Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Laramie Project

I just watched the amazing HBO film production of the play The Laramie Project as research for working in the costume department on an up-coming stage production of it at the Silk St Theatre, London.

I spent most of the time watching it with the feeling as though I had just had the air knocked out of me, and not for the first time (or the hundredth time) I thanked God that I grew up and live in England in the period of history that is today.

As a young queer, it is very hard to comprehend that life was so awful back before I was old enough to be aware of the world and my place in it. I'm not saying life now is perfect - we've a long way to go to achieving a world where non-cis genders and non-hetero sexualities go unremarked - but my goodness, I am lucky I wasn't born before 1992, and didn't have to experience life as it was before then, and even in the 90s.

If you don't know the Laramie Project, it's a play by a theatre group who went over the Laramie, Wyoming two weeks after a hate crime. A 21 year old out gay man, Matthew Sheppard, was driven out to a field by two of his fellow residents, beaten with fists and a pistol, tied to a post, and left for dead. He was found in a coma, and rushed to hospital, but eventually died without waking up. The theatre group spent the year and a half following (during which time the two young men who committed this atrocity were tried and convicted and the world media descended on the small town) interviewing the residents, hearing how they were involved in the case, and how it had affected them. The play condenses these interviews and uses the townspeople's own words to convey the attitudes at the time, and the effect of being used as the stage for the debate over anti-discrimination laws and hate crime legislation.

I am so lucky that the worst I've had to face is people who don't understand what bisexuality is. I've never been bullied, discriminated against, attacked, abused or hated for being bisexual. But still my heart is with all my fellow queers who do face these things, and worse in places where the law is against them as well; that's the pain I feel, the hurt that I bear; I weep not for myself but the continuing struggle to keep going, keep fighting ignorance, fear and bigotry, to push for more on top of what we've already achieved.

It is warming to look back at the last century and realise how far we've come from that point. Life for me was great growing up because of the efforts of those who fought those battles, people who were enraged by Mattew Sheppard's story, and so many others like it. But now I am battling, it's my turn to pave the way for the generations after me (which is weird for me to think about age 21) as well as those still suffering right now, so that they may live better lives without pain caused by who they are.

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