Or In Which I Barely Manage to Stop Myself from Ruining Gospel Hour and Humiliating My Parents

Last night, Mr. Shakes and I did something best described as outside our typical social activities—we went to a gospel concert.

The reason we attended is because we love my mother, who is a member of what was the concert’s opening act, a local trio of three ladies who have been singing together at church for nearly 30 years. Mama Shakes is the soprano. And they were very good. They always are.

The 4th Annual Gospel Singing Celebration was held in the small auditorium of the high school and began at seven o’clock. Mr. Shakes and I arrived early, and exchanged our tickets for a program, introducing the acts and filled with local sponsors. The two-page center spread had been bought by the local GOP, whose candidates for the upcoming election were pictured and named, centered around a flag, the ubiquitous elephant logo, and, in large block lettering, “The Republican Lineup: When Family and Values Matter.”

Did I mention I really love my mom?

The show started promptly as the emcee, a gospel minister from Nashville, came out onstage. He began with a curious opening, telling the audience, approximately, “Don’t make fun of my voice now. It’s been this way all my life, and I’ve been called ma’am over the phone more times than I care to count.” The audience laughed. Mr. Shakes and I looked at each other. What was he talking about? His voice wasn’t particularly high. I listened to him speak a bit more. Ah—I get it. It’s not that his voice is high; it’s that it’s effeminate. Apparently, this is something that needs comment in front of a gospel crowd, lest anyone whisper that he “talks like a fag.”

He then introduced my mom’s group, and proceeded to forget my mom’s name. Idiot.

After her trio performed, Mr. Shakes and I considered sneaking out, like we usually do, rather than stay for the other acts—traveling groups also from Nashville. But we were seated close to the front, since I’d been positioned to take photos while Mama Shakes was onstage, so we decided to stay. My mom joined us and sat in front of me; I ran my fingers through her hair and lightly dragged my fingernails across her scalp, which she loves and relaxes her.

The emcee came back out onstage, and bantered while they took up a collection. He started talking about his wife, and then said, managing to be both snide and jovially smug, in the manner of the ingratiatingly self-righteous who assume the accord of their listeners, “We got married a long time ago, back before you had to tell people that marriage is between a man and a woman. Did you ever think you’d see the day?!”

I literally had to clench my fists and grind my teeth, putting every nerve in my body on full alert, to keep myself from acting on my immediate impulse, which was to scream “BIGOT!!!” at the top of my fucking lungs. Instead, I tersely said, “Right, that’s it. Time for us to go.” I kissed my mom, who understood, goodbye, and Mr. Shakes and I left—to the sounds of the audience laughing and applauding the emcee’s routine, which had segued into jokes about women commandeering the remote.

On the way home, Mr. Shakes and I fumed. Didn’t anyone ever mention to this guy that not everyone, not even all Christians, share his views on gay marriage? Peculiar public relations strategy. With evangelicals on the back foot trying to convince the country they’re not bigots, perhaps a good first step is to, you know, not be bigots. A perplexing outreach plan, as well; I imagine the organizers of a gospel concert don’t hope they’ll send people off feeling ill will.

But, then again, in that auditorium full of people who believe that you’re supposed to love everyone and treat them equally, it was only the godless duo from Shakes Manor who stood up and walked out as discrimination was celebrated.

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