Yesterday we saw the play “Reflections of a Rock Lobster” put on by the Boston Children’s Theater in Boston. The play is about the real life experience of gay high school student Aaron Fricke. During the play we learn that Aaron is funny, sweet, gets excellent grades, cares about his fellow students, doesn’t hate, loves his family and is ... gay. Aaron’s struggle with whether or not to come out to the public as a gay man is palpable and when he finally does, as one might expect, he experiences both acceptance and rejection, both from places expected and surprising. Despite having been relentlessly bullied in high school, Aaron sued the Cumberland (Rhode Island) High School to be permitted to bring his (male) date to the senior prom. Did I mention this took place in 1980, over 30 years ago?
Aaron won his lawsuit – one of the first of its kind – and attended the prom with his date, albeit under heavy “security”. The principal of the school, Richard Lynch, under instruction from the judge that Aaron and his date be protected from the sort of overt physical attacks that took place all of Aaron’s days while at school, attempted to segregate and isolate Aaron and his date from the other students. I won’t give away the ending, but suffice it to say it was eye opening and triumphant.
Now some of you may know that I am from Cumberland, Rhode Island. And I was friends with Aaron in middle school; good friends. Aaron was – is – uproariously funny, witty, kind, gentle, loving, smart (SO smart!) and is now a full time activist and advocate. I caught wind of “Reflections of a Rock Lobster” on Facebook, of all places, and ended up engaged in a little tiff with a producer of a well known local television program when I felt he had mischaracterized Aaron. (The producer apologized.) That led to Aaron and I reconnecting and I was overjoyed yesterday when I was able to give him a great big hug and tell him in person how proud I am of his accomplishments.
So that’s the back-story. Here’s the REAL reason for this post. When I told my 14 year old son last week about the play we would be attending, he said “Wait, didn’t this happen 30 years ago?” When I said yes, he thought for a minute and then, almost ruefully, said “Wow, there hasn’t been all that progress since then, has there?”
That, folks, is a bleeding shame. That we haven’t broadened our tolerance, our acceptance of the gay population is tragic. I mean, literally tragic. Tyler Clementi. Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover. Jamey Rodemeyer. Asher Brown. Seth Walsh. Justin Aarber. Jacob Rogers. All committed suicide after being bullied to the point where they felt taking their own lives was the only solution to resolving their pain. And, dear God, Matthew Shepard. Offered a ride home by two humanimals, Shepard was instead driven to a remote area, robbed, pistol whipped, tortured, tied to a fence and left to die. Why? Because he was gay. Only that.
In 30 years we have progressed so little. Only eight states recognize marriages between persons of the same sex. It’s still OK to call someone a “fag” or a “faggot” as a pejorative. Why isn’t that as bad as calling someone the “n” word? What is it about homosexuality that threatens so many people? Guess what folks? Homosexuality has been around as long as we have ALL been around. Show me where being gay has caused any historical dysfunction. Has posed a threat to humanity. Where treating gay men and women with respect and tolerance has somehow diminished YOUR life. You can’t, can you?
Now I know this post may incite some comments from people who disagree with what I am going to say next but opinions are like armpits; everyone has one and everyone thinks everyone else's stinks. This is NOT an opinion; this is a fact. People who are gay do NOT CHOOSE to be so. They are born that way, just as are people who have brown eyes, blond hair, freckles ... there’s no choice in the matter. So why the intolerance? And why is it that a 14 year old kid can see the shameful lag in progression of acceptance but our gay brothers and sisters are still fighting for basic rights?
I am looking forward to spending some time this week with an old friend who is funny, sweet, accomplished, a published author, cares about his fellow humans, doesn’t hate, loves his family and is ... oh yeah ... gay.