Jackie Hill Perry delivered a message during a breakout session at The Gospel Coalition’s 2019 National Conference titled “Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was and Who God Has Always Been” based on her book by the same name [20 quotes]. In it, she addresses same-sex attraction through her own story, couched within the larger story of God. She encourages listeners to trust that that the simplicity of the gospel message—even when it seems to bear no fruit—can and does lead people out of sin and into a life that glorifies God. She calls the church to think holistically and frame the work of loving and serving same-sex-attracted people in the fullness of the gospel.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Jackie Hill Perry: Before we begin. Let me pray. God, I just want to take this time seriously, saying that you’re real and you’re present and you’re big and you’re holy and you care a lot about your glory. And so, I pray that you would help me to care too. That I would be humble before you to really make this way more about you than it is about me. I pray that this time would be edifying, that this time would be challenging and that it would bear much fruit. I pray that questions would be answered, that discouragement would leave. I pray that there would be comfort even. I pray that it would make our churches stronger and our evangelism urgent. I pray all these things in Jesus name. Amen. Man, it’s a lot of people. My name’s Jackie. I am married to a man named Preston, who has a last name Perry. So that made my name, Jackie Hill Perry. He’s here right now. Shout out to Preston.
He doesn’t like that. I did that. We have two daughters by the name of Autumn and Eden. Eden is four years old. Autumn is 10 months. Autumn just started to sleep through the night, and so God really is a good God. He really does shine on us in that way. We live in Atlanta, Georgia. We go to a church called Cornerstone. That’s a brief testament of my life. I’m only stalling so that people could sit down and y’all wouldn’t be distracted. Who has Gay Girl, Good God? Oh, that one. Okay. It’s not enough hands. Downstairs, they are $8.50. That’s cheaper than Amazon. You hear me? Even if you got Amazon Prime, you can’t beat that. But it gives me some context. I wrote this book called Gay Girl, Good God, the story of who I was and who God has always been. It was released in September.
The primary heart of the book was it was three audiences that I wanted to communicate to. I wanted to communicate to the church, to help them love the gay community well. I wanted to communicate to those inside of the church, who are same-sex attracted. I wanted the book to be a means by which God would help them endure. But I also wanted to speak to the world, those who are same-sex attracted or not. I wanted them to see God, because I think ultimately, this conversation, it shouldn’t just be centered around sexuality. I think it should be centered around glory. I think when it’s centered and anchored on the glory of God, then all of his commands actually make a lot more sense.
That was my heart. Today my goal is really to tell my story and to use elements of my story to tell the bigger story. To point to Jesus and hopefully, that there will be things in it that you can take hold of, grab and apply in your own lives, your own evangelism, your own encouragement, et cetera. Okay? Before my story starts, there’s another story that has to be communicated, which is Genesis. In Genesis, we all know that in the beginning it was God who created the heavens and the Earth. Him being God means he is all-authoritative. Him being God means that he is eternal. Him being God also means that he’s good. And he creates these people, Adam and Eve. He makes them in his image. Them being image bearers of the living God, is a sign post of who they are to serve, who they are to belong to.
Initially, they did their job. They gave God glory. They loved him well. They loved each other well. For how long, we don’t know. Could have been a million years. It wasn’t no time, so who knows? But they loved him until the serpent came. When the servant came, Eve began to have a conversation with a snake. She should have known something was up when the snake started talking, but I’m not here to judge nobody. She started having a conversation with the devil, and in her conversation with the devil, she started to look at this tree that God forbid them not to eat from. The interesting thing is that, as she began to look at the tree, she started to have a desire for the tree.
In Genesis three, it says that Eve looked at the tree and it was desired to make one wise. That’s an affection. That’s a passion. That’s a real present emotion that she’s feeling as to why she should potentially, sin against God. In choosing to believe another person besides God, she sins against God, hence, the fruit to her husband who was doing I don’t know what, maybe cutting the grass, who knows? I don’t know if they had grass in Eden. I would suspect that they did, but maybe because he was perfect, he was plucking grass and he had perfect patience. I don’t know. She hands it to her husband, who was with her. He ate. Him being Adam, the patriarch of all of mankind, all of sin enters into everyone who would come after them, including me.
And so, now I come inside of this lineage of people who are ruled by passions. This lineage of people who, when they look at something that God has told them not to handle or not to eat from, they don’t think he’s right in his estimation of what will happen if they disobeyed. I was born in St. Louis, Missouri to a single mother. She loved me well. My daddy loved me sometimes. I think my daddy loving me occasionally kind of gave me a early skepticism towards men. A skepticism that meant, or to me said, that they are not to be trusted. That they are not to be believed. As well as, I wasn’t only just fatherless, but I also was molested. And so, not only am I abandoned and rejected by my dad, but I am also objectified by another male figure.
Now, I think many people might think that is the reason behind same-sex attraction. I don’t think molestation and fatherlessness cause the same-sex attraction to exist. I think if anything, it gave me reason for why I should pursue it. I think it existed before that because I was born in sin and shaped in iniquity. But if anything, it affirmed that this is really what I should do because all of the evidence of doing the opposite doesn’t seem that safe. I grew up feeling or discovering that I had this desire that I didn’t know what to do with. I think I was in first or second grade, in the book I mentioned, I just know it was before I knew how to spell my name.
You don’t hear them? They sound like the wedding reception behind the scenes that everybody … Before I knew how to spell my name, I noticed that I had a desire for girls on the playground. The same way in which little girls might like the little boys, I liked the little girls. I didn’t have a name for it at that time. This was early ’90s, and so it wasn’t as if I could watch TV or listen to the radio or read a book or listen to a podcast and grab a definition to define myself by making it a part of my identity. And so, I didn’t figure out what it was that I was feeling until I went to church. When I went to church, it was when I heard Leviticus 18, and I heard Romans one.
My issue really wasn’t even with the condemnation that they made for those who practice homosexuality, it was the way it was said. It was the inflections. It was the facial expressions. It was the mob mentality of the choir and of the parishioners in the church that told me, “Oh, this is obviously something I cannot be free and sharing.” Because to be free means to feel that, that disdain, that othering that they are doing in the name of God. And so, I kept it to myself for a long time. Friendships were awkward, because I would be in relationships with women and feel a particular type of way, and didn’t necessarily know what to do with it. I’m in high school by this point. When high school came, I feel like everybody either wilds out and …
Wilds out, how do I make that … Everyone acts rebellious at some point, contextualization. Everybody acts crazy, either three intervals, middle school, high school, college. I chose high school. High school came and I thought to myself, “You know what, it’s really becoming difficult to act straight. It’s becoming harder to try to act like something that I don’t really think that I am.” I think the devil kind of knew that that was what was happening inside of me, and so I was at a high school dance. This is senior year, I’m 17, and a friend of mine, she walks up to me and she said, she didn’t say, “Hi.” She was like the devil. The devil ain’t even say hi to Eve, he just went straight to asking her questions. Because he’s demonic, he’s rude. It’s angels that are polite.
Anyway, she comes up to me and she said, “Hey Jackie, when you go or you should be my girlfriend.” I said, “Wait, that’s a real gay.” Because I had to act real straight. I said, “That’s gay. You gotta chill out with that.” But she didn’t know that her question actually gave me now calls for who I could act out these passions with. Because I wasn’t going to pursue it myself, and so at that time, MySpace was a thing. I don’t know if we remember that. It existed before Twitter and Facebook, there was a guy named Tom that was all in our top 10. I got on MySpace and I hit her up, and we got into a relationship that lasted maybe seven days. Because, whether gay or straight, when you’re 17, you’re fickle.
And so, I got in a relationship with her. After that, deceased. I got back on MySpace and I got into another relationship with another girl. In that relationship is when I transitioned into what in the black lesbian or gay community is called a stud. Gay community in white worlds and black worlds have different terms because they’re different cultures. And so, a stud in the black lesbian community is the woman who projects a kind of hyper-masculinity. This might be called butch in other places. A hyper-masculinity. I sagged my pants. I wore boxers. I wore t-shirts for the most part. I would wear a smaller sports bras to flatten out my chest. At that time I had straight hair, so I would put my hair in a ponytail. I walked different. My mannerisms were different. My voice is already heavy, so I didn’t have to do much to change that.
That was me trying to, and not even trying to, it wasn’t like I’m purposely saying, “I’m going to act like a boy.” That wasn’t really what I’m thinking, it’s really, “I’m being who I believe myself to be.” I think some of the confusion I might’ve felt about my gender was sin, was the devil, but also the culture. Because I think the culture made me feel as if I wasn’t woman enough. When you’re a girl who doesn’t like pink, doesn’t like lip gloss, doesn’t like nails and playing with all of these things and purses, even now I don’t like purses. Half of y’all got a purse with CarMax and a charger in it. It’s a lot of baggage. I don’t like them, but they were telling me that’s what women are. That’s what women do. That’s the girl thing. And so, naturally, I’m feeling as if, “If I am not girly like that, if that is how we are defining women, then I must not be that at all.”
And so, naturally, when I started to embody masculinity, it wasn’t as if I was trying to be a boy. I was being what everybody had been telling me I was the whole time. I think that says something about maybe a lot of the confusion that we are seeing among us is because we have defined womanhood and manhood in terms that God has never communicated. That’s a whole nother conversation. So I am dressing this way and enjoying myself. I enjoyed my sin. If you have sinned, if … I’ll say this way, I don’t know anybody that’s a sinner that ain’t like sinning. If they did, I don’t know what kind of sinning they doing. All right?
I enjoyed it. But even in my enjoyment of the women that I was with, even in my enjoyment and all of the other sins that I persisted in, I did not have peace. There was this weird kind of awareness that me and God were at odds. I think that that’s owed to Sunday school. Because growing up, my mother was not a believer, but every weekend she worked. In her working, I used to go to church with my aunt, who was a believer. At church, when all the big grownups have grownup church, we’d go eat popcorn and coloring a white Jesus. I’m just saying. And even white people crayon isn’t even sufficient, so it was like, “You might as well have just given me the brown. It would be more demographically accurate.”
I say that because, that’s just a caveat of encouragement that the little small but heavy big truths that we give to our children might very well be the thing that God uses to convert them later in life. And so, I think what Sunday school taught me was just the simplicity of the gospel, which is that Jesus has come to die for sinners so that they might live. That’s all I needed to know. I didn’t need to know Leviticus and justification and torment and propitiation. I didn’t need all that. I just needed, “Jesus loves sinners, so he died for them.” In this time, I have this conviction that I don’t know what to do with. It’s kind of irritating when you want to sin freely and you’re aware that you shouldn’t. I don’t know if y’all felt that. Like, if you grow up in church, it’s like, “Dang, I just want to like not have a conscience for once.”
And so, what happened was, I had a conversation with my cousin, Keysha. Keisha was the one Christian that I could call that would actually talk to me. What I mean by talk to me is, I could call her and she wouldn’t immediately go to, “You know you’re going to hell, right?” She didn’t feel this pressure to have a evangelistic conversation with me every time we talked. To me, it felt like she loved me like Jackie, the image bearer, and not just Jackie, the gay girl. She loved me in a way where I knew she wasn’t trying to fix me, she was just trying to love me. That’s not to say that we don’t have specific conversations, but it is to say that how we love people has to be a holistic kind of love. Because I think if someone comes to you expecting the law every time, they’re going to stop coming at some point.
And so, I called her and I said, “You know what, I feel like God is calling me. I really do feel that way. I feel like God wants me, but I don’t want him. I’m good. I’m enjoying myself. I’m enjoying my life. I ain’t going no peace. That’s why I’m scared to die, but other than that, I’m enjoying myself.” And she told me, she said, “You know what, Jackie? I’m not worried about you, because I know that God is going to show you how much you need him.” I’m a sinner, that didn’t make no sense to me. I’m like, “Okay. Amen. I echo that.” That was way more funnier to me than it was to y’all.
She was right though because, what began to happen is that my life got a little difficult. I got arrested and went to jail for like two hours. My father passed away in a motorcycle accident, which was hard. Because to me it meant that the hopes that I had that our relationship might one day be normal, would never be, would never happen. And I started to think, “Does God really want me this much that he would make my life difficult?” I think that’s the beauty of Providence and suffering in it, because I feel like God was allowing my life to become a little messy so I had to look up. He wouldn’t let it be easy. He wanted me to be able to, or be forced to, pay attention to him and his voice.
And so, I had a conversation with a friend and I was like, “I don’t understand why God wants me. I don’t understand what he wants me to do.” Because, I felt like to have God and to know God meant boring. I didn’t see that, one, I didn’t see that Christians were people who had been made that way. I thought that Christians were people that were just really good at saying no and not listening to secular music. I had no concept of Christianity being something that was a byproduct of grace and a supernatural work of the spirit of God. So for that reason, to choose God feels impossible because I know myself. I know I love my sin too much. I know I love my passions too much. But also, I didn’t meet enough Christians that seem to enjoy God either. And so, it’s like, “Why would I want you to God when you don’t even seem happy with him? I smile on my face when I’m high more than you do when you’re in church.”
Until October. October 2008, I was in my room. Um, I did not go to church because I wasn’t a fan of Christians. It was just always awkward. I felt like when I was around Christians, I mentioned this in the book, how the way they looked at me was kind of how a person looks at a bug. Not a roach, not that kind of bug, but maybe a caterpillar where you look at it out of this intrigue. Like, “Why are you this …” Right. Like, “Why are you this way, and you being this way, you’re still below me kind of?” And so, I was in my room and I wasn’t doing nothing spiritual. I wasn’t watching TBN. I wasn’t listening to no Beth Moore tapes. None of that. Did she even have tapes back then? I don’t know what the resource was for people, but I was in my room doing some real regular. I felt God speak to my heart in such a way where the reality of my sin became a real reality.
The best way to describe it is, because we’d be afraid of sounding charismatic in these kinds of places, but I’m going to be honest. Y’all should already know that. It was as if a very strong thought was in my mind that burned in my heart, and there was no other thoughts that I could think about other than the reality of my sin. And in it, I started to think about my sin and its consequences. I saw when I did that, I’m a liar, I got issues with authority, I’m lustful, I’m prideful. This is also the benefit of church, is that you know all the sins you go to hell for. I’m reckoning with my sins and their consequences. What it told me was, is God has beef with other things than my sexuality. That there is a wholistic repentance that needs to take place, which I think is necessary for us to learn and begin to communicate.
Because what happens is, if someone thinks that homosexuality and the practice of it is the only thing they need to repent of, then they’ve also concluded that everything else in their heart is good enough. I think that might be why we don’t see repentance as often, because they’re trying to please God by acting straight instead of seeing that your heart has always been the problem, and that God is not just at odds with a piece of you, but with all of you that is expressing itself in a way that your heart or your body or your life or your mind that that wasn’t the intention. So for me, I think God was showing me, “No, all of you is messed up. And if all of you was messed up, that means that all of you needs me.” And if all of you needs me, then that means that God’s call of you is a whole one. A complete one, which I think should bring anybody joy that God is saying, “I don’t want a section, I want all of it for myself.”
That was heavy to know. I think that’s a heavy burden, to realize that God wants complete surrender. But I also pushed back with God. I was like, “God now,” this is what I said, “I don’t want to be straight though. I get what you’re saying, but I don’t want to be straight.” Which is a common response because, Christians in the name of preaching the gospel have preached the gospel of heterosexuality. But let me explain. What I mean by that is, they’ll say it in a really well-meaning fashion. “Hey, if you come to Jesus, he’ll make you straight.” Or, “If you come to Jesus, he’ll give you a spouse.” Or, “If you come to Jesus, you won’t have to deal with that anymore.” What happens is, people come to Jesus for everything other than Jesus. They don’t come to Jesus to know him or to be reconciled with God, but they come to Jesus with the intention of being a morally acceptable person to y’all.
And so, my response was the same, “I don’t want that.” I didn’t realize though that God was not necessarily calling me to heterosexuality. I think another way to see it is God wasn’t calling me to a temptationless Christianity, but God was calling me to love him and walk with him so even in light of whatever temptations may persist and consist, that he would give me the power to flee every time if I trusted him. And so, I sat and I felt like God was telling me, “Don’t even trip off all that.” I don’t think the Lord of hosts talks that way, but I’m just trying to … Don’t even trip off all that. Can you imagine an angel in the days, “Don’t even trip off all that?”
That was crazy. But in my human paraphrasing, God was telling me, “Don’t trip. Come to me, love me, we’ll work out everything else as you do.” What happened was, I just saw my sin for what it was. I just saw that if God is calling me away from these things, then they must not be worth it. And if they aren’t worth it, then he must be the worthy one. Then he must be the one who I was created to love and enjoy and know, which is still terrifying. Because it’s terrifying to let go of all that you know, that has been keeping you comfortable, that you think has been keeping you safe, and to fling yourself on the mercies of God not knowing what it is to be with him. When you persist in unbelief so long, it’s hard to actually trust that God will be there to catch you when you fall.
That’s a scary thing, but I had no choice, but to believe it. Because my fleeing to Jesus wasn’t me fleeing hell, it was me seeing that he was better. It was me seeing that he was the one that I needed to believe in and trust in because he had to be the good one in the entire equation. Didn’t know that that was repentance. Didn’t even have language for that. Didn’t know me seeing Jesus for who he was, was faith. Didn’t have language for that. Didn’t even know that after I did that, and my heart was different, that that was regeneration and conversion. Didn’t have language for that. All I knew was that I wasn’t the same. I went to work the next day. I worked at Wendy’s, so I got you all if you need a junior bacon recipe. I can’t help you with the frosty. That’s secret. You got to ask Wendy about that.
But I went to work and I’m dressed the same. I ain’t changed no clothes. I’m still sagging, still walk around hyper-masculine or whatever the case may be. I’m at the cash register and there’s this girl in line. She was pretty and naturally, my heart wanted to do what it used to do, which is to somehow solicit her to see if she goes that way, or whatever the case may be. But all of a sudden I had this awareness of God that he was watching. But being the almost churchy kid that I was, it wasn’t as if two days before I didn’t know that God could see everything. I knew he could see everything, it was just for the first time in my life, I cared.
I cared that God could see what my heart was doing, and that was the fruit of repentance. Some people would have told me that I might’ve been the same person because I still felt the same. Somebody would’ve told me that I might’ve been the same person because I’m still tempted by this woman. But the scriptures tell me that, “No, you have a reverence for God now. That’s a fruit of new people, of saved people, of different people.” I’ve tried to communicate that to those who are same-sex attracted in the church, because it’s a hard thing that everybody understands. Anybody that has a sin that is persistent, a desire that doesn’t seem to fade, even in men who would identify as heterosexual, who are married and yet still feel this desire towards somebody that doesn’t belong to them. This thought towards a picture of a screen or on your phone and this desire for something that you’re not supposed to touch, that you’re not supposed to consume, that you’re not supposed to have.
All of us as human beings have this life where we love God and we know God and our hearts have been changed, yet this flesh still has these things that pop up. And so, I think my greatest hope has been the reality that I no longer have to go to a temple to talk to the high priest. I don’t have to do that, and that will be a real expensive flight if I did. But the fact that I was in Wendy’s and that I had a high priest, who in that moment was empathizing with me and interceding for me, who I could talk to in that moment. Again, I’m a new baby Christian, so I ain’t got no big words. I can’t sing How Great Thou Art. I don’t know none of this. What I do know is Help Me though. I know Father God, Help Me. And he did. He showed me that he would be present with me even when I am tempted.
Immediately after that, I connected with a friend, who connected me with a church. When I went to the church, I had asked my friend to borrow her clothes because I ain’t trust Christian still. And so, I was like, “I can’t go looking like a boy, because they going to do too much. ‘Hey, how are you doing? So glad that you’re here.'” Don’t act like y’all don’t do that, “Here’s the sinner. Go, be hospitable to them. You have a church home. I hope you feel welcome.” Why I put on this Ashley voice? I don’t know. Did I offend white people when we do that to y’all? Because I’d be offended if you tried to talk like Yudi Andre. I promise I would. I’d be like, “I don’t know. You better chill before black Twitter get on you.”
Anyway, I’m at this church and this woman named Melissa walks up to me. I’ve been a Christian maybe six days. Melissa walks up to me and she said, “Hey, what’s your name?” I said, “Jackie.” She kind of nodded her head, squinting a little bit, “Jackie.” I kind of looked up. That was so minor to her probably, but to me it said, “She’s trying to remember my name.” That felt meaningful to me, it seemed like a sincere care for just who I was, who God had made me. The Jackie that God had given to Linda Hill in St. Louis in 1989. That’s all she really saw in me. I don’t remember what the sermon was about, all I remember that it was the Old Testament and I was like, “This is real deep. I don’t understand none of this.” But what brought me to the church wasn’t anything that was happening in the church. It wasn’t the programs. It wasn’t the tithing. It wasn’t the worship. It wasn’t none of that. It was that interaction.
It was seeing that, “Oh, there’s people here that love people. So even if I don’t get everything that’s happening, I can return here because I guess it’d be safe.” In that place is when I started to transition. No, I got a check from Wendy’s, and I was like, “Okay, I got to go get some girl clothes,” which was really scary because skinny jeans, they make your thighs hurt when you wear them too long. I didn’t want to, it was a vulnerable thing to go into this place and buy these clothes that didn’t feel like me. But I say that because I didn’t go and buy feminine clothes to be like anybody. I didn’t do it to get approval. I think it was the Holy Spirit showing me that this is a wisdom principle, that God had made me a woman. And that in my womanness, he wanted glory. He wanted glory out of my femininity.
He wanted glory out of the way that he had made me. And that there are ways in which particular clothes hides what that glory is to communicate. And so, I felt like it would be dishonoring potentially, to God to confuse people about who he had made me to be. I know it sounds deep. That’s what I figured out as I kept … But really it was, “I think this will be a wise thing to do, but also a wise thing to do to protect myself, because I’m continuing to dress in a way that would attract the kinds of people that I’m not strong enough to flee yet.” And so, I knew maybe as just like a girl, so girls would leave me alone. That’s what I did. I went to Forever 21 and I bought some skinny jeans. I bought a pair that were purple. I don’t really know what was happening. Maybe because it was that’s a little loud. But it was 2008, we did weird things back then.
The church, the clothes, and then discipleship. I’m connected to a woman in LA named Santoria. Santoria began to walk with me. One of the conversations that I had with Santoria that messed me up, which was really, she was confirming what God had said, was, “Jackie,” she was like, “Homosexuality isn’t your only problem.” Because in my fighting, it’s me reading all these, “The body isn’t meant for sexual immorality. The body is meant for the Lord.” Like, me trying to have all these spiritual disciplines only as it relates to my sexuality and not my whole life. And she told me, she said, “Jackie, you got more problems than that.” She was like, “You’re arrogant. You don’t submit to authority. You’re not teachable.” Because I was going to a church that exalted gifts and not character.
And so, as soon as I got saved, they see, “Oh, she a speaking gift. Let’s put her in the pulpit, even though she’s a hot mess still.” And so, meeting Santoria, I met someone who didn’t care about the ways that God had gifted me, but cared about what God wanted out of me, which was my life. She showed me how to read the scriptures, how to pray, how to just be saved, how to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. But it also wasn’t just what she taught me, it was what she showed me. I was able to see what it looked like to be a woman who loved God. In seeing what it looked like to be a woman who loved God, it also wasn’t just her victories, but how she failed and overcame. Me seeing her have these tough, difficult times, which taught me how to bounce back when the enemy got the best of me too. Oh, it’s all right. Don’t even feel shame, girl. That’s what babies do. That’s what they do.
In that time, I started doing poetry and I met this guy named Preston and we became friends. Initially, when we became friends, I had been a Christian, I don’t know, maybe six months. And so, I was still very much, yeah, I didn’t want men at all. I felt like maybe God had called me to celibacy. Maybe that was the route that God would have me go. It felt like that would actually be an easier route. And so, when we met, we were just friends. We were just cool. Preston did a poem on his testimony about how he could sleep or did sleep with everything that could breathe and I did a testimony about how I used to be gay. So it was established from jump that we’re both ratchet. Let me make that clear, we were both sinful, but a friendship began to happen.
In my friendship with Preston, everything that I had thought men were, he wasn’t. He was consistent. He was compassionate. He was kind. He was from the hood, so he was a little rough, but he was everything that I didn’t think men were capable of being, which started to soften my heart to the reality of maybe, maybe this is a possibility that I could be with a man. And so, I started to have this attraction for him, but honestly, truth be told, I thought it was the devil. I said, I was like, “I don’t know if he’s trying to distract me from my purpose.” Oh, I didn’t know if I was bored. When you were in Christ, and especially when you’re new to Christ, before Christ, you always got like four maybe, one or two people that you can text to just do things with.
And so, I’m like, “Maybe I’m just bored and lonely.” My flesh was like, “Ah, you should just like him so y’all can text .” And so, I told my discipler, I was like, “I feel like I like Preston, but I don’t know what to do with it.” Her being always vague, was like, “Pray about it.” She never gave me answers. It’s just, “Figure it out in Jesus’ name.” So I prayed. I prayed for a year.
In that span of time, Preston was in Chicago, I was in LA. In that span of time, the affections would not decrease. They just continued to grow and grow. It got to a point where I just finally said, I said, “God, I don’t know what your will is for me and Preston, but if it’s your will for us to be together, then you have to lead him to pursue me.” Because I just feel like that makes more sense. “But if it’s your will for us to be friends,” is my wording, “give me the self-control to treat him like a brother and not like a crush.”
Two weeks later, Preston being the spiritual man that he is, he calls me and he said, “Hey Jackie, I got to talk to you about something.” I’m like, “What’s up?” He was like, “I feel like God is laying it on my heart to pursue you. But the thing is, I don’t even know if you like me. Do you like me?” Ain’t that what you said? See? I ain’t even lying on you, I’m saved. After that, we began a relationship that was hard immediately. I say that because people hear these stories and it gives them this glee, as if my relationships and my growing affections for Preston were actually the ultimate glory that God could get. As if it wasn’t the moment that I believed that was just as glorifying to God. But it is a kind of glory, marriage is that. It just isn’t the highest, the highest is Jesus. But it got difficult because my relationship with him brought out all of the trauma inside of me that singleness did not deal with it.
And so, I was afraid, I was scared and it was awkward. He was the first real heterosexual relationship I ever had, so it was a weird thing to hug different. Girls put they arms up and the man grabbed your waist, I had to adjust to that. Man’s hands, they feel a little like this desk here a little bit. Am I wrong? They don’t feel like bath and body works. And so, I had to adjust to touching and feeling a man in a way that was different than what I was used to. It felt vulnerable to be held instead of to hold. It felt strange to hug somebody and feel facial hair when I wasn’t used to that. So there was this weirdness and this awkwardness that God was trying to help me to discover that there is beauty in distinction. That even if he is biologically different from you, it doesn’t mean that he’s not good for you. But also, even in his biological differences, trust me enough to give you the desire to love him.
And so, as I started to love and falling in love with who Preston was as a person, I began to love all that Preston was, which is a man. Does that make sense? God did not give me a general attraction and affection for all men. God gave me an attraction and affection for the man he called me to be with, and to glorify his gospel through. What else? I think I just want to speak to … How much time I got? You know? 20. Wow. Okay. We’ll do a keynote. I think I just wanna speak to … Oh, so many angles I could take. I guess I just want to speak to how sufficient the gospel is in this conversation. Because people are in this world who might be identifying as gay, which I wish … Christopher Yuan, shout out to you. He just wrote a book called Holy Sexuality. Y’all should get that. Christopher is smarter than me. He went to seminary and stuff, so …
I think this identifying thing is something that I would like us to deal with. Not now, but in general. Because I think what orientation or the concept of orientation, I really believe what it’s done is that it’s harmed our understanding of identity. Orientation being the persistent pattern of desire for whatever sex you like. For the same-sex, then gay. If for the opposite sex, then heterosexual. These terms didn’t even exist prior to 1868. I think the interesting thing, even in Paul, in 1st Corinthians six, nine, and 10, when he mentions homosexuality, the term in the Greek is men in bed with men. He’s not even appealing to orientation, but to gender for the condemnation that he’s teaching there. And so, I think what it has done is, it’s made people identify themselves by their affections. That’s dangerous, because what it does is, when you start to identify yourself by your passions, your passions have more power than they should. Because you conclude, “If this is who I am, then this is what I can’t help but be.”
But really the reality of who we are is that, Genesis one says that we’re image bearers. Genesis three says that we’re sinners. Because of that, Romans one says what we do with sin. But when we come to Jesus, who we are now as new creatures, who we are now his beloved, who we are now as saints. And so, I think maybe if we began to see people in terms of how God defines them, instead of how their passions define them, maybe our love would be different. Imagine if you began to love people, not according to who they like, how holistic your gospel would become. Because now the conversation wouldn’t all just land on their sexuality. Now you wouldn’t have this sense of urgency when a family member comes out of the closet as if they weren’t in the flesh 15 years before. There’s this kind of hierarchy that we’ve given to this particular sin that is dangerous because it’s affected how we love.
But it’s also affected how we fight. Because again, we have a real devil who would prefer for us to identify ourselves by our temptations. And so, if he can make me believe that, because I still feel that way, I am that way, how will my endurance be? How will my faith be impacted by that? And so, I just want to speak into the fact that the gospel proclaims that God has reconciled and can reconcile sinners back to himself, not just gay people to himself, but people with names and desires and gifts and passions. These people that we refer to are just like us. They sin differently, but the root is all the same, and God loves us all the same. So I think that’s all I got. I think that’s all I have. We’ve got questions? Yes, sir.
Audience: *asks question*
Jackie Hill Perry: Okay. I guess I’ll speak from how I am beginning to parent and how I think it would be helpful, even though it feels arrogant to get parenting advice when your kids are four. But the principle I’m trying to take on is I think children now really need to begin to be trained to not believe that because they feel something, they have to do something. I think they have to be trained with that early, because in high school, middle school, you have all of these kids exploring their sexuality now. Because they have these feelings and these affections that are legitimate, that are valid, that they are feeling, but they think, they start to question who they are just because they felt a temptation of the flesh. Or a desire of the flesh, as Ephesians says.
And so, I think starting to train children that, “No, this is actually what Christianity is,” is dying and self-denial, and that God has called us all, child or adult, to this same act.I think there’s some beauty in the fact that pointing to Jesus as the ultimate example of self-denial means that one, he isn’t calling us to do something that he hasn’t done himself. But also, that he’s calling us to do something that he will empower us to do for himself.
And so, I think teaching self-denial early and practicing that and explaining that and drawing that out, that just because a passion exists doesn’t mean you have to do it. Doesn’t mean that’s who you are. This is a part of your human nature as a sinner, is that there will be things that come out of you that you didn’t choose, that you don’t know what to do with. But guess what? We do have a God who gives us a spirit, if we would choose to repent and believe in him. Who will empower us to not necessarily be straight, because that’s not the fruit of the spirit, but to have self-control. That’s one way. Also, I don’t know the title. It’s in the bookstore. I know there’s a book coming out about feelings. Ah, I’m terrible. Just tweet DTDC for kids about how to handle particular feelings that they might be having.
Audience: *asks question*
Jackie Hill Perry: Safe spacing is a triggering word, and it’s only triggering because that’s the kind of language that universities are using to not allow people to come in and say anything that’s offensive. And so, on one end, should we be considerate of the ways that we should love our neighbors well? Yes. On the other end, there is the reality that the call to repentance does hurt. That when Jesus called the great young ruler, when he told him, “Hey, go sell everything you got and follow me.” It said that he walked away sad. There was grief at the call to obey. And so, there’s a real reality in which we cannot fully protect people from the humbling and the hurt that self-denial will bring. But there is a way in which we can avoid unnecessary offense that didn’t have to be there.
And so, I think one of the ways that we can do that is I think the body just has to be the body. If you look at all the commands in the New Testament for how we’re to love people, if we just did that, we’d be good. It wouldn’t be no church hurt. It wouldn’t be no trauma. It wouldn’t be no PTSD in our churches. It would just be all good. And so, I say all that to say, I think one valuable way is to stop seeing gay people in your church as an other, as if their sin is more dominating than the heterosexual man, that can’t seem to stop dating 15 women a year. Everybody needs the same gospel and the same grace and the same … I think when we begin to see our gay friends and neighbors, or same-sex attracted Christians that are in our churches as people, as image bearers, it changes how we think. It changes how we pray. It changes how we interact.
I think also, I kind of said this, but in a different way, is not centering, again, the entire conversation on their sexual struggles. How are you doing your money, bro? How are you doing with loving your neighbor? How are you doing with … Do you know how to read the Bible? It’s just like, we are training and discipling whole humans and not partial humans. So yeah. I don’t know if that helped. Yes.
Did you hear her question? Okay. Me and Preston, our backgrounds are, again, we both come out of sexual perversion to be honest. Him being a man who was promiscuous, and people define that as manliness and good. Me coming out of pornography addiction and lesbianism. When you bring those two components in a marriage, Satan will pounce all over that. But I think God has been good to us, primarily way of his body. Me and Preston would not have been able to learn how to love each other well, if we did not have couples around us teaching us to do so.
I think our pastor and his wife and other couples in our world, they just help. It’s just something about seeing and watching and listening to people who ain’t been married more than 10 minutes. I think that’s one of the dynamics that got us through, but also counseling. Me and him both got our separate counseling where we could work through the particular issues that we were having that were affecting our fruitfulness. Or affecting our communication. Or affecting our sex life. That was it. But I think what has been really helpful is that me and Preston like each other. We love each other, but we like each other.
We travel and we’re self-employed, so we’re with each other every day. So if I don’t like you and you’re self-employed, it’s going to be a rough time. But the fact that I’m with somebody, and I think he would agree. You like me. I’m likable. You’re crazy if you don’t like me. The fact that God made us friends first, we were friends for three years. I think the fact that he did that is what has sustained us in light of all of the other ways that he has. But maybe we’ll talk about it in detail one day. Yes.
Oh, that’s so hard. As someone who’s been sexually abused, how’s that affect me being a mother in protecting my children? I think has made me hypervigilant, but as I should be, I think. I think that’s okay. And it has made me much more skeptical of people, because most sexually abused people are abused by people they know. To me, that’s the assumption that everybody that you know is safe. I think what I have tried to do is one, I pray a lot for my children. I pray that God would give me insight. I wasn’t raised by a Christian mother, but a lot of my friends that had Christian mothers, they somehow knew all their business. Like, they would pray and be like, “I think this is about that thing.” Or God would just kind of give them, here I go sounding charismatic, but God would give them insight into people that would somehow turn out beneficial for them.
I’ve trusted God to be like, “God, protect my children and give me discernment for people that just aren’t trustworthy.” And also speaking that into the people that are trustworthy in my life. “Mama, don’t be having anybody around my child. Or, “Don’t expose her to these particular things.” But also equipping my children. My daughter’s four, so there’s only so much I can say. And so, now it’s kinda been on some, “If anybody tells you to do this, don’t. If anybody makes you feel uncomfortable, come tell me,” or, “tell the teacher.” Trying to, in a way, train her to learn how to pay attention to how she feels. Because I just don’t underestimate how aware children are. One of the stories that encouraged me, I was talking to a mother, and she said, when her son was like 10 or 11, she told him, she was praying that God would give her children to sermon.
But she also said, she told him like, “If you are ever anywhere and you just don’t feel comfortable, you don’t have to tell me why, just call me and tell me to pick you up. I won’t ask no questions and I will.” One day the son was over a church, one of the parents from church’s house or whatever. And the son called and was like, “Mom, I don’t know what’s wrong. I just don’t feel comfortable. I don’t know what it is.” She said, “I’m on my way.” Long story short, six weeks later, the father of the house she was over was actually molesting little boys. And so, somehow in the Providence and kindness of God, he gave this little ten-year-old some type of awareness that he could put words to, but allowed his mother to protect her in that way. So I trust that God would help us do that. And so, yeah. You just can’t trust people. You just can’t, children are so vulnerable. Yes.
Audience: Can you speak to the double standard when it comes to male and female, like, when it comes to male and female lust? I’m thinking particularly pornography, how most men do, and if there’s a female who does, it’s very taboo, and what as churches and ministries we could do to make that something they can openly talk about? Give them the open doors, as a female or a male. I just feel like for male it’s a given. For females, it’s like .
Jackie Hill Perry: That’s loaded. I’m going to answer what I can. That was like a pastoral question. This is a philosophical assumption, but part of me thinks that society has just made men out to be these monsters that can’t control themselves. And so, it’s just easy to have this expectation of them that, “Oh porn, of course. They’re lustful, they don’t know what to do.” I think that’s just not dignifying. I think it’s not healthy because maybe that creates a sense of, “Well, I’m a man.” Because that’s what’s been communicated, as if men are not … The son of man was a man. He had perfect self control. He was God, but he was also very much a man. And so, their testosterone does not mean that they can’t have self-control.
Also, I think the taboo with women is that women, they’re hiders and culturally, there are certain particular cultures that are more prone to hiding. In the South, for example, you have people that, they in a small group, ain’t never talking about they heart. The most they might talk about, “I just got irritated when I was in the grocery store line. This lady would not move her cart. Oh my God.” But let’s you talk about their idols. “Don’t get in my business, that ain’t for you to know.” And so, I think how we kill the taboo is that we create real intimacy in our churches and create communities where people really can confess their sins one to another without being shamed for it. Having true warnings and challenges, but at the same time creating a world where honesty is life. That’s what we do. And so, yeah. I don’t know, get you some friends that you can tell the truth too. Yes.
Audience: I’ve got a lot of friends that started with homosexual attraction and I don’t know. I think my heart is very much like, God’s placed the burden on my heart for people who struggle with that. I struggle with attraction. It’s heterosexual, but that’s okay, so I can only imagine the difficulties they’re facing when that’s . I feel very inadequate approaching them, because I feel like I can’t some that I can.
Jackie Hill Perry: Yeah.
I’ll always just love them, and either with them even without having struggled with –
Well, I think that’s the Christianness in us, where we feel that to love is to teach all the time. And so, perhaps the best way to love is to listen and to be present. I think even when we have this race conversation, I’m going to connect it, but to be a male who identifies as heterosexual, there is a kind of distance from the situation that makes it impossible for you to fully speak into. You can speak into in a general sense, “God is good. God is great. He’ll help us. He’ll help us endure.” Those kinds of things, but in the same sense of someone who is white listening or having a friend who is dealing with oppression and all these kinds of things.
There is a general way in which you can speak into it, but I think sometimes the best way is to hear, listen, learn, or even suggest, “How can I be in assistance to you as a friend? How can I help you to fight? How can I pray for you where it isn’t, ‘Let me teach’? But it’s, ‘Let me learn from you and out of learning from you, how to best serve you, I can actually serve you.'” I think that’s easier. Yeah. I feel like the doors are open, so we are on a … And somebody’s looking at their watch. Two minutes, praise God. One more question. What is the Holy Ghost going to send me to? Who is it? No, y’all don’t look … Oh, he’s shaking his hand. That’s the Holy Ghost hand right there. That was asked to all day, right here.
Audience: Can you speak to people who have persistent romantic attractions to people of the same sex? Do you encourage all of them to marry or do you also encourage them to pursue lifetime celibacy?
I’ve never encouraged marriage. I encourage righteousness, because I think that’s what the scripture encourages. And so, if there is someone in their world that they’re beginning to feel an attraction for and an affection for, from the opposite sex, it’s pray and see if … If singleness is the best avenue for you to best glorify God, go that route. Discerning what is pleasing to the Lord. If marriage is the best way for you to glorify God, go that route. So it isn’t choose marriage, chose singleness, how best can you as a human being serve the God that you were created to serve? I think that’s really the best encouragement we can give. Thank you for coming.