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People Like Us — at the small town debut of the Major Minors LGBT youth choir

COLUMN: Over the Rainbow

January 5, 2018 Julie Chase   Comments

We meet in the fading light of a high school parking lot. The teens scatter about in their black concert t-shirts, the parents scrambling behind with their winter coats. The journey to Franklin County may cross over Monteagle Mountain, and any Sewanee alum will testify that it gets cold up there this time of year.

Parents in the back, performers in the front so they may practice before the concert, a row of show jackets in between to keep out adult eyes… The teens chatter quietly amongst themselves, while the adults stare into smartphones.

Soulmate is listening to hockey; daughter-unit is having an animated conversation with a friend. I tell Soulmate that if we fall asleep, we will probably awaken in Aruba, and I get a stare for interrupting the game. The Pens are about to get their first penalty shot this season (yes, they score).

*****

Up front were the sounds of laughter interspersed with multiple shushing. The teens knew it was time to start getting serious. This would be their first road trip as a chorus and they wanted sound their best. They had been invited by PFLAG Winchester to sing for an LGBTQ+ community that knows what open hostility truly looks like.

Ding, dong, ding, dong…

Hark! How the bells

Sweet silver bells

All seem to say,

“Throw cares away.”

Christmas is here…

Gott im Himmel! They sound like a choir,” I think to myself, collecting my jaw off the bus floor.

These were nervous, introverted kids just six months ago. It is very obvious that they have bonded, but that they are not kids anymore. They are teens: openly LGBTQ+ teens to be exact.

The Major Minors is the youth chorus of Nashville In Harmony. Designed from the start to be a safe and welcoming place for teens who want to find their own place within our community, the chorus presented an opportunity for our daughter to make new and supportive friends. Soulmate and I jumped at the chance.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

Five hundred twenty-five thousand

Journeys to plan

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

How do you measure the life

Of a woman or a man...

I caught my breath and looked past Soulmate out the window. I did not want her to see me crying. She was under her earbuds, but I was not. I knew where this one came from. That's my era, and it was my daughter singing it.

She asked me not too long ago about my teenage years. We had a fun and pleasantly awkward chat about that, with a safety lecture thrown in.

I’m bisexual, genderqueer, and from the 80’s, and still alive, I thought. The possibility of bringing harm to Soulmate kept me on the path of Sappho all these years. Her hand was worth the price.

“You really need your 4th line out there! All chipping in and helping things out,” came the instructions.

NIH Artistic Director Don Schlosser’s voice got my attention also. He would be conducting their performance. The parents got the message too. Smartphones were being discreetly tucked away, as parents tried to set an example.

We can do what we want

We can live as we choose

You see there's no guarantee

We got nothing to lose

Don't look at me

I can't deny the truth

It's plain to see

Don't look at me

There was silence in the parents rows at first, then some muffled sobs. “Damn...don't they sound good?” came from somewhere in the dark, followed by an “I’m so proud.”

I think Don heard us, and he wandered into the peanut gallery with a smartphone glow on his face. Luckily for us he was smiling.

Don told us the story that he would later tell at the concert. Nashville in Harmony got its start in 2004 as a protest against a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that was under serious consideration. It was a small group of women and men not much bigger than this, openly living their truth in less than hospitable times, he explained.

Everyday life for openly LGBTQ+ adults back then closely resembled what the majority of teens in our community go through today. But Nashville in Harmony had a philosophy and a goal: to build community and create social change through song.

A small group of people soon mushroomed into a movement that reflected the changing world around them. Now these teens will have the opportunity to experience the same.

He swiftly returned to the front, and we were soon confronted with the haunting refrains of young resistance:

Oh, people like us we've gotta stick together

Keep your head up nothing lasts forever

Here's to the damned, to the lost and forgotten

It's hard to get high when you're living on the bottom...

We are all misfits living in a world on fire...

Sing it for the people like us, the people like us...

Many of these teens had recently come out or, like my daughter, were straight allies and part of the gang…

One of us.

I have never been more proud.

 

Julie Chase is the pen name for a local 40-something trans woman. The Major Minors’ next performance will be with Nashville in Harmony on Saturday, April 28 in “Brave New Hope.” Tickets for the show may be advance purchased at https://nashvilleinharmony.org/tickets/pride2018

 

 

 

 

 

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