通向善意的道路铺平了道路。 这种格言很容易成为克里斯蒂娜·斯托拉基斯（Kristine Stolakis）处女作的口号 祈祷离开, which was selected for this year’s #Tribeca Film Festival# Documentary Competition. Stolakis, whose work is informed by an eclectic background in #anthropology, #journalism, #politics, and community art, has crafted a fascinating character-centric study of a long-discredited movement that, nevertheless, continues to thrive. This in spite of its founders’ near-religiously zealous efforts to kill it off year after year.
But first, some background about this dangerous movement that promises to «pray the gay away». In the 1970s, five #Evangelical gay men decided to start a bible study dedicated to helping one another leave the «homosexual lifestyle». Word quickly spread, over 25,000 letters were received, and soon these humble meetups morphed into Exodus International, the largest conversion therapy organization on the planet.
As Exodus International rose, so too did its leaders – becoming #right-wing #Christian rockstars even as it slowly began to dawn on them that what they were selling was nothing more than homophobic snake oil. Indeed, no matter if they married the perfect woman («you don’t need to desire all women, just one» was a common encouragement) and doted on their kids, those same-sex attractions never really went away. Finally, in 2013 they were called to dismantle the heady movement they had unleashed – shutting down the organization and apologizing for all the irreparable damage it had caused to queer people everywhere. And yet, to this day, Exodus International’s zombie-like destruction rages on unabated.
Enter director Stolakis, who hails from a religious background herself and even had a trans uncle who went through this tragic conversion therapy after coming out as a child. Stolakis deftly weaves together a vast amount of archival material with current interviews with the movement’s founders – including Randy Thomas, former vice-president of Exodus International (and now the husband of a former «ex-gay»), and John Paulk, who started Love Won Out, the conversion therapy wing of Focus on the Family. (Along with his «ex-lesbian» wife Anne, Paulk regularly made the daytime TV, talk show rounds – until he got drunk at a gay bar in DC and was outed, precipitating an «ex-gay» crisis. He and his wife also divorced in 2013, though she remains an «ex-lesbian»).
As Exodus International rose, so too did its leaders – becoming right-wing #hristian rockstars even as it slowly began to dawn on them that what they were selling was nothing more than homophobic snake oil.
And then there’s the former «ex-lesbians» – most notably Yvette Cantu Schneider, the onetime head of Exodus International’s women’s ministries and «ex-gay» spokesperson for the Evangelical nonprofit Family Research Council. Though Yvette has kids and continues to be happily married to a man, she now identifies as bisexual. Also Julie Rodgers – perhaps the beating heart of the film, along with her always-a-lesbian wife – who is one of the few millennials to be spotlighted in the doc. Groomed to be a «reparative» therapy role model from the tender age of 16, Rodgers spent nearly a decade trying to stay straight, in more ways than one, with her Evangelical upbringing.
Exodus International 2.0
Perhaps most alarming is the millennial character Stolakis chooses to open her highly disconcerting doc. Jeffrey McCall, who considers himself a «formerly transgender» person (he’s even authored a book, From Transgender to Transformed, which has launched him into the anti-LGBTQ, Evangelical stratosphere), is the founder of the innocuously named Freedom March. That nationwide organization, which gathers together folks across the race and gender spectrum who’ve been «freed» from their queerness, is today often used by the Christian Right to trumpet anti-LGBTQ legislation wherever it may pass. In other words, it’s Exodus International 2.0. New face, same old self-hate.