10/19/2011 06:57 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Gay Pioneers Speak Truth to Love

A brave soul transitioned last week. Dr. Frank Kameny, a pioneer for the dignity and full humanity of gay people, left us on National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, 2011. Coming Out Day is when we in the U.S.A. support each other in telling our truth.

Dr. Kameny was a truth teller. As the Rev. Troy Perry, Founder of MCC, recollects:

In 1969, I met Dr. Kameny, who was a hero in what we then called the "homophile" movement. His clear conviction that civil rights should be afforded to everyone rings true to this day. In the 1950s, he was outed and persecuted. Instead of hiding, he became an activist.

When Dr. Kameny and the late Barbara Gittings came to speak at Allegheny College, I was 19 years old, over 40 years ago. Their courage astounded me, even as I struggled to understand how their story was my story. Our movement was just being born, and I was still closeted then, even to myself, but their honest, open telling of their stories was the first clue I had that there were others like me.

There are not adequate words to express the impact on my life of their visit to our small, liberal arts, religiously connected school. I know that Dr. Kameny was the first publicly open gay man that many of us ever met.

Dr. Kameny faced unbelievable discrimination, scorn and opposition, but he became single-minded in his devotion to civil rights. He and others picketed the White House in 1965 -- years before Stonewall -- and pushed to have the American Psychiatric Association stop labeling gay people as mentally ill.

Along with Rev. Troy Perry and a handful of others, his courage and determination changed the world for all of us. Today, millions support full equality. Psychologists and psychiatrists understand the diversity of identities and support the full equality and human dignity of everyone.

Years later, when I became involved in the leadership of the Metropolitan Community Churches, I met Dr. Kameny again. I was struck by how both Frank and pioneers within MCC changed the lives of so many people, including me. Today, MCC is a global movement with ministries in more than 35 countries, where we continue to change our world. Frank and so many other visionaries inspired so many changes for the good.

Such witnesses to their own truth remind us that our calling is high but never impossible. We are called forward to speak our truth so that every day is Coming Out Day.

Frank was not a religious person, but he was always very respectful of the role of the Metropolitan Community Churches. He knew we were speaking our truth.

We mourn his passing. "May his memory be for a blessing."