On the Road With




My own prejudices are suddenly in evidence too. I am engaged to speak about Matthew and the plays at the Waterloo, Iowa, Rotary Club. Before having any direct experience of the group, I am confident that Rotary is a bastion of homophobia. Nothing about the members’ appearance convinces me otherwise. When I must join them in “God Bless America” and then bow my head to pray, my verdict is sealed. It’s not that I think they shouldn’t do their thing with their God. It’s just that in my experience, “their God” has never been to keen on my sexuality. When Al Ricks asks us to listen to a benediction, I am relieved that my eyes are closed in prayer so no one can see me roll them.

Here’s what he says: “We pause in this moment to offer our thanks for this lovely day — for the harvest season well under way with all its signs of bounty. We thank you for the splendor and beauty of the changing season, the brilliant colors of the leaves, and the fresh, clean air. We’ll be reminded that the beauty of this day happens in stark contrast to the ugliness and brutality of what happens within your human family when hate takes the upper hand. Help us to listen and learn with greater resolve to build a better world as we seek to serve you. Today and always. Amen.”

It’s very moving. I am introduced with great dignity and received with great warmth and care by this “bastion of homophobia.” At several points in Matt’s story, I get choked up when I see the grief or compassion on the face of some middle-aged Iowa businessman in his practical suit that I knew with such certainty was a homophobe just a few minutes earlier. I am not naive. I imagine that there were homophobic people at that Rotary meeting and that many of those who were empathetic might balk at giving queer people every single right that straight people have (Iowans did just oust three members of their state supreme court for approving gay marriage, after all). But despite this, I was wrong about them.

Tags: Theater