The Gay Men’s Chorus: A Conversation with the 6th and 7th Grades

San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus event at Synergy on November 30, 2018.

After the chorus closed their performance with the most beautiful and inspiring mash-up of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” and Sara Bareilles’ “Brave,” most of the students were dismissed. The sixth and seventh grade students were invited to stay and chat with the chorus members. Everyone mingled for a bit, and then they settled in for a question and answer session. The questions, most of which students had submitted ahead of time, were wide-ranging. Chorus members took turns answering the questions that felt most relevant to them.

Students were interested in what it’s like to be in the chorus. They wanted to know how much the chorus rehearses, what kind of commitment the chorus requires of its members, and what the members take from the experience. The chorus members explained that they rehearse three hours a week, from 7-10pm on Monday nights, and they start working on their holiday music in August. All the chorus members agreed that to be in the chorus, it’s a lot to balance and requires a real commitment, but the effort is worth it. Not only is the chorus a place where you can be yourself and sing your heart out, but when you become a member, you join a big family of about 300 brothers who offer you love and support and make you feel like you’re home.

One student asked about other ways that chorus members engage in activism and advocate for the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or allied) community. We heard from one member who has spent years working to build strong community centers. Another member talked about how, in 1996, he adopted his son with his then-partner. They were the first gay couple to adopt jointly in New York state. Another chorus member, Andy, talked about how he is a trans-man married to a straight man. Andy married his husband before he transitioned, and their marriage endures. Andy has been doing interviews to demystify their relationship and help other people see it as normal.

Students also wanted to know about the Gay Men’s Chorus itself. Members explained it was created forty years ago, in 1978, during a time when there were laws being passed that, for example, prevented any openly gay person from being employed as a teacher. As the political movement against such laws started to gain momentum, gay and lesbian people began to feel heard and represented. This was the time that the chorus was born, and at the first rehearsal, 100 people came to sing after seeing fliers that had been posted in the Castro. A few months after that first rehearsal, Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated. The Gay Men’s Chorus’ first performance was at the vigil held at City Hall on November 27, 1978. Currently, the Gay Men’s Chorus members are exclusively people who identify as male or nonbinary, but membership could change in the future.

The chorus closed the session talking about what all the colors in the Pride Rainbow flag symbolize. They also encouraged the students to remember that anyone who does the art they love and works hard makes an impact, regardless of whether they’re on television or are big stars.

For more photos and video from the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus Assembly click here. PW: bestpics

by Kelly White, Synergy Parent for the Diversity & Inclusion Committee

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