Valerian Ruminski, the opera singer fired in Ottawa for supposedly anti-gay comments, has offered a fulsome explanation to Slipped Disc readers about his attitudes on life and the way he shares them on social media. He treats the issues raised by his conduct with frankness and self-awareness. He acknowledges his mistake and insists he has no prejudices about minorities. He seeks forgiveness.
A TESTIMONIAL ABOUT MY LIFE AND THE LGBT COMMUNITY
I suppose the best way to explain myself is the way that I made my big mistake. I will write it out. I have been writing caustic blurbs about politics and religion and many other topics on my Facebook page since Facebook came out back in 2008. I have a tendency to want to shock and stimulate conversation. For me it’s a way to express myself in a chaotic world where there are so many things wrong. Over-population, war, disease, climate change, gender inequality, cruelty to wildlife and so on and so on…
I feel as powerless as anyone else when things happen in the world. We all have different ways of dealing with them. It seems like, for me, I like to write things and start debates. I get agitated at things and I want to vent and let people know I am bothered. I never know what it’s going to be.
I lead the life of an opera singer. For those of you who don’t know what that means I will take a moment to describe it to you. We train for years, spend loads of money on teachers and coachings and then start to get jobs in various cities with various countries for a month at a time thruought the year. It’s not as glamorous as you might think. I generally get 3 or 4, maybe 5 if I am lucky, gigs a year and learn new roles. Mainly it’s a lonely existence. You make a few freinds along the way and have some places that are regular employers. Most of the time the sacrifices that you have made to get to this point are greater than the rewards you will reap. Sometimes you can make a great leap and have some success. I wasn’t sure I was going to have an opera career. I knew I could sing.
It wasn’t until I joined the opera chorus in my local town that I realized that a career was possible. The general director, Gary, liked my voice and he invited me to sing for him in his studio. So I took my best piece of music and I did. I really didn’t think one way or the other about the fact that he was gay. He was an intelligent, caring and compassionate man who wanted to see my talent blossom. He taught me all the basics I needed to start mounting the career I have now.
Gary also maneuvered my schooling. towards an elite school where I was inducted into a sort of ‘opera boot camp’. I was accepted into a 4 year full scholarship program. My first assigned teacher, Bill, was a great tenor….respected in the opera world and also quite gay. I went to my lessons and became great frieinds with Bill. He remained my teacher for 8 solid years and taught me the basic rudiments and foundations of my technique.
At the same time, at the academy, our music director, Chris molded and shaped me into an opera singer that could phrase a line, sing a language correctly and act well on stage. He was gay and had lived with the same man for over 25 years. I got to know Chris and John very well and I felt for Chris’ pain as John went thru cancer treatments and operations. They are still together.d are very special to me.
All the other coaches, except one, at the academy were gay and they each taught me very unique things about my craft. I felt part of a very special family learning there and I missed it when I left.
As I was leaving school and moving out into the world I was auditioning for many companies and I was accepted into a downstate summer program in NY. Jay was the director. Also very gay. He was an old Broadway dancer and had a way with comedy. He worked me to the bone all summer and I danced for the first (and last) time with frequency. He was a mentor, a director, a teacher and my employer. I left the summer program with a full stock of tricks to use throughout my career.
The summer after that I went out west to New Mexico and was in a very elite summer program. I was one of 10 young men to be accepted. I would say at least 5 of the other guys were gay,. Some of them didnt admit it because they were unsure as to the ramifications of what that might mean for their careers. I got along with them all and I still correspond with them to this day.
To play out the string on my recollections….my first two agents were both gay, My first major accompanist, Bill H, was gay. Almost half of the men who hired me into my first positions singing in Monte Carlo, Montreal, Dallas and Atlanta were gay. My current NYC agent is gay and married.
So, as for my big mistake. I like to write. I like to bitch. I like to complain about the world, about people, countries, organizations. It makes me feel better. I sat on a bus last week and I saw a man with 10 diamonds glued to his fingernails. I thought it was a bit over the top. I did not know who he was, To me it did not matter if he was gay or straight. I simply objected to the flambouyance and unneccessary accoutrements on his fingers. I wanted to get a picture of them so I angled my cell and got one. I posted the picture on Facebook. I vented some frustrations about his nails and his appearance and I left it there.
That was my big mistake. I did not know him. I did not know if he was smart or witty or dull. I didn’t take the time to say hello or greet him. I didn’t take the time to pause and think and consider that we are all special and that this person was different in a way that was unique to everyone else around us. I am an opera singer. He, as I learned, is a drag queen. The two of us are not too far apart, I guess. I am sorry I didn’t say hello before flash judging him. Certainly I regret the backlash and hulabaloo after my posting. I never bashed him for his sexuality. I never would have. I have been shaped by gay men. They have been father figures, brothers in arms and mentors to me. I lost my father at 10 yrs old to a heart attack. I found his lifeless body on the couch and I pounded on his arm to get up when he wouldn’t open his eyes. Ever since then I have sought out fathers in my life., To me, the gay men that have been in my life are not just gay men…they have been family. They have been cherished, loved and lost. Never in a physical way, but in my heart.
I would ask the gay community to reconsider flash judgements. Facebook is not a place where the totality of a person can be glimpsed in moments. We are all text books of experience and depth and sometimes you have to look underneath the surface to see that. You yourselves have fought for so long to rise above the prejudice that has plagued you for centuries. You have wanted to be judged for who you really are not just that you love someone of the same gender. I am asking you to judge me for who I am telling you that I am.
I am Valerian Ruminski, opera singer, hetero male,orphaned son, liberal, progressive, tolerant and accepting of all. But I made a big mistake last week. Please forgive me.