On the invisibility of LGBTQ+ Stories

I’ll have an update on B Street, Barnyard, and Acme soon, but I’m posting this separately. It bothers me.

About two months ago, someone running a website that licenses playscripts to drama teachers emailed me to say she was interested in my work. Importantly, although teachers subscribe to use the scripts at $10/month, the website does not pay the writers. Which is pretty bullshit, of course, but that debate is for another time. When I asked which plays interested her, I could have predicted the list – she wanted the ones that were adaptations of fairy tales and The Untitled Pirate Play. The glaring omission from this list was my work for young people that has overt LGBT themes – specifically, [a different] Romeo & Juliet.

On the one hand, this surprised me. The plays she asked for all share a campy, joyous aesthetic, one that the Romeo and Juliet adaptation fits squarely in the center.

On the other, there’s no surprise. Frustration, yes; but surprise, no. It’s a pretty stark, quantifiable reminder of how LGBTQ stories (especially those for young people) are edited out of the mainstream. It is how we are non-entities.

Let me be clear: young people know LGBTQ+ folks. They generally see their gay peers as normal variations in the human experience, no more deserving of censorship than left-handed people or red-heads or the lactose intolerant. Young LGBTQ+ folks are increasingly understanding, accepting, and identifying themselves. Many seek out these stories. Many want to tell the stories about people like them or their friends.

My students put forth the idea and VOTED for us to make that play.

I emailed her the following: “I will have to discuss this with my agent, but I have a few more question: How often are plays produced where the playwrights are compensated?(…)

“Finally, I must admit that I was surprised that [a different] Romeo & Juliet was not included on this list. It’s by far the most pedagogically interesting play, and one of the benefits of being a playwright who also teaches is that I get to make plays that fill a void; while there are many plays about fairy tales, I don’t think there are many LGBT stories for middle school students.”

It’s been two months and…

No response.

No surprise.

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