It’s a Wonderful Life(Style): Black Gospel Star DeJuaii Pace “Comes Out” as a Lesbian

By: Johnathan Fields

Do you remember the 1946 Frank Capra classic, It’s a Wonderful Life? You know, the one they play every year at Christmas to remind people who have given up their dream that it will be okay, their life was pre-determined, Christianity and guardian angels will save them? Yep, that’s the one. I can’t lie, I do truly enjoy the film–probably because between television stations and my family I have seen it close to a million times. Well, the recent “coming-out” of DeJuaii Pace, left me re-examining, well, life.

In the same way George Bailey has to re-visit what his life could have been like had he never been born (or made different choices), it appears DeJuaii Pace had to do the same type of critical self-reflection. She supposedly arrived at her lesbianism after several attempts to “pray the gay away” through fasting. Surprisingly enough, her same-sex desire remained. Well I’ll be damned…

Reading her interview I was left with many questions: what makes someone “gay”? How is the Black church a place of support as some ignorant queer activists have proclaimed while disregarding Black queers (read: Dan Savage)? If someone has never engaged in a sexual act, is desire enough to label one’s self “gay”? Regardless of the answers to these questions, one question left me clueless: what the hell is “the lifestyle”?

No, I understand what the stereotypical “gay lifestyle” is: for some Christians, the epitome of sinners. But aren’t we all supposedly sinners? Why is there a distinction being made? Let’s debunk the stereotype right now: white, gay male, chiseled body, snorting crystal meth in the bathroom of a club, sneaking into a bathhouse. That’s only one of them. Yes, some gay people choose to live their life that way but so do some heterosexual people. What’s interesting about “the lifestyle” is that no one ever questions it. Even if there were some supposed monolithic “lifestyle” that queers were living under, it then becomes above questioning. Queer communities, queer “lifestyles”, promote the same oppressive structures that society does. By that I mean, you have members of the community reinforcing the very behaviors and languages that have kept queers controlled throughout the last century and longer. There is racism, sexism, and homophobia even within queer communities. So this supposed “lifestyle” becomes imagery that reinforces the schema of the larger society–male-dominated, fear-mongering, sex-driven, etc. Using “lifestyle” only serves to other people who, in many cases, have as many similarities to you as they do differences.

How often does your sexuality come into play in your day-to-day living? Whether you’re heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual, pan-sexual, you should have the choice in how much you allow sex to be a part of your daily life. My experiences have shown me that my queer family hold a lot of other identities simultaneously. We are brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, employees, lovers, artists, truth-seekers, right-handed, and a whole host of other identities at the same time we are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, etc. So why are we constantly forced into having to use our sexuality as the primary means of identification?

To my sister DeJuaii Pace, I realize this is a new period in your life that you are still trying to figure out. You’ve only just begun to stop letting the church and your family dictate what is acceptable for your life. But I ask that you please stop referring to our lives as a “lifestyle.” Doing so only promotes the same idiotic mentality that being gay is a choice. Now, being gay is only a choice insofar as being heterosexual is a choice. Each of us has a lifestyle, as individuals, where we make individual choices on how we want to live our lives. You’ve allowed your family to force you into some oppressive standard, retracting your sexual desires so you wouldn’t be “tainted” for your husband? Lawd have mercy. Will the same standard be held up against your wife? Hopefully this question gets people to really ponder how sexuality has been used to reinforce these behaviors like the institution of marriage. Marriage is not innately between man and woman. People have made it seem that way. As I’ve stated before, marriage was instated as a property exchange among men where women were assets. Thus, women’s sexuality were monitored and controlled as a way of not damaging the property. The logic behind saving yourself for marriage only holds if you believe people are property.

How is engaging in a natural human exchange tainting the body? How is having enlightened, consentual, healthy sexual partners (whatever gender they may be) polluting? (This will be where all the Christians come out to support on the comments section.)

We have to appreciate her sharing her story because for another George Bailey out there, she may have just acted as Clarence. In telling her story, Ms. Pace may have helped someone else who was struggling with their identity come out or continue to live. She’s shown us that it is often those closest to us, those who supposedly love us, that force us to remain in closets suppressing who we know ourselves to be so others can remain comfortable. She shouldn’t allow society, her family, her friends, other queers, essentially anyone besides herself, tell her what it means to have same-sex desire. She’s found that she is attracted to women and she doesn’t have to justify or qualify that to anyone. But again, it is not some hypothetical “lifestyle”…it’s life. Live it and love it.

It took a bell ringing for Clarence to get his wings. He saved George. I wonder whose life DeJuaii just saved simply by telling her story…