An event proclaiming freedom of all kinds of sexual identity issues is set to occur this weekend in Washington, D.C., spearheaded by a man who identified as a gay and transgender for approximately 15 years. Several former LGBTQ speakers from a variety of backgrounds will be sharing their stories of how they encountered the living God.
Jeffrey McCall is the main organizer of what is being called The Freedom March, and in an interview with The Christian Post Wednesday, explained that despite constant talk in society about the perils of gay "conversion therapy," the March is centered on how the Holy Spirit has transformed the lives of countless people and their journeys of newness of life in Christ. And, he argued, a great shift in how things are done in the modern Church is currently underway, particularly as it relates to how Christians minister to the LGBTQ community.
McCall, 30, is from Franklin Springs, Georgia. He lived and identified as a homosexual man from ages 15 to 27, and as a transgender woman named "Scarlet" from ages 27 to 29.
The Freedom March will showcase the stories of people who lived and identified as lesbians, gay men, bisexual, transgender, and queer — including two survivors of the June 2016 Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Orlando — for many years but now have found a new life in Jesus Christ.
McCall first got the idea to do the event last fall and obtained the permit earlier this year, feeling called to do it in the nation's capital. The Freedom March will be held at the National Sylvan Theater near the Washington monument on Saturday from noon to 3 p.m.
The Christian Post spoke with McCall as he was traveling north from Georgia for this weekend's event, and below is a lightly edited transcript of the interview.
CP: You identified and lived for many years in a life you say you now reject. How did this 180 degree turn in coming to follow Jesus happen, particularly this change of ideas about who you are?
McCall: Well, it's funny to say but for years I actually listened to Jentezen Franklin (pastor of Free Chapel in Gainesville, Georgia) even when I was living as Scarlet. Just when I would hear this man's words I would just feel a conviction from the Holy Spirit that my life in homosexuality — I was very promiscuous, I'd even prostituted my body — the Holy Spirit was showing me that there was so much more for me.
CP: What drew you to Pastor Jentezen Franklin in particular?
McCall: I had gone to his church when I was in Georgia for a time while in undergrad. I was living as a homosexual at that point, wasn't living as Scarlet yet. I was drinking, doing drugs, prescription pills — I was addicted. But I felt the Holy Spirit there at his church. I just felt something there. It wasn't so much because it was a church building, it was just the gathering of the church members there, you know. I just felt the presence of God. It just kept drawing me back to Him. I did grow up in church. But when I was living as Scarlet I was not going to go to a church building. I knew a lot about how church people can be sometimes. But Jentezen Franklin was easy to access because he was all over YouTube and TV so I could catch him online and hear him preach.
I had one night where I had been out partying, and I came home and started crying on my bed in March of 2016. And that was the night I said "Lord, I know people really live for you. Not just go to church on Sunday, but they really live for you. They have a relationship with you."
And I said, through tears: "God, will I ever have a relationship with you?"
And all of a sudden my thoughts in my mind and everything was just interrupted. And I heard the Lord say: "Yes, you will live for me."
It was a couple of months after that, it took months, but that's when [in June later that year] I threw everything away in my life that was related to being 'Scarlet.' All the hair, makeup, jewelry, clothes, shoes, everything. I just threw my life as I knew it away. It was an encounter with the Lord.
CP: Were you attempting to transition with a synthetic hormone regimen or looking to have sex reassignment surgery?
McCall: I was not on hormones but I was seeing a psychologist and a psychiatrist. I had a psychiatrist diagnose me with gender dysphoria. He was telling me that you need of couple of professional gender dysphoria diagnoses before you can have surgeries. He was the first one to do so. And the way we were talking I was leaning more toward surgeries on my body. I didn't want to take hormones.
CP: What is the Freedom March all about, particularly as it pertains to those who have once lived and identified as LBGTQ such as yourself?
McCall: The Freedom March is about the transformation power of the Holy Spirit. This is not about 'conversion therapy.' This is about what the Holy Spirit can do and what God wants to do in this country right now. There is a spiritual shifting and He is wanting to do some things quite differently before they have ever been done.
CP: So what do you want to say to those who insist that people who identify and live as gay or trans "can't change," and call "conversion therapy" a fraudulent practice?
McCall: It's not about conversion therapy. It's about following the Holy Spirit. And as I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ, I changed. My ideas of who I was changed. The Lord showed me that He created me as Jeffrey McCall and He showed me how much He loved me specifically as Jeffrey.
CP: What inspired you to organize the Freedom March and what do you want people in Washington, D.C., including the LGBT community, to know most about yourself and the speakers who have had similar journeys and experiences as you have?
McCall: This country does not give a platform to people that have come out of the LGBTQ life. They just always talk about "conversion therapy" and try to make it sound like it's all about hurting people. But what I want people to know is all of these stories that will be told at the Freedom March are so unique. Every single story is different but it's completely wrapped in love. And it's just as the Scripture [Romans 2:4] says: "His kindness leads us to repentance."
All these stories are about the Lord speaking out, giving different visions and dreams and supernatural encounters with people. These people at the Freedom March are just wanting to share their freedom. We're not coming against the LGBT community. We are trying to tell them our stories so that they might hear the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
CP: Many who say that they have left a homosexual, bisexual or transgender life recount that this was a gradual, and often difficult and painful process of many months and even years. What has your experience been since your profound experiences two years ago?
McCall: It has been a process of relying on Jesus every day. Even when I make mistakes, sometimes lust and temptation comes to my mind but I don't give in ... it's still according to His grace. And there are days when I do make mistakes but that's what the Gospel is about. We're saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and it's His grace that is all around me, growing me. So when I stumble I keep moving on, moving forward. And I want anyone who is reading this article to know that if you're starting the process to just let Him mold you. Be clay in His hands and let Him mold you into the image of Jesus. That is what the Holy Spirit will do.
CP: And yet there are people who give similar testimonies as you're sharing right now, but then years later they returned to their LGBT life, saying that their "ex-gay" story was not really true and they did not want to continue "living a lie," that their LGBT identity was indeed their truest expressions of themselves. Could you speak to that?
McCall: I want to say to them that there is mercy. The God of Heaven and earth is so, so merciful. He is sitting there waiting for them to turn around and follow Him. He is the God of multiple chances. He's always looking for those who will turn to Him with a broken and contrite heart because He wants to pour out so much mercy. If there is one thing I know about God, and I was just thinking about this earlier today, it is that He is the most merciful Being in the world. He is always willing to show mercy to people. So for those who have gone back into the LGBTQ life: Let Him mold you. Let Him shape you. Let Him bring you back. Just turn back to Him and ask Him what He wants you to do and He will do the rest. He is sitting there waiting to lavish you, just bathe you in mercy. That's what He wants for you.
CP: In this cultural moment it sure seems like our society has reached this fever-pitched boiling point on these issues. The anger and hostility over this is palpable and our nation is very polarized about the nature of human sexuality. How might the church and Christians actually help people who are struggling given the current climate?
McCall: It is time for the church to reach out to the LGBTQ groups. Things are indeed shifting. People aren't just coming into church anymore. Some do, and begin their life in Christ in church. But it's about getting to them and showing them the love of Christ, that Jesus loves them also so much that He died for them, that anyone can accept and follow Jesus Christ, no matter what they've done. And it is time to stop making [LGBTQ individuals] feel that they are the brink, the worst group, the outside group.
They are not the worst people. They are people that have fallen into sin and deception like any other sin and deception. But it is time to let them know that they are redeemable. Jesus Christ can redeem you in a second by putting your faith in Him.