“A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.”
This quote by playwright Henrik Ibsen reminds us that if there is to be a vibrant, healthy gay community, it is up to all of us to share in its development and growth. Often, we do so through obvious means- singing, fund-raising, and volunteering at gay-affiliated events. Sometimes we can even add to the community spirit in ways we may never realize. Perhaps-- as baritone Juan Lucero does—it may be by reminding us that when we give to our community, it gives back as well.
Juan has worked as a web designer for over ten years. He studied music at Fresno State and was planning on being a music teacher. “I worked first on a degree in Music Ed with an emphasis in instrumental music, but along the way I realized just how much I loved my required choir classes. I loved to sing and I did much better in my voice lessons than my instrument lessons.” Juan eventually switched his major to vocal music, and took on jobs as a web manager to help pay for school. Those jobs eventually became full-time, resulting in Juan taking a break from college. Eventually, he met and married the man he says “has changed my life for the better in so many ways.” When his job ended in Fresno, Juan began a new one in Southern California, leaving his husband behind and resulting in an eighteen month long-distance marriage. With that experience behind him, Juan has plans to return to college, finish his degree and become a choir director. He says his love of music continues to be a driving force in his life. “I never seem to get enough singing.”
Juan has been an active part of a chorus community for many years. He sang with the Fresno Gay Men’s Chorus until his relocation to Southern California. Soon, however, he realized how much he missed singing with his friends. Juan joined the MenAlive community and has been impressed by the “quality and number of wonderful, driven, talented singers in the group.” He says that the chorus gives people out there who love to sing a place to shine.
Juan also sees the importance of being part of the larger gay community as well. He states that the passing of Proposition 8 was “the kick” he needed to get more involved:
I feel that people in our community have a need for other like minded people to draw strength from. It's hard being an out gay person, and every positive, uplifting experience involving the gay community (experiences like the amazing concerts this choir performs each year) helps us as a community to be stronger. It allows us to show the world around us that we are valuable, viable, vibrant people who deserve the same rights, responsibilities, and respect as anyone else.
Juan reminds us that MenAlive is not only part of the gay community, it is an organization that reaches out to the community at large. He points out that each of us can be an integral part of that outreach, and that through our involvement we get a great deal in return. As MenAlive moves forward into planning our second ten years, Juan’s words should continue to echo in the collective ear.