CHASING THE RAINBOW: GENDER-RELIGIOSITY AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF IDENITY IN THE MUSIC AND RITUAL OF THE METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA
Lotrecchiano, Gaetano Romano
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The intersection of belief, identity, and performance enacted in the Metropolitan Community Church of Northern Virginia (MCC NOVA) - a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer community of faith, provides an arena for ethnomusicological inquiry into ritual performance and its relationship with identity construction. As a safe-haven for persons marginalized by mainstream religious traditions, MCC NOVA serves as an alternative to historically oppressive and suppressive worshipping environments where LGBTQ lifestyle is often considered antithetical to the goals of religiosity. It grounds ritual and musical practices in its core values: elastic theology, inclusiveness, diversity, community, member-ministers, and love and acceptance. These core values are the basis of a variety of performative events which allow for the self-fashioning of identity and spiritual exploration on both an individual and corporate level. Affected by a variety of "cradle traditions", this LBGTQ group draws on a complex assortment of sacred musics and ritual practices which form a unique gender-religiosity as MCCers journey to describe and re-invent their collective self. MCC NOVA intensifies the experience of faith through its multi-gendered condition, alternative spiritualities, and idiosyncratic performance events by fashioning a Judeo-Christian-based LBGTQ spirituality in light of freedoms which allow for exploration beyond the boundaries of the Christian ordo. This project deals with a series of unexplored important ethnomusicological questions concerning the significance, process, problems, negotiations, and repercussions involved in performing a variety of ritual musics and acts in light of MCC NOVA's central core values. Foremost is the question of the relationship between individual existenz and corporate identity and the role this relationship plays in ritual. The aesthetics which promote this process are a culmination of blended beliefs rooted in LBGTQ lifestyle, concerns about gender, religious priorities, and the historical faith traditions of the congregants. Performances vary in their ability to describe the intersection of these major contributions to identity construction. Therefore, the investigation of a truly gender-religious stance requires a consideration of the behavioral, ritual-musical, and ontological realities of MCC NOVA membership as they interact to construct an identity where liturgy is both source and outcome of this unique religiosity.