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How Troy Perry, Metropolitan Community Church Founder, Made LGBTQ History With God’s Help

How Troy Perry, Metropolitan Community Church Founder, Made LGBTQ History With God’s Help

Of course Reverend Troy Perry is a preacher. He sounds like one. His voice booms smoothly. His Southern accent remains in place, despite years of Californian living. More than one sentence ends with a “And I will tell you…”

On July 27th, Perry will celebrate his 80th birthday, and there’s a long, dramatic life to look back on which at its heart is about how one gay man who cherished his belief and faith in God did not believe—as he was constantly told—that God did not love him because he was gay. And to prove it, he created a church all of his own.

One Troy Perry story or adventure tumbles into another: leaving home as a teenager to escape an abusive stepfather, founding the global, LGBTQ-inclusive Metropolitan Community Church in 1968 after recovering from an attempt to end his own life, meeting his husband Philip Ray De Blieck in a leather bar—and suing the Los Angeles Police Department to hold the city’s first Pride parade in 1970, then called Christopher Street West.

In 1970, Perry’s friend Morris Kight, a gay activist, called him and asked if he and their friend Reverend Bob Humphries could come over. They always put “Brother” before their names: Brother Morris, Brother Bob, Brother Troy and so on. Kight had received a letter from a GLF member in New York City who wondered if they might hold a march there to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. 

In 1970, four American cities would hold such marches—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco—as The Daily Beast reported in a recent article. In that article activist Karla Jay recalled the 1,168-strong demonstration in Los Angeles, and Perry’s arrest.

In 1969, Perry had already led a small march calling for an end to anti-sodomy laws, and in 1970 a protest over the death of a male nurse, Howard Efland, at the hands of police after a Vice Squad raid at a Los Angeles hotel where men met to have sex.

To plan the first post-Stonewall march in Los Angeles, the three “brothers” met at Perry’s home, which they nicknamed the Old Parsonage. Kight said, “So, Brother Troy, we’re going to hold a demonstration.”

Perry recalled that he replied, “Morris, wait a minute. We already hold demonstrations. This is Hollywood. Why don’t we hold a parade?”

The men quickly found out this would not be easy. First, they had to appear before the Los Angeles Police Commission. It was decided that Perry would ask for the march in the name of the MCC, which was a nonprofit. The paperwork was duly filled out, and then the Police Commission asked the men to come to a hearing.

When they arrived, recalled Perry, the extremely homophobic then-chief of police, Edward M. Davis, was there. Kight, Perry and Humphries had agreed not to use the word “homosexual,” to see if they could get the march passed just using the MCC’s name.

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