A movie about the experiences of an ‘ex-gay’ Maltese singer is due to be screened in London and in Belfast in February.
The film, titled Once Gay — Matthew and Friends is due for screening in the British capital on February 11 at the Emmanuel Centre, and at Belfast’s Townsend Street Presbyterian Church on February 14, Valentine’s Day.
The movie features Matthew Grech, a singer whose participation on X Factor Malta last year caused controversy due to his claim of no longer leading “a homosexual lifestyle.”
The tagline on the film poster reads: “Standing for ex-gay in the must-stay-gay-culture.”
The movie is presented as a “Voices of the Silenced film,” an outpost of Core Issues Trust (CIT), an evangelical Christian group which backs efforts to change sexual orientation.
Last year, CIT attempted to screen another Voices of the Silenced documentary which sought to make a link between the enslavement of Jewish people under the Roman Empire and the acceptance of homosexuality, as well as supporting the idea that people can change their sexual preferences via the so-called gay conversion therapy.
Once Gay film billed as response to gay conversion therapy drama Boy Erased
In promoting the Once Gay film on its website, the CIT noted: “A new Voices of the Silenced production ‘Once Gay: Matthew and Friends’ tells the story about how he came to faith, how this impacted on his life-style as a gay man, and how he now lives his life.”
In an open letter signed by Core Issues Trust CEO Dr Mike Davidson, Evangelical Christian group Christian Concern CEO Andrea Williams, and Dermot O’Callaghan of the Church of Ireland Synod, the film is billed as a response to the release of Boy Erased, a gay conversion therapy drama starring Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Lucas Hedges.
“In response to the ‘Boy Erased’ promotion, Core Issues Trust will screen its latest film ‘Once Gay – Matthew and Friends’ the story of Matthew Grech who shared his testimony of change in Malta, despite a political climate that refuses to allow any alternative viewpoint to be aired,” the letter stated.
“I am excited to share the story of what God has done in my life, in Ireland for the first time! ‘ONCE GAY’ is ready to be screened in Belfast,” Grech wrote on his Facebook page.
According to Malta Today, the film also stars Gordon John Manché and Ivam Grech Mintoff, described as the self-styled leader of the right-wing, conservative Alleanza Bidla, and other friends of Grech, like Louise Varming, who is featured on the film poster.
A Danish musician, Varming is one of the two friends who made a surprise appearance during Grech’s X Factor audition—the trio sang the chorus from Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love?”
Matthew Grech claimed to be ‘ex-gay’ in X Factor audition
In footage since removed from YouTube and Facebook, Grech introduced himself saying: “I used to lead a homosexual lifestyle, and then I found God.”
“For a long time I stopped following my passions to follow Jesus. There can be love between two men and two women, yes—but only friendship love. Everything else is a sin,” he added.
X Factor was criticised for uncritically airing the segment.
British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged in 2018 to ban the practice of gay conversion therapy in the UK. It is currently legal for unregulated groups and faith groups to perform the practice, although this is banned on the NHS under a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’.
A government-mandated survey of LGBT+ people in the UK last year revealed that five percent of British LGBT+ people had been offered or undergone gay ‘cure’ therapy, and a further two percent had undergone it—results Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt described as “disturbing.”