R.I.P. Tammy Faye

We all knew Tammy Faye was saying her peace last Thursday on Larry King, but we could have no idea that the 65-year old former Televangelist would die a mere hours after her interview aired.

Unlike so many of her peers – Jerry Falwell, for example – Messner made it her mission to fight for the gays. As she reminded Metro Weekly in 2002:

…PTL was one of the very first [Christian television shows] to help the gays. And I was probably one of the first ever to have a gay man on my show. And so I think they remember that. They knew that we accepted them. Many of them watched PTL because they felt accepted by us and they were accepted by us. PTL loved everyone. We didn’t turn anyone away. And I think the gays appreciated that. We accepted the gay community when most religious elements did not.

That’s some seriously good work, yes, but Faye never took herself too seriously, “I consider myself very down to earth. If you call that campy, then I guess I’m campy.” Tammy, babe, you were campy, compassionate and all around fabulous, girl!

More than any of her contemporaries, Faye worked to welcome gays into the Christian fold. Jay Bakker, said on Larry King Thursday:

She had one of the first people in the early ’80s on Christian Television with AIDS. I mean Reagan didn’t even mention the word AIDS during the ’80s and here my mom was talking about it on Christian Television.

She had one of the first MCC pastors, which is the first gay denomination. She did an interview with them and always that she might not have agreed on everything with them, she loved them and built a bridge. And I just had a huge conference for MCC and hundreds of people just said, your mom built the bridge between Christianity and homosexuality and we love her and pray for her every day.

The New York Times, meanwhile, took a second to remind readers that Faye inspired gays in other ways, too:

Gay men came to embrace Ms. Messner as a camp figure, making her the subject of gender-bending look-alike contests. She embraced them as well. She began attending gay pride events, and in 1996, she became the co-host of a syndicated television talk show with Jim J. Bullock, an openly gay actor.

“I refuse to label people,” Ms. Messner said in a 2000 documentary, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” when asked about her attitudes toward gay rights. “We’re all just people made out of the same old dirt, and God didn’t make any junk.”

Amen, Tammy Faye. Now, go around heaven, count all the queers and send a message back to earth – that’ll make a believer out of anybody.

In memory of Tammy Faye, here’s a clip from The Eyes of Tammy Faye: