In honor of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, to be officially observed Sunday, the European Parliament this week hosted a screening of the film Prayers for Bobby, telling the true story of how a mother became an advocate for LGBT rights after her gay son’s suicide.
The film screened Tuesday evening in Brussels, Belgium, for European Parliament members, European Union staffers, and guests, and was followed by a panel discussion. The event “was a great opportunity to get both an emotional and an intellectual grip on the fact of how important it was that the World Health Organization 25 years ago abolished homosexuality as a mental illness,” said European Parliament Vice President Ulrike Lunacek in a press release. “Prayers for Bobby is an impressive film which conveys how ideological and religious narrowmindedness can, in the literal meaning of the word, actually kill someone.”
The movie, which premiered on the Lifetime network in 2009, is based on the book of the same name by Leroy Aarons, founder of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. It chronicles the story of the Griffith family of Northern California and how it changed their lives when Bobby, the younger son, came out as gay in the late 1970s. Bobby’s father, brother, and sisters tentatively accepted him, but his mother, Mary, a fundamentalist Christian, believed his homosexuality was a sin and a sickness, and she prayed for his healing. Bobby, stung by her reaction, committed suicide in 1983 by jumping into the path of a truck. She eventually found her own healing, from grief and guilt, by realizing her son did not need to be “cured” of anything and by becoming an activist for LGBT equality. The film, starring Sigourney Weaver as Mary, won a GLAAD Media Award and was nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes.
The panel discussion, led by Lunacek and Dimitrios Papadimoulis, who is also a European Parliament vice president, also featured the film’s executive producers, Daniel Sladek and Chris Taaffe, and Michael Cerulus, senior policy officer for the International Lesbian and Gay Association’s European branch.
“Prayers for Bobby hits the nail right on the head,” Cerulus said in a press release. “It’s a beautiful and sensitive instrument to convince people you never expected to convince, especially those who think their religion disapproves of LGBTI people.”
For more about the film, which is available on DVD and for online streaming, visit PrayersForBobby.com.