KevOnStage made the decision to use his platform to amplify Jackie Hill Perry’s harmful messages, and during Pride month no less. We demand accountability.
By Candace Simpson
Last Monday night, I had just finished hosting an Instagram live session on Christianity and Queerness. It was church. Queer and trans believers of all ages and experiences were in the comments affirming each other and sharing strategies.
I had no idea some demonic bullshit was brewing.
My text messages buzzed:
“Why is Jackie Hill Perry telling people to choose heterosexuality during Pride month?”
In a matter of minutes, I went from horrified, to enraged, to feeling concern for Perry’s spiritual bondage, to feeling angry with everyone who taught her to hate herself, to screaming at Kev for hosting, to worrying that vulnerable people would believe these lies.
KevOnStage, a Christian comedian and influencer with a large audience and avid following, and Jackie Hill Perry, a preacher and poet, held an online discussion during the last few days of Pride month. The now-deleted video (short Instagram clip here) featured a conversation in which Perry argued that she actively suppresses her desires for women in order to follow God’s desires. Reactions to the video included praise from celebrities like Yvonne Orji, Jonathan McReynolds, and Deborah Joy Winans in the comments section.
Acts of anti-Blackness that Christians encourage (even the Black ones) will rightfully inspire calls to abolish Christianity and end the Church. I’m not here to disagree, nor to convince anyone that Christianity can be saved. But there’s no way that I, a Black Queer Socialist Afrofuturist Baptist, can let shit fly without saying something.
Especially now, there are people stuck in violent Christian spaces. As long as there are vulnerable people still here, it is the responsibility of all clergy to denounce hatred. For many, it is not as simple as “just leaving.” I wish it were.
I am convinced the Body of Christ includes LGBTQIA+ persons. We who remain in the Church work so that it also conspires for our thriving. We wrestle against powers in high places, including churches and denominational boards. J Mase III and Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi co-edited a beautiful work called the “Black Trans Prayer Book,” and paired it with a social media campaign to declare #TransphobiaIsASin. Queer scholars like Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey ask, how does belonging to oppressed categories help LGBTQIA+ persons imagine expansive justice? Queer organizers like Ashon Crawley, Holden Cession, Indhira Udofia, and Lauren Cunningham are bringing together liturgical seasons of Pentecost, Pride and Juneteenth. Pastor Tabatha Holley leads a community of organizers who love God and justice in the Bronx at New Day Church. Chaplain Quanita Hailey hosts FreeXone4Us, an intentionally substance-free QTPOC healing circle for spiritual nourishment. This is life-saving work.
My work is Christian education as political education. I believe in the utility of common texts and rituals to spark the Black radical imagination. With this imagination, we can transform the world. We can defund prisons, invest in free and compassionate healthcare, and feed the masses. My faith calls me to this, and my comrades hold me accountable to making it so.
Until the world catches up with our dreams, we’ll build Heaven on Earth.
Beloveds, I wish to scoop you up as “a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”
Perry’s project as an “ex-lesbian” is violent to those of us who love Christ and Queen Latifah. Predictably, Perry is famous in the evangelical circuit, where she pitches the lie of deliverance to malleable youth. She rarely uses that specific word, “deliverance,” but she might as well. Her entire project, and digital footprint, is one that anti-LGBTQIA+ Christians love to uplift. It says something that every time I speak about being Queer and Christian, someone inevitably DMs me a link to her work. Using Perry’s work as an innocent “just-offering-perspective” proxy, the argument becomes, “You’d be a better Christian if you weren’t queer. It’s possible to change. If you’re going to be a clergywoman, there are standards. And if you’re going to follow Christ, you can’t always do things your way.” It’s a slimy, passive-aggressive, shady way to invalidate the humanity of Queer Believers. I highly doubt those same people are sharing my work with Perry.
This invites two questions for me:
1. Whose God would have us choose to be “functionally heterosexual” in order to be within Her care?
2. Ain’t it telling that white evangelicals love her?
Black cishet Christians often play innocent.
Translation: If Oprah hosted Candace Owens or Diamond and Silk for a conversation on race, it’d be clear that you don’t give self-loathers a platform to talk their shit. People who hate the oppressed parts of themselves should never be given a chance to evangelize. Angela Davis said there are just some people she does not want to be unified with. So what does it mean that you and I call ourselves Christians, when our posture to the faith and the world is so remarkably different?
It means we get to make demands. That’s the Good News.
These are my demands to Kev:
1. Delete that video, Kev.
There are desperate people looking for resources. The Facebook video pulls a juicy quote. “I’m married to a man but still attracted to women.” Similarly, Jackie’s book, Gay Girl, Good God, is strategically named. Christians on a journey to self-discovery will search “gay+god+christian” and stumble on Perry’s memoir or this video. COVID-19 has forced many into homes with families who don’t understand them, who make evil comments about their appearance and romantic interests, and spiritually abuse them. The world is “hungry for the living bread,” and you have offered stale saltines.
2. Issue an apology.
3. Commit to reading work of Black Queer and Trans theologians in private.
If you want to go deeper in your understanding of human sexuality and gender, go off. As you are growing, you will stumble. Don’t trip and fall on us.
4. Tithe to Black queer and trans led organizations.
You showed us your digital footprint. Black queer and trans people are uniquely impacted by coronavirus-related shutdowns. In this season, a faithful thing to do is invest in Black queer and trans lives.
I am a living witness that we can be transformed. In my sanctified imagination, I see Kev and Perry one day saying:
“I’m glad I chose to be ‘transformed by the renewing of my mind.’ I’m ready to be a co-cospirator in the fight for queer and trans liberation. I can call-in the people who now say what I used to say. I want to free someone else from the bonds of White Supremacy and all its ideological cousins.”
They must repent. A new story must start with them accounting for harm done through self-righteous postures and hateful content. If they do not choose to be transformed, we get to deplatform them.
Family, if you desire a relationship with Christ the revolutionary, you can have one just as you are. If the Mississippi Mass Choir makes you shout, you are not alone. Angry about a sermon your pastor preached? You’re not imagining things! Your gender and sexuality are gifts that you get to explore and discern over time. It is valid to be fluid. It is a religious abuse when someone tells you to suppress your (ethical and consensual) wonders to follow God.
God already knows you.
She is with us as we tear down monuments of bigotry and build something different together.
Candace Simpson (@CandyCornball) is an educator, minister, and writer. She believes that Heaven is a Revolution that can happen right here on Earth. She invites others into that philosophy at www.fishsandwichheaven.com
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