Gay Men’s Chorus performs at West Ranch, shares message of acceptance

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles performs at an assembly at West Ranch High School on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. Photo by Minju Kang/West Ranch High School
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In an effort to combat bullying and share a message of acceptance through music, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) visited West Ranch High School Friday to perform for the students during two separate assemblies.

The visit was part of the GMCLA’s annual Alive Music Project (AMP) which brings messages of anti-bullying and hope to middle schools and high schools throughout Los Angeles County through music and personal stories.

During AMP’s decade of operations, the program has reached more than 50,000 students in the greater Los Angeles area, including hundreds of students in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“Attending the assembly offered a perspective that I hope eliminated some of the stigma and stereotypes any of the students might have had,” said Erica Gillespie, a student organizer of the event and member of the West Ranch High School Gay-Straight Alliance.  “That’s really the first step in forming a safer community for people regardless of sexuality, race or gender.”

Gillespie decided to organize the assemblies to educate others about LGBTQ rights and about the importance of accepting one another.

“Around school, it’s common to hear comments that are unkind or discriminatory, and a lot of that comes from people not realizing why that can be so harmful,” she said.

Members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles pose for a photo after a performance at West Ranch High School on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. Photo by Minju Kang/West Ranch High School

At least 300 students attended each of the school’s assemblies to hear from GMCLA Artistic Director Joe Nadeau and other members of the chorus who shared stories about their own experiences coming out or handling discrimination.

“One of the most impactful moments of the assembly was when one of the members recalled when being gay was illegal, a crime that could get you thrown into jail or subjected to conversion therapy,” Gillespie said.  “The audience was completely quiet at this point, because even though we still have a long way to go, society has come so far since then in terms of acceptance.”

Students also heard from Ken Mariash, a leader of the LGBT group at Boston Scientific which sponsored the event, and watched the West Ranch Choir perform “You Have More Friends Than You Know” with the GMCLA.

Gillespie hopes the event inspired her peers to treat each other with respect and kindness regardless of their background or sexual orientation.

“It’s a crazy world out there.  I think sometimes it’s easy to feel like what you do doesn’t matter or that because we’re just high school students we don’t have the power to make a difference,” she said.  “Each one of us is one in nine billion people, but change starts with the individual. This assembly doesn’t end discrimination, but it’s a start.”

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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