In the new Peacock original movie They/Them, an ax murderer is on the loose in a gay conversion camp. While the horror movie is scary and at times enjoyably schlocky, the premise is all too real.
More than half of the LGBTQ+ population in the U.S. resides in a state which has not outlawed the practice — emotional or physical therapy used to "cure" or "repair" a person's attraction to the same sex, or their gender identity and expression. Providers claim these therapies can make someone heterosexual or "straight." But there is no evidence to support it being successful.
Kevin Bacon, who stars in the film, is helping to spread the word on the very real dangers of the practice and to share his own journey of awareness about the real-life horrors of "conversion therapy."
The campaign is launched through his charity, SixDegrees.org, and is raising funds to support Born Perfect, a program of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which works within the legal system to ensure LGBTQ+ persons safety — and to end the practice of conversion therapy altogether. Bacon hopes to help raise at least $50,000, and he underscores that the larger message is to "spread awareness of these practices and shine a light on Born Perfect, which is looking to dismantle any legitimacy they have." More than $20,000 has already been raised through a premiere raffle experience with the movie star.
Bacon, 64, remembers when he first heard of conversion therapy, before he signed on to do the film.
He tells PEOPLE, "I remember thinking this is not only dumb it's hurtful. To put anyone — especially a young person — through such a shameful, painful process when there is no chance of it working is terrible. Why? Where's the threat? Why is anyone else's sexual orientation your problem?"
The Golden Globe winner says the "timing is really good" for the LGBTQ+–themed horror movie. And he was inspired by the rest of the cast: "While I was really in the head space of the character, there was also a part of me that was feeling very moved by the fact that here was this group of our future, of young people who identify in all different kinds of ways, who have come together and are going to be represented in this film in hopefully a way that they haven't often been in the past."
Bacon adds, "People need to be left alone to be who they are. To love who they want to love and marry who they want to marry. That is the backbone of a strong and peaceful society."
The film's executive producer Scott Turner Schofield (who is also an Emmy-nominated actor and consultant on Euphoria) says working with Bacon reminded him of the power of allyship.
"Working with Kevin on They/Them, it was clear he was committed to truly understanding and being supportive. That's what we as LGBTQ+ people really want: We just want you to believe that what we say is true and let that inform how you show respect for us in the world," says Schofield. "For many people, it's as simple as accepting that young LGBTQ+ people do know who they are, and sticking up for us in any way you can when we get treated unfairly just because of this one part of who we are. Kevin Bacon can do that on a larger scale than most of us can."
Schofield — the first trans man to be nominated for an Emmy — is game to use Bacon's celebrity for good. "It's really meaningful that he would choose to help raise awareness about the abuse that LGBTQ+ youth face in so-called 'conversion therapy' because the reason why it's still happening at such a large scale is because there is so much silence about it," he says.
For more information and to donate, text "Born Perfect" to 44321 or visit the website here.