Is it a problem that, recently, I feel that I do not want to work with, perform for, or even talk to straight people?  If yes, are there solutions?

Convener(s):  Brian Lobel

Participants: Many queer people, a handful of straight people, and a few people unidentified. 


Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations: 


First and foremost, the question was meant to be a provocation.  I do not hate straight people, do not refuse to work with straight people, nor do I find straight people untalented or oppressive.  I even have some straight friends. 

There was quite a lot of hurt in the group, people hurt because they felt like they were being called oppressors, while others hurt that there is still inequality and choose to deal with this inequality in different, passionate ways.  Some people (like the amazing Stella Duffy) felt the need to constantly engage with the greater community (including gays/straights etc), and many more agreed with her – Chris Goode talking about the limited perspective that might derive from only interacting with and responding to a queer audience. 

Chris asked me (Brian) what questions I thought could be asked, emotionally/artistically/etc which could not be asked in a straight space (which I defined as not statedly queer or queer-friendly).  In response to this, I gave some bad answer.  Chris is smarter and sharper than me.

Stella talked about the nuisance of having to continually ‘come out’ over and over and over again as necessity of being a queer performer/writer/theatre maker.  She still felt the need to fight and to keep up confidence, noting that even though gay liberation happened years ago, the movement is still far away from being through.   My only response to Stella was to question whether perseverance (constantly interacting with a ‘straight’ audience/viewership) was the only path towards eventually integrated spaces, where all felt safe. 

Chris Goode wondered if the issue, the feeling, was particular to solo performance, and if a solo performance demands comfort/safety from an audience in a different way from those in ensembles who have others on stage to look to for comfort/safety.  This is an excellent point.

We discussed the perspective that could come from having non-queer people in a space with queer people.  The example was given about The Jerk, the play about the gay serial killer, and how it was a richer experience as an audience member because there were all sorts of people watching the show.  It was also discussed that the main ‘problems’ with the show’s reception was from gay critics, who thought that the work was not ‘good’ for gay people.  This started an interesting conversation about the fear of ‘not getting it right’ and non-queer people writing or engaging with queer subjects/subjectivity.  We talked for a while about the fear of engaging with and offending lesbians/gay men etc.  Stella encouraged writers of all persuasions to write lesbian characters – why?  Because there are not enough representations.  Even if they get it wrong, she said, it might be worth the effort. 

We talked about the impetus to write and to create.  There was a nice moment when Lucy said that of course you want to be comfortable/safe in a performance context, not just as a queer, but as a performer who has successfully performed to an audience.  The right audience.  The receptive audience.  I personally think this was a sharp point. 

We talked about ways in which queer people might oppress straights.  I don’t believe this is possible or a major concern.  Someone can challenge on this if they dare. 

There was so much here… it was a pretty dramatic session and I’m having trouble writing it up perfectly.  I encourage all people to add to this… Basically, much of this boils down to the effectiveness of performance, if we think we should preach to the unconverted to the congregation.  People come to church to be reinspired, re-engaged, spoken to and riled up – this is the first thing I like to do.  If people can be converted, that’s awesome too, but not tnecessarily the main thing… I am leaving this here, but beg people to please add to the work.  (thanks to Mary for her copious notes).

x.o.x.o. Brian