From Soprano to Bass: A Transgender Man’s Story
of Self-awareness, Family and Changing Lives through Music
I began singing at a young age, back when every elementary student attended choir class. Music has always been an important part of my life.
When I moved to Atlanta in mid-2011, I had already scheduled an AGMC audition. Being new to a large city, I knew I’d have an instant family by joining the chorus.
This chosen family is very important to me, because I’ve had quite a life journey. After all, not many people can claim to have come out four times in their life!
My first coming out experience was in December 1979 at the Seattle area debutante ball. You can only imagine how awkward I felt in my ball gown compared to the other young women. Four years later I came out as a lesbian.
Over the next 15 years or so, I was involved in LGBT choruses and other community organizations, but I still knew something wasn’t quite right in my life…yet I couldn’t explain what that was. As I explored the possible concerns, I realized two things.
First, I had to quit drinking. My father died from the complications from alcoholism at 47, and I could see my behavior was taking me down the wrong path. One of the messages I often heard in early recovery was “don’t kill yourself until you’ve had five years of sobriety” — meaning it takes that long to truly detox from the effects of alcoholism. So in October 1998 when I was going through an especially difficult bout of depression, I said to myself “in six months I can kill myself.”
Five months later I met a wonderful transgender man who helped me understand what had been missing from my life and the other reason of why I was so unhappy. With but one month to spare on my promise to myself, I made the decision to transition from female to male.
For me, transition was a relatively simple process, and most of the people around me said it was so natural and fitting. (For those keeping track, thus far I’ve come out three times: as debutante, lesbian and trans man.) And then my mother asked me, “What will you be?”
I was a bit perplexed, until I realized she was asking about my sexual orientation! I assumed I’d continue to be attracted to women. Imagine my surprise when I realized I was much more attracted to men. So there it is: coming out #4 as a gay man!
Through this process, music — specifically, singing — had been a constant in my life. When I began my medical transition (testosterone), I was singing with the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Chorus, mostly singing alto or tenor. One afternoon just before beginning hormones I was singing at a gathering and I chose to sing soprano…just because I still could. As the season progressed, my voice soon lowered and I was reassigned as a bass. At the end of the concert cycle, I was honored with the Vocal Chord Award for being “the only person to have sung in every section of the chorus.”
My time in Atlanta is drawing to a close, but I know that I have met many lifelong friends through the AGMC. I have been so proud to sing with this group. The performances I have been a part of have been tremendously moving. I am reminded that there are so many people in this area who don’t feel safe being out as an LGBT person. I like to joke that I am so far out of the closet I wouldn’t know how to find my way back in. However, in the South, this is far from being how everyone feels.
As an LGBT person, family for me has long been more about my chosen family. The AGMC is part of that family. Thank you for making music. Thank you for changing lives. Thank you for setting an example. Thank you.
(Follow-up note: lore has recently taken a job outside of Georgia and has had to say goodbye to the AGMC, at least for now. We’ve been proud to have him as a member of the chorus family and secretly hope that his work will bring him back to us someday.)