Editors' Note: Guest blogger Brian Watson was born in New York and traveled the globe before he met the love of his life in Tokyo in 1993. Together, Brian and Hiro braved the fickle insanity of US immigration for eight years, but finally decided to call British Columbia (that's in Canada) home in 2006. Brian blogs at Internationalia.
When I moved back to the US in 1998 (yes, it's already been ten years!), I knew that I wanted to find a chorus to sing with. I had sung with some pretty prestigious groups in Japan, and had also conducted a small group as well, and wanted to keep singing.
As it was, a friend of mine from Japan was the accompanist for what was then the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Chorus (it's now known as Sound Mosaic). After life in Japan, I thought the idea of an out chorus was good, and, after hearing them perform, I joined them.
I suppose I had heard of the Seattle Men's Chorus, but truth be told, I would never have guessed they were gay from the name alone. So I ignored them for a while.
Once I learned that they were putting forth a gay-positive message with a gay membership, I had conflicting thoughts. Jealous, because they had corporate sponsors, bigger audiences, etc., but also angry because they were using the closet to fool people. No frightening words like 'gay' in the title to scare off sponsors...
I felt they were hypocrites.
I had a great time with the SLGC. Met many wonderful people, a lot of whom remain friends to this day. Sang great music.
I stopped singing several years ago when the combination of jobs I do got more hectic, and then, after moving to Vancouver, and starting classes, I put singing further from my mind.
Then I met someone in a great small group, Phoenix, in Vancouver, and he encouraged me to audition. I did. Vocally, I wasn't a great fit for the group. My timbre is a bit brassy and operatic sometimes. But I did find out something interesting; the director, in auditioning me, got me up to an A above middle C.
That's high, boys and girls - especially for someone like me who started his post-puberty singing career as a bass. A is tenor territory (and is, usually, rough for many tenors). I was shocked. And thrilled, but shocked.
Then a good friend asked me to audition for the Vancouver Men's Chorus. and I didn't even think about the Seattle group until after the audition was successful and I was sitting with the tenor I section.
Was I now a hypocrite? Was this group in the closet?
You wouldn't think so if you saw a rehearsal, or posters for their concerts, or heard about their outreach work.
I also remembered that the SLGC had just gone through a re-branding exercise. Sound Mosaic, they were now. Since they are a mixed group, the terms 'lesbian' and 'gay' don't cover all the options involved and a more evocative name is better than trying to include all the alphabet options to cover everyone (lesbian, gay, straight, bi, transsexual, transgender, queer and questioning, if I have it right).
So how does that work when we are all men in the chorus? Are we all gay?
Technically, the group is open to anyone, regardless of how they want to label themselves.
Thinking more about it, the label thing is getting silly. I am not a label. If anything, my involvement in the bear community is teaching me how stupid people can get about labels. We have to create an ever-increasing set of labels to cover everyone who wants to associate with the bear community - bears, cubs, otters, wolves, polar bears, panda bears, trappers, hunters, goldilocks (Straight women who like bears!), and perhaps even sows (Women who identify as bears. Female bears are sows.).
Ultimately, someone said to me the other night, the only thing a label is good for is getting you in bed with someone. It's shorthand for what you want right now in terms of sex.
Of course, labels suit modern politics, which is about breaking the populace down into smaller groups that can be pitted, one against the other, to distract us from the issues that affect us all.
So I don't know how well the labels fit me anymore and how much I want a label...