A year ago, members of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus (SFGMC) believed they were going places—faraway places, like Cuba, maybe, or China. They were coming up on their 40th season, and the milestone deserved a landmark tour. Then came the presidential election—and with it, the fear that the gay rights high of the past few decades could collapse. SFGMC board chairman Steve Huffines was alarmed by that chilling notion. "I wasn't concerned with liberals versus conservatives," says Huffines (rhymes with lines), who sings bass in the group. "I was worried about the normalization of hatred."

Huffines's idea: scrap the international jaunt and instead take the chorus down South. "Folks of all stripes live in the South," says Huffines, who grew up the gay son of a minister in Birmingham, Alabama. "But it's also where some of the country's most problematic anti-LGBT legislation is coming from." Within 48 hours of the election, Huffines's vision sprouted choir-wide support. "We needed to combat fear with compassion," says SFGMC executive director Chris Verdugo, "and we can muster a lot of that." More than 220 singers' worth, to be exact. All are either fundraising or paying their own way to join the tour, which kicks off October 7 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and then goes to Alabama, Tennessee, and the Carolinas.

The ambitious itinerary includes five benefit concerts, proceeds from which will go to local civil rights organizations. The group might raise eyebrows, but they'll be keeping a song in their heart. Says Verdugo, "We're bringing the biggest of olive branches: music."

Learn more about SFGMC's fall tour at the SFGMC.org.


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