Monday, July 30, 2012

Popular gay Christian singing duo performs concerts, advocates for LGBT homeless youth


When a friend called me last weekend asking me to go hear gay Christian singing duo Jason and DeMarco in concert I hesitated because it’s not a genre I thought would be all that exciting. Sensing my hesitation, the friend assured me the concert would be a far different experience than anything I might be imagining.

The friend, who is my former editor and happens to be Jewish, once again proved herself right and me wrong. It truly turned into one of those periods of elation that seems to be occurring less often the older I get. The singing of Jason and DeMarco drew me and the rest of the audience in the Celebration on the Lake Church on Cedar Creek Lake in Texas up out of our chairs to clap, sing, and wave our hands in the air after only 10 minutes into the concert.

At one point I looked over at my friend, and I saw tears streaming down her face. The song “SAFE” the couple performed from their CD by the same name obviously touched a chord in her. She later told me the singing of Jason and DeMarco similarly affected her a few years ago when she first saw the film, “We Are Angels,” documenting the singers’ lives. The 2007 documentary appeared on Showtime Network.

By the time the concert ended and I had heard them sing their version of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” and DeMarco sing the Catholic prayer hymnal “Ave Maria” solo, I was hooked. I did something I never usually do. I stood in line at the conclusion of the concert for a chance to meet the duo and buy one of their four CDs. I chose the one that was named “SAFE” and included all of the songs that had so touched something in me the same way it did my friend.

The concert won over the entire audience in the church, not only as a result of the marvelous singing but also because of the inspiring stories they told between the numbers. The pair talked about their lives, their international tours and their nonprofit group SAFE that works to help young people who age out of the states’ foster care systems, often winding up homeless.

Jason and DeMarco released the CD “SAFE” when in 2011 they launched their philanthropic organization of the same name, which stands for Safe Affirming Family Environment. The group was formed with $70,000 in savings from their touring engagements, according to the duo.

It was something Jason knew a little bit about from personal experience because when he was younger and touring with a traditional Gospel singing group he literally got kicked off the touring bus at the next stop because he acknowledged his sexual orientation to the other members. As a result he wound up homeless for about four months until he was able to pull himself out of the situation with the help of a business person who allowed him to live in a vacant apartment in exchange for administrative work.

Jason, who grew up in Maryland as a member of the Pentecostal Church, not only survived the experience, but he began touring again entertaining the congregations of the LGBT-affirming Metropolitan Community Church. DeMarco, a Canadian native who grew up in the Catholic Church and who was working as a waiter while struggling in Hollywood to become an entertainer, met Jason one night at the restaurant.  Prior to their coupling as singers, DeMarco had a lead in the international touring musical “California Dream Men.” Their career as a singing duo blossomed with their 11-year relationship, and they eventually made their way to Houston.

The SAFE Host Home Program operated by the organization works to connect young adults 18 or older who have aged out of the foster care system with hosts with a spare room who can temporarily provide them with shelter and food. The guest stays in the host home an average of three to six months, and the young people are expected during that time to find employment, attend weekly counseling sessions and to establish a plan of action to sustain themselves.

SAFE also counsels young LGBT people and aims to educate, support and assist open and affirming couples who are interested in fostering and adopting LGBT youth. They also reach out to gay and lesbian couples who would like to start families.

The duo decided a couple of years ago that they wanted to start their own family. With the help of a surrogate mother, birth was given to fraternal twin boys and Jason and DeMarco are each the biological father of one of the twin boys. Subsequently, Jason and Demarco adopted each other’s child.

Jason has also written a newly-released book, “The Journey of Same Sex Surrogacy – Achieving Our Ultimate Joy.” All of their CDs and the book are available at their concerts, which are funded by love offerings from the congregations for whom they perform.

The addition of twin boys to their family has changed their lives, and they plan to alter their professional lives to accommodate their 14-month-old sons, Mason and Noah. But that doesn’t mean they are going to quit singing and touring. Instead, when they launch their new tour, “The Journey: Celebrating Families of Diversity,” in 2013, it will be on a bus with the kids in tow. Jason’s parents will be along to help care for the boys and to participate in a question and answer segment for the audiences.

The 35-day, 24-city tour will begin on Feb. 1, 2013, and it will roll from Houston to Phoenix, through several cities in California and to Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Dallas and back to Houston.

One woman attending the performance told Jason and Demarco that she had seen them perform live three times previously, and that she was looking forward to seeing them yet again. I imagine that I also will want to hear them sing again someday.

For information about the duo and their upcoming tour visit http://jasonanddemarco.com. Information about SAFE is available at www.safehouseforall.org.

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