Ok so... I went to see play a couple of weeks ago that has had me cogitating hard ever since. Put on by the third year students at Guildhall, my friend insisted I go along – firstly because she had worked on it and said that the students were brilliant; secondly because she said that the subject matter was extremely thought-provoking and controversial. That it certainly was...
I was aware of the incident around which the story revolves – that of the shocking hate-crime that was the torture and murder of gay 20-year-old Matthew Shepard in Smalltown USA in the late Nineties. I knew about it because of the Melissa Etheridge song 'Scarecrow', so-named because the boy who found Matthew 18 hours after his ordeal thought his slumped body was a scarecrow when he first saw him in the distance.
Basically, the premise of the play goes thusly:
“On 6 October 1998 Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die tied to a fence in the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. He died six days later. His torture and murder became a watershed historical moment in the United States that highlighted many of the fault lines in American culture. A month after the murder, the members of Tectonic Theater Project travelled to Laramie and conducted interviews with the people of the town during a period of 18 months. From these interviews they wrote the play The Laramie Project, which they later made into a film for HBO. The piece has been seen by more than 30 million people around the States.” (Taken from the programme)
So, basically it's 22 people standing around quoting 69 people of the town as they spoke about their reaction to the incident. Now, thankfully an awful lot of locals learned from the situation, and changed their views about homosexuality and whether or not gay people are asking to be beaten and killed for the way they live their lives. And while some of the play was hard to swallow because of all the religious stuff inevitably tied up in it, there were some incredibly moving moments as a percentage of the population had their eyes opened and started to accept that homosexuality is not an illness nor a crime. Nor even a choice. However, my eyes were opened to a few things too, that have had me thinking ever since.
Firstly, if you have been treated like a mushroom your whole life (i.e. kept in the dark and fed a load of shit), then you could almost be forgiven for not realising that there may be opinions and beliefs that are different to yours and may not necessarily be wrong. For example, if you have been told your whole life that homosexuality is totally evil, then you may never take the time or have the inclination to question that. So I feel sorry for people in that situation, because they are born into a world of ignorance, well-and-truly behind the eight ball.
The second thing that hit me like a brick and had me sympathising with the person in question, was when the female police officer in the play pointed out that while this particular murder was definitely a hate crime and unquestionably completely evil; on the same day a fellow police officer had been shot and killed, and his story was summed up in a couple of paragraphs on page six of the local newspaper, while Matthew's murder took up the whole of the front page and sparked protests, demonstrations and outrage country-wide. The cop's murder was clearly a hate-crime, so why weren't as many people shouting about the injustice of the slaying of that human being just because of who he was? Hmmm, I have no answer, but it's got me really thinking that sometimes we in the LGBT community can be a little bit close-minded like everyone else. It's a horrible feeling to have your own selective self-righteousness pointed out!
If you get a chance to see the play or the film, grab it and let me know what you think...