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    Heed Your Call

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    Everyone has a calling. Some folks just don’t answer their phone!

    The word “calling” might bring up old tapes for those of us who grew up with the frantic scavenger hunt for “God’s Will” when we were young. That holy grail somehow managed to remain hidden just out of sight, over the river and through the woods. Religion aside, it is my belief that everyone does have a calling—maybe a higher calling or just a plain old call. Some are called to sew, some to sow, some to scream, some to sing. Some are called to throw bricks and some to build with them. It takes all of these and so many more. What we are not called to do is nothing! Yes, that’s a double negative, but it’s the best way to express it. Nothing is not an option.

    I can tell you from many decades of observation, folks tend to be miserable when no part of their life involves the betterment of our community or world. It is not enough to float along on the hard work of generations before us and not do something to make it easier for those who follow. Unlike other cultures, we don’t usually get these lessons from our families of origins but from the families and communities we create.

    As you know, I love stories. We all love stories. In fact, we are the product of the stories of our lives. Eventually, we get to write our own story. Some of my most vivid stories came from church. For a small boy, they were pretty scary. Of course, they were. Their purpose was to instill fear and guilt. There was a flood that covered the whole world killing everyone. There was a man who got swallowed by a whale (the topic of my October 2023 article). Then there was the ever-popular S & G destroyed by sulfur and fire (ewwww).

    To make sure these gruesome tales were cemented in our lives, we sang songs about them.  There was Jericho, a huge walled city. The Jericho-ites (or is it Jerichoians?) were evil and Joshua wanted to conquer it. They marched around it with spears in hand, blew some trumpets and, voila, the ginormous brick walls just fell down killing everyone. Yay.

    The song about Jericho was a bombastic John Williams-esque piece. “Go blow them ram horns,” Joshua cried, “’cause the battle is in my hands. And the walls came a tumblin’ down.” Repeat several times: “And the walls came a tumblin’ down.” We know what that looked like. We have far too many examples in the news of entire cities “falling down.” These are the result of bombs, not spears and ram horns.

    Many of us have had walls come a tumblin’ down around us. We found ourselves amidst the rubble surrounded by proverbial bricks. At 35, I found myself at the bottom of the rubble pile of life. I looked around. The bricks had names: anger, resentment, hate, revenge, and the ever-popular bitter brick. But buried deep beneath those were other bricks buried deep: music, truth, humor, justice.

    I thought my calling was to be a singer and minister. That call turned out to be a wrong number. When the walls fell down around me, almost immediately the phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “Now that you’re listening, go wave your arms at the gays!” I took the bricks in the rubble that had almost buried me and began to build bridges. Gay bridges … with music.

    After coming out, I soon learned of the heroes who had gotten a call. Their call was also to make change, ruffle feathers, rattle cages … each with a different tool.

    In the 1970’s, there were countless leaders who heeded the call. They literally laid the foundation for all of us who followed. And they all did so from San Francisco!

    Armistead Maupin used the mighty pen to tell our stories. He did it in such a way that millions read about us who never would have otherwise.

    Armistead Maupin
    Photo by Rink

    Gilbert Baker used his fashion sense to create what we know as the first rainbow flag in 1978. It has now become the basis for our progressive flag.

    Gilbert Baker
    Photo by Rink

    Harvey Milk picked up a bullhorn and marched the streets before being murdered at City Hall. As tragic as this event was, his courage and message have become inspirations for our entire movement.

    Harvey Milk
    Photo by Rink

    Cleve Jones picked up a needle and thread and got fifty thousand people to create panels for the AIDS Memorial Quilt: brick laying. Cleve has also been a brick thrower as one of the most outspoken activists of our time.

    Cleve Jones
    Photo by Rink

    Jon Sims used music. He founded the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and the Golden Gate Performing Arts Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco (now the Queer Chorus). GALA Choruses was formed, which now has 200 choruses in North America.

    Jon Sims
    Photo by Rink

    Our cause needed both brick throwers and brick layers. I know from first-hand experience; you cannot thrive by ignoring the bricks that have fallen around you or thrown at you. They will keep piling up and completely smother you. The only way to thrive is to take the bricks and do something amazing with them.

    The overarching message? Answer your proverbial phone! Listen carefully. Pick up your bricks. Throw some if you feel like it—meaning speak out, as Cleve has, when you believe it is important to do so. Build something beautiful with the others. And remember that you are not alone. You can join with others, or they can join with you. We’re in this fight together. We cannot “turn the other cheek” to the injustice being hurled at our family every day. To those refusing us our rights, grab your ram horn and blow! See what happens.

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Conductor Laureate of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

    TLC: Tears, Laughs and Conversation
    Published on January 11, 2024