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The Coward: A Look into Homophobia in Queer Spaces

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Theatre has always been a safe space for the LGBT+ community. It has given people of any sexuality and gender identity a platform to explore themselves and their relationships, as well as their fears and trauma, and share those experiences with everyone. LGBT+ theatre shows the truth, but sometimes it’s a hard truth, meant to make audiences uncomfortable but aware of the hardships that the queer community faces.

In her play The Coward, playwright Kati Schwartz explores the effects of homophobia in the queer community. The show focuses on a young actress named Jill, who spends the summer at an isolated summer stock theater company with a small group of actors. This group includes a man named Christopher, who claims to be straight despite his obvious attraction to a male castmate. His homophobia, fueled by his strong religious beliefs, clashes constantly against Jill’s questioning of her own sexuality, leading to a tension-filled show.

Schwartz is incredible at mixing realism and fantasy in her shows, and The Coward is no exception. Jill carries a wand and casts spells throughout the play, though it is unclear whether her castmates can see the spells’ effects or not. However, the plot of the show itself is very much based in reality.

The Coward, as with most of the plays I write, is based off a real life experience,” said Schwartz. “What you see is my interpretation of that experience with some witchcraft and magical realism sprinkled in.” Schwartz is adept at mixing fantasy and reality while still keeping the focus on such a heavy subject matter. She is able to transform her experience with an aggressive person into a story that balances the inherent tension and sadness with the surreal.

Schwartz attempts to figure out Christopher’s homophobia in the face of his own sexuality along with Jill and the audience, and it certainly is not always easy.

“In the first draft, the Christopher character was a female, and the story was much simpler,” said Schwartz. “Once I switched that character to a closeted, self loathing gay man, the themes of the play became a little more challenging for me to explore.” With this switch, Schwartz dove into an exploration of internal homophobia within the LGBTQ+ community and its effects.

“The resulting changes to the script offer more equality between Jill and Christopher, and more opportunity for discussion on who the true coward is,” said Schwartz.   

Though the focus of the show is on issues within the LGBT+ community, Schwartz knows that this show is important for people of any sexuality to see and understand.

“Rifts and prejudice exist within any community,” said Schwartz. “Something I hope that people of any sexual orientation can take away is a keener sense of one’s responsibility to speak up when someone is being mistreated regardless of the immediate social ramifications.”

The Coward is playing at the Duke on 42nd Street on October 9th in New York City, as part of the New York New Works Festival. It is an important piece of theater, that should be seen by many. Share this with the theater lover in your life, and be on the lookout for more from Schwartz soon.

Originally posted 2017-10-10 15:42:41.

I am a 22 year old queer individual from Brooklyn NY. I love to create great things and make people laugh. Obsessed with all things literature, theatre, comics and video games.

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Getting Lost the Right Way (and Avoiding the Wrong)

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Road trips are magical. The open road, the endless possibilities. But you know what isn’t so magical? Getting lost in the middle of nowhere (read: out in the boondocks where not even the coyotes know where the closest gas station is). That being said, there is a right way and a very, very wrong way to get lost on a trip.

If you want to get lost and enjoy yourself, it’s best to have a plan in place. Seems counterintuitive, yes. But getting lost on purpose is more organized than it sounds. To start, know the highways nearby and keep in mind that the point of getting lost on purpose is to see new things. When lost the right way, it’s certainly not about the destination, which is good to keep in mind. For one, make sure your tank is completely full. Nothing is scarier than getting lost in the countryside with only a quarter tank and no sign of civilization in sight.

Don’t trust that GPS will always be there for you. Like that one friend, it probably won’t be (Totally not something that happened to me recently in rural south Georgia, not at all). Depending on your carrier, data connection and location services can be spotty at best and nonexistent at worst. Don’t be like me, who learned this the hard way.

Use GPS even if you think you remember the way back. The last drive I went on, I followed directions very carefully getting there and believed that I would be able to remember the turns in reverse going home.This resulted in what I like to call: a disaster. What I didn’t consider was the fact that rural Georgia looks completely different at night, when every tree looks the same and you have the added hazard of deer all over the roads. I knew I was lost after twenty minutes, but I kept driving, foolishly positive I’d eventually find the right road again.

Maps are your friends. Remember how your parents always told you to keep a map or atlas in your glove box? They weren’t just being old-fashioned. When GPS has failed and you longer recognize any landmarks, a map is your only hope (barring meeting a friendly stranger or an extra cell tower magically constructing itself in the next open field).

Print out directions beforehand. I know, I know. Printing out directions Google Maps is almost as dated as paper maps. But believe me, it can’t hurt. Even if you don’t print them, the screenshot feature on smart phones exists for a reason. Before you hit the road, coffee and snacks stocked and ready to go, pull up GPS while you have bars or Wi-Fi, and find the turn-by-turn directions. Screenshot them. And then, when you inevitably lose service at some point in your voyage, you still have access to your route. I didn’t do this, and by the time I had service again, I was two and a half hours away from home, when the drive should’ve taken an hour. (Do as I say, not as I do, my friends).

If you realize you’re lost and know where you took the wrong turn, GO BACK ASAP.

There comes a moment when you’re lost when you can usually pinpoint where you went wrong. When that happens, turn around as soon as you realize, despite the hope that maybe you’ll find a familiar street. Realizing you took a wrong turn is a sign from the universe that you need to go back, rather than trusting your foolish instincts. It’s a losing battle, and you will get more lost. It’s practically the law of the universe.

Just ask for directions, no matter how much you hate doing it.

This applies to everyone, and I’m ignoring the stereotype because it really isn’t just men. If you see a gas station or a small business, just stop. It’s almost guaranteed that someone will know how to get back to where you were headed, and you might stumble upon a cool store or attraction or monument that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

The moral of the story, friends, is that getting lost can be an adventure. You learn things about the area, about yourself as a navigator (this could be good or bad) and best of all, you have a story to tell at the end of it. Just remember that if you’re gonna get lost, try to do it on purpose.

 

Originally posted 2017-08-24 17:57:03.


Also published on Medium.

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Metalhead Transgender Woman is Making Political History

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As a long-time fan of metal music and an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, I am ecstatic that Danica Roem, band member of her band Cab Ride Home and transgender woman won a four-way Democratic primary on June 13th. In addition to being a musician in a metal band, she was also an experienced journalist in Prince William County, which is the county she wishes to represent if she wins the position a seat in the House of Delegates in Virginia.

However, while Roem has won the battle, she’s still fighting a war. In order to gain a seat in the House of Delegates, she will have to defeat Republican Bob Marshall who is currently serving his eleventh term. Bob Marshall supports one-man, one-woman marriage, believes that same-sex marriage has a negative effect on heterosexual marriage, introduced the Physical Privacy Act which would have prevented transgender individuals from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity (luckily this bill failed), supports the idea that employers can fire someone based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has a weak idea of what equality means and twists around words to fit his agenda,

“There never were ‘heterosexual’ only water fountains in Virginia or other Southern states.  Separate elementary or secondary schools were not built for GLBTQ children.  Homosexuals and lesbians could sit anywhere they wanted on buses, trains and other public transportation.  Homosexuals were never enslaved as a class or brought to America in chains.  Homosexuals never were forbidden from ‘marrying’ heterosexuals.  Homosexuals did not have to engage in nationwide ‘sit ins’ at restaurant lunch counters to be served a meal.  Lesbians did not have to take “Literacy” tests as a condition for voting.” 

and many more discriminatory ideas. In comparison, Roem supports adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the Prince William School system’s nondiscrimination policy, protecting transgender students, and values people individually, not by what religion they belong to or what sexual orientation they may have.

With the current presidency comes a resurgence of ultra-conservative ideas and, because of that, it is a possibility that Bob Marshall will serve a twelfth term. However, Roem is off to a good start. By winning the Democratic primary, she is showing the US that even the most conservatives of states can switch courses and realize that members of the LGBT community deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Since 1991, when Marshall was elected, Prince William County has become more left-leaning as the population grows. It was one of the Republican-controlled counties that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump which shows that the district leans more toward to progressive side, which is definitely good news for Danica Roem. Because of this, Roem has a real chance of winning a seat in the House of Delegates. Even if she does not earn the position, by running and winning the Democratic primary, Roem set the stage for future transgender individuals to run for a position in the government.

Originally posted 2017-08-24 11:48:44.


Also published on Medium.

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The Do’s & Don’ts of Meeting Non-binary People

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Wikipedia defines non-binary as: “Genderqueer (GQ), also termed non-binary (NB), is a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍…”

More and more people are identifying as non-binary and accepting this term as a gender identity. Because of this, people are becoming more aware of its existence, and might not know how to respond to it.

I’m no expert, but I do have a little advice if you’re wondering how to interact with non-binary/genderqueer individuals.

Do: Ask for pronouns.

While not all non-binary people use different pronouns, many do, and a good rule of thumb is “if you’re not sure, ask.” Chances are the person will gladly tell you what pronouns they prefer. It also helps when you introduce yourself to a new person to say “my name is ____ and I prefer she/her or he/him pronouns, etc.” to let people know from the start that you’re open to discussing pronouns.

Don’t: Assume pronouns.

We all know the adage about what happens when you assume. While it might go well, it’s never okay to make assumptions about people before speaking to them. So again, if you don’t know, ask. The worst that can happen is they give you a funny look when you ask them for pronouns. Also, remember that not every non-binary person uses they/them pronouns. There are a number of variations, which is why it’s important to ask what pronouns someone prefers.

Do: Educate yourself.

If you’ve never met a non-binary person before, do a little research to familiarize yourself with what it means and what you should do with that information. Asking people who identify as non-binary is okay, but keep in mind that it’s not their job to educate you.

Don’t: Rely solely on a nonbinary person to educate you.

As mentioned above, it’s ultimately up to you to familiarize yourself with unfamiliar concepts surrounding gender identity. Just because your non-binary friend knows a lot, doesn’t mean they want to be constantly questioned. They are just people, not all-knowing gurus on the nuances of gender.

Do: Apologize if you get pronouns wrong.

Mistakes happen. One of my best friends identifies as non-binary, and I do my best to use their preferred pronouns, but I still slip up from time to time, and it’s not the end of the world. If you catch yourself slipping, correct yourself as soon as you realize, and try to do better next time.

Don’t: Make a huge scene about the mistake.

The last thing people want is someone drawing unnecessary attention to your slip-up. If you misgender someone, correct it, but don’t start apologizing profusely mid-conversation. If needed, pull the person aside later and apologize, explaining the mistake. Chances are that they noticed the mistake but most people won’t take it personally if you take responsibility for it.

Do: Respect a person’s identity.

Just like some believe that being straight is the only “normal” orientation, there are many who believe there are only two genders. But in reality, gender is fluid, and identifying as non-binary is just as valid as identifying as male or female. People deserve respect, no matter how they identify, and it’s not up to you to judge or spread hatred to others.

Don’t: Assume that nonbinary = transgender (or vice versa).

Often, being non-binary means identifying as neither male/female, or identifying as both. Just like with transgender individuals, you should never ask inappropriate questions about genitals or whether someone has had “the operation.” That’s personal and is up to the individual whether they wish to share that information with close friends/loved ones. Not with random strangers they just met.

Everyone deserves the same respect, no matter their sex, gender, or sexual orientation. Everyone is doing their best to live happy lives, and it’s not our business to judge others. TravelPride is all about acceptance and exploration, and I hope that these values can be shared by everyone who reads these articles. It’s a big world, filled with unique people. The least we can do is spread the love.

Originally posted 2017-08-23 17:04:27.


Also published on Medium.

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