Thursday, March 4, 2010

"To Thine Own Self Be True"

This be the realest thing I ever wrote for sure
After this a lot of folks wont like me no mo’
But after this I gotta go answer to you Lord
So I’ve made up my mind

I’m a go to church on Sunday
And sing a song that may hurt somebody’s feelings so that maybe
Thy will, will be done on earth as it is in heaven
And hopefully they will see how much they really be discouraging a little old sinner like me

- Lyfe Jennings (Made Up My Mind: Lyfe 268-192)

So can you help me right quick with a situation?

You see, I’m a music major (yeah, I know, heard it all before) and I’m pretty close to graduating (see my fantastic counter above). I’m hustling and grinding like never before, taking an overload (7 courses and an independent study) just so that I can graduate by June 4th and not have to return for any additional semesters.

The problem or situation I’m foreshadowing is a clash between my career and my sexuality. It’s no secret that I am SGL (gay, queer, whatever) and I’ve reached the point in my life where I am extremely comfortable with telling anyone who asks. I’ve been out for about 11 years now and while I don’t see my orientation as a huge deal, someone else may. Not that it defines me. I want those who enter into my life to see me for me and not some label. I want to be judged by the content of my personality and character, not my skin color and certainly not by who I sleep with.

Okay, enough idealism. Welcome back to the real world!

This past summer, I befriended an up-and-coming gospel musician who has released two albums and this connection was exceptionally beneficial in getting me to think about the direction of my own music career. Fortunately, everyone I’ve come out to has reacted positively. If anyone was upset or offended, I have yet to receive notice. Needless to say, I decided to come out to this young man as the topic of conversation had shifted to relationships and I was incredibly proud of The Voice at the time. This young musician reacted somewhat cool about it but gradually our friendship diminished upon his return to his home state. Subsequently, this has left me wondering if one’s sexuality and music career can go hand in hand.

Obviously, it’s not impossible to combine them, especially when one looks at artists such as Elton John, Meshell Ndegeocello, Boy George, Adam Lambert, and Tracy Chapman. However, not really knowing what path my life will take and not having many African-American SGL role models, I’m left wondering if I’ll have to be a pioneer or step back in the closet. Rumors have abounded about many black singers and artists throughout the years and subsequently, they remained trapped in the closet, even though certain signs existed.

Moreover, I’m considering a position at my church in the music ministry. Many congregants have watched me grow up there and while I have my issues, it’s the only spiritual home I’ve known. And despite it’s “dysfunctionality” at times, I continue to see the potential. However, I’ve never really had to face any opposition regarding my sexuality because I’ve never made it a significant issue. I’ve brought several of the X-Men to church (Kingston, Heart2Soul, The Voice) and even let BJ help direct my choir in the early years. I’m sure there was speculation but I’ve never been approached.

Taking this position would be a golden opportunity for my career and on a personal level, I’ve always enjoyed playing gospel and really want to see our music ministry grow. However, I cannot remain untrue to myself and live my life back in the closet. Sadly, this situation isn’t just confined to the church and will pop up time and time again as I move throughout my career.

Furthermore, I’ve composed and arranged several songs for my choir yet I have non-religious material that speaks about the trials and tribulations in my personal life. Is it hypocritical to be a secular artist as well as remain active in gospel?

So many questions running through my mind and I’m just not sure where to begin. I’ve delayed talking to my minister about the church position because of all these thoughts …

… what do you all think?

1. Take the position and play straight?
2. Become a trailblazer and be out?
3. Or just find my own path away from the church?

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