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San Diego Women's Chorus affirms their struggles and celebrations in spoken word

Two weeks ago, the San Diego Women's Chorus (SDWC) held their annual Spring concert, which also commemorated the 25th anniversary of the local all-women singing organization.

During this milestone concert, the women gave those in attendance a sneak peak into their very personal lives -- albiet anonymously -- with a spoken word introduction.

San Diego Gay & Lesbian News felt this introduction to the 2012 chorus needed to be shared; not only for those who were not in attendance, but also for those who were, to allow them the chance to see it in print, and relish in it yet again.

Over the 25 years the chorus has been in existence, membership has grown from just 15 to over 70 singing members.

And although for the last 15 years a man has skillfully led them as their Artistic Director (Christopher Allen), another man (Steven Tiger) currently serves proudly on their board of directors, and many other men (fathers, husbands and sons) help and support the chorus throughout the year, when it comes down to it ... this is a chorus of women.

Not all of the women are lesbians and many of the lesbians didn't always identify as lesbians. But regardless of their sexual orientation, these women share many bonds for many reasons, and those bonds go well beyond just their shared love of singing.

After brief introductions at the celebratory concert, the sold-out crowds on both Saturday and Sunday were party to what amounted to an incredible introduction to the group of ladies they were soon about to hear from in chorus form.

For approximately 10 minutes, attendees got to hear what this chorus was made of -- and it was riveting -- both in its content and delivery. Each member took turns speaking the words you will soon read below.

The spoken word introduction at times provoked laughter and applause, and at other times, a collective silence and reflection, but all of it was thought-provoking and life-affirming.

According to SDWC Board President, Carin Scheinin, here is how the introduction came about.

"A survey was sent to all of our current members via an online survey. It did not ask for name, or record the IP address. People were asked to answer the questions honestly, but were given the opportunity to skip any question.

"We asked about 110 questions to gather various information and see where the trends were. The survey was open for a few weeks and we had a really good response rate (though certainly not everyone decided to complete it).

"Once we closed responses, we completely scrambled all answers to make sure that we could not track the answers to a particular person. After that, we compiled the data and looked at what trends came out.

"What was clear is that we have some incredible people in the chorus."

The introduction names no names, and makes no specific identifications, but it doesn't have to.

Its impact is still tangible.

Each paragraph (and sometimes merely a sentence) below was read by a different member of the chorus, enhancing its anonymous basis. It is quite the compilation of statistics, facts and information about this great group of women.

Note: the numbers were left as digits to keep the original statement intact and to help facilitate the context of its message.

Our chorus is a group of 77 women. Our ages range from 17 to 75 with an average age of 41. Our youngest member joined when she was 13.

Our members have been in the chorus from 5 months to 25 years. The average length of membership is 4 years. 32 of us joined within the last year. 18 of us do not read music.

Together we have a total of 57 children and 22 grandchildren. 4 of us are raising children other than our own. At age 5, one of our fathers was lost at sea.

Among us, we have 37 sisters and 67 brothers. 9 of us have no siblings. 2 of us were adopted.

39 of us are married or in committed relationships with an average length of 10 years. 6 of our marriages are not recognized by the United States Government. 3 of us have had partners or spouses pass away. 23 of us have been divorced.

3 of us have a parent that is LGBT. 1 of us was raised by same-sex-parents.

Our families immigrated here from Canada, England, Wales, Vietnam, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Italy, Sicily, Hungary, Africa, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Poland, China, Russia, Lithuania, Mexico, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Several of us are descendants of passengers of the Mayflower. Some of our ancestors were Native American – Navajo, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw.

Some of our ancestors were undocumented immigrants.

7 of us were not born in the United States.

Among us we speak 15 languages other than English: Spanish, French, Polish, Indonesian, German, Albanian, Italian, Japanese, Filipino, Tagalog, Malay, Yiddish, Russian, Chinese, Dutch, Ukrainian, and ASL.

We’re an educated group. 7 of us have associate’s degrees, 26 of us have bachelor’s degrees, 13 of us have master’s degrees, 3 of us hold Doctoral degrees, and 3 of us hold Juris Doctorate degrees.

Several of us are currently in graduate school working on doctoral degrees.

12 of us were the first in our families to graduate from college.

22 of us are heterosexual. 9 of us are bisexual and 2 of us consider ourselves Queer.

Some of us prefer not to be labeled.

1 of us considers herself "hetroflexible" and the rest of us are lesbians.

Some of us have just come out, others have been out for 35 years.

Together we have been "out" a total of 498 years - an average of 14 years.

47 of us have experienced discrimination and/or acts of violence because we are women, lesbians, or women of color, or because of our age, religion, nationality, marital status, or physical characteristics.

23 of us have been raped or sexually assaulted. 16 of us knew our assailant. 3 of us pressed charges.

3 of us had abortions before they were safe and legal. 5 of us had family members who had abortions before they were safe and legal.

Spiritually we are Jewish, Christian, Catholic, Episcopalian, Hindu, and Unitarian Universalist. Some of us practice Buddhism, Existentialism, Wiccan, Pagan and Earthwisdom traditions.

12 of us do not embrace any specific spiritual practice.

1 of us was a minister, one of us was a monk, and one of us was a nun. Later this year, one of us is re-entering the convent.

Among us, we are living with life-threatening illnesses and chronic diseases including diabetes, asthma, COPD, depression, bipolar disorder, arthritis, MS, obesity, hypothyroidism, alcoholism, and breast cancer.

7 of us consider ourselves in recovery. 1 of us for less than a year, and 1 of us for over 25 years, with an average of 10 years.

7 of us have been arrested. We’ve protested and disturbed the peace. We’ve had one too many before driving, and we’ve been in possession of controlled substances.

Only 11 of us claim to never have been skinny-dipping.

In our professional lives, we work for the government, in private industry, in academia, and for non-profits.

Several of us are published many times over and internationally respected in our fields.

We work in computer technology, sales, customer service, education, accounting, banking, social services, and human resources.

We are psychologists, psychotherapists, administrators, secretaries, musicians, social workers, artists, nurses, homemakers, realtors, technicians, attorneys, analysts, architects, scientists and engineers.

We care for children, pets and the elderly. We are retired and unemployed.

All but 4 of us find our work interesting and fulfilling.

When we’re not rehearsing for concerts, we like to read, write, cook, eat, sleep, sing, dance, meditate, garden, work-out, watch TV, play games, take classes, draw, paint, create sculptures, and spend time on social media.

We like to drive, walk, run, camp, hike, backpack, swim, surf, scuba dive, go boating, kayaking, rollerblading, geocaching, ride bicycles and motorcycles, and play soccer, tennis, and basketball.

We attend art, cultural, and sporting events; practice martial arts and yoga; take photographs, build furniture, sew, work on crafts, and home improvement projects.

We travel, take cruises, go to Disneyland, museums, movies, the theatre, the symphony, the Opera, wine tasting, and to the beach.

We spend time with our pets, our friends, and our families.

Almost all of us volunteer. Among us, we have been involved with over 65 different organizations.

Only 8 of us are NOT on Facebook.

Among us we have 40 democrats, 3 Independents, 2 Green Party, and 1 Republican. 16 of us have no party affiliation and 1 of us is too young to vote.

Most of us believe we will see a woman elected President of the United States in our lifetime.

1 of us makes a mean Pennsylvania Dutch shoofly pie!

22 of us have tattoos and 16 of us are pierced in places other than our ears.

We live in San Diego, La Jolla, Chula Vista, National City, Lemon Grove, La Mesa, El Cajon, Lakeside, Alpine, Julian, Ramona, Poway, Rancho Peñasquitos, Rancho Bernardo, Escondido, Vista, Santa Ana, and Los Angeles.

Together we live with a chinchilla, a guinea pig, a pet rock, 2 turtles, 2 frogs, 2 bearded dragons, 2 ducks, 2 horses, 3 birds, numerous assorted fish, 10 chickens, 40 dogs ... and 51 cats!

By acknowledging our struggles and celebrating our successes, we give voice and validation to the authenticity and truth of our lives.



Photo above left: San Diego Women's Chorus at their recent Spring concert, with Councilmember Todd Gloria bestowing a proclaimation upon them. Photo by Shaun Travers.