Posted on June 12, 2015 by Thomas Collins
With less than a week until we head out for the BGMC Middle East tour, everything is beginning to get real. For two years, this has merely been something to save for, something to talk about, and something to plan for. It's when it gets this close that the whole thing moves from abstract concept to "wow, we'll be in Israel in less than a week!"
I've had many reactions when I tell people about this trip. They range from excitement, to jealousy, to worry, and many others in between. One of the biggest questions that comes up is "Why?" Why am I going on this trip? After that the questions include: "Am I worried about how I'll be treated?" "Am I concerned with my safety?" "Why do you have to go?"
To be blunt there are always safety concerns when traveling, especially as a gay man. This is further the case when traveling to an area where a number of people may have strong views against LGBT equality. That concern lasted about a second before I thought "I have to do this" once the tour was announced 2 years ago.
Joining this chorus has changed me more than I thought possible. I'd already been out for 12 years when I joined the chorus. Over the years I had come out to my family, my fraternity, my classmates, and, since graduating college, my colleagues at work. I didn't think I had more to do or more to learn at that point, but being a part of the chorus you hear the stories of so many other singers; what they went through, what they are going through, their hopes, their fears.
Our stories need to be told. I've seen the effect our concerts have on audience members. I've had people come up to me after shows, or email me in the following days, and talk about how incredible the experience was. It's equally incredible and transformative for us as performers. Rehearsing songs bit by bit, line by line, note by note, it's easy to forget how meaningful these songs and stories are. Sometimes it doesn't hit you until the actual concert, when it's all put together, how powerful it all is. For one concert I made it through the first half, just long enough to sob through intermission, pull myself back together, and sing the second half of the concert. It's not uncommon to see eyes rimmed with tears after certain numbers; and sometimes we've sung these same songs for months or years.
Music has a way of bypassing the defenses of words and rhetoric and go straight to emotions which are harder to argue with and harder to deny. My hope is that those who may not yet support the LGBT community will at least come to our concerts and see for themselves who we are, that we are human beings not unlike them. I hope they will hear the truth of our stories, our emotions, and our journeys.
So, on June 18, I board a plane to begin a tour of Israel and Turkey to tell our stories. We will be the ambassadors of hope, of acceptance, of equality; and if not us, then who?