Lucas Wilson opposes 'pray-away-the-gay' progammes with 'evangelical' fervour

WHILE Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, is asking for thoughts and prayers to help it overcome the mess created by its evangelical playboy ex-President – Jerry Falwell Jr, and his philandering wife Becki – attention is being drawn to the deeply homophobic nature of the institution.

Image via YouTube

First, it was revealed that, after Falwell was put on indefinite leave for posting a picture of himself on social media with his jeans unzipped, Jerry Prevo, above – a deeply homophobic Alaska pastor who reportedly destroyed the career of a mayoral candidate by insinuating he was gay – was appointed Liberty’s acting President.

Prevo said:

I call upon the University community and supporters to be in prayer for the University and for all its leadership, past, present and future, as we walk with the Lord through this stormy time of transition.

Then, as news broke today (Tuesday) of Falwell’s resignation, reports began surfacing of programmes being run at Liberty to “cure” homosexuality.

Image courtesy of Lucas Wilson

Two of those reports were penned before Liberty got caught up in the Falwell scandal by alumnus Lucas Wilson, above, who was subjected to conversion therapy when he was a student there.

His sessions with a quack therapist, a “so-called” pastor called Dane Emerick, signally failed to turn Wilson straight. What they did do was give him the resolve to expose the dangers of conversion therapy, and actively campaign against it.

In a piece written in April this year, Wilson said:

Pastor Dane offered me the chance to join his gay conversion therapy group meetings. Now imagine this: you’re gay and at a school where you’re not allowed to articulate or act upon your sexuality, leaving you with having to guess who might also be gay, with very few clues.

Then, your conversion therapist tells you that you have an exclusive opportunity to gather in a small, sweaty room for a secret meeting with about fifteen or so other gay guys.

To put it mildly, conversion therapists aren’t the brightest of folks. As you might have expected, for several of the guys who attended, the conversion therapy group became gay Christian speed dating.

Emerick, inset, leads a ‘gay cure’ programme called Armor Bearers

Wilson also revealed that, before undergoing therapy, he had a “tryst” with one his dorm’s Spiritual Life Directors who, afterwards, refused to speak to him. This was:

Most likely due to his heavy burden of subsequent evangelical shame.

Wilson said that number of gays from Liberty land in cities like New York, DC, and Atlanta:

Far away from their evangelical pasts and at a safe distance from Liberty and its culture of fear.
But many don’t. Many of these ‘ex-gays’ – those who have convinced themselves (and have been convinced by others) that they are not gay – end up living inauthentic lives that become prison cells of unfulfilling existence.

These are the men who act according to the evangelical scripts they have been taught to follow, which they mistakenly believe will afford them meaning, purpose, and ordered lives. These are the same men who, when they hit a certain age, will realize they have wasted precious years that they will never get back.

And these are the ones who will show up as faceless torsos on Grindr whilst away on business trips, only to return home to their families, eagerly counting down the days until their next lascivious get-away.

He concluded:

It still boggles my mind to think that I probably would have claimed a similar ‘ex-gay’ identity, had it not been for the actual education that I received post-Liberty. Crazy what a little learning and critical reflection does for a guy. 

And it is in the spirit of critical reflection, in concert with the practice that evangelicalism taught me of sharing my ‘testimony’, that I continue to expose conversion therapy programs for how embarrassingly unsuccessful they are. Despite never having changed an individual’s sexual orientation, this base practice at Liberty and beyond somehow still endures.

As someone who underwent conversion therapy, I am doing what I can to speak up for those who have been victims to such psychological, emotional, and spiritual violence.

In fact, if I able to change even one person’s mind about conversion therapy’s legitimacy, I’ll be more successful than the ‘ex-gay’ movement has been in changing the sexual orientation of any single individual in all the decades it has existed – something that is remarkably pitiful given that changing individuals’ orientations is its express purpose.

Call me crazy, but I think the odds are in my favour.

In an earlier piece, Wilson wrote:

Because of its reparative therapy program, along with the disappointingly poor education I and many of my fellow alumni received at LU – which in its own right is cause for serious investigation – I believe it is high time to re-evaluate Liberty’s legitimacy as a university.

Putting aside the impassioned vitriol that was heaped on the LGBTQ+ community in several of my classes, I was taught, for instance, the ten reasons why the Bible supports capitalism; how the earth was created 10-15 thousand years ago; how women ought to submit to men in marriage; etc. And all of this was taught in courses for which I received ‘academic’  credit – reason enough for the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges to re-examine Liberty’s accreditation …

When I look back on my four years at Liberty, particularly my time with Pastor Dane, I am deeply saddened by the part of my youth that I wasted. To have had a normal undergrad experience – and a gay one at that – is still a foreign concept to me, something I refused myself in the name of, what I believed to be, godly living.

I wish that I could go back to tell Pastor Dane, who is still doing his dirty business at Liberty, that his ‘therapy’  service has ruined and is ruining lives. I wish that I could go back and tell every queer student at LU that God’s not angry at them, that if anyone is angry, it is the ever-shrinking tide of evangelicals who lash out and judge everyone else yet refuse to look at their own sin.

And I wish I could go back and tell my eighteen-year-old self that my sexuality is something to be embraced, not refused, and that I am loved and loved deeply for precisely who I am.

However, as I do not have many contacts left on campus (particularly not my eighteen-year-old self), my remaining energy is best spent using my experience in gay reparative therapy as fodder for outing conversion programs like Liberty’s for what they are: intellectually undependable, wildly ineffective, and emphatically outdated.

• If you support the Pink Triangle Trust’s mission to promote humanism, fight bigotry and fund LGBT groups, you can make a donation by clicking this link. If you wish to report any typos or errors, please email