SEPTEMBER 13, 2020
In 1995, Michael Passons became a founding member of the Christian band Avalon until he left in 2003. In that time, the band released two Gold-certified records (selling at least 500,000 units) and was nominated for multiple Grammy awards.
Passons exited the group in 2003 to pursue a solo career. At least that’s how the story went. Reality turns out to be much more depressing: He was kicked out of the group for being gay.
Passons revealed that information this week during an interview with the podcast “Jonah and the Whale,” telling host Josh Skinner that his band members just showed up at his home one day and told him his services were no longer needed.
“Avalon showed up at my house and told me I was no longer in the group,” he said. “And it was all because of who I am.”
“They came alone, but they had been speaking with management and record label before they visited my home,” Passons continued, adding that he was “blindsided” by the decision.
Passons also said that exit was preceded by his band members’ attempts to turn him straight, so to speak, by trying to get him to go through conversion therapy. (As anyone can tell you, people can’t just change their sexual orientation. People who have gone through it have repeatedly said it’s incredibly harmful, if not psychologically damaging.)
“We had had some conversations… I was required to attend some reparative therapy sessions to save my job. That did not go well,” he recalls. “I was required to drive a couple hours every week to see this person in Chattanooga. It was basically someone sitting there listening to me speak and looking like they felt really sorry for me. [I was thinking] ‘Is this all there is? Do you have an answer? Do you have a cure? Let’s speed this up.’ I knew, of course, they didn’t [have a cure] but I was trying to play along. After a month I said, ‘I’m not going back to that guy, let the chips fall where they fall. I’m not going back.’ It wasn’t long after that.”
He didn’t play along. Then the band kicked him out.
The Christian music industry is notoriously cutthroat when it comes to image. If you don’t toe the line of being a perfect Christian, it damages your entire “brand.” There’s a line of thinking among evangelical Christians these days that being gay isn’t a sin, but acting on it is. But in the world of Christian music, even the hint of a popular musician being gay — certainly in the early 2000s — could ruin that person’s career. The rest of Avalon didn’t want to be tainted by any association with homosexuality.
Fortunately, not everyone in Avalon was hostile to Passons. Former member Melissa Greene — who was part of the group that kicked him out but has since come around to his side — wrote on Instagram that she was “proud” of Passons and that she’s glad he’s now able to “encourage others with his peace and freedom.”
View this post on Instagram
18 years ago I joined the musical group, Avalon and met someone who would fast become one of my dearest friends. • Today is the first time that @michaelpassons is sharing the truth of his story, part of our journey, what happened 17 years ago upon his departure from Avalon, and where he is now. I’m beyond proud of this moment for him and for who he is. I wept as I listened for so many reasons. ✨ I’m also deeply grateful that we have grown so much together, that I have changed so much over 18 years, and that he is finally able to encourage others with his peace and freedom. Ultimately that is what we all deserve and are looking for… so may we continue to work towards that for all and may we continue to grow. • Listen to @jonahandthewhalepodcast at the link in my bio. Thank you @withjoshskinner for interviewing and sharing this powerful story. • Love you Michael. ✨👏🏼💛 #truth #liveyourbestlife #friend #family #sing #artist #shareyourstory #story #freedom #peace #jonahandthewhale #lgbtq #ally #inclusive #yourlifematters #youaremagic
How difficult must it have been to not share this publicly for 17 years? Hopefully, the people who enjoyed his music will be horrified by this story instead of thinking what happened to him was justified.
(Screenshot via YouTube)