Deerfield constantly stresses its tight-knit community is based on traditions and respect; from sit-down meals to all-school meetings, we strive to be worthy of our heritage.
It was only during performing The Laramie Project that its message really hit me. This play is not meant to eradicate homophobia, or as Father Schmidt says, condemn LGBTs to perfection. Neither is it meant to make gay rights supporters feel like heroes, and the undecided feel coerced into becoming gay rights activists. During the post-show discussions, I realized this play is meant to help us see what it means to live in a community. As one of my characters, an Islamic feminist Zubaida Ula, laments, “We have to mourn this and be sad that we live in a town, a state, a country where shit like this happens. These are people trying to distance themselves from the crime. And we have to own this crime. We are like this. We ARE like this. WE are LIKE this.”
Just because you were not the ones wielding the butt of the gun as it hit Matthew Shepherd tied to the fence, just because you don’t use the words “gay,” “fag,” or “dyke,” just because you don’t describe yourself as homophobic, doesn’t mean you don’t have a role in what happens in the community.
It isn’t our job to change Deerfield so we all have uniform views; but standing up in a discussion, and speaking up against calling a gay person a “fag,” or labeling something as “so gay,” is something we all have to do.
This play wasn’t only about homosexuality or hate crimes, but about being able to live in a community that accepts you, whether you be gay, Asian, blond, or otherwise. It’s about being able to trust yourself to be you; because you won’t be automatically stereotyped, judged, or ignored; because you’re an uncomfortable aspect of the community that hasn’t been smoothed out and perfected.
Our views will always differ, and it is not our role to conform; but unless we don’t ignore what we believe is uncomfortable or not our responsibility to change, our community will never be anything more than a motto, rather than the belief that one day we will be worthy of our heritage.