Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Episode Resources

Learn more about Jackie Hill Perry.

Leslie Basham: Jackie Hill Perry wanted out of her lesbian lifestyle, but she also knew she couldn’t do it on her own.

Jackie Hill Perry: It just felt like an impossible feat to try to not like women, to try to not engage in relationships, to try to not act out in anger, to try to not watch pornography. Like, how do you stop doing this stuff when you don’t have the capacity to? That’s why I needed the Holy Spirit.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe, for Monday, April 2, 2018.

If you have kids at home, you will want to know this week’s series includes some mature themes, but it also includes the wonder of the gospel and a transformed life. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Our guest today is a woman that I’ve wanted our audience to meet for a long time, and I’m so thankful, Jackie Hill Perry, that you’re here in the studio with us today—finally. We’ve been talking about this for, I don’t know, maybe a year or so.

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: Thanks so much for being on Revive Our Hearts today.

Jackie: Thank you, Nancy.

Nancy: Jackie Hill Perry—when I first met you, you were Jackie Hill.

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: Now you’ve got a Perry added to that, and we’re going to talk about that journey that you’ve been on.

Jackie is a poet. She’s a speaker. She’s an artist. You can find her on Twitter @JackieHillPerry. Jackie, I only follow thirty-two people on Twitter, and you’re one of them because I love your heart. I love what you say. I’ve loved watching your journey over a number of years now.

I think one of first times I ever kind of identified with who you are—because, honestly, I’m kind of not into the hip hop movement, genre, and I didn’t know what your spoken word poetry was at the time. I love it now. But I started hearing about this woman who was engaged to this guy, or they were in a courtship, and then they got engaged. You guys were chronicling this on video and posting it. I just remember being so touched by your openness, your honesty, what God was doing in you and Preston. And we connected through Twitter, actually.

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: I’ve really enjoyed your friendship, and I’m so thankful for our listeners to hear your story. It goes back, like, several seasons in your life, and to see the transforming grace and power of God and the gospel in your life is what this ministry is all about.

You and I could probably not come from more different backgrounds in a lot of ways, which is why I’ve loved hearing how the gospel has been alive and at work in you.

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: So going back to your childhood . . . You grew up in a home where things weren’t ordered in God’s ideal. Tell us, as you think about family and your earliest childhood, what are some of the pictures, the words come to mind?

Jackie: Family, but not family as God intended. I think growing up and being raised in a single-parent household with only my mother around and having a dad who was super inconsistent, who would be in and out of my life. I mean, he would be there for a year, be consistent, and then disappear for a year or two, then disappear for three.

But seeing my mother be the primary bread winner, the provider, my protector, my everything, it made me think that women were sufficient. I just generalized all men by how my father had treated me, which was that all men were untrustworthy and inconsistent and were people who used women for when they wanted them and when they needed them, only wanting their bodies or for comfort or whatever they could provide.

It was unhealthy, but in the sense that I didn’t know it was unhealthy. That’s all I knew. I didn’t even have friends who had parents. Nobody had parents. Everybody had a mother. That’s it.

Nancy: So your view of what it meant to be a man and what it meant to be a woman were shaped by those childhood experiences.

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: And how did you process that in your little girl heart?

Jackie: I think that I thought that men were incapable of feeling, in a sense. I think I just got that from here I am, this little girl whose dad doesn’t care about her. And so, it was as if, men, you have the power to just do what you want and it not affect you but it affects others. So I think that, mixed with the gender confusion I had in my own mind, thinking that I was supposed to be a boy, it was, like, “Man, men have power to do things that women don’t.”

Nancy: I’m going to take you back here just a second here. Gender confusion.

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: At what age did you identify—of course, I’m sure you didn’t know that term—but you said you thought you should have been a boy or wanted to be a boy? What was that like?

Jackie: Kindergarten, first, second grade.

Nancy: Unpack what those thoughts were.

Jackie: I just felt like I didn’t like being a girl. I didn’t want to wear dresses. I didn’t want to play with dolls. When I would use the restroom, I would use the restroom how I thought men used the restroom. I remember taking a bath or whatever and my mom would give me a towel, and I wrapped the towel around my waist instead of over my chest because I saw, “Oh, that’s the way men do. They wrap their towels that way.”

I remember drinking root beer and trying to drink the root beer like I saw men drink real beer, just mimicking masculinity. And this was before being trans was even public or popular. This was probably 1994. That was not a thing, which I think was probably grace, because I wasn’t exposed to this idea that what I was feeling was true, like I think some of the kids are now.

Nancy: And that’s curious to me because your view of men through your dad wasn’t all that positive.

Jackie: Right.

Nancy: So why do you think it was you were wanting to be a boy?

Jackie: I think it’s sin, but I also think that sin moved out into: “Men have the capacity to do what they want and not be affected by it vs. women. I presumed women to be weak and vulnerable to pain in ways that men didn't seem to be. 

I honestly didn’t start to break down that ideology about men until I got married, when I saw that my husband was an emotional being, it just manifested itself in ways that were different. It was, like, “Oh, men do feel.”

So I think, because I felt this pain, and I felt hurt by men in my life, and in my heart, it just felt like, for me to escape, or put myself in a position where I don’t feel hurt, I need to be the one in power, which, I thought, that men were the ones that had power over women.

Nancy: So as a child, you’re having this desire to be a boy, how did that show itself?

Jackie: I think in those little ways that I did, but it was something I never acknowledged it. I never told anybody. I don’t think I even started to tell people until I became a believer. I think it didn’t really begin to show itself as dominate until I started to live the lesbian lifestyle. I started to dress like a boy, act like a boy, wear boy undergarments, and act out their demeanors. I thought, in essence, I was being myself now, but, at the same time, I think my conscience still felt as if, “This isn’t you. I don’t think you know who you are,” because I don’t think I knew who I was. I don’t think I was okay with what God created me to be at that time.

Nancy: Okay, let me back up. You had an aunt

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: Who took you to church?

Jackie: Yes. My mother worked at a fast-food restaurant, and she worked every Sunday. So when she worked, I would go with my aunt, who was her sister-in-law. She was a believer, so we went to church every single Sunday. So it was as if I was raised around Christianity without it necessarily being in my home. I heard about Jesus dying. I remember the little pictures of Jesus and the sheep and His little staff. I just remember hearing a lot about Jesus.

So even in the midst of my confusion, I had this awareness of God in ways that I don’t think the kids around me did. I just read—I’m a reader—so even as a kid, my mom just surrounded me with books. So I would read books about Jesus being Jewish and what that meant or being born again. I had the whole Left Behind series—and this was at age six, seven, eight, nine. I’m just reading Christian stuff. It was intriguing to me, this idea of God and us as creations and Him as Creator and what that meant for me.

Nancy: And yet internally, you have this struggle going on that is not only the desire to be a boy, or thinking that you related more to that, but then you talked also about having same-sex attraction during those years.

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: You didn’t talk about it to others.

Jackie: No.

Nancy: But what was going on inside Jackie’s head and heart?

Jackie: I don’t remember when it started. I know it was before third grade when I started to sense that I liked little girls just as much as I liked little boys. I remember being on the playground and me certain girls and I would do things.

I couldn’t figure out the source. I think in conversations like these, a lot of times someone may say, “I was molested,” and “I was fatherless,” and then this happened. I was molested, and I was fatherless, but I don’t think that those were the primary means by which same-sex attraction happened.

I think it was just sin. You know what I’m saying? I think those things magnified what was already there. But at a young, young age, I just felt like I liked girls, and I did not know what to do with it. But I did know that it was wrong. Before I read the Bible, I felt like this was something you’re supposed to hide; this is not something you’re supposed to be honest with people about. So especially when I went to church and I heard that those people go to hell, which is how it was communicated, it was like, “Oh, I’m definitely not going to tell nobody about this now because it’s not going to be received too well.”

But I didn’t know what to do with it. I really didn’t. I was just super confused.

Nancy: So your conscience is saying, “This is wrong.”

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: And another part of you is saying, “Do this. It’s okay.”

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: Interestingly, if you’d had this experience as a child today, it probably would have been . . .

Jackie: I probably would have started earlier than what I did because I don’t think I had a name for it, nor did I have an idea of how my supposed gayness was supposed to look. I didn’t really get context for how lesbian relationships looked until I started to watch MTV.

I remember there was a lesbian couple—I was probably in middle school—and it was like, “Oh, how I feel is supposed to look this way. Got it.” It was like media helped shape part of me that I didn’t even know how to even act out.

Nancy: And that’s probably happening a lot today.

Jackie: Absolutely.

Nancy: You don’t need just MTV.

Jackie: Nope.

Nancy: Just turn on the news, and you can get help with that.

Jackie: Yes or Google.

Nancy: So you’d been molested as a child?

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: Was that something that was an ongoing thing?

Jackie: It happened twice at a family friend’s house. He was not an adult. I was probably six. He was probably twelve or thirteen. Of course, he knew better. He knew he shouldn’t have been doing that, but I didn’t know that it was molestation. I just thought I was doing what he told me to do.

I didn’t recognize that what had happened to me was wrong and damaging until later in life when I watched something on Oprah. This girl was describing something that happened to her, and she named it molestation, and I just broke. I was, “That’s what happened to me.” I was a very sexual child and did not necessarily know why. To me it was just like, “Oh, I was exposed to something I should not have been exposed to way too early.” You mix molestation with fatherlessness, single-parent, pornography, and gender confusion and you just have . . . I was just all over the place.

Nancy: How did you get connected with pornography?

Jackie: Cable. I had cable in my room. And then people’s houses. I would go over there, and they had cable. You knew what channel to turn to at what time it would be on. I watched it all the time when I would be outside of my home.

Nancy: Did you have any friends as you got into middle school or high school that you knew to be gay? When did you start to have a category for that?

Jackie: Middle school was when people were a lot more open about their sexuality. There were girls that were gay, but it wasn’t “the thing” at that time. This was probably fifteen years ago. It wasn’t as acceptable to be gay.

But the funny part about it is when I did begin to explore gayness or lesbianism, it came by way of someone I met in middle school that was gay. She came onto me. I already had a relationship, a friendship with her. So it was somebody that was familiar to me that introduced me into it that made me want to pursue it, because I would have never pursued it by myself. I think I needed to be invited in.

Nancy: And that first invitation came when?

Jackie: High school. I was a senior. I was seventeen. She came up to me, and she said, “Jackie, when are you going to be my girlfriend?” I was, like, “Ew, like, that’s gay,” because I had to act like I didn’t like it. But when she said it, I fronted like that’s not how I felt, that’s not something I wanted to do.

But when I went home, I sat in my room and really debated for a long time. “Should I pursue this? Should I do it? This is your only chance. You might as well try.” It was just like I thinking about the last seventeen years of my life and how this was something I’d been wanting to do, so why not do it? I think I was, “Yes. I made up in my mind. Let’s just see what happens.”

Nancy: And what happened?

Jackie: I hit her up on Myspace, because Myspace was cool back then. Then we engaged in a relationship. It was interesting because when we kissed for the first time, it didn’t feel strange. It didn’t feel like I was doing something awkward. It felt like, “Oh, I should have been doing this a long time ago.”

She told me, “Jackie, you’ve always been gay.” The way I acted, it was as if . . . So to me, I think that experience solidified what I thought about my identity, which is, “I am a gay person.”

Nancy: Now, I know to a lot of our listeners. This is . . .

Jackie: Candid.

Nancy: Candid, maybe out of the comfort zone for some.

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: I think a lot of our listeners have probably never had a conversation like this with someone face to face, and it can feel awkward or uncomfortable. But I think it’s really important that we begin to hear and unpack what’s going on in the hearts of people because it’s in every family, every church—maybe not every, but it is so much more common.

Rather than just being afraid to talk about it, or say, “We’re not going to talk about it” . . . Obviously, listeners who have a young child with them, there’s an appropriate time and place to be exposed to this kind of story.

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: This was so foreign for my own background that I find it’s really helpful, not to in any way dramatize or glamorize sin, but to get at some understanding of how the enemy works and what kind of lies people believe that can ultimately take them down a path that is not God’s best for them, but it’s the enemy after them.

So now you’re having your first taste of what this lesbian life is like, and it’s feeling right to you. It’s feeling normal. Where did you go from there?

Jackie: So we were together for a few days. I said to myself, “Okay, let me try to go back to guys, because I know God doesn’t like gay people. So let me try to be straight.” So I tried to be in a relationship with this guy, and when we kissed, it was gross to me. This was somebody I’d kissed before, but it was like, “I must be gay, because I don’t like this. I don’t like him. I don’t like his masculinity. I don’t like his manliness.”

So I just sought out another relationship with a woman, and from there is when I entered into an almost two-year relationship with another woman. And all of this was still secret. Nobody knew except one person at that time. My mother didn’t know. My family didn’t know. My friends didn’t know, because it wasn’t acceptable. I didn’t want to be shamed.

In my relationship with the one young lady is when I transitioned into being a stud. A stud in the black community and the white gay communities, there are different definitions and different roles, in a sense. So in the black community, a stud is a woman who dresses like a man, kind of plays the role of a man. In white communities, that might be termed as “butch.”

When I started to dress that way, it was interesting because I started to get attention from women in ways I never got from men. It was like women liked me and wanted me. So it was like, “Man, I never felt affirmed. I never felt wanted. I never felt desired by men.” So the clothing, though it was comfortable, it was also a means to feel love, or so I thought. I really started to go headfirst into that world and being that way, but it also exposed me way quicker because now you look like what you feel.

Nancy: So did you have any people in your life that saying, “What gives here? What’s going on?”

Jackie: My mother. Do you want to know the way she found out? I think it was a God thing. We’re in the car . . .

Nancy: Your mother who really didn’t have a relationship with Christ?

Jackie: No, right. We’re in the car. She’s listening to the radio, and the topic of the talk show radio was having mothers call in about how they found out that their daughters were gay, and what were the signs, and all of the signs were me.

I’m just sitting in the car, like, “Why is this on at the same time that I’m in the car?”

And she looked over, and she said, “Is that you?”

And I said, “Yes,” and I just cried because it felt scary for her to know that part about me.

Our relationship changed in a lot of ways. She started to treat me like . . . The friends that I had, she didn’t see them as friends anymore; they were all potential women that I was engaging in a relationship with.

But at the same time that I was coming out as a lesbian, I was equally becoming more rebellious. I was smoking weed, stealing, getting locked up—all that type of stuff. So our relationship was on the rocks for a long time.

Nancy: Did you know any Christian women that you respected, that you looked up to, or that were speaking into your life at all? Or was that just a totally different world for you?

Jackie: No. I never was witnessed to, never had any communication with Christians. One circumstance I remember that spoke to my heart was I was at an event, and my friend Taylor was telling this testimony about how God did something in her life. She just started to cry and weep about how good God is, and how she loves Him, and how He’s just good and merciful and faithful.

I remember I thought it so strange that someone would cry about God. It was, like, “Who is this God for you to have so much emotion about Him?” I saw God as someone who was a master over people, and they just stopped listening to certain music and wear long dresses and go to church all the time. But her relationship with Him seemed so authentic and so good to her that it convicted me of sin. It convicted me of, “Clearly I don’t look at God that way, the same way that you do.”

But she was the only Christian I probably engaged with often.

Nancy: What a good reminder that even while people are out in this far place away from the Lord, He’s still active. He’s alive. He is planting seeds many times in their lives we may not know about. You may have a child who’s far from the Lord, but you don’t know who God may be bringing into their life to create some kind of appetite or hunger for the Lord that’s a positive one.

So now you’re continuing in this lesbian lifestyle. Are you enjoying it?

Jackie: I had fun, if you call it that. I enjoyed women. I enjoyed what I felt they brought me because when I think about my childhood, my dad wasn’t in my life, my mother was. So I enjoyed people who communicated to me in ways that my mother did. I enjoyed the nurturing part of it. I enjoyed the concern. It felt like, when I had relationships with men, it seemed to just always surround sex. It was like they all just wanted me for my body.

But when I was with women, it felt like they just wanted me, who I was, my mind, my intellect, my humor, just who I was, even though I wasn’t even being who I was in behaving like a man.

So that aspect I enjoyed it. But, in the midst of all of that, I never had peace. I never, ever, ever had peace. My conscience would never allow me to be okay with where I was, to the point that I would always tell my girlfriends, “You know God isn’t happy with this, right?”

They were like, “What do you mean?”

I was like, “God doesn’t like this. He’s not okay with it.”

And so they’d say, “Why are you gay then?”

I would say, “I’m going to get saved when I’m twenty-seven.” I used to say that I’m going to get saved when I’m twenty-seven or when the tribulation happens. I think God did not allow my conscience to get hard. He really, really pursued me for a long time.

Nancy: What were some evidences that He was pursuing you?

Jackie: I think the awareness that my sin was not okay. Even though I was surrounded by people who were trying to justify it with Scripture, to me it was plain in the Word that this is not all right before God.

Nancy: What kind of people were trying to justify it with Scripture?

Jackie: The gay people I was friends with were saying that they were born gay, that Christians interpret Scripture wrong, stuff like that. I felt like they were lying. It was, like, “I think you’re trying to use Scripture to make yourself feel better about yourself.”

It was, like, I know I’m not all right with God. I know I’m going to go to hell if I die. I was convinced of that. I just did not know how not to act out on my nature. How do you stop doing this?

I tried to stop “sinning,” several times, and it never worked. I said the sinner’s prayer. I read books. It was just nothing seemed to work. So I felt like, “If I can’t live like a Christian”—because I didn’t know that Christianity was a supernatural work of God’s Spirit by grace. I had no idea about that. I thought Christians were people that just stopped doing bad stuff. And when I tried to stop doing bad stuff, it didn’t work, so I might as well just be a sinner.

Nancy: So it’s not like what you were doing was bad and wrong, but it also felt natural, normal?

Jackie: Yes, and impossible to stop. It just felt like an impossible feat to try to not like women, to try to not engage in relationships, to try to not act out in anger, to try to not watch pornography. Like, how do you stop doing this stuff when you don’t have the capacity to? That’s why I needed the Holy Spirit.

Nancy: So, you say the Lord’s pursuing you.

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: He obviously had His eye on you this whole time.

Jackie: Yes.

Nancy: How did you become aware of that?

Jackie: Six months prior to my conversion is when my convictions felt like they were increasing. It felt like it wasn’t as easy to act like they didn’t exist. Yet I remember doing stuff with girls and just . . . I felt the war. I felt like, “God is near.” It kind of scared me. But it just felt like this awareness of God, and I felt as if He was speaking to my heart.

My friend Taylor, the one I mentioned about her testimony with the Lord, I remember her writing me in my Facebook inbox. She said, “Jackie, you’re beautiful.”

I hadn’t heard that I was beautiful dressed that way in years. So for someone to call me a feminine attribute, it did something to my heart. I called my cousin Keisha, and I said, “Keisha, I feel like God is calling me, but I don’t want Him. I don’t want to be a Christian. I don’t want to stop going to clubs. I don’t want to stop drinking. I don’t want to stop doing what I’m doing. But I feel like I can’t shake this feeling of God.”

And she said, “You know what? God loves you, and He’s going to get you, but He’s going to show you that you need Him.”

I didn’t really know what she meant by that. I just thought it was some Christian word, or something like that. But He did. Shortly after that, my dad died. When he died, it didn’t make me want to pursue God any less or any more, but it did kind of kill this idea in my heart that we would ever have a relationship.

When he died, that’s when I just started to engage in all types of crazy activities. I told one of my friends, “Does God want me this much?” I literally had this conversation while I was going out with somebody on weed. I was, like, “I feel like God. Is He really trying to make me need Him? Because I just don’t understand.”

So that led up to October 2008, when I finally gave my life to Jesus.

Leslie: Jackie Hill Perry has an amazing story of finding freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. She’ll be here telling us about her journey all this week on Revive Our Hearts.

Maybe you know someone struggling with some of the same issues or questions Jackie had. You can point them to this program by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com. There you can download the audio or read the transcript.

And we’re excited because Jackie will be speaking this year, when Revive Our Hearts hosts another True Woman conference. Nancy’s here to tell you more about it.

Nancy: The theme of this year’s conference is “The Truth That Sets Us Free.” Speakers like Mary Kassian, Dannah Gresh and our guest today Jackie Hill Perry are going to be giving us practical, Bible-based teaching, inspired by the chapters in my book Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free.

So they are going to be compact messages—mostly around twenty minutes—that are interspersed with worship and drama. We are going to walk together through a process of being set free by the truth. True Woman '18 is coming to Indianapolis, September 27–29. We expect the conference to sell out by summer, so you need to not wait too long to get registered, and you can still get in on the early registration discount if you register by May 1. You can get all the details at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959. 

Leslie: After coming to faith in Christ and leaving he homosexual lifestyle, Jackie Hill Perry met a woman who began to disciple her in gospel truth.

Jackie: She let me know, “Jackie, homosexuality is not your only problem.” She was, like, “Pride is a problem. Fear is a problem. Lust is a problem. Stewardship is a problem.” She was, like, "You need to learn how to make God Lord in everything, not just in your sexuality."

Leslie: Hear about that helpful mentoring relationship tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.