Gay Girl, Good God – Jackie Hill Perry

Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was and Who God Has Always Been by Jackie Hill Perry
Also by this author: His Testimonies, My Heritage: Women of Color on the Word of God
Published by B&H Publishing on September 3, 2018
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Memoir
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four-half-stars

"I used to be a lesbian."
In
Gay Girl, Good God
, author Jackie Hill Perry shares her own story, offering practical tools that helped her in the process of finding wholeness. Jackie grew up fatherless, experienced gender confusion, and embraced both masculinity and homosexuality with every fiber of her being. She knew that Christians had a lot to say about all of the above. But was she supposed to change herself? How was she supposed to stop loving women, when homosexuality felt more natural to her than heterosexuality ever could?
At age nineteen, Jackie came face-to-face with what it meant to be made new. And not in a church, or through contact with Christians. God broke in and turned her heart toward Him right in her own bedroom in light of His gospel.
Read in order to understand. Read in order to hope. Or read in order, like Jackie, to be made new.

There is perhaps no bigger social and relational issue in the church right now than LGBTQ+ issues. It is imperative that our churches—pastors and laypeople—be able to define their theology of sexuality and gender identity, appropriately engage with people in the LGBTQ+ community, and lead them to begin or deepen their relationship with Christ.

To that end, I have taken a journey to educate myself. And the way in which I educate myself is by reading books. I’ve read scholarly studies and theological treatises, but I wanted to turn to the writings of those who have same-sex attraction but also believe acting on that to be sinful.

In this review, I don’t want to unpack my own theological position with all its nuances. Suffice it to say that I think if a person with same-sex attraction feels convicted in not acting on that attraction, I believe it is a conviction they should follow.

Gay Girl, Good God is a book that had been on my radar for a while. It was one of the first memoirs recommended to me when I began this journey of educating myself on Christian LGBTQ+ perspectives. (Born Again This Way by Rachel Gilson [non-affirming] and Boy Erased by Garrard Conley [affirming] being the other two.)

Jackie Hill Perry follows a fairly chronological timeline, dividing the book into two parts. The first two deal with her life before and after Christ, respectively. The third is the theological backdrop meant to provide support and resources to a same-sex attracted Christian who believes acting on those feelings to be sinful.

Jackie Hill Perry’s writing is as smooth as her poetry. Gay Girl, Good God is written in narrative form, but the flow of a poet come out of the story as she describes her feelings, her surroundings, and her situation in compelling detail.

Her relationship with her now-husband, Preston, serves as focal point of her change—not her change in sexual identity, but her change in the place of that identity from central to peripheral. It might be confusing how someone with same-sex attraction could be attracted to, well, a different sex. Jackie Hill Perry makes the convincing case through her owns words and relationship that sexual identity isn’t the focal point of a marriage relationship.

She describes her journey to Christ and how it was not only clouded by her sexual identity but her perspective on God’s view of her sexual identity. She writes that, before she came to Christ:

If only I could just be straight, and lay aside my homosexuality, God would accept me and call me his own…This delusion was the belief that only one aspect of my life was worthy of judgment, while the rest deserved heaven.

This perspective makes Gay Girl, Good God conceptually wider than just about homosexuality. Insert any perceived sin here. Heterosexual readers can identify with her struggle because she places her struggles in proper context. For too long, Christians have viewed homosexuality—not even the practice but the predilection—as Super Mega Sin. Jackie Hill Perry rightly sets her own struggles in the context of every other sin. Readers are able to empathize with her because they’re thinking of their own areas of struggle.

God was not calling me to be straight; He was calling me to Himself. The choice to lay aside sin and take hold of holiness was not synonymous with heterosexuality.   

This recontextualization of the place of sexuality in terms of human identity changes the conversation for both sides. It forces those in the LGBTQ+ community to assess if they really want their sexuality to be the sole (or at least, core) focus of identity. And, more importantly, it forces anti-gay Christians to focus on their own areas of struggle and ask they are so willing to identify and judge someone for their perceived sin, yet excuse and justify their own.

The flaw in Gay Girl, Good God is its lack of discussion toward those who follow Christ but have come to different convictions regarding the appropriateness of same-sex behavior and attraction. It does a disservice to faithful LGBTQ+ Christians to not even mention that one’s relationship with Christ is not based on sexual practice. The simplicity of when I became a Christian I knew I had to stop sinning is nice, but it belies so many believers who have, at least in their own convictions, reconciled their faith with their sexuality.

In the end, I would have liked to have gone deeper. This is full and fulfilling book for pretty much everyone except those with same-sex attraction who 1) aren’t sure the Bible precludes same-sex behavior or 2) experience same-sex attraction and are questioning if a heterosexual marriage would be successful. Gay Girl, Good God is an outstanding memoir, but I wonder if it will impact the people who need this story the most.

four-half-stars

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