Jeffery, in his own words: “I spent a lot of years trying not to be gay and then a long time keeping it from certain people after I did finally admit it to myself. I grew up in a very religious and conservative family. My father was a pastor and I was raised with certain beliefs and expectations. Being gay just wasn’t really an option. In hiding from one part of myself, I took refuge in music. Music and singing became a place where I could express myself and emote without worrying what people thought. I developed a great love for choral music and singing.
My biggest challenge was coming out to my family. My coming out was relatively late, and not until I was in grad school, about 24 years old. Telling my mother was a very difficult experience and she didn’t take it well. In spite of her disappointment and some hurtful things said, we are still very close. She took care of telling my immediate family, including my dad. Over the next few years, we all struggled to come to an understanding of why and how and what this meant. That was more difficult because we didn’t live close and only visited a few times each year.
The gay community in New York has many different facets. If I had to describe it using one word, it would be ‘diverse’. In New York, I don’t necessarily align with one particular facet of the gay community. My immediate social group in NYC is mainly gay men, but my network extends further beyond. We aren’t friends because we are gay, we are friends because of more commonality. Outside of my closest friends, I’m more aligned with a community of choral musicians than anything. One of the ways I share that passion is through singing with choirs. I sing in a church choir that accepts gay people and where it isn’t an issue. I also co-direct a new choir called Chamelonic where our passion is to engage listeners in a diverse and innovative musical experience. One way we achieve that is by having a diverse group of singers, some of whom are gay.
To me, being gay just means being who you are. At this point in my life it’s not an issue. It’s just one part of who I am. I’m a male; I have blue eyes; I’m right handed; I’m a choral musician; I’m gay. It is just at attribute and not a defining characteristic. It helps inform who I am and, to some extent, how I interact with people on a human level. Even though I spent so long hiding part of who I am, I don’t feel the need to go out of my way to make note of it. Choral music is place where I don’t have to hide.”