On the Road With Laramie




The last group I meet with is at State College High School. The host group is a gay-straight alliance, but anyone who is interested can come. One sports coach arrives with a whole group of young athletes, and they actually do seem genuinely interested.

One young woman shares openly with the group how exhausting it is being out in her school, but she feels it’s important. She can’t be more than 16. Another young man, maybe 15, says he thinks that homophobia is really “less about sexuality and more that people feel threatened when the gender binary is challenged.”

Call me unstable, but all it takes to move me from the depths of despair to the peaks of happiness is hearing a 15-year-old boy talk about challenging the gender binary in front of an auditorium full of high school athletes. My faith is restored once again. Being on tour with these plays and leading discussions on these issues is becoming a schizophrenic experience. I find myself careening between extremes: frustration and resignation, outrage and acceptance, grief and gratitude.

Susan Brindle, who organized this meeting, e-mails me a video that the GSA made for the school’s morning announcements. In it students of all sorts hold up the names and pictures of kids we have recently lost in the spate of gay suicides that have dominated the media for several weeks now. One after another, these young people say, “I am responsible,” as they let the pictures and names drop from their hands. It’s very simple and quite devastating.

Creating an environment that is safe and inclusive of queer people is everyone’s responsibility, gay or straight. I wish more of us grown-ups had the courage these young students have to own this level of responsibility in their social contexts, whatever the day-to-day costs might be.

Tags: Theater