Tom Kennard, 67, is a transgender man in the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. Until very recently, his mother hadn’t heard him sing since he was a child, long before he transitioned.
NPR reports that Joyce Arterberry drove five and a half hours from Indianapolis to see Kennard, a lower bass, perform with SFGMC on tour in Knoxville, Tennessee.
A churchgoing traditionalist, Arterberry struggled when Kennard initially came out as a lesbian in his 20s and then began transitioning at age 47.
“I had a hard time accepting it,” she recalls. “I realized after a while that I loved my child, and that I didn’t want to lose my child. So it’s worked out. If he’s happy, then I’m happy.”
SFGMC is currently performing and participating in outreach events in cities where conservative Christian views are in conflict with LGBT rights. In preparation for a stop in North Carolina, Kennard has purchased a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “You Can Pee Next To Me,” hoping it will help start conversations with locals about trans rights.
“We’ll see what happens,” he says. “Or if people even get it.”
Listen to Arterberry’s reaction to her son’s vocal performance below.