learn how Exodus hurt many people, but I’m grateful for friendships made and built there that last to this day.