Bullying Tactics and Billy Porter

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Joined in 2007
November 29, 2007, 19:07

Bully pulpit

On Saturday, July 22, at 8:30 p.m., Broadway star Billy Porter will protest in song outside Focus on the Family as Soulforce completes its 1,000-watt March, Vigil, and Concert, confronting the antigay bigotry of James Dobson. As Porter prepares for the demonstration, he looks back at how Christianity affected his younger self.

By Billy Porter

An exclusive posted July 21, 2006

There’s an old hymn that says, “This little light of mine / I’m going to let it shine / Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!” I used to sing this song in church when I was a little boy armed with the belief that the light inside of me was one that was worth shining. My voice was my direct connection to God, and I sang proudly in my Pentecostal church choir every week with the unwavering impression that God was a loving God and that I was one of his children. I was taught that God’s love was unconditional and that anyone could be the recipient of it—as long as they “believed in their hearts and spoke with their mouths.”

As early as the age of 7 I remember the adults in my life engaging in conversations behind closed doors, whispering to my mother about how “my light” might be shining just a little too brightly. For you see, my light was not a small simple light, it was opalescent—a rainbow of effulgent light whose colors were synonymous with sin. I didn’t know why I felt sinful at the time; I just knew somewhere deep inside that I was. I prayed for deliverance. I prayed for a healing. I prayed for my light to shine an appropriate and subtle white: “Dear Lord, whatever is inside of me that’s not pleasing to you—take it out.” Then puberty hit, and I realized what all the fuss was about. The whispering and private conversations even became personal attacks from the pulpit. It seemed like not a single service could go by without some passive-aggressive minister or evangelist brandishing Leviticus 18:22 in my face. It became so toxic that I stopped wanting even to go to church since every time I was there I was either being told that I was an abomination and a disgrace or that AIDS was punishment for my homosexual urges. Something I didn’t even have control over was causing an international plague. My light was dimming.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came at the Believers Convention, where the now-famous televangelist Joyce Meyer was the headlining minister of the evening. The conference was happening in my hometown of Pittsburgh, and I was invited to be the soloist. Something in my spirit told me not to go, but my mother really wanted me to, so I accepted the invitation. My solo was situated in the service directly before Meyer was to bring forth “the word.” After finishing my song, I returned to my seat in the congregation, which was about three fourths of the way towards the back of the sanctuary. Meyer rose from her seat in the pulpit to preach, and the first words out of her mouth were, “Brother Porter, I want to talk to you. Won’t you stand up for me?”

I stood.

“The Lord spoke to me, and I have a word from Him. He told me to tell you that every time you come into the house of the Lord, you need to sit in the front pew. Because if you sit in the front pew every time you come into the house of the Lord, it’ll keep you straight.”

There were audible gasps. I took the walk of shame to the front pew as the multiple thousands in the congregation glared in pious silence. Pastor Meyer proceeded to dive into her sermon and skillfully pull out some Bible verse that swirled her public outing of me into some message about living on the “straight and narrow.” My light was officially out.

“This little light of mine / I’m going to let it…”

I prayed to be fixed, but He didn’t do it. I prayed to be healed, but I was still a homo. I spent a decade rejecting religion. I took my inappropriate light and decided to shine her elsewhere. There was no place for me at the table where the feast of the Lord was going on. I allowed the dogmas and arbiters of the religious right to take my God away. I lurked silently in the shadows of shame while my gay brothers and sisters were dying. And then on September 12, 2001, I woke up and my voice was gone. The only thing that made me want to live was gone. I prayed. I asked the Lord why. And then came Jerry Falwell’s blame: “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way—all of them who have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.'”

And there it was again: my sexuality exposed as the cause of all the world’s horrors. The Lord spoke to me this time—directly—and I finally listened. “Speak up, and speak out, and I will give you voice.” So here I stand. Speaking up, speaking out, and letting my glorious light shine like it should. I recently sat in the New York City hospital room of my dear friend Kevin Aviance after he was savagely beaten on an East Village street for being gay, and I thought to myself, Where are our leaders? Where are the people with influence who will stand up for me and my gay brethren? I am disappointed with our government. I am disappointed with our nation. But I am the most disappointed with my African-American ‘Christian’ brothers and sisters who stand proudly on their pulpits and use the Bible to regurgitate the very same hate rhetoric that was inflicted on the black community not so long ago.

I never considered myself an activist in the past. I respect that title too much to take it lightly. But with the recent increase in hate-bias attacks directed toward our community, and the struggle for us to gain the simplest of civil rights, I am filled with a raging sense of activism. Our bodies, our health, and our basic civil liberties are at stake. It is time to let the world know: We will not let you take our God away. We will not be ignored! We will not be denied! And if God is going to send us to a burning hell for being the people that He created us to be—we’ll see each and every one of you there.

“Shine! Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!”

To find out more about the Soulforce 1,000-watt March, Vigil, and Concert, go to <> .

Porter is a singer, dancer, actor, director, songwriter, and playwright whose most recent project was the lauded Ghetto Superstar: The Man That I Am.

Joined in 2007
November 29, 2007, 23:05

I don’t know why it shocked me so much to read the words that Joyce Meyer said to this man…

I shouldn’t be surprised, honestly.

I think the march and vigil is a great idea. I wish I could be there.


Anthony Venn-Brown
Joined in 2005
November 29, 2007, 23:36

more and more of us are standing up and saying no…….our voice is getting stronger.

Joyce…….mmmmm…..there are some things i could say but i’ll restrain myself…….all will be revealed.

Joined in 2007
November 30, 2007, 00:07

Hiya Mags

Unfortunately the march and concert thingy was last year, however I agree that Joyce has a lot to answer for and I don;t believe God would fully endorse her as a Patron for Christ, but God works in funny ways and that one comment might have triggered off the minds of those that heard it and made them realise that what she was saying was wrong and definitely missplaced.

My church in country Victoria and Broken Hill both outed me in a similar way, however they told me that I would not be welcome there as a blatant Homosexual, so instead of fighting it, I just walked away in search of those that would accept me for who I was.

My opinion is let the bigots destroy themselves and let those that are worthy of God be in God’s presence, and at the end those bigots will be surprised to see me right up there with God as well.

Meanwhile, don;t forget it is World Aids Day on Saturday. May we remeber those that live daily with HIV/AIDS and remember those that Have Passed away.


Joined in 2006
November 30, 2007, 12:55

Gob smacked and disapointed ( Thats just bloody awful…….Joyce certainly isnt the Joyce I used to listen to and enjoyed.

BTW Welcome J )

Anthony Venn-Brown
Joined in 2005
December 1, 2007, 13:48

possibly Joyce is like us all……..a limited knowledge and experience…..but sometimes thinking we know the answers.

Dove Snuggler
Joined in 2007
December 1, 2007, 21:13

Hi Jason

This is all very moving and too close to home. I could never understand why young gay people chose to leave the church behind as you did. I often asked Christian friends why gays and lesbians couldn’t be accepted and stay in their church communities. The rhetoric of God’s endless love seemed so much bigger to me than any idea of bigotry and I grieved for those I thought were unnecessarily ‘lost’.

But this was me as a naive mature adult who hadn’t come at out at that point in time … until I made the mistake 9 years ago of disclosing unintentionally to my employer that I was gay. My employer was one of the country’s most impressive Christian charitable organisations. I was disgraced, publicly outed to the entire management team and lived for the next few years in the fear that my secret might be disclosed to my church, my friends and my relatives. Paranoid? The wife of one of the managers worked with my ex-wife and my former pastor was a friend of another. The pastor at my brother-in-law’s church was related to another. After I left the organisation I discovered the ‘rumour’ was spread amongst my workmates. Suicide loomed as my only option and it was a hellishly demoralising phase of my life.

I struggle to understand how God loves so called Christians who push GLBTIQ people out of their congregations. Joyce reinforced this by publicly humiliating Billy Porter. The miracle is that you and I and many others have survived. The bonus is that we can tell our stories. It’s evidence that we can become stronger despite bullying tactics.

Joined in 2007
December 2, 2007, 09:32

Dear Mr Snuggler

I am at a loss to know what goes through parishioner’s minds when they hear of somone’s homosexuality, or when they hear the prayer gossip chain. Unfortunately I can’t see it changing too much but it is a good thing that some find their way to a church that will accept them, such as you and I and others that will be readign this.

may our lives be a witness for Christ and may we get all the right answers so that when we are asked to justify our existence in God’s family, we will have the right answers.

i am still yet to find all those answers and I am endeavouring to find them out, so if you have bible verses to share with me, i am grateful. Until then I will walk on in the faith that God chose me a long time ago when I entered the ministry and even when I left the ministry he still held me in his hand and lead me across the rocky paths back onto the smoother way.

that rocky path was Hell for me because I had to still come to terms with the loss of my wife and son and partner and wonder why God had thrown me out. It took a while to realise that God still had hold of my hand because I was too obsessed with coping with the rocks.

I am Glad I have found the smoother path but I can see there are going to be rocks ahead that I will have to get through at some time.

Yours In Christ


PS, thanks anthony, for suggesting that I post that article, because it has sparked some great discussion.

Anthony Venn-Brown
Joined in 2005
December 2, 2007, 12:05

Unfortunately for many uninformed Christians they have come up with the equation homosexuality=immorality/promiscuity. All their assumptions of gay men and lesbians are based on that belief.

We know this is not the case…….and its up to us to declare it and live it.

Good to have you active in our forum Jason.

Dove Snuggler
Joined in 2007
December 2, 2007, 22:25

Jason said:

“may our lives be a witness for Christ and may we get all the right answers so that when we are asked to justify our existence in God’s family, we will have the right answers.

i am still yet to find all those answers and I am endeavouring to find them out, so if you have bible verses to share with me, i am grateful.”

Bible verses? A challenge indeed! Perhaps the Bible can be used to prove anything politically speaking … isn’t that just a matter of selling an idea to an unsuspecting bystander in a very convincing way. (A favourite of Christian homophobes).

Reality speaking, does the Bible prove anything? The Bible minus faith is what the heathen generations of our nation have become cynical about. Perhaps faith, passion and justice PLUS a recognition that the Bible is stacked with abstract mystery is about all we need to arm ourselves with.

I’m certainly open to hear enlightening verses like John 3:16 and many reminders that God is love. Plus I appreciate the wisdom of Justin Cannon at

Any way we can strengthen each other on the path is pure gold.


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