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Carol A. White

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Carol A. White was born in December 1939 in Alexandria, Louisiana. Her parents enrolled her in Methodist Sunday School the day she was born and First Methodist Church was a huge part of her life until she left home for Southern Methodist University (SMU) in the fall of 1957. Carol had dedicated her life to God and the church and decided to major in Sacred Music at SMU. 

She spent six years at SMU where she was the assistant to Dr. Lloyd Pfautsch. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Sacred Music and two Master's in Sacred Music and Choral Conducting.

Carol had always known she was attracted to women, having fallen in love with two different girls in junior high and high school. However, she never did anything about it and never came out to herself or anyone else. She had her first sexual experience with another woman during graduate school and from then on there was no doubt as to her sexual identity. The problem was that her sexual orientation seemed to be in sharp conflict with the view held by the church at the time, and with her chosen profession for which she had trained for six years. So at the same time that she took a job as Minister of Music at a large Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, she also started psychotherapy in order to "cure" her homosexuality. 

At the end of four years at that church there was no cure, and she was forced to resign in 1967. She felt as though she was out on the street with two worthless master's degrees, no job, no profession, no money, no friends, and no support. She seriously contemplated suicide.  It took five years to settle into another profession--freelance court reporting. 

Seventeen years went by without any church or spiritual connection. In 1980 she was in Denver, Colorado and had three encounters that saved, healed, and transformed her life: 1) PFLAG Denver; 2) Mile High Church of Religious Science; and 3) the gay and lesbian choral movement.

At her first meeting of PFLAG Denver in February 1980, she met Bishop Melvin Wheatley and his wife Lucile. They became lifelong friends. In the early '80s Bishop Wheatley stood up for gays and lesbians in the United Methodist Church when he was standing alone among all the bishops. One reason was because of their beloved gay son John.  Mel, Lucile and Carol spoke together to many United Methodists in the Rocky Mountain Conference on behalf of PFLAG and in response to invitations from churches who wanted to "crucify" him for his courageous stand.

Mel and Lucile "married" Carol and her partner Judith in a spontaneous ceremony by the sea at Laguna Beach, California, in 2002, long before marriage was legal. Carol and Judith had been together for 19 years at that time and decided that if they were ever going to have a union, they wanted Mel and Lucile to do it.

Carol wrote this saga of serendipitous twists in her life journey:

I left the church in 1967, having been forced to resign as a minister of music because I was gay. I didn't conduct a choir for 17 years following that.  I helped start PFLAG Denver in 1980, and as a result of my involvement in that, I recruited 70 women and put them with the 70 men of the Denver Gay Men's Chorus to sing for the PFLAG national convention in Denver in 1984. Then the women wanted to keep singing, so we formed the Denver Women's Chorus. I conducted them for two years, culminating in a trip to the GALA Choruses Festival in Minneapolis in 1986. Then I took a leave from that and later formed a world chorus to sing for the Gay Games in Vancouver in 1990. When I got home from Vancouver, I formed a mixed choir, a gay and lesbian chorus called Harmony.

In 1992 Colorado voted to pass something called Amendment 2 to the Constitution of the State of Colorado, which said that GLBT people could have no rights whatsoever, and whatever rights they already had in cities such as Denver and Aspen and Boulder would be canceled or repealed. The Amendment 2 campaign and battle was vitriolic and pretty nasty. We worked hard and thought we were going to defeat it, but when it passed, we were all stunned and devastated. It is very difficult to explain the hurt that hung like a black cloud over our whole community in the wake of that election.

Amendment 2 passed on a Tuesday in November. That Friday Harmony went to the YMCA of the Rockies for our usual retreat before an upcoming concert, where we normally rehearse and polish our music for the performance. But on this occasion we were also crying and telling election stories and trying to support each other after having been knocked off our feet, so to speak, by the people of Colorado.

That same weekend there happened to be another retreat going on at the same YMCA for Methodist youth leaders from Colorado and Wyoming. (I think it was those two states.) And one of the ministers who was leading that retreat happened to be the brother of one of the women in Harmony. The brother and sister got together, and the brother minister through his sister invited Harmony to sing for the convocation of Methodist youth at their Sunday morning meeting. She brought the idea back to the choir, and we thought it was a good idea, so we accepted.

As Sunday morning came, we lined up outside the Chapel (which is still there but has later been remodeled). At that time there were no pews. And since there were over 100 Methodist youth, they sat on the floor in the middle of the chapel, and since there were over 100 Harmony members, there was no place for us to get except to surround them standing up.

So I went to a little stage at one end of the Chapel, and said that I had been a Methodist youth just like them, had received a Master's in Sacred Music from SMU in Dallas, and had served a large church as minister of music for four years before being fired because I was gay. Then I said that Harmony was a GLBT chorus, and we would just like to sing a couple of songs for them.

We started out with Singing for Our Lives by Holly Near, and they caught on and sang along. Then I said, "This next song is dedicated to all of you who might be gay, or all of you who are struggling with self esteem for any reason."  The song was:
How could anyone ever tell you you are anything less than beautiful,
How could anyone ever tell you you are less than whole,
How could anyone fail to notice that your loving is a miracle,
How deeply you're connected to my soul.

We were about to leave, and some of them said, "No, sing another song." There was an old organ at the other end of the chapel, and our accompanist cranked it up and started playing the introduction to our theme song, and the choir started singing,
In this very room there's quite enough love for one like me,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for one like me.
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power
To chase away any gloom,
For Spirit, our Spirit, is in this very room.

At the end of the first verse, one of the girls sitting on the floor got up and stood with Harmony in the circle.  They continued singing,
In this very room there's quite enough love for all of us,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for all of us.
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power
To chase away any gloom,
For Spirit, our Spirit, is in this very room.

During the second verse, several youth, in groups of twos and threes, stood up and joined Harmony in the circle.  They kept singing through their tears,
In this very room there's quite enough love for all the world,
And in this very room there's quite enough joy for all the world,
And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power
To chase away any gloom,
For Spirit, our Spirit, is in this very room.

By the end of the song, there was no-one left sitting on the floor. They were all standing arm-around-shoulder around arm-around-shoulder. There was nothing left to say.  We had gone there to sing for them, and they had turned it around and helped us when we most needed it. Harmony filed out of the Chapel knowing that we had been blessed.

A few years later Amendment 2 was repealed by the Supreme Court of the United States.

(This biographical statement provided by Carol White.)

Created: 1/2/2010 3:42:45 PM

Modified: 1/2/2010 9:48:59 PM

Biography: December 2009