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.