A gay cleric who preaches in drag wants to bring his message of love to Belfast.
Belfast born Ron Eberly, who describes himself as “Christ Drag Queen”, left for Canada in 1975, but now he wants to return home to speak in churches as his glamorous alter ego — Mz Rhonda.
The son of a baptist preacher, Ron emigrated from Penrose Street off the Ormeau Road with his family and later attended bible college in Canada.
He met his wife with whom he had two children during a missionary trip to Belize — but they divorced eight years later when Ron realised he “had to live an honest life”.
Ron’s family disowned him for 20 years after he came out, but he reconciled with them shortly before his parents’ deaths in 2012.
He still uses his late mother’s hats to perform as Mz Rhonda because he says they make him look like “a little church lady”.
Ron found love and married again 14 years ago, but this time to a man.
Since then he and his university lecturer husband Wayne have lived happily in Calgary where he continues to preach and perform as Mz Rhonda to fundraise for the local gay community.
Despite calling Canada home for the past four decades, Ron keeps well abreast of Northern Ireland news — and that’s why he feels now is the perfect time to take a trip back.
“I think now is a great time for me to come to Northern Ireland because you know, things aren’t getting any better,” he told Sunday Life.
“All I’m waiting for is an invitation.
“Churches need to wake up and realise they have to be inclusive.
“When I hear about young gay Christians taking their own lives because they’ve been rejected by their church it breaks my heart.
“What a shame that in 2014 we have so many Christians in Northern Ireland who are not doing what Christ has called them to do, and that is to live in his love and to pass that great love on to others.
“They hate Christ’s gay sons and daughters, and so they preach hate not love.”
Ron said he’s prepared for the controversy he might cause by coming to preach here.
“I know I’m going to get nasty comments,” he said. “If Belfast can’t agree on a flag or two men kissing in a taxi then I’m not sure what it will think of me, but I think it’s worth the hassle.
“I would love to see the gay community march on Stormont to show them how much we contribute to the Northern Ireland economy. They think we are florists and hairdressers — but we’re teachers, doctors and lawyers too.”
Ron said the gay scene in Northern Ireland has changed massively since he left in the 1970s, but he said there’s still not equality.
“It’s amazing that Belfast has Gay Pride but I think there still needs to be more activism in Northern Ireland, it’s not enough until we have equal rights,” he said.
“There’s still such misunderstanding, particularly in the church.
“I was born to Godly parents,” he said.
“I didn’t choose to be this way, I was born this way — gay people are part of Christ’s creation too.
“As far as I’m concerned you can’t have Adam and Steve without Adam and Eve.”
Ron said he understands why preaching in drag is controversial, but says he does it for fun, not to cause offence.
“It’s not a gimmick but I understand it’s a talking point for people,” he said.
“I think they’re more interested in coming to hear Rhonda preach than Ron, it’s something different for them — so it helps me to get my message out there.”
*To book Ron, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org