Topics: June 2024, Spirituality | Culture, LGBTQ2S+

This gospel choir welcomes queer and trans people

Jacen Duncan founded Inkloosiv Voices to give everyone a chance to sing uplifting music

A bald Black man with black-framed glasses is standing in front of graffiti and laughing with his eyes closed and mouth open. He has a goatee and earrings in each ear. His left hand is in the pocket of his blue jeans. he is wearing a white sweatshirt. On his right hand is a white watch with a ring on his middle finger. He is also wearing a ring on the left middle finger and a silver bracelet.
Inkloosiv Voices founder Jacen Duncan. (Photograph by Wade Muir)

Jacen Duncan wants to make gospel choir a more inclusive place. Growing up in the Pentecostal church, he always found joy in singing at Sunday services. But when he came out as queer in 2004, he felt so unwelcome in his church choir that he had to leave. For years, Duncan stopped singing gospel music, but he missed the genre’s uplifting sounds. So in 2020, he founded Inkloosiv Voices, a Toronto­ -based R&B gospel choir made up of queer and trans people and their allies.

Beginnings: I posted on Instagram about starting a gospel choir and got a lot of responses. I think there’s a big need for it: gospel music gives people hope and inspires them to keep going during difficult times. Our singers come from all walks of life. Some aren’t religious; others have never sung this type of music before.

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Barriers: The pandemic began as we were launching the choir, so we held our early rehearsals over Zoom. It was really difficult navigating the uncertainty of not knowing when we were going to be allowed to sing together in person. But the music was really what kept us going.

Necessity: A lot of our members have gone through church trauma, but being in a place where they’re able to come together and connect is healing. I’m very intentional about choosing music with lyrics that support this.

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Impact: After performing at sold-out gospel brunches and other events around Toronto, we held our own Pride concert in the city’s west end last June. We were worried that people weren’t going to show up, but they did! I saw some of the audience crying while we were singing. There was an overwhelming feeling that healing was happening alongside music. It was beautiful.



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