The Sunday Sessions: Conversion Therapy Documentary (review)

//The Sunday Sessions: Conversion Therapy Documentary (review)

The Sunday Sessions: Conversion Therapy Documentary (review)

The most valuable thing that The Sunday Sessions has going for it is that it is documenting of an era. Even though this is one individual’s personal journey it represents an era when religious groups and individuals believed gay people could be turned straight. The ‘change is possible’ belief and practice has not entirely disappeared but the closure of Exodus in 2013 was the major blow.

The two main characters are Nathan and his ‘therapist’ Christopher Doyle. Nathan is a deeply troubled and tormented young man. Doyle is a relatively new kid on the block, but hardliner, in the ‘ex-gay’  world.

Like many of us had been, Nathan is desperate to be ‘normal’, have a wife and children. He’s Catholic, which makes for an interesting twist. Generally speaking, it is gay and lesbian people from Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal backgrounds who’ve been involved in reparative/conversion therapy.

I’ve worked with hundreds of ex-gay survivors, and I sometimes wondered if Nathan’s self-loathing was religiously based. It’s certainly influenced by it by it. I did wonder if there is something else under the surface which Doyle, coming from a Christian belief system and agenda, would not be capable of recognising.

The documentary is disturbing and I’d say, not for the faint hearted. It would be especially challenging for people  who’d experienced ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy themselves or those who had deep faith/sexuality conflict. They’d be more triggers for them in the documentary than a Winchester rifle factory.

It can also be disturbing seeing some of Doyle’s ‘therapeutic techniques’. I think the average person would pick up the inappropriateness of some of his approaches (e.g. shaming). The trained professional would scream out in horror seeing them. But this is the environment of the desperate. Nathan desperate to be straight and Doyle desperate to prove he’s right and everyone else is wrong. Strange things happen.

The footage director and producer Richard Yeagley has obtained is pretty amazing considering the access to Nathan’s regular sessions with Doyle over two years, weekend camps and personal moments with his family.

One of the advantages of Sunday Sessions is that there are people who have no comprehension of what many of us have been through. After seeing the documentary they will much more informed not only of the practices but also the dynamics and motivations.

Of course another plus is that Yeagley has captured something that has rarely been documented. That is, an intimate and revealing, behind the scenes expose of the flawed and discredited practice of what has become known as conversion therapy.

Anthony Venn-Brown

Author of A Life of Unlearning

Founder of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International

The Sunday Sessions website

By |2018-02-02T18:31:40+00:00October 11th, 2017|Categories: Review|1 Comment

About the Author:

Anthony Venn-Brown
Anthony Venn-Brown is one of Australia’s foremost commentators on faith and sexuality. His best-selling autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning – a preacher’s struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith', details his journey from being one of the first in the world to experience religious gay conversion therapy, becoming a married, high profile preacher in Australia's growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as an openly gay man. Anthony was the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b. He is an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy myth. Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International. Anthony has been recognised on a number of occassions for his contribution and impact including being twice voted one of 'The 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’.

One Comment

  1. Peter Edson October 11, 2017 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    APA researcher explodes myth: Gays aren’t ‘born that way’
    Fr. Mark Hodges NEWS HOMOSEXUALITY Thu Sep 22, 2016 – 9:42 am EST

    WASHINGTON, D.C., September 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — A top researcher with the American Psychological Association (APA) and lesbian activist has acknowledged that gays are not “born that way.”
    Dr. Lisa Diamond, co-editor-in-chief of the APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology and one of the APA’s “most respected members,” says sexual orientation is “fluid” and not unchangeable.
    As clinical psychologist Dr. Laura A. Haynes summarizes Diamond’s APA Handbook chapters, her book and YouTube lectures, “The battle to disprove ‘Born that way and can’t change’ is now over, and (Diamond) is telling LGBT activists to stop promoting the myth.”
    Contrary to the typical argument that homosexuals are “born gay” as “who they are” and cannot change, the APA officially recognized sexual orientation change in 2011.
    Diamond summarized relevant findings in a lecture at Cornell University (2013), stating that abundant research has now established that sexual orientation — including attraction, behavior, and self-identity — is fluid for both adolescents and adults and for both genders.
    This flies in the face of recent laws promoted by gay activists and passed in several states banning “reparative therapy,” which seeks to help patients experiencing same-sex attraction to change.
    The stated justification for anti-reparative therapy laws is that anyone who experiences same-sex attraction is not only gay and born gay, but his/her homosexuality is unchangeable and so “reparative therapy,” it is argued, is not only unfruitful but cruel. The argument goes, “You can’t change who you are.”
    Additionally, many gay activists call sexual orientation “the civil rights issue of our time,” and analogous to race. Diamond and the APA, however, refute this argument.
    Fr. Johannes Jacobse, founder of The American Orthodox Institute, called Diamond’s “course correction” a “stunning reversal” of oft-repeated gay justification. “Sexuality desire is fluid, homosexual desire is not ‘hard-wired;’ that ‘born that way and can’t change’ is a myth; feelings don’t overrule volition (behavior is a choice, one does not need to act on every feeling — especially sexual feelings); the ‘born that way’ argument is political, not scientific; sexual orientation is subject to change among others.”
    “The idea that what a person feels defines who he is — who God created him to be — is false,” Fr. Jacobse wrote. “If a person feels homosexual desire, it does not mean he is created homosexual.”
    “If a person decides to engage in homosexual behavior, that decision is freely chosen, even if the desire is not,” Jacobse summarized. “If a person experiences homosexual desire and wishes to change into more normative heterosexuality, abundant evidence exists that such a change may indeed be possible.”
    Commenter Hieromonk Mark noted that this revelation “has very serious implications for the political actions of recent years, basically invalidating any appeals to science to justify recent legislation in areas of sexuality such as the recognition of ‘gay’ marriage, the imposition of restroom access based upon individuals’ self-identification or ‘feelings’ about their sex and the restriction of the freedom of choice of therapeutic options, especially for minors, in the areas of unwanted same-sex attraction or sexual confusion or dysphoria.”
    Fr. Jacobse told LifeSiteNews that Diamond and the APA’s admission “shifts the ground of homosexual advocates who argue that homosexuality is built into a person in the same way that heterosexuality is. ‘Born that way’ just won’t work anymore.”
    “Instead, the APA discovered that sexual desire is fluid, it can change in people and often does,” Jacobse explained. “Sexual desire then is based on something other than genetics, and the questions about what are the proper and necessary boundaries concerning human sexuality — the areas of natural law, morality, and religion — are very important in shaping our ideas about personal and societal flourishing.”
    Fr. Jacobse said the implications of Diamond’s research mean therapists can help those who want to be free of unwanted same-sex attraction.
    “More consideration must be given to the person who might be experiencing homosexual desire who wants to change,” Jacobse told LifeSiteNews. “Previously, counselors were discouraged from aiding clients in their attempts to change from a homosexual orientation towards natural heterosexuality under the rubric of the ‘born that way’ ideology. States even got involved by banning ‘reparative therapy’ among other approaches in response to homosexual activism.”
    “The truth is that people change all the time, and counselors who hold an ideological predisposition towards homosexuality should be precluded from counseling clients who don’t, instead of persuading the client that change is somehow unnatural.”

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