Fuse is celebrating Pride Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future LGBTQ History before our eyes. Today we're sharing the story of Trey Pearson, who rose to Christian rock notoriety with the pop-punk band Everyday Sunday, which he formed in 1997 as a 16-year-old. The act became wildly successful in the aughts, playing in every state and finding commercial love with a half-dozen studio releases.
In June 2016, in a 12-page cover story in (614), a magazine in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, Pearson came out as gay, in the face of his faith community's teachings. "I have tried not to be gay for more than 20 years of my life," the 35-year-old wrote, lamenting the pain and confusion caused to his wife of more than seven years (and partner for a decade), the mother of his young son and daughter.
Pearson spoke of a lifetime of repression in "a very conservative Christian home where I was taught that my sexual orientation was a matter of choice, and had put all my faith into that." Pearson told (614) multiple friends had suspected his secret yet never approached him and "lovingly, ever said, 'Trey, do you think you might be gay?'" His faith has progressed greatly in recent years, while he was also coming to understand the graveness of sexuality-based intolerance, "the pressing issue of our time":
"People commit suicide over this. People lose family and friends because of the ignorance, and lack of acceptance. I am a part of this, I have been a victim of this, and I will speak out for the equal rights of all people."
He dreamed of acceptance in his conclusion, hoping that "people will hear my heart, and that I will still be loved." He told Religion News Service, “There is absolutely no conflict with accepting who I am and following Jesus. God wants me to be healthy, authentic, whole, integrated and my truest self.”
A few months after the (614) article, he announced he'd joined bands like Skillet, Switchfoot, Relient K and more at California's Joshua Fest:
Overwhelmed & honored!! I will be the FIRST OPENLY GAY ARTIST TO EVER PLAY A MAJOR CHRISTIAN MUSIC FESTIVAL! Share: https://t.co/LBe48uRkKG— Trey Pearson (@treypearson) August 8, 2016
A number of key staff members, all volunteers, announced they would abandon their posts if Pearson was permitted to perform. He canceled his solo set, not wishing to cripple the festival and lose money for its organizers, who had supported and invited Everyday Sunday for years. "If they keep me, I’m not going to perform anyway, because the festival is not even going to happen," he recollected later for Billboard.
Five Iron Frenzy, a childhood favorite of Trey's, ended up proposing that he join them onstage for a song, and he decided to go for it:
"I think there were a couple of surprised looks that I was there by a couple of people who didn’t want me there, but everybody was friendly. Of course I wish I could have done my own set, but in some ways this almost felt more powerful, because it was this band that I looked up to growing up that a lot of the fans looked up to, and all these guys from the other bands, too, standing with me in love.”
Fest owner Aaron Diello told Billboard a powerful anecdote about Pearson's actions affecting palpable change already:
"We really got to see something raw and unique happen to the core of people’s souls. I think there's a lot of annihilated kids out there that need the politics and theological debates of the church shelved. Jesus showed up in a powerful way during that performance. People were in tears, and not in a crazy Pentecostal way. Something bigger than us and our issues happened at that show."
In April of this year, Pearson dropped "Silver Horizon," a solo music video depicting same-sex love at home and before the church. "Coming from a systemic oppressive church culture that was brainwashing and made me feel like it wasn't okay to be my truest, best self, I wanted to shine a light on seeing that change, and the hope for a better future," he told Out, also looking to raise awareness that more churches are becoming "more open and affirming...and that the world is changing."
Pearson's career is changing, too. Everyday Sunday's last full-length record, Best Night of Our Lives, came in 2009, followed by a 2013 independent EP. He's "hung up the band," he told Out, and written more material for his solo album than ever before. "It feels like I've been able to tap into something creatively that I was never able to tap into when I was suppressed for so long. I think it's in our vulnerability where we truly connect with others, and so everything just feels so much deeper."
He's being asked to play more LGBTQ pride festivals than Christian music ones nowadays, although he says is relationship with God and the church is healthy, if not uncritical. A blog post on his website highlights the hashtag #faithfullyLGBT, encouraging belief and authentic living to proceed hand in hand. "I truly believe we are hurting people by the toxic theology of condemning same sex relationships, and I believe we have a chance to change this."
Pearson sees more supporters than attackers out there, telling the Guardian "it’s like all those loving people are just drowning out the hate." And he believes the church can follow suit:
"Overall, there's a lot of the church teaching extremely harmful theology, destroying millions of LGBT lives, and people around them, as well. It's not the church's first growing pains, let alone humanity's. We've had to work through, and are still working through, slavery, the oppression of women, Crusades, violence and so much more. I'm very grateful for how quickly it's changing right now, and definitely hope to see it continue to change."
Tune in to Fuse and come back to Fuse.tv every day for profiles, videos, galleries and more on the individuals around the world who are creating Future LGBTQ History. Join the conversation with #FutureHistory and find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder.
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