Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Five—Living Five Countdown…

Reverend Elder Troy Perry, founder, Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches

In the spirit of the RevGalBlogPals Friday Five Countdown, here are five people (all of them living, as far as I know) whom I admire. Some names have been changed, because I cannot contact those people and ask them if it’s OK to use them…

5. Mom
My mother is an amazing woman. If she reads this (and I think she does from time to time) she’ll probably be embarrassed, but I admire her greatly. Twice in her life she was a single mother, once in very painful circumstances, but she raised all five of us (myself and four sisters) with grace, integrity and a sense of possibility. When I got married, I left university to do so. Many of my friends said I would never be able to go back. They didn’t know the values Mom instilled in us—be the most that you are capable of, do the best job possible, know who you are and live up to that ideal. It’s a measure of her success as a parent that all five of us think we’re her secret favourite. When fundanuts pontificate about a child needing two parents, I think of my mother. She did good.

4. Dave Jones (not his real name)
Part of the process of ordination in my denomination requires a team to work with the candidate—identifying each candidate’s challenges, helping the candidate to work through these, supporting the candidate through prayer and presence, and so on. It’s not a light thing to ask someone to be on your team. I came into a church where the only person I knew besides the pastor had just moved (to the other coast), and I needed to find some people to serve on my team. My moving-away friend said, “You want Dave on your team. He would be great.” So I prepared to work to get Dave on my team, although I had never met him. One Sunday—my first there—I preached at my teaching church. I was hoping to make some connections, to start people thinking I was a person they could work with. After the service, as I was shaking hands at the back door, a gentleman came up to me and said, “I’m Dave Jones. I want to be on your team.” That sums up Dave. He sees a need, and if he can take care of it, he does.

More than that, he is not afraid to do what needs to be done—whether it’s investing in the church, supporting a candidate, speaking the truth in Christian love, or reshaping his own life when it’s gone in unhealthy directions. He’s done the latter just recently, and it is a joy to see his returning health. He inspires me to not give up, no matter the obstacles—because of course, just when you get through one set of barriers, another set pops up. He’s taught me, too, the importance of giving back—I have learned, and so I have a responsibility to my teachers to pass on that knowledge. He’s not bitter, in spite of events that could have turned anyone bitter; he’s not angry or controlling or bossy. Dave is simply warm and direct and honest.

3. Christian de la Huerta
Christian is a writer and spiritualist in California, He works mainly with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community, examining the ways in which we have special gifts to offer the world, especially spiritual gifts. Christian writes so well—his book Coming Out Spiritually is a delight to read just for the way he expresses himself, let alone what he says. He also leads retreats, does breathwork, and creates rituals. Christian opened my mind and heart to a variety of spiritual possibilities and helped me see how they could be incorporated into Christian spirituality. He speaks clearly, openly, and unashamedly about the importance of sex to our lives—everyone’s lives—and decries the separation of the body and spirit that has taken place in Western civilization. He’s also been a personal friend and support, when he really had no reason to be, except for his wise and warm heart.

2. TJ Flanahan (not a real name)
TJ is a composite. I have many transgendered friends whom I admire, so this is a sort of composite portrait of them. TJ knew from an early age that he was different. His parents, who told him he was a girl, also wanted him to stop being a tomboy, and settle into being a sweet little girl. When he was older, and trying to dress to match his feelings about himself, he was attacked and brutally beaten by college boys who thought he was a gay man. Eventually he married and had children, but in the course of time, his pain was too much. His husband left him when TJ began his transition to making his body match his soul. His grown children wanted nothing to do with him and wouldn’t let him see his grandchildren. Today TJ has a loving partner, is active in his church, and is close to retirement from a job he loves. He is accepted as he is, because he has insisted on who he is, and made the world recognize it. In spite of being a target of hatred, ignorance and mistrust, he’s not bitter or angry or fearful. He knows who he is, he knows God knows who he is, and both he and God love TJ just the way TJ is. I admire his courage and strength, and his ability to say, “I’m not going to hate or be angry. I could be, but I choose to be loving instead.” He is one of the most wonderful people I know.

1. Rev. Elder Troy Perry
Troy is the founder of Metropolitan Community Churches. His biography is amazing, and I recommend it to you. He heard God speaking to him, telling Troy to minister to God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered children, and Troy answered, in spite of the hate and prejudice of government, other denominations, and society at large. Troy has no celebrity swelled-head about him. Once you’ve met him, you just call him “Troy.” He will remember you forever, by the way. He’s met me formally once—when I was ushering at a conference where there were at least 1000 people, and probably twenty or thirty ushers. But every time we’ve been in the same room since then he’s come over to me, calling me by name, giving me a hug and a kiss, asking me how the church is going—and he knows where it is and what’s happening there. He is possessed of a love of God, a humility, and a down-to-earth sensibility that are heart-warming. He’s never let the things that have happened to him—some of them outright miracles—go to his head, or the denomination’s head, either. I admire him for his courage to speak truth, to take the consequences, and to keep his feet firmly on the ground during it all.

Looking this list over, I see some common threads. All these people are strong, courageous, and loving in spite of reasons to not be very loving at all. The hardest part was ranking them, because they are all really Number One. They are my heroes and sheroes…may God bless them, every single one.


Leah said...

What a wonderful list! Thanks!

Songbird said...

It's so good to reflect on real, live people we admire in this era of "no heroes." Thank you so much for your list.

Sally said...

Interesting and well thought out list, thanks for sharing it.

Swandive said...

I think I have to bookmark this post - because it is so rich. I will be looking up each one. Thank you!

Marie said...

I can't wait to go check out Christian de la Huerta. And I have read Troy Perry's biography and I agree with you. Great list!

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