The reasons why I sing now are very different from when I joined the chorus. My story with the Chorus began around 1999. I was 24, and newly out in two ways: out of the closet, and still new to being out on my own. One day a clerk at Pink Pyramid recognized me for a just out guy (didn’t take Sherlock Holmes) and was kind enough to tell me about gay social groups in Cincinnati, including the chorus. My reasons for going were no more noble than I like singing and, more important, I wanted to find a boyfriend.
I didn’t find a boyfriend, but I did find a group that helped me understand being gay. I was out to family and friends, but I didn’t know other gay people. I wasn’t comfortable (and still am not) talking to strangers and I didn’t (and still don’t) like bars. What the chorus gave me then was a chance to meet other gay people in a safe place.
I remember the first rehearsal — back then we gave each other quick back rubs to prepare the body for singing. Recently I was talking with the member who rubbed my back that first night. A decade later he still remembered me jumping like a scared rabbit; that’s how uncomfortable I was with anything approaching male intimacy or being openly gay in public. I was terrified my first concert; Terry Milligan was performing as “Mrs. Santa.” I remember the awkward conversation with my mother, telling her to prepare my father for seeing a drag queen. I can’t say they loved the drag, but they thought Terry was very funny and loved the concert.
Unfortunately, working full time and attending graduate school became too demanding, and I had to let chorus go. But 2004 was a very hard year for me. A lot changed and my life was in turmoil. I had finished school, and bought a house. I found and lost a boyfriend. My grandparents, who I loved very much, died within about a year of each other. I still had no close gay friends and my straight friends, my primary social outlet, were starting families. Obviously, I was happy for them, and we are still close, but it was also obvious the days of hanging out every weekend were coming to an end. I was lonely and depressed, and I knew I had to make some changes. (And I still wanted to find the freakin’ boyfriend already). In September 2004, I returned to the chorus.
I didn’t find the boyfriend this time either (and when I finally did find him, it wasn’t through CMC). But what I rediscovered in the chorus this time was a supportive network of people and a fun way to spend my time. I came out of my darkness and began enjoying living again. The chorus was a large part of that.
Still, all of that is the past and why I sung then. To illustrate why I sing now, I want to go back to the years 2008-2010. I had noticed decline in my neighborhood and I joined my local community council, in addition to my chorus activities. I wanted to make a positive impact on my community. Unfortunately, after over a year of working with the council, I could no longer ignore that to them “the neighborhood” meant only property owners, and “improving it” meant demonizing the poorer members of our community. I couldn’t stomach the subtle racism and the not-so-subtle classicism of that organization.
My partner and I moved out of that area (for unrelated reasons) last year, and he has asked why I haven’t returned to local politics in our new community. I now serve on the chorus’ Finance Committee, and I told him that that and singing fill all my spare time, but that’s only part of it. I don’t want to be a person who gets home from work and just turns on the TV, but I also want to devote my time and talents to an organization that makes a positive impact on the community, and welcomes all people. I have that in the chorus; I don’t need any other. Patrick tells us that every time we step on stage as proud, openly gay men, we make a political statement and we change lives. That’s the organization I am be proud to be a part of, and the statement I want to make.
The “Why We Sing” series of essays profiles individuals involved with the chorus explaining what the chorus means to them in their own voices. Every one of our members has a life-changing story to tell.