Laramie speaks, OR The conversation I wish we’d had
I wish my roommate came to see Laramie. She’s a wonderful person, funny and sweet; we’ve been friends since freshman year. She’s also a Christian and I am not, which has led to many fascinating conversations this past year, usually with both of us on our respective beds on opposite sides of the room (a lovely theatrical staging device). All the usual assumptions can be made: I am more liberal, am cool with pre-marital sex, think gender roles can be very restrictive. She won’t have sex before marriage, believes we are all naturally sinful, takes the Bible as her moral code. And yet, we get along swimmingly.
Yesterday, however, one of our fascinating conversations quickly turned to frustrating. We discussed paedophilia and bestiality – moral codes, absolute truth, right vs. wrong. Unspoken throughout was the question of homosexuality, something we’ve discussed often in the past. Her thoughts quickly turned to the ‘slippery slope’ argument, in different words but with the same basic idea – if homosexuality is cool, then why not paedophilia? If you have a natural (biological) desire to have sex with animals, isn’t that just as valid as sex with men? Where do we draw the line?
Just typing those sentences out makes me so frustrated and tense. I obviously disagreed with her, but my thoughts got all muddled and my usually articulate voice chose that moment to take a nap. I pulled in consent and Foucault and sexualities as both biological and social, but nothing came out right. I failed.
The reason I’m telling this story as my last blog post is because I wish my roommate had come to see Laramie (the same way she probably wishes I came to her Christian group’s worship sessions) because Laramie says these things so much better than I can. Because watching gay friends and couples cry and hold each other to get through this play is vastly more powerful than any jumble of words I could string together. Because art can say things that regular conversation can’t.
My roommate isn’t crazy, or stupid, or mean. She wakes me up for class in the mornings, picked my parents up from the airport when they visited and doesn’t get mad at me for the dirty dishes and clothes that decorate our room. I like her a lot. She’s a good friend and a good person. We just disagree on many fundamental issues. I think Laramie would have been an excellent conversation for her to witness, one that better addressed my views, and she deserves that kind of conversation.
Three other things Laramie taught me, Or Laramie lessons
1. To resist the “impulse of immediate perfection” (as Jules wrote in her comments on my first blog post) and enjoy the messy process of creating, knowing that it probably will never be perfect and certainly won’t be right away.
2. Theatre is a space in which I feel valued. I cried twice during the Laramie experience. Once, during our first talkback, when someone mentioned what a community we had become. The second time, during Jeff’s comment at our last class meeting. He mentioned seeing me freshman year every Friday afternoon at the Theatre Studies Lunchbox event, afternoons well spent but forgotten by me. He remembered me.
3. How lucky and blessed I am to have the parents I have, not just because they flew to Duke to watch me perform, but also because every night when Jedadiah/Andy (Jandy?) said that his parents didn’t watch him because their belief that homosexuality was wrong overpowered their love and support for him, I could not relate. No matter how hard I tried. Because I know that my parents would never do that to me. And I felt for Jedadiah, but I couldn’t fully understand, emotionally, what that was like.
4. The limits of my empathy. As I watched every night, consistently, Spencer, Jacob and Summer would cry on stage. LGBT audience members cried. I did not cry. The emotional resonance the play had for the LGBT/queer actors and audience members was something I could not replicate. It’s not in me because that’s not my experience. I can understand it but I cannot feel it in the same way. Which is good to learn.
Bye bye Laramie!