Monday, May 16, 2005


Drama queens

Tolerance is bad, mkay?
Drama Lesson

How a Playwright Learned Improvisation

Sabrina Audrey Jess, figures she has about half an hour before the cast party begins. With an actor friend to keep her company -- a friend who will come and go, leaving at one point to get out of costume -- she scrunches in one of the back rows, pressing her feet against the seat in front of her. This is where Sabrina begins to explain how "Offsides," her one-act drama about a high school football player who realizes he's gay, landed her in an ugly political brawl.

"I had a lot of senior friends last year who went through a really hard time," she says. "Some of them didn't tell anybody because of how scared they were. There were some who told people, and their parents said they were going to get kicked out of their house, or they had to go to counseling, and if they didn't go to counseling they would be forced to leave the house -- it was just a lot of stuff. And it didn't make sense to me."

So Sabrina wrote "Offsides" -- but only because she needed something to direct for the school's annual one-act festival and couldn't find what she was looking for. She didn't have a particular topic in mind. She was just hunting for a comedy.

"I liked a lot of them," she says, "but none of them really stuck out to me. So I was like, 'All right, how bad can it be? I'll just sit down and try to write one.' "

"You didn't get a comedy," her friend says with a giggle.

"It was far from a comedy," Sabrina agrees, and the girls crack up.

This is gallows humor; after the play was performed in early February, Sabrina didn't exactly have a lighthearted time. "Offsides" was the second of five one-acts on the bill, and a few folks walked out. Says Sabrina, "The people I saw leave during the show had little kids, which I completely understand." The play contained a tentative and ambiguous homosexual kiss that was blacked out almost before it began; more unsettling were the physical beating and blistering ostracization the football star then endured from his friends.

For Sabrina, the real fallout came in the following days. Her play was the hot topic of the next county school board meeting, which was preceded by anti-"Offsides" leaflets and even an e-mail campaign urging constituents to tell school board members that "it is inappropriate to promote homosexuality in our public schools." That came from the office of Del. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun), who later stated that he didn't write the e-mail but was simply passing it on.
Thus, of course, and, I'm sure, entirely unintentionally, making her point for her.

What is it about this that the homophobes and wingnuts don't get? That calling for tolerance - for kindness and respect and understanding - is not the same thing as "promoting homosexuality"? I'm baffled. I realize many people are uncomfortable with homosexuality, for a number of reasons. But how is it "promoting" homosexuality to call for an end to gay-bashing? Other than a true nutcase like the evil Fred Phelps, can anyone really be in favor of someone being beaten up simply because he's gay? Or being thrown out of his house by his parents? Or committing suicide rather than keep dealing with the taunts and the threats and the beatings?

The people who quote Leviticus to justify their homophobia are also the people who, for the most part, don't follow a single other stricture from that text. They don't keep Kosher, they violate the Sabbath, they wear garments made from more than one thread, etc. What it is, is, they don't like gays, so then they go find a Biblical justification to back up something they've already decided.

And in any case, whether or not you think homosexuals should have any rights at all, if you truly believe in that "culture of life" that the right wing Christians and Republicans seem to think they have a copyright on, you should be in favor of simple tolerance.

But they aren't. They get almost hysterical the instant anything other than vicious condemnation of the "gay agenda" makes even the most minimal public appearance. It's as if they have some kind of right not to have any of their tender sensibilities affronted by having to consider the existence of anything they don't approve of. Not being in charge of everything is discrimination against them. Not being able to discriminate against others is discrimination against them. Not being able to beat up a fag is anti-Christian. After all, if he doesn't want to keep getting beaten up, all the queer has to do is choose to be straight!

I'm constantly being reminded of what G. K. Chesterton wrote: "Christianity hasn't failed. It's never been tried."
Thanks for the mention. :-)

Intolerance is an abomination.
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Thanks for the mention. :-)

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Intolerance is an abomination.
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