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Rev. Troy Perry responds to Millennium March Controversy

I have had a chance to review the news release and the text of the ad prepared by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Millennium March on Washington.

I want to call attention to the press, and to all people of goodwill, that both the release and the ad contain erroneous and misleading information. While my 30 years of activism on behalf of social and spiritual justice for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered persons have taught me to respect and encourage diversity, our dialogue must be based upon truth-telling and an honest presentation of the facts.

I draw your attention to the following misrepresentations:

1. The news release describes the initial goals of the Millennium March on Washington as "Faith and Family." This is false. This has never been the theme, the proposed theme or the goal of the Millennium March. I have never attended any meeting at which any such theme was voted upon. While we certainly have explored ways to involved GLBT people of faith, this has never been the theme of the March. I personally believe this misleading statement continues to be repeated solely because it is inflammatory. It is not true.

2. The news release accuses the March organizers of pushing an "increasingly conservative direction of the l/g/b/t movement." This is an accusation without support. Again, the facts are just the opposite. Every public statement on the Millennium March has assured the community that the March will be as diverse and representative as the broad diversity of all our GLBT communities. I have personally insisted that my participation was contingent upon full inclusion of the leather community, the transgendered community, people of color -- of all the groups that contribute to our GLBT rainbow.

3. The news release misrepresents the June planning meeting by stating "we...were offered one vote in exchange for silence by the other eight [members of the Ad Hoc Committee]." But this leaves out some very vital information: More than 40 representatives of national and regional GLBT groups participated in that meeting. Every group participating had one designated representative with one vote. The Ad Hoc Committee was given the very same option to fully participate by designating a representative -- co-equal with every other organization. The Ad Hoc Committee refused, insisting on eight representatives from their group and eight votes. That is the very opposite of the fair and democratic process they call for.

4. The news release notes that members of the Ad Hoc Committee "do not fit into the corporate image of an 'American family.'" This imagery does not further our debate -- it is designed to inflame elements of the GLBT community. I know of no one calling for the Millennium March to either fit a "corporate image" nor to typify an average "American family." Again, all calls have been for the Millennium March to be fully representative of the broad diversity within our communities.

5. The news release claims, "That these national organizations project white Christian middle-class representations and set the agenda accordingly is nothing less than institutionalized racism." This statement is patently offensive to the many African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders who hold leadership positions within our organizations. This statement writes off the broad representation of the leather community, the trans community and the bi community in our organizations. This statement wholly ignores the valuable contributions made to our GLBT organizations by people from every economic strata. I think both the Religious Right and mainline spirituality groups would find it laughable, say, for Metropolitan Community Churches to be described as "white Christian middle-class representations." By the way, UFMCC has stood unreservedly for freedom of religion for those who seek to nurture spirituality, and for freedom from religion for those who have found it oppressive.

6. The news release erroneously claims that "no genuine effort is made to include...lgbt's from different races, classes, sexualities and genders." In fact, the Board of Directors is under a mandate to give leadership parity based upon both race and gender, to give priority to inclusion of the bisexual and transgendered communities, and to include representation from every geographical area of the US.

7. The news release claims that "the first step toward equality should always begin in our own communities." I agree unreservedly. No national or regional organization exists without first having built a grassroots constituency. The national and regional organizations participating in the Millennium March have literally thousands of local chapters, groups, members and offices in towns and cities and counties and voting districts throughout the United States. What better way to bring accountability to this work than by knowing that these organizations have presented a message which has reflected the grassroots concerns and interests of tens of thousands of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered persons?

8. The reality is that there is significant hostility within our community toward spirituality. I have dealt with this for 30 years. I have a great sensitivity to the harm which has been done to gays and lesbians in the name of God. I also know that a majority of our community professes deep spirituality. In a community that professes commitment to diversity, that commitment must also extend to gay and lesbian people of faith. I realize that some have attacked the Millennium March because of the participation of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. Let me make myself clear: I paid the price to come out as a gay man and I'll be damned if I'm going back into the closet because I am religious.

I call upon our GLBT news media to refuse to print misleading allegations which at the least are divisive and which at worst are untruthful. Let our dialogue be about truth-telling, not misrepresentations.

I have participated in a leadership level at every March on Washington every held by the gay community. I have given my life to this cause. And I believe the GLBT communities can continue to find new strategies to reach our goals. We need not be wedded to the old ways of doing things. Much of the criticism I am hearing can be distilled to these seven words: "We never did it this way before."

I call upon the GLBT communities to embrace new and healthy ways of doing our business and making our diverse voices heard. I think the organizational structure of the Millennium March embraces new strategies without in any way sacrificing openness or the full participation of our community.

Our rights are truly under threat. The Radical Religious Right continues to take out national ads offering to "cure" us. Sexual McCarthyism is back in full force. Hate crimes continue to plague our community. Federal laws continue to deprive lesbians and gays of full equality in the areas of employment, marriage, family rights, and national service. This year alone two of our GLBT churches have faced bomb threats, and worshipers at numerous congregations have had to brave the hatred of protesters to achieve their constitutional right to assembly and worship.

With the threats against our community continuing to harm the lives of GLBT persons every day, it's time we stopped attacking ourselves. That is the old way of doing things. That is the outgrowth of internalized homophobia. We are not the enemy. We need to be united in a common effort. We need to raise our voices together on behalf of liberation and justice.

I've spent 30 years of my life seeking social and spiritual justice on behalf of GLBT people. As I look around today, I regularly meet with GLBT leaders who bring the very same passion and commitment to their work. Let's find a new way of doing our business, by affirming one another. Let's stop destroying our own and commit to work together.

The Millennium March on Washington will take place on April 30, 2000. I look forward to standing with one million of my gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered sisters and brothers as we once again take our movement and our voice to our nation's capital.  


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