There he was, back in Florida, and everything felt different. He had graduated college. He had taught English in China. He had even fallen in love. Now Tyler Wansley was back in his hometown with a broken heart, wondering where to go next.
Boston seemed like a nice enough place. He had a friend or two there. So he got in his car and drove north. Today, Tyler is celebrating his 25th birthday in Savin Hill- a teacher’s aide for Chinese students at a private school, a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus, a Bostonian.
Here, in his own words, is how it happened, all in the rush of a few weeks:
“It was a last minute decision: I’m just going to go to Boston and see what happens. I think within a month, I was here. And that happened by my just literally leaving my house one day, driving up, looking for apartments on the fly, and, like, living on a friend’s couch.
The job I got, I applied to last minute. I decided at the last minute I’d do it. And also last minute, that night I decided to go karaoke at Club Cafe, because what do I have to lose? I don’t know anybody, I don’t have anything to do, I may as well go out.
I looked up good places that people go, and I’d heard Club Cafe was a good bar. It was a Wednesday because that’s when they do karaoke.
I didn’t really know what to expect. I mean, Massachusetts people aren’t the friendliest folk to start a conversation. But I figured: whatever, I’ll sing. I know I can at least sing. If people talk to me, great. And if they don’t, at least they’ll think I’m a good singer hopefully.
It was pretty dead at first. I was sitting alone at a table drinking Yuengling. And then they started showing up in huge numbers, and that was cause the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus had just gotten out of practice.
After the first song, I was invited to a table, and a bunch of people from the Chorus were there. By the time I went the third time, it was pretty late—it was probably like midnight—so I chatted with people for a while and then went home. But I was, like, so excited about the whole thing cause I’d met so many people, and exchanged numbers, and knew people in the city now.
When I auditioned for the Chorus, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve been out for a long time, and I’d done queer activism and groups, but I’d never been part of a thing that was only gay men.
There’s a song we sing called “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” which I think really fits what the Chorus is about. That and “We Will Overcome”—I love both of those. You look around the room when you’re singing, and you’ll see people with their arms around each other, patting each other on the back, people who’ve been singing in the chorus together for years.
My first show, we did a song called “Testimony,” which was written for the It Gets Better Project, where they took a bunch of lines from queer people as they got older—them remembering how they felt as kids, growing up and all of that. So the song follows feelings of being wronged, or hating yourself, and moves through that, and then people talking about suicide, and then it moves to the getting better part. And I mean, everybody in the Chorus cries every time we sing it. Even thinking about it is emotional, really.
And when you’re surrounded by people you care about like that, and singing for people you care about, it’s interesting. I remember singing on stage the second night, the director turned around to take a bow, and he saw everybody was already giving a standing ovation, and he had to turn around and compose himself for a couple of seconds.
The one line that always gets me is something about: if I’d ended it all, I wouldn’t be here. I would have missed so many things—laughter and adventures, the joy of living in authenticity. And I would have missed the chance to sing out like this, with people I love beside me.
It’s the line that gets most people because it really is, I guess, scary to think, too—not just for yourself, but for the other people around you who could have not been there, who could not be there. So that’s definitely one of my favorite songs we do. I don’t think it’s the prettiest song, but it doesn’t have to be.”
The mission of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus is to create musical experiences that inspire change, build community and celebrate difference. Their next big performance is POPular on June 6 and 7, as part of Boston Pride Week.
Tyler was interviewed by story ambassador Gabbie Follett, of Dorchester.