Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It Was Better

This was going to be a cutesy post about rocking out to Jack's Mannequin or watching all of the Vlogbrothers videos or other things I do randomly. But it can't be that kind of post, because I just finished reading The Laramie Project. For anyone who might not know, Laramie is a play about the beating and death of Matthew Shepard, a crime motivated by the fact that Matthew was gay.

I did theatre all four years of high school. I heard about The Laramie Project, but I never read it. Now, I'm glad I didn't. I wouldn't have been ready. I wasn't a stranger to the fact that violence existed in the world. In sixth grade, I listed my fears on a project for school. I was afraid of my parents dying, bombs and school shootings. Bad things happened.

They happened for no reason. They didn't happen because someone happened to be gay.

I know I'm lucky. I grew up in the south. The Bible belt. I'm related to people whose conservative viewpoints I will never sympathize with. But sexuality was never an issue worth disliking someone for, let alone hating them. I had friends who changed their love interests--male or female--monthly. My theatre troupe had boys who liked girls and boys who liked boys--and I managed to be attracted more to the latter than the former. It was a problem, but only for my poor sixteen-year-old heart. We gossiped about it the way we gossiped about everything. No more, no less.

After I read the play, which wasn't my first exposure to Matthew's story, I called my mom, unable to believe it happened in 1998. Like, I must have blocked that detail out, absolutely unable to believe it could happen in a time when I have memories. When I was playing with Beanie Babies and planning to be Dorothy for Halloween.

And I wish I knew now that the world has gotten better. But it hasn't--not in a huge way. In fact, now things are different only in the way that kids are inflicting the hate crimes on themselves. In my world, it's gotten worse, because at sixteen I could have never imagined a world where someone's attraction to another human being could get them killed.

I'm also listening to the audiobook of Lauren Myracle's Shine, a similar story that takes place in a small, Southern town. Some of the sound bites probably could have come from people in my hometown, and I wish I'd never had to acknowledge that fact.

I only hope one day everyone will be able to grow up in a place where they're safe, no matter what.


  1. I was in a production of The Laramie Project. That show changed my life.

    1. Oh wow. I bet so. It's incredibly powerful, and also unique. I found the structure really interesting. Giving the actors (at least in the original company) a voice is a compelling way to make it open. But then I guess that element changes once it's done in other venues.

  2. A couple years ago, the same troupe that did the original interviews for The Laramie Project went back on the 10 year anniversary of Matthew Shepard's murder and re-interviewed everyone. It was called Return to Laramie. They had staged readings of it all across the country on the same night on the 11th anniversary of his death. I got to see it at the Alliance's Hertz Stage and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was only a staged reading, but it was so powerful and fascinating to see how things had changed (and not) since 1998.

    1. That must have been really amazing. I've found staged readings can be incredibly powerful, because all you have is the words and the emotion.