Troy Perry is the eldest of five brothers born to "the biggest bootleggers in Northern Florida," Troy Perry and Edith Allen. As early as he can remember, Perry felt called to preach, labeling himself as a "religious fanatic". He was influenced by his aunts, who held street services in his hometown, and who hosted Perry giving sermons from their home. Perry's father died fleeing the police when his son was eleven years old, cementing Troy's resolve to become involved in the church as much as possible. After his mother remarried and moved the family to Daytona Beach, Perry was abused by his stepfather and he ran away from home, to return after she divorced him.
His fanaticism increasing, Perry dropped out of high school, but was a licensed Baptist preacher by the age of 15 years. He married a preacher's daughter named Pearl Pinion in 1959, remembering, "I was always interested in pastor's daughters because I thought they would make good preacher's wives. I didn't love her when I married her, but I did love her after our first year." They had two sons and were relocated to Illinois where Perry attended Midwest Bible College and Moody Bible Institute. Perry was the preacher at a small Church of God, and sometimes had sexual relationships with other men, but considered it just youthful exploration. When he was 19 years old, however, church administrators told him one of the men he had been with had told them what they had done. He was forced to leave the church immediately.
(L-R) Reverend Troy Perry and Phillip Ray De Blieck attend the Los Angeles Gay Pride Mayor's Reception at the Factory on June 4, 2008 in West Hollywood, California. (June 4, 2008 - Source: None/Getty Images North America)
Reverend Troy D. Perry (born July 27, 1940) lives in Los Angeles with his long term partner, Phillip Ray De Blieck, whom he married under Canadian law on July 16, 2003. Perry founded the Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian denomination with a special affirming ministry with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities, in Los Angeles on October 6, 1968. Perry's mother became the first heterosexual member of the Metropolitan Community Church and supported her son until she died in 1993.
They moved to Southern California, pastoring at a Church of God of Prophecy. Perry's wife found his copy of The Homosexual in America by Donald Webster Cory, that he kept hidden under the mattress and their marriage quickly dissolved. After being directed to pray about being led astray by his homosexual feelings, Perry's bishop told him to renounce himself in the pulpit and resign. Perry worked in a Sears department store, and was drafted for the army in 1965 where he served two years in Germany.
In 1968, after a suicide attempt following a failed love affair, and witnessing a close friend being arrested by the police at the Black Cat Tavern, a Los Angeles gay bar, Perry felt called to return to his faith and to offer a place for gay people to worship God freely. Perry put an advertisement in The Advocate announcing a worship service designed for gays in Los Angeles. Twelve people turned up on October 6, 1968 for the first service, and "Nine were my friends who came to console me and to laugh, and three came as a result of the ad." After six weeks of services in his living room, the congregation shifted to a womans' club, an auditorium, a church, and finally to a theater that could hold 600 within several months. In 1971, their own building was dedicated with over a thousand members in attendance.
Being outspoken has caused several MCC buildings to be targeted for arson, including the original Mother Church in Los Angeles. Perry's theology has been described as conservative, but social action was a high priority from the beginning of the establishment of the denomination. Perry performed same sex unions as early as 1970 and ordained women as pastors as early as 1972.
MCC has over 300 congregations in 18 countries. The 2007 documentary film titled Call Me Troy is the story of his life and legacy, including the founding of MCC and his struggles as a civil rights leader in the gay community.
Rev. Perry's activism has taken many turns, including positions on a number of boards of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender organizations. He held a seat on the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations in 1973. Perry worked in political arenas to oppose Anita Bryant in the Save the Children campaign in 1977, that sought to overturn an anti-discrimination ordinance passed by the city of Miami. Unsuccessful in Miami, he also worked to oppose the Briggs Initiative in California that was written to ensure gay and lesbian teachers would be fired or prohibited from working in California public schools. The Briggs Initiative was soundly defeated in 1978, due in large part to grass-roots organizing, which Perry participated in. Perry also planned the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979 with Robin Tyler.
In 1978 he was honored by the American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian and Gay Rights Chapter with its Humanitarian Award. He holds honorary doctorates from Episcopal Divinity School in Boston, Samaritan College (Los Angeles), and La Sierra University in Santa Monica, California for his work in civil rights, and was recently lauded by the Gay Press Association with its Humanitarian Award. Rev. Perry was invited to the White House in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter to discuss gay and lesbian civil rights, and by President Bill Clinton in 1995 for the first White House Conference on HIV/AIDS. In 1997 he was invited to the first White House Conference on Hate Crimes. Perry was also a guest of the President that same year for breakfast in the State dining room in the White House to be honored with 90 other clergy for their work in American society.
On Valentine's Day 2004 he spoke to a crowd of gay newlyweds at the Marriage Equality Rally at the California State Capitol. He retired as Moderator of the MCC in 2005, and the Reverend Elder Nancy Wilson succeeded him at an installation service on 29 October 2005. He remains active in public speaking and writing.
In addition to his work as a gay religious leader and human rights activist, Perry has written an autobiography, The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay. Rev. Perry has written a sequel to this book, titled Don't Be Afraid Anymore, published by St. Martin's Press and Profiles in Gay and Lesbian Courage also published by St. Martin's. He is a contributing editor for the book Is Gay Good? and the subject of another book, Our God Too. In 2003, he completed the text of his latest book, 10 Spiritual Truths For Gays and Lesbians (and everyone else!).
Perry's mother became the first heterosexual member of the Metropolitan Community Church and supported her son until she died in 1993. He was reunited with his younger son, Michael and performed that marriage uniting him and his daughter-in-law, but remains estranged from his elder son, Troy Perry, Jr.
Troy lives in Los Angeles with his long term partner, Phillip Ray De Blieck, whom he married under Canadian law at Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. Troy and Phillip sued the State of California upon their return home after their Toronto wedding for recognition of their marriage and won. The State appealed and the ruling was overturned.
In 2011, actor/playwright Jade Esteban Estrada portrayed Perry in the solo musical comedy "ICONS: The Lesbian and Gay History of the World, Vol. 5" which includes the song "I Will Follow You" sung by the character of Perry with music and lyrics by Estrada.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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