I talk to my two children all the time. Sometimes, they talk to me. As Tomas did recently, to talk about an upcoming play for drama that his class was working on.
Tomas wasn’t so keen to participate as he was worried I might frown up the topic, which was the Westboro Baptist Church. The Reverend Fred Phelps runs the church and uses the slogan “God hates fags”.
Just as an aside, there is no god to hate fags.
I was happy that Tomas raised it with me, and we spoke about the implications of doing a play based on such hate. I had a few questions about the content and then told Tomas that as he’s only acting, he should do it. I’ve been abused and vilified many times in my life because of my sexuality. I was pretty sure I could cope with this.
The expected performance date arrived, however they weren’t quite ready, so the play was moved to 4.00 p.m. during the week. I really didn’t want to miss this, so I left work, not worried about leaky roofs, telco technicians or illegal rubbish dumpers! They could all wait until tomorrow.
It was made clear from the outset that the play was mostly unpolished, the play was the work of the students and it had some swear words in it.
First scene was a sermon from Fred Phelps in his church, telling us that god hates fags. It was certainly something to sit in the theatre and hear those words spat out by a teenager. A few nervous titters from the audience as we copped the full force of the hatred emanating from the Westboro Baptist Church. We had a choir singing “God hates fags”.
We got the perspective from some young members of the congregation who looked into the distance and said that’s where the gays live, and showed how indoctrination can impact on children. They showed a fear of people they’d never seen. Thought that the gays were monsters and to be avoided. The dissenting voice among them was corrected by peer pressure and the hate continues into the next generation.
We also had a taste of the ‘traditional family’ where the talk was about slavery (being acceptable) the roles of men and women and the tension between those traditional roles where women are fundamentally subservient to their husbands.
Finally there was a coming out scene. We saw two families. One family embraced their son,the other family rejected him.
This was quite an emotional moment as we saw the full impact of rejection on a young man. His family cast him out. He was left devastated and in tears.
The other family offered nothing but love and support for their gay son. They embraced him, hugged him and accepted him for who he was.
I grew up in a time when people hated people who were gay. It was nothing to be called a poof, a poofter, a fag or a faggot. Despite trying to be a small target, my school life was full of taunts and rejection, it really did hurt.
To see a bunch of teenagers actually stand up on stage and take on homophobia in such a direct way is a marvel. Sure, it was challenging to sit there and listen to laughter at the expense of ‘the fags’ but as the play progressed there was less laughter from the audience. A few times I wanted to stand up and make a speech about the real impact of this type of homophobia.
The students did a fantastic job, giving me hope that in some parts of the world everything will be alright. Sure, there’s still hatred and misinformation out there, but here is a school, a student body, who has respect for all people.
Congratulations to them all.
Oh, and somewhere during the crowd scene, I’m sure I heard the call of a wild wookie.