SPECIAL REPORT: AIDS in the Gospel Choir

SPECIAL REPORT: AIDS in the Gospel Choir

appeared Sunday October 23, 1994

Marriages help hide gay lifestyle
Minister is starting wives' support group

by Rhonda Graham
Staff reporter Sunday News Journal, Wilmington, Del.

Sheila loves her husband. He's a good husband and father.

But when she married him, she thought he had give up his homosexual past. She has no reason to suspect he hasn't.

"What does that do to my self-esteem as a woman? You can fight with another woman because that's *your* man. But how do you fight with another man?" said Sheila, who sings in a small New Castle County ensemble.

Sheila said her story is typical of a very small number of women connected to the subculture of gays in the black gospel community. For fear of scorn, these women did not want to be identified for this story.

They find themselves struggling with love for gay men who would rather be married than single.

"I was ready, girl, after waiting so long," said a 30-ish Elsmere woman, describing how she picked a satin gown for her wedding night. To say the night ended in disappointment is an understatement.

" He went to sleep." The second night? "He went to sleep." And the next night? "I cried."

The couple showed up in their church the next week, faking a newlywed glow. They would not consummate their marriage before he died of AIDS.

"There are a lot of them like me," she said.

I've heard it often, said the Rev. Yvette Flunder, a former gospel singer who runs an HIV/AIDS support agency in San Francisco.

She sees these women at conventions, like the annual Gospel Music Workshop of America Convention held in Atlanta this summer. For the past three years, Flunder has conducted AIDS education seminars there.

"You have to teach it to people as though they have to teach it to their children, and while you are telling them you know they get it," Flunder said of the seminars that sometimes draw more women then men.

Above Gloryland Religious Supply Store in Wilmington, a minister counsels men struggling with the issue of homosexuality.

Pat Williams, who owns Gloryland, said it's time to add a support group for wives. She's looking for volunteers and members to join a new, confidential fellowship called Women of Hope.

"I'd like to minister with the women in dealing with the hurt on the inside," said Williams, who is also an itinerant evangelist.

Said one Wilmington woman, nervously awaiting the results of her husband's blood test: "How do you think it feels to know that everybody in the entire state knows that your man is gay and they think you don't know it?"

[QRD main page] Last updated: 25 May 1995 by Chuck Tarver