Acceptance of our Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered and Questioning brethren has come a long way in the last 20 years. The heroic work of The Drag Queens of Stonewall, Bayard Rustin, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, Harvey Milk, etc created a foundation for change years before. But in the last 20 years or so, the internet, TV, film and music have managed to personalize the LGBTQ experience, turning it from a theoretical issue to a very personal one. An issue that affects your community, your family, your heart. It’s one thing to change the laws- and thank goodness for the legal warriors taking the fight to the courts- but it’s quite another to change hearts and minds. And often that daunting task is left to the artists. The expression of the LGBTQ experience through art connects both the bigot and that frightened, gay teenager to their humanity, allowing them to find common ground. Introducing everyone to that connection is the work of the artist and the only way our world will embrace tolerance.
Members of our acting community have certainly done their part. Rupert Everett, Ellen Degeneres, Neil Patrick Harris, Rosie O’Donnel,George Takei, Sir Ian Mckellen, Chris Colfer, Jim Parsons, etc, etc, etc all made personal connections with audiences, forcing all of us to see our own humanity in them, regardless of sexual preference. But it can’t have been easy. Not that long ago, LGBTQ actors had to hide what makes them wonderfully unique for fear of destroying their career. Each of those artists faced fierce resistance. And while things are changing, even young actors who’ve grown up with far less resistance must struggle to find their voice. It takes time to undo the psychology of oppression and it requires a great deal of courage for an actor to lean towards the violent winds of bigotry and offer an emotional truth.
We see this play out here at The BGB Studio, too. We demand that all our actors- straight actors and gay actors- offer her or his unique emotional truth within the world of a play. They are expected to offer their truthful feelings, want something from their scene partner and try actively to get it. But what if you had spent decades hiding your truthful voice, hiding what you truthfully wanted? What if the consequence of expressing an essential part of who you are meant that your safety were in jeopardy? It’s all fine and nice for a straight, white, male teacher to demand an actor’s truth but many of our actors represent a minority without entitlement and have been forced to spend decades doing just the opposite.
And yet, every single week the LGBTQ members of The BGB Studio show up, dig deep, and express the totality of their unique, dynamic emotional life. Every single week they lean into their work fully with strength and passion. And we all benefit as a result. Their work affects us deeply and leaves us feeling whole and human. There are few gifts as meaningful as the gift of humanity, particularly when great courage is required to give it.
So, to those of you who are struggling to find and express your true voice- in an LA acting class or a small town where intolerance still rages- know that we appreciate you. Know that you are struggling not only for yourself, but for all of us. Just as Dr King was not only struggling for African Americans but for the very soul of America, you, too, struggle for us all. And your struggle is righteous and good. We all benefit when you boldly step into the light and are heard. We all benefit when we discover the universality in your unique expression. You may not win every battle- you’ll be silenced again and again- but it is imperative that you step into your light over and over again. You didn’t choose to be on the front line in the battle for the goodness of our society, but you are there. And like the amazing actors at our studio, you must keep exploring the depths of your emotional experience. You must express that which makes you both unique and fundamentally human. You must be yourself for us.
Check out what Ash Beckham has to say about the closets that each of us lives in: