“A Message From the Gay Community,” performed by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (SFGMC) and posted on YouTube last week, begins defiantly: “You think we are sinners, you fight against our rights, you say that we all lead lives you can’t respect… “
Then it becomes downright satirical: “We will convert your children”, teases one of the soloists, parodying an age-old anti-gay story, before adding: “We will make them tolerant and fair”.
But not everyone got the joke. The video, which was released just before the July 4 bank holiday weekend, went viral and was later lambasted by conservative media for its child-focused theme, even prompting death threats against the singers, according to the choir director, Chris Verdugo. In response, the choir deleted the video, setting it to private mode only.
“It was a difficult decision, because we are an organization whose mission is really both artistic and also activist,” Verdugo told Yahoo Life. “We are the first gay male choir on the planet.… We are a social justice organization… so it is very difficult for us to decide to remove this video. But the soloists – who are not in the choir but, full-fledged, rising Broadway stars, have received death threats. “
Critics have used various Twitter accounts to take screenshots of the chorus, numbered individuals and created spreadsheets, harassing them even in the workplace. “All over a piece of satirical music,” says Verdugo, noting that the choir has worked with both local police and the FBI on the threats.
The controversial song was commissioned several years ago by the Oakland Symphony (“a heterosexual organization,” Verdugo notes), performed as part of the SFGMC program after the artistic director heard and loved it. The choir had performed it in public several times before the pandemic, and it had always been well received; releasing the video recently, as part of a series, was just a way to maintain engagement in the absence of live performances.
Listening to the lyrics of the song, it is clear that teaching tolerance and fairness is the real message delivered by the popular choir, founded in 1978 and the first of its kind – for openly gay men. He ultimately inspired a global LGBTQ choral movement with an eye on visibility and equality.
The choir’s first performance was impromptu at the candlelight vigil held after the assassination of the city of San Francisco’s first openly gay supervisor, Harvey Milk. In the decades that followed, he toured nationwide and devoted himself to community outreach – and he’s known to push the boundaries.
This time, some think that the choir has gone too far with its sending: “We will convert your children, We will make them tolerant and fair. … Learn to love, / Learn to love, / Face your destiny./We will convert your children, someone has to teach them not to hate. “
The performance mocks age-old anti-gay myths: that gay men are child molesters and that they’re there to “recruit” – a story started over 40 years ago by anti-gay activist Anita Bryant , the born- yet again beauty queen and spokesperson for Florida orange juice who has been pushing damaging propaganda with her group Save the Children.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, these narratives – including the myth of the “gay agenda,” which has its origins in the religious right – have endured. The activist group challenges the myth that homosexuals recruit young people, and many others, “ranging from the overwhelmingly dubious claim that sexual orientation is a choice, to unadulterated lies like claims that Homosexuals molesting children far more than heterosexuals or who hate criminal laws will lead to the legalization of bestiality and necrophilia. ” He notes that “these fairy tales are important to the anti-gay right, as they form the basis of their claim that homosexuality is a social evil that must be done away with – an opinion rejected by virtually all medical and scientific authorities. competent ”.
The SFGMC is not the first to parody these claims: Milk allegedly used it as a rallying cry from voters in his famous line on voter recruitment – “I’m here to recruit you!” – and it was used in the 1990s by the Lesbian Avengers, a protest group known for their cheeky ‘We’re Recruiting’ slogan and follow-up song, alluding to Alfred Kinsey’s claim that gays make up 10 % of total population: “Ten percent is not enough! Recruit, recruit, recruit! ”Now the“ gay agenda ”is so often flipped by LGBTQ people that there’s even a dedicated page on Etsy filled with rainbow scalloped shirts and mugs bearing the phrase satirically.
“It’s a trope that keeps getting peddled, and this country is more divided than it ever was,” Verdugo said. “But if you’re a rational person, you realize, ‘Oh, that’s a satirical song that turns her ears off.'”
However, people were sure to troll the choir’s Facebook page, with comments on a July 6 post that the choir was returning to in-person rehearsals that included, “You’ve turned out to be evil. Now everyone. will know what we are really against “; “You are [sic] the video is absolutely disturbing, disgusting and downright horrifying ”; “From ‘We Just Wanna Get Married’ to singing about child grooming”; and “Shameful, disgusting and of course degenerate.” “
Describing homosexuals as a threat to children, notes the Southern Poverty Law Center, “may be the most powerful weapon in stoking public fears about homosexuality. … Discredited psychologist Paul Cameron, the most ubiquitous provider of anti-gay science, has been a major proponent of this myth. Although it has been debunked many times and very publicly, Cameron’s work is still widely cited by anti-gay organizations, although many no longer cite him by name. “But according to the American Psychological Association and the In depth research by Gregory Herek, a professor at the University of California at Davis, children are no more likely to be assaulted by LGBTQ people than by heterosexuals.
Verdugo admits he didn’t expect the choir to start such a storm with his post. “It is a lightning rod”, he admitted, of the risks of referring to all that concerns homosexuals and children in the same breath. But, he says, the performance “came from a very innocent place. We weren’t trying to antagonize anyone… we never thought that would be the case – and maybe it is. our fault”.
The choir’s true message, however, has been adopted by at least one child – Desmond is an incredible New Yorker, now 13, a young drag enthusiast whose antics have gone viral several times over the years. And he certainly can’t be alone.
“Literally my new favorite song! Thank you so much San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus !!” he wrote on his Facebook page. “It sounds like an anthem when I am supported by the community when I am being bullied because I am a young LGBTQ.”
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