Jackie Hill-Perry, a 27 year old St. Louis native, is a writer, speaker, mother, and artist. Her work has been featured in the Washington Times, The 700 Club, Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, among other publications. Since the 2014 release of her record “The Art of Joy” with Humble Beast Records, her voice has become increasingly influential on various topics impacting our culture today, including sexuality, femininity, and race. Her voice resounds from a unique vantage point as both an incredibly skilled lyricist, and as woman who has experienced the radical, life-changing grace and power of Jesus Christ.
Hill-Perry grew up without her father, which framed her opinion of men in a very negative way from early in life. At The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), Hill-Perry shared that her “thoughts about men were in constant juxtaposition with [her] experience with women.” While her father was inconsistent and inconsiderate, her mother was consistent with her speech and her actions. Women in Jackie’s life made her feel safe; men did not. This also affected her perception of what it meant to be a woman. She despised the cultural vulnerability of women. She despised the perception that men were strong and women were weak; that men were leaders and women were subordinate. This mindset, paired with a growing attraction to the same sex, led her to a lifestyle of lesbianism, through which she pursued masculinity. Perry states, “from my hair to the clothes that I wore, they were all a means of projecting a gender different than the one given to me by God.”
At the age of 19, set on a quest for independence and autonomy, Hill-Perry was heading in a dangerous direction. But in the midst of her rebellion, she was met by a sovereign, gracious God who broke in and turned her heart towards Him in repentance and faith. Through the gospel she yielded to the Lord and God’s Spirit began to change her mindset and redeem her from years of habitual sin. Hill-Perry began to embrace the Lord’s plan for her life.
As she grew in the truth, the Lord provided a man who would later become her husband. And while Perry’s life has certainly been filled with challenges since turning to the Lord, she testifies that God has faithfully provided women and men to walk beside her and to help her embrace God’s truth as the pathway to joy. Perry states, “The awareness of the absolute and utterly majestic worthiness of Christ could only but make surrender impulsive. How can one meet God and not give him everything, including my mind?”
Because of her journey, Hill-Perry has a unique opportunity to use her talents to speak poignantly and convictionally regarding gender and sexuality, and she is not wasting the opportunity.
From her days of rejecting her woman-ness and seeking to be masculine, she now celebrates the gentleness and meekness of femininity as a reflection of Christ’s meekness on earth.
“God has given women a sort of softness that has the ability to complement men in very fruitful ways, mainly as their helpers. He has given men a “hardness” or strong backbone and called them to be the protectors and leaders. Neither is better than the other; both are actually servants of each other for the glory of God. And that is a good thing.”
Perry sees the distinctions between men and women as a beautiful part of God’s plan for our lives, intended for His glory. She tells people that God is good and wise, and that He knows exactly what He is doing when he creates us as either a woman or a man.
The same is true, she believes, regarding sexuality. In one of her most powerful pieces of writing, a blog titled, “Love Letter To A Lesbian”, Perry writes,
“I just want you to know that I understand. I understand how it feels to be in love with a woman. To want nothing more than to be with her forever. Feeling as if the universe has played a cruel joke on your heart by allowing it to fall into the hands of a creature that looks just like you. I too was a lesbian. I had same-sex attractions as early as five years old.”
She goes on to explain the struggle and eventual caving-in to such desire. But then she writes,
In October 2008, at the age of nineteen, my superficial reality was shaken up by a deeper love — one from the outside, one that I’d heard of before but never experienced…I looked at my life, and saw that I had been in love with everything except God, and these decisions would ultimately be the death of me, eternally. My eyes were opened, and I began to believe everything God says in his word. I began to believe that what he says about sin, death, and hell were completely true.
And amazingly, at the same time that the penalty of my sin became true to me, so did the preciousness of the cross. A vision of God’s Son crucified, bearing the wrath I deserved, and an empty tomb displaying his power over death — all things I had heard before without any interest had become the most glorious revelation of love imaginable.
After realizing all of what I would have to give up, I said to God, “I cannot let these things or people go on my own. I love them too much. But I know you are good and strong enough to help me.”
Now, at the age of 23, I can say with all honesty that God has done just that. He has helped me love him more than anything.
The issues into which JHP speaks are real and relevant, making her commentary on them prophetic and pertinent. We live in a society that glorifies the perversion of our sexuality and rejects the Bible’s teaching regarding gender. But on the flip-side, the church often does a poor job of communicating truth graciously, condemning and disowning those dealing with sin rather than lovingly pointing them to Christ. Jackie Hill-Perry points us to a better way. Her testimony is an encouragement to believers and non-believers alike, that the real hope for our world the life-altering announcement of the grace that comes through Jesus.
Ultimately, Perry’s message is about joy. “God’s commandments are so linked to his character,” she says in one interview. “He is good. So his commandments are also good for those who love him, and even those who don’t love him.” Perry’s fundamental belief is that when God gives a commandment, it’s because he loves us and is after our deepest joy. And though this is at times hard to believe, because our feelings and longings are deeply rooted, we must nonetheless fight for faith. At one point Perry writes,
“Jackie, you have to believe that my word is true even if it contradicts how you feel.” Wow! This is right. Either I trust in his word or I trust my own feelings. Either I look to him for the pleasure my soul craves or I search for it in lesser things. Either I walk in obedience to what he says or I reject his truth as if it were a lie. The struggle with homosexuality is a battle of faith. Is God my joy? Is he good enough? Or am I still looking to broken cisterns to quench a thirst only he can satisfy? That is the battle. It is for me, and it is for you.
Jackie Hill-Perry is married to Preston Perry, and together they are raising their daughter, which she now sees as her primary calling. Alongside of motherhood, she continues to share her story and the glory of the gospel through spoken word, poetry, and speaking. You can find Jackie’s album, "The Art of Joy" on iTunes, Spotify, and other music mediums. Listen to other works by Jackie Hill Perry on https://www.youtube.com/user/MyNameIsJackieHill. You can also find her next events and other media on her website: http://www.jackiehillperry.com/.