To say that there has been a great difference of opinion between the LGBTQ community and certain religious establishments within recent years would be a massive understatement. It’s no secret that Christianity, or at least various sects within Christianity, have campaigned against the supposed “sin” of homosexuality for a long time now, and despite more and more legislation taking hold that legalizes gay marriage in various parts of the country, there are still several instances which see the adverse treatment of those trying simply to tie the knot in holy matrimony, even expanding far beyond the threshold of the church itself. News headlines abound with discrimination against gay couples regarding housing, jobs and the obvious infringement of civil liberties. And for those of who feel that the LGBTQ community has no champion on the inside, I’d like to introduce to the Reverend Troy Perry.
Troy Perry was born July 27, 1940 in Florida and, unlike many people in life, had a pretty good hold on what he wanted to do at a relatively early age. By the time he was 13 years old, he had become enamored with the idea of becoming ordained and, two years later at the age of 15, found himself licensed as a Baptist minister. And while the story could have easily ended there, Rev. Perry found himself a rocky start to his adult life. Coming to terms with his own sexuality was nothing short of challenging. Following what he once likened to “youthful exploration” with other men, the estrangement of his family and the loss of his license as a Baptist minister quickly came after. By 1964, Perry had found himself without his family, without his vocation, and on the other side of the country before being drafted into the Army in 1965. He served two years in Germany before returning stateside.
A failed love affair and the incarceration of a close friend led to a failed attempt at suicide for Perry before he was inspired to found what would later become the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. A modest 12 people gathered in his living room for the first service in October of 1968. By 1971, the congregation had expanded to over 1,000 people that required them to move from a theater into their own building dedicated for sermons.
It was also around this time that Perry was inspired to activism. Seeing the arrest of his close friend and the reactions of others within the community (particularly mentioned in an interview was “the Blond Darling” Lee Glaze), Perry attributes this event to his loss of fear of the police. By March of 1969, he was dressing in full minister regalia to lay flowers for the deceased Howard Efland at the Dover Hotel where Efland had been brutalized to death by police. The very next year, Perry and two of his friends had organized the world’s first Gay Pride Parade in Los Angeles. By 1977, Perry had become such a highly influential figure within the gay community that he was invited to the White House to speak with President Jimmy Carter regarding issues surrounding the LGBTQ community.
Perry would be invited to return to the White House four more times: three times on behalf of President Bill Clinton and once more by President Barack Obama. During this time, he had organized and assisted in various demonstrations of gay rights, including the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights with Robin Tyler in 1979. During this time, Perry’s congregation within the UFMCC grew immensely as well, and the fellowship now plays host to over 44,000 people in 300 different congregations that span across 16 countries around the world.
Most recently, in an interview conducted by Richard Bence in 2017, Perry made comment regarding the upcoming Gay Pride Parade and its shift to “Resist” for the sake of attracting new attention and renewing the cause of the community.
“…our community needs to hear again that we are going to resist, like the early demonstrations here in LA. Black lives do matter. Hispanic lives matter, union groups matter, women, trans lives matter.”
Perry also affirmed that he would speak at the start of the parade with the Mayor of Los Angeles present. The parade itself wound up drawing tens of thousands into attendance.