Our Own Kind of Music

by John Brett
The tears pooled in my eyes as I sat underneath the cross on Christmas morning. I was part of a small circle of worshipers in the chancel of the church of my baptism during my junior year of high school. Amidst the Incarnation’s intimacy that morning, a quiet, reflective calm after Christmas Eve’s pageantry, Isolation’s moisture fell down my face. Andrea, an older church member whom I had sung with since 6th grade in a small folk ensemble, where I had first read the term “6 foot gladiola,” reached out and held my hand. For a moment I was reassured.
The first time I ever came out to anyone as “questioning my sexuality” was one year prior. Sitting in that same chancel at 2 AM at a church lock-in, I confided in a Danish exchange student. Later, I knew I was lucky because he kept the secret. In 10th grade, at 15 years old in the early to mid-1990s, it was a risk to share such information. At approximately the same time another young man in my high school had come out of the closet to the wrong person, the news spread around the school, people bullied him, and soon he dropped out. I have no idea where life’s trajectory has since led him, though I hope he found a way to survive.
A few months later, again at 2 AM, in a different church’s chancel during a Lutheran Youth Organization regional board meeting, I came out to Anna, the president of the board. It was one of those late-night teenage conversations where you bare your soul to each other and all the anxieties of shared teenage years spill out. It offers a moment of relief, then closet doors shut again during the road trip home.
My coming out has always been connected to the church. The church was the space, especially with how scary and dangerous it was to reveal myself in the wider world, where it felt safe in relationship to speak my emerging truths, and it was simultaneously the least safe space to admit them. If being bullied in high school risks forgoing graduation, being bullied by a church, by its theology, risks the experience of heaven. Those the church condemn often lose the hand of God reaching out to comfort them, an incarnation indispensable.
Nobody can tell ya
There’s only one song worth singing
They may try and sell ya
‘Cause it hangs them up
To see someone like you
As it relates to theology, as it relates to concrete practice, as it relates to the appropriate color of the carpet, the church often errs. The church often opts for the dangers of a single story (credit to Chimamanda Adichie), a single way to do liturgy, a single way to be found acceptable in the eyes of God. As if we were not already found worthy first by God’s blessed action, humans seek false reassurances, decide who’s in and who’s out. Because the hands of our worshiping communities so often reject us, the whole of us, do not reach out in comfort, push us away or abuse us, queer people know that in this life there’s more than one song to sing, more than one way to worship, and more than one acceptable color for the carpet–though we may have informed opinions about the latter. Such knowledge, sometimes estrangement, sets us apart. It’s lonely there. Perhaps you’ve known a lonely relationship to the church, to God, for your own reasons.
You’re gonna be nowhere
The loneliest kind of lonely
Just to do your thing’s the hardest thing to do
 I heard the words falling out of my mouth earlier this year as I spoke to a ministerial elder colleague on the phone after my mother’s death, “I can no longer wait for, nor do I expect the church to unequivocally affirm me.” Self-affirmation, I’ve known though now better realize, remains something I must provide myself; God’s already provided theirs.
You gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own kind of song
Make your own kind of music
Even if nobody else sings along
This past Sunday evening, after a decade of daydreams, now feeling appropriately resourced internally and externally, I coordinated the San Francisco Night Ministry’s first Drag Street Eucharist. Over 100 people eventually joined our revelry in the streets of the Castro, where a Jesus puppet sat above the communion table and glitter was strewn faithfully and fabulously across faces and sidewalks. A UCC colleague presided in drag over Holy Communion and my drag mom, a queer chaplain, gave the sermon. We closed the service with ‘The Runway of the Spirit” TM, our own version of the altar call, inviting all, in drag or out, to the runway’s acceptance, all Creation our ballroom.
As we close Pride Month, I invite all those who have felt alone, ostracized from the church, even while sitting in its pews, into insurrections of affection. May we make our own kind of music, secure in the love God first gave, despite anything the church might tell us. In God’s affirmation,  may we remind ourselves and others that there’s more than one song to sing, to discover plenitudes and diversities yet unimagined. Especially for those dropping out of school, dropping out of church, who have given up, may they know themselves affirmed, beautiful, called. May we reach out our hands in comfort. God’s Work, Our hands.
So if you cannot take my hand
And if you must be going, I will understand
You gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind of music
Even if nobody else sings along


Image Description: A Photo of John in fabulous drag on the streets of San Francisco for the Faithful & Fabulous Drag Street Eucharist service. Next to John’s image are the words:  As we close Pride Month, I invite all those who have felt alone, ostracized from the church, even while sitting in its pews, into insurrections of affection. May we make our own kind of music, secure in the love God first gave, despite anything the church might tell us.- John Brett

John (he/hym/hys) grew up on a wheat farm in North Central Washington State, far from his current home in metropolitan San Francisco. He’s a seminarian and works as LGBTQIA+ Program Director and as a chaplain with San Francisco Night Ministry <https://sfnightministry.org> alongside the city’s unhoused folk, and the street and LGBTQIA+ communities. He’s also a proud oblate with The Companions of Dorothy the Worker. <https://www.companionsofdorothy.org>  Prior to seminary, John completed his BA in Spanish and Performance Studies at Dartmouth College and served as the Executive Director of a regional legal aid program in Washington State. His favorite ministry experience to date involves offering spiritual care while in drag at a taco truck.

This Is Me

by Rev. Analyse Triolo

I love a good musical. Growing up, I was the quintessential theatre nerd: I ate, slept, and breathed theatre for many, many years. I first became aware of racism and the complexities of my multiethnic identity while watching West Side Story — not understanding, as a 7-year-old, why half of my identity was considered good and the other half bad. I fought for the opportunity to see the upcoming RENT film when complimentary movie tickets were donated to local schools in the area. I even had a conversation with Adam Pascal, star of RENT on Broadway and film, that made a huge impact on me while I worked on the youth production of the show. I first learned to waltz in Cinderella and would go on to compete in ballroom dance two years later. My life belonged to the arts and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I loved Broadway and anything Broadway adjacent. If I’m being honest with myself I still do, though my tastes have varied as I’ve gotten older. 

Image Description: A Photo of Rev. Analyse Triolo with words on a pink background that state, ” ‘This is Me’ was an anthem, not just for the group of outcasts that were singing the words, but it’s an anthem for queer outcasts everywhere. It’s been one of the anthems of my ministry since before I heard the first note.”

In spite of that I never saw The Greatest Showman until I was quarantined in the parsonage in Queens, NY. I was afraid that the hype would only lead to disappointment, and at that point in my life, disappointment was something I had in spades. I watched, mesmerized, recognizing lifts I’d done in my own ballroom routines present in the film’s choreography. When I heard Broadway actress Keala Settle perform “This is Me” I wept. A lot. The song was an anthem, not just for the group of outcasts that were singing the words, but it’s an anthem for queer outcasts everywhere. It’s been one of the anthems of my ministry since before I heard the first note.

I am not a stranger to the dark

Hide away, they say

‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts

I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars

Run away, they say

No one’ll love you as you are

Ministry has come dangerously close to breaking me several times over the last decade as I coped with my Mom’s cancer diagnosis and passing, a grueling and often demeaning call process, and then finally beginning ministry five weeks prior to finding myself within 5 minutes of the first Coronavirus Epicenter. 

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

I’ve had to fight my entire life. It’s not uncommon for the women in my family, it turns out. I had to fight in my first middle school because I wasn’t white enough, and again in my second school when I was not Hispanic enough. I’ve had to fight bisexual erasure, informing people that it isn’t just a phase. I’ve had to battle my own perceptions of what being bisexual enough even meant. I still do.

And I know that I deserve your love

There’s nothing I’m not worthy of

Let me tell you, walking into the 2019 Churchwide Assembly felt like how I imagine Lettie Lutz and the rest of the performers walking into that reception at the start of the song. I was armed with rage fueled by years of rejection, heartbreak, and silencers that spoke louder than any words could’ve. It’s what had brought me there with a singular goal of sharing my story publicly, and to do one of the boldest things I’ve ever done in my life at the end of the Assembly’s first plenary session. I tracked down the newly elected Bishop of my assigned synod, introduced myself, and politely informed him I hadn’t heard from his office in six months. Two weeks after the conclusion of my time in Milwaukee I had an apology from the Synod and paperwork for the church that would eventually call me. 

I suspect I’ll be fighting for the rest of my life in one way or another. Fighting to face my own demons. Fighting to love the messy parts of myself I often try to hide. And fighting to leave this world better than I found it for those who come after me. I haven’t had the easiest journey, but I haven’t had the hardest one either, and I take pride in doing the work.

This is me.

Rev. Analyse Triolo (she/her) is a year and a half into the wild adventure of Pandemic Pastoring in the mystical land of Queens, NY. In her spare time, she enjoys reading comics, Greek Mythology, and planning out her bi-furious half-elven rogue (Tiefling Rogue? She can’t decide…) for her next D&D Campaign. She also loves singing showtunes so loud her neighbors can hear. Analyse multi-classed as a Master of Divinity while at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, and as a Master of Arts in Ministry at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Roll for initiative!



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By: Kelsey Brown

There are not many places in the world made for Black Queer folks

As June rolls around I see the pride advertisements pop up like a field of dandelions 

A sea of white

That’s not to say that Black folks have been absent from the movement for LGBTQIA+ equality  

In fact, we would not have Pride, or a reason to celebrate without the risks taken by Black and Latino Trans Women from San Francisco to Stonewall 

But being Black and being Queer have never been something I’ve taken for granted 

I stand on the shoulders of these powerhouse people who made a way long before I was even a twinkle in my mothers’ eye.

Image Description: Grayscale image of Kelsey Brown with arms outstretched, with the words, “Because we were left out of the publicized Gay rights movement, we created our own spaces where freedom, fluidity and fashions reigned supreme.” Photo Credit: Emily Ann Garcia

Because we were left out of the publicized Gay rights movement, we created our own spaces where freedom, fluidity and fashions reigned supreme. 

Ballroom and the culture surrounding it transforms the lives of all who encounter it 

It’s so much more than “Yass Queen” and “Spilling the tea” 

It’s a safe space where the outcast and turned away are welcomed into a new family, one that uplifts and affirms 

Houses become safe havens and strangers become inseparable 

Now don’t get me wrong 

Going to a ball is an extravagant affair 

And walking the floor in the hopes of securing a trophy for your house is an honor 

But the joy that permeates the room is so much more than rainbow capitalism or a “show” 

It’s a battle – it’s a place to say “look at me” in a world that would shove us back into the closet – out of sight out of mind. 

Shows like Pose on FX and Legendary on HBO Max have provided the world an insider look into the Ballroom scene and has given the “children” an education of sorts on the before, during and after of a still wildly active community of misfits. 

These shows pull back the curtain on the lives of the underrepresented – 

in Ballroom trans women are idolized, not ostracized. 

Houseless folks are taken in and given place and purpose. 

The different become the divas and the function doesn’t stop for anything

We leave it all on the floor

Pride month can be difficult for a variety of reasons 

We’re all just trying to find our place 

Use our voices 


Especially after the year and a half we’ve had 

But my call to you dear friends is to remember the reason why this celebration exists in the first place 

Because of injustice, because of police brutality 

Our ancestors took bricks 

Broke windows 


And fought back 

So that we could dance in the streets

So, we could leave our broken relationships and find our chosen family 

So that even after they were gone 

We could live 

So, get out there friends – 




May the joy and opulence found in ballroom inspire you this pride season to be your most authentic self. To take up ALL the space and to, when things get tough – leave it on the floor.  

Rev. Kelsey Brown (she/her) describes herself as sometimes funny, very queer, frequently anxious, and completely absurd. A 20-something hailing from Long Island, New York – she comes equipped with the accent & attitude to back it up. In her free time, she is falling back in love with spoken word poetry, breaking it down on the dance floor, and ritual creation. She believes with her full heart that God’s delight in diversity is call for us all to embrace the fullness of humanity. Racial justice and advocacy work fuel her fire, while deep friendships and long naps quench her thirst. She can be seen in her natural habitat – quoting showtunes, doubled over in laughter and challenging others to “do the work.” Her ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has taken many courses including camping ministry in New Jersey, Synod work in Metro New York and Internship in sunny Southern California. She is blessed to serve as the Pastor of Jehu’s Table, a Lutheran Church in Brooklyn – Pastor Kelsey brings to the Church a pulse of integrity and personhood for all people, a love of preaching and deep care for the other.



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