The new documentary The Sunday Sessions follows Nathan, a deeply conflicted young man working to reconcile his religious conviction and sexual identity in the midst of mind-altering "therapy" sessions.
"Conversion therapy" in the United States is practiced in many forms — talk therapy, exorcisms, and even torture. But despite broad consensus among health professionals and even growing recognition among religious leaders that is is harmful, it remains legal in 35 states for licensed therapists and mental health professionals to put minors through the dangerous practice of trying to alter their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Last year Maryland became the 11th state to ban the use of conversion therapy on LGBTQ minors. That didn’t stop Christopher Doyle, the psychotherapist in the clip below, from filing a federal lawsuit in an effort to overturn the ban. Doyle claims the ban violates his rights to freedom of speech and religion in his work to help youth overcome “unwanted same-sex sexual attractions, behaviors, or identities.”
Director Richard Yeagley dives into this world with an unflinching view of the manipulative notions of masculinity thrust onto Nathan and the internal turmoil he experiences because of it. The filming process was "emotionally taxing," Yeagley said, even though he approached the subject "as objectively and curiously as possible."
"With all this said, biting my tongue was difficult at times," Yeagley said. "In many situations, and specifically when things started to get emotionally dark for Nathan, I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him that everything was going to be all right. I wanted to recommend that he move out of rural Virginia and into a city like New York or Washington, D.C., where there is more diversity and a bigger support system for the LGBTQ community. But as a documentary filmmaker employing the observational technique, this was not my role. So I remained observant, and strictly so, in hopes that it would result in the creation of a powerful, thought-provoking film."
In the clip below, Christopher Doyle demands that Nathan "get a pair of balls" and confront the same-sex attractions he faces. Watch what happens when Nathan says no.