02 November 2007

The Miseducation of Donnie McClurkin (Part Two)

Donnie McClurkin

The interview begins:

Clay Cane: Tell me how you first met Donnie McClurkin.

"Rob": I was at a Gospel event backstage. We were introduced . . . I guess it was just, you looked across the room, this person looked at you, and you just knew there was something . . . you look up throughout the evening, and you keep seeing this person staring at you. Email (addresses) were exchanged, and cell phones numbers were exchanged, so that was the beginning. But, it was strictly . . . music, things in common, that type of thing. But for some reason, I felt there was an attraction.

Clay Cane: Did you instantly know that it was Donnie McClurkin?

"Rob": I knew . . . because of his prior success with the song "Stand". Oprah Winfrey used to always talk about it. "Stand" came out (in the late) '90's, so he was already starting to rise . . . so, I already knew who he was.

Clay Cane: This may sound like a dumb question, but what made you know he wasn't Straight? Was he around other Gay people? Was it just blatantly obvious? What made you know that he wasn't heterosexual?

"Rob": Well, in Gospel music, everyone knows who messes around, and who is Straight. I've always known it . . . someone once told me the same thing, many years ago. In church.

Clay Cane: What were your first conversations like?

"Rob": He'd explain how it is on the road, (how) it's lonely. How sometimes he'd just (go to) his room and cry. He said, "And you're single?" It came out of nowhere, (and) I said, "Yeah, I am." He said, "Wow, the person that would have you would be lucky . . ."

Clay Cane: This already doesn’t sound like the "ex-Gay" (preacher) we see in the media. Were you aware that he was an "ex-Gay" at this point?

"Rob": I wasn't aware then.  (His song) "We Fall Down" was (just) starting to catch everyone's ear. There was talk he was going to start a church out on Long Island.

Clay Cane: Was there any talk in your conversations (that) being Gay is wrong, (that) this is an abomination . . .?

"Rob": Early on, no. He would relate it to being lonely, not being able to be who you really . . . are, and that was a little later. I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, I'm in Gospel, I have fans, I'm about to start this church, and the church has a lot of promise" . . . he said, "I have a position to uphold, and I have an image, but the thing is . . . I have some things to work on." I said, "Is it that simple?"

Clay Cane: When was the first time you were intimate?

"Rob": Like I said, we met (in the) winter. The first time was in May.

Clay Cane: What was that like, the first time you guys were intimate?

"Rob": It was uncomfortable because . . . he gets into role-playing . . . he's the "bottom", and he wants you to treat him rough. He wants (you) to talk rough, and that's not my demeanor, that's not in me. I can play a role and I did it, but I didn’t feel comfortable . . . I felt stupid, actually. Like, what did I just do? It was just strange.

To those of you who aren't versed in Gay street lingo, a "bottom" is the passive partner in penetrative sexual intercourse. Gay and Pansexual men who are heavily into role-playing (especially closeted ones) sometimes refer to the passive partner as the "woman"(or they use a derogatory term for women that I won't repeat here). It's revealing that McClurkin would (allegedly) approach sex with another man in this way, as if it were some kind of punishment! That's certainly not the norm in Gay relationships.

Clay Cane: Where did this happen?

"Rob": This was at a hotel. That was the first experience, but each time I always had to play the role. You get tired of it. He'd often say, "I don't want the lovey-dovey stuff!" Those were (his) exact words. "I don’t want the lovey-dovey stuff, the hugging, the cuddling . . . I just want sex."

This is also very revealing. To Gay men who approach their sexuality with shame, same-gender intimacy must be devoid of tenderness! It's gotta be rough and quick, the way wild animals copulate! They don't dare consider the possiblity of falling in love with a male partner, and they strongly resist becoming emotionally attached to one. In their minds, love can only be expressed in the context of heterosexual intimacy. Of course, they've convinced themselves of a lie!

"Rob": That's how it was, and so I sort of knew (that) this (was) not going to be anything (intense) . . . I knew this was going to be an occasional thing when time permitted.

Clay Cane: But it (kept) going, right?

"Rob": It did, it was off and on, but sometimes when he'd . . . go "in remission”, when he didn't want to take (my) calls, or when he didn’t want to get together . . . he'd (have these) moments, (saying) "this is wrong, I can’t do this, blah, blah, blah" (and) it was because (his record) "We Fall Down" was becoming so popular. (His) church had just started in the summer of 2001, and (was) growing. (It) started with 350 (members, and) by the next month, it was another 100 . . . then another 100 . . . it was the church, and the celebrity. He was becoming a celebrity, he was everywhere, he was on TV, and his song had crossed over into the mainstream.

This is surely an example of what my friend, the Reverend Jerry Maneker always tells me . . . that profit is what fuels ultra-conservatism in the organized church! Maintaining the right public image can be very lucrative for a preacher and/or Gospel singer; but you've got to be heard talking the right talk, and you've got to be seen walking the right walk! It makes sense that McClurkin would (allegedly) be more cautious about his secret sex life at this time. As his star was rising, he certainly wouldn't have wanted anybody to suspect him of being less than the straight arrow he claimed to be!

Clay Cane: Did he ever tell you about his relationships with other men?

"Rob": No, he just told me that he used to be . . . active. I know even one time when we were walking somewhere (and) he said, “That used to be my hang-out.” Remember (The) Show Palace on 42nd and 8th Avenue?

Clay Cane: No.

"Rob": It's a porn place. You know, booths, glory holes, whatever.

Clay Cane: He was into glory holes?

"Rob": No, he was into The Show Palace, and all those things are in The Show Palace. I've actually never been in The Show Palace, but I asked him what was in there, and he said, "Just everything you wanted to find."

At one time in my past, I patronized a place like The Show Palace; it was an adult video and bookstore with viewing booths inside. Historically, closeted Gay and Pansexual men have frequented these establishments. They enter the booths on the premise of wanting to watch an adult video, but they're really having oral sex with each other. They do it through holes (AKA glory holes) cut into the booth walls.

It's every bit as disgusting as it sounds! It's also dangerous, degrading and unsanitary; no doubt a lot of venereal disease has been spread that way. I knew better than to do what I was doing, but at the time I didn't care; my internalized shame told me I belonged in those video booths. The men I encountered there no doubt felt the same way. Apparently, Donnie McClurkin may have felt that way, too! Now that home video is the preferred medium of adult video enthusiasts, the Show Palaces of the world are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Not a minute too soon, in my opinion!

In the next excerpt, McClurkin's alleged ex-lover talks about trysting with the singing preacher while he was out on Gospel tours:

"Rob": There was a hotel . . . in Garden City (New Jersey) that I went to. I caught the Long Island Railroad, and waited on the platform for awhile 'til he came . . . he was very nervous, because that was (our) first Long Island meeting. That's his home, his territory, (and the) people all know him. Sometimes if he was singing in Atlanta, I'd be in Atlanta. If he was singing in Detroit, I would be there. I would go, and he would help me get there.

Clay Cane: Did people in his circle know you were seeing each other?

"Rob": No, because I agreed to play by the rules.

Clay Cane: What did he explain the rules to be?

"Rob": Just discretion . . . (but) the church was getting so huge . . . he started to change. I noticed a change in his personality. He would be short-tempered, (he) would get (angry) with me. Something was bothering him, (he was) very troubled and (he'd say) “Why is this happening to me? . . . I've always wanted to be a pastor. I’ve always wanted my music out there, but still I'm not happy. I want to have somebody to love, I want to be in love with somebody, but I know what's . . . inside of me."

What a sad state of affairs! The tragedy of shame-based faith goes well beyond Donnie McClurkin's situation. How many preachers out there share this inner turmoil? This awful, tortured feeling that they can't serve God and be true to their nature at the same time? How many clergymen have been scarred by the organized Church's insistence on demonizing Gay identity? How many have taken part in such demonization, to the detriment of their own self-esteem? Lord, deliver me . . . they must number in the millions!

"The Miseducation of Donnie McClurkin" continues with Part Three.

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