The Metropolitan Community Church, which Perry founded, is fast becoming known as a ‘gay church’ because Troy Perry and the pastors at the church’s 36 branches across the USA, from Hawaii to New York, will perform marriage ceremonies for gays.
In an exclusive interview arranged with Gay News, Troy Perry said that even if he was gay and his church attracts gays back to church, the MCC is not a specifically gay church. He added: “We say gay is just as good as heterosexuality in the eyes of God. Neither is better, they are just equal.
“At the Los Angeles church about 60 per cent of the congregation is male homosexual, 20 per cent female homosexual, and the other 20 per cent heterosexual.
“But at our church in Long Beach, the proportion is about 50 per cent men to 50 per cent women.
“In Los Angeles the main Methodist church has seating for 33,000. They’re lucky to get just 300 in. Meanwhile we have standing room only at our main services on Sundays. So we must be giving people what they want.”
Troy Perry isn’t all talk though. He’s been married twice. First time around it was at the age of 19 to the attractive blonde daughter of a Pentecostal minister.
He says: “I come from the south of the USA, and there the attitude was ‘get yourself a good girl, and that will sort you out’ if you thought you were gay. It doesn’t work.”
The marriage split up when he told her he was gay and she got a court order to stop him seeing their children both of them boys.
His second marriage was in January this year to a Roller Derby star, Steve Jordan.
Troy happily describes him: “He’s just 5 ft 8 in tall, 23, Mexican-American and beautiful. We are very happy.”
The gay marriages the MCC performs have attracted most attention to the sect. But the church has strict rules about the gays it will marry. Troy Perry says: “To get married they have to have been together for at least six months – usually they have been living together for three years. Sometimes a couple who have been living together for up to 25 years want to get married.”
Are gay marriages happy? Troy Perry says: “Out of the 200 ceremonies that I have personally performed, only about four or five couples have separated.”
Are they legal? “In California the law does not say that one person who is to be married must be a man and the other a woman. So far no-one has tried to get a divorce, so we don’t know how the courts would treat the marriages. ”
Troy Perry does not see his church’s work ending at the church door. In fact, he’s arranged several gay demos in the Bay Area.
He remembers the battle of Barney’s Beanery. He says: ‘There used to be a sign in the window – ‘Faggots Stay Out’.”
“We found society never expected gays to become militant, so we got 300 gays down to Barney’s Beanery. Half of them had to take over a stool at the bar, order one drink and then sit over it all night. The other half had to go into the restaurant section and take over tables. They ordered a coffee and just sat over it all night.”
The management moved next and upped the price of a coffee to two dollars. So Troy Perry ordered a coffee, drank it. “Then I went to the check-out and refused to pay. The owner called the police. When they arrived they took one look at my collar and took the owner in the back room. They suggested it wasn’t such a good idea to bring a court case against a priest. The police said he was losing business and losing money, so why didn’t he take that sign down?
The sign came down pretty soon. It’s hanging in our kitchen now.”
He says he knew he was gay from the age of five. “I used to go to kiddies’ matinees at the movies in Talahassee, Florida and Tarzan used to turn me on. That’s when I knew I was different from the rest of the boys.
When I told my mother I was gay she was absolutely hysterical.” But now his 56-year-old widowed mother lives with Steve and Troy. He says: “There are no hang-ups in our family.”
Historically: Troy Perry became licensed to preach at the Pentecostal Church at the age of 15. When he decided that he was gay, he told his immediate superior, who told him not to be so silly. When the bishop got to hear about the gay priest, he paid him a call and asked him to resign.
So the 33-year-old son of a bootlegger founded a church that would dispense God’s love to all. That’s why he called his book The Lord is My Shepherd And He Knows I’m Gay.