I was reminiscing on the telephone with a friend today about some of my adventures on stage as a performer. For me, time on stage has always been about the joy of singing. I never wanted to be as big as the stars I performed with and I turned down every opportunity to lose my life in that kind of spotlight. I guess that is why it was easy for them to share a stage with me because I never wanted to upstage them. I have a great respect for old skool groups who never really got paid despite their hits being legendary, so whenever I get a chance to work with them, I consider it an honor.
Several years ago I was doing a concert series fronting for a well established old skool group. I was the youngest and knew all their music so they figured my youthful appearance up front would be a plus. It worked. The shows quickly sold out with a good mixture of people of all ages.
As a standard part of the show, I would interact with the audience, usually finding a woman in the crowd to serenade part of love song. At this particular venue the V.I.P. seating was surrounding the runway portion of the stage and each night I would pick out a woman, kneel down, grab her hand, then stand her up, and sing eye to eye before escorting her back to her seat.
Well one evening I got to that part of the show and I knelt down and held a woman’s hand. Only she looked at me and smiled as she took her male friend’s hand and put it in mine while taking her hand away, leaving the serenade between me and him.
All in a single instant, I felt the tension in the air. The group of older black males I was fronting for almost lost their steps. The camera crews filming the show zoomed in. I saw the nervous glint of the show producer. Everyone was waiting. Waiting for what I was going to do.
Would I pull my hand away in shock or disgust? Would I embarrassingly cut it short and just shake the man’s hand? Would I walk off stage? There were a million thoughts I heard all around me. None of them were mine.
When I stood this gentleman up and sang to him eye to eye, he blushed and the audience erupted so loud I could hardly hear myself sing. The cameras zoomed in for the shot and at the end of the set, I got a standing ovation.
Was the ovation because I was gay? No. Far from it. Was the ovation because I was somehow endorsing or promoting people being gay? No more than I could promote people to be black by being on stage. The ovation was simply because, when given a chance to recognize another person’s humanity I didn’t hide behind a cross and do what Jesus would NOT have done.
Backstage the group of guys I performed with said “Man I am glad that was you out front because I couldn’t have done it. I think I would have walked off the stage or something.”
The woman who set me up came backstage and said “thank you so much for making his night. He has been going through some things lately and I brought him out to the show after seeing the show last night. I knew I was taking a chance putting you in that position but I felt like you were the kind of person who could handle it. You were more than a professional up there. You were compassionate and I will never forget that.”
The truth is, I only saw a human being. I felt his need for compassion no different as I would have for any other person. I knew that some would criticize what I did. But if somehow choosing to show the love of God to him made me less than Christian in some people’s eyes, then it is a label that I would gladly let them keep; for God’s light needs no label to justify its existence in the heart of man. I felt that then. I feel it even more so today. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, only the shameful level of self righteous thuggery committed in the name of Christianity.