Brilliant. The New Yorker profiles Tonex, the Stellar Award-winning gospel singer/songwriter and minister who recently confirmed his long-rumored sexuality. Tonex became the first to do so in black gospel music and shattered its well-guarded glass closet doors.
Kelefa Sanneh writes (pdf): "Many of his fans wondered what took him so long. Maybe some of them wondered, too, what took gospel music so long, because the question that Tonéx finally answered has been haunting the genre for for the better part of a century."
Tonex, who grew up in the anti-gay and charismatic Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (P.A.W.) and is the son of pastor, describes trying to come out:
Tonéx sensed early on that he was attracted to other boys, and he spent the better part of three decades trying to figure out what that might mean for him. One day when he was eighteen, he told his parents that he thought he was bisexual. His father said, “You need to go listen to some gospel records,” and his mother just cried. Not long afterward, Pastor Williams preached a sermon in which he decried “faggots.” (The next week, Pastor Williams apologized to the congregation for his choice of words.) Tonéx says, “Perhaps he thought that by speaking on it so harshly it would make me turn the other way.” When Tonéx started preaching, he occasionally denounced homosexuality, too, partly because such denunciations work so well. “You can talk about a slut, a hussy, a heifer, a player, any other subject— you are not going to get the response you get when you start talking about fags, or gays,” he says. “It’s like a football game!”
Given the proliferation of gay men in black gospel music, it's ironic that Tonex's father prescribed listening "to some gospel records" to cure his homosexuality. And Tonex is right, there's nothing like good ole-fashioned gay-bashing to motivate many so-called "Christians" and church folk.
The profile appears in the current February 8 issue of The New Yorker. At ten pages, it's not a quick read but is captivating and should be required reading. It's also to The New Yorker's credit that they took on the black church's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" hypocrisy around gays in the church. The article is subscription only but a PDF is here. Love to hear your thoughts.