Jackie Hill-Perry considers herself not merely an agent of change, but its embodiment as well.
A Christian spoken-word poet from Chicago, Ms. Hill-Perry professes to be a former lesbian — a change she ascribes to God.
God, she says, “not only changes your affections and your heart, but He gives you new affections that you didn’t have.” Now married to a Christian man, the 25-year-old poet is pregnant with the newlyweds’ first child, which is due Dec. 13.
Her debut spoken-word album “The Art of Joy” will be released for free on Nov. 4 by Humble Beast record label.
Ms. Hill-Perry’s experience runs counter to pronouncements by gay rights groups that exclaim sexuality as an inherent, immutable characteristic. What’s more, her assertions come amid wide-ranging reports about the psychological dangers of so-called “reparative therapy,” which aims to change the orientation of homosexuals.
But she remains steadfast in her belief that anything is possible with God as she meets criticism — and outright contempt — for speaking out about her experience. And thanks to her nearly 65,000 followers on social media, as well as encouragement from famed Baptist theologian John Piper, Ms. Hill-Perry’s story has been far-reaching.
“The word of God itself, apart from Jackie Hill, testifies that people can change,” she said in a July 2013 report on Wade-O Radio, a syndicated Christian hip-hop broadcast based in New Jersey.
She was criticizing a lyric in rapper Macklemore’s Grammy Award-winning song “Same Love” that says “And I can’t change even if I tried, even if I wanted to.”
“I think we’ve made God very little if we believe that He cannot change people,” Ms. Hill-Perry said on Wade-O Radio. “If He can make a moon, stars and a galaxy that we have yet to fully comprehend, how can He not simply change my desires?”
Thousands of people on social media shared her comments — with approving or condemning remarks of their own. She estimates that about 40 percent of the messages she has received have been negative.
“On Twitter, this girl wrote me like 15 different tweets, pretty much saying that I was delusional, in denial and brainwashed,” Ms. Hill-Perry told The Washington Times.
After she married Preston Perry, another Christian spoken-word poet, in March, another Twitter critic accused them both of being gay and marrying to “play God to a bunch of ignorant people.”
Ms. Hill-Perry says she was sexually abused by a family friend when she 5. Around the same time, she experienced gender confusion that had coalesced into an attraction to women when she turned 17. She became sexually active with her first girlfriend, and then another. She became a regular at gay clubs and at gay pride parades in St. Louis.
While lying in bed in October 2008, she reflected on her lifestyle and had an epiphany that she addressed in her spoken-word piece “My Life as a Stud”: “Then, one day, the Lord spoke to me. He said, ‘She will be the death of you.’ In that moment, the scripture for the wages of sin equal death finally clicked.”
“What I had been taught in church until the age of 10 coincided with the truth in my conscious that a holy God and just God would be justified in sending me, an unrepentant sinner to hell,” she said, “but also that this same God sent His son to die on my behalf and forgive me if only I believe.”
She left her girlfriend and returned to church. The next year, she met her future husband at the first spoken-word event where she performed “My Life as a Stud.” Over time, she lost her attraction to women and gained an attraction to Mr. Perry, who she began dating three years later.
Now pregnant with a girl, Ms. Hill-Perry is concerned her daughter will face persecution for sharing her beliefs by the time she reaches 25 years old.
“I think we’re moving toward a time in our society when, in the next 20 to 25 years, Christians are going to see a massive amount of persecution when it comes to the topic of homosexuality, and there will be no such thing as tolerance for Christianity,” she says. “[People will believe that] if you’re a Christian, you are a horrible human being, period.”
“The true church of Jesus Christ will still stick to the Scriptures,” Ms. Hill-Perry says. “Now, those buildings that have people in them where the authority of God doesn’t trump their own feelings and emotions, I see a whole bunch of turning away from the faith — turning away from truth.”