I can be in the military in Afghanistan and get married in New York! Two things I never wanted for myself! And are those really two separate things anyway?
Naturally, I’m delighted that those opportunities are available to my peers, since achieving rights for all is the biggest “duh” since free popcorn at premieres. But do I have to claim them—and more importantly, is something in the LGBT culture lost as so much important stuff is gained on the way to the beautifully appointed table?
I posed that question to three major playwrights represented in Standing On Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, a staged reading of shorts at the Minetta Lane Theatre, which last week was simultaneously performed all over the country in order to make a powerful statement about equality. And they agreed!
“I do worry about that,” Doug Wright (Pulitzer winner for I Am My Own Wife) admitted to me. “We serve such a valuable function as critics of the culture and satirists, engaging in the kind of truth-telling that is a particular function only marginal people earn in an honest way, and I do worry that we’ve lost some of our innate subversiveness.
“I guess that’s the price you pay for inclusion,” he added. “If it prevents people from getting beaten up in the playground and transsexuals from getting murdered on city streets, I’m happy to make that accommodation, but there is something glamorous about a gay outlaw, even if it seems a bit retro.”
Still, Wright and his husband understandably seized the chance to marry (right before Prop 8 passed) and find it stupefying that their union is not recognized everywhere they go. “When we travel,” he says, “we land in a new state, look at each other, and say ‘Are we married here?’ It’s so outrageous to have your relationship status determined by suspicious referendums.” At least I don’t have to worry about such things, seeing as I’m not married anywhere. I am my own wife!
By the way, Wright’s pungent playlet, On Facebook, developed out of a FB thread he got involved in with a New Hampshire woman who’s vehemently against gay marriage—and not because it leads to banality either. She’s just one of those holier-than-thou haters, and now she’s immortalized onstage, down to her legal threats if her words are used in a play!
Paul Rudnick wrote two gems for the evening, one of which has a brilliantly patronizing Harriet Harris as a family values type sputtering that the gays have taken everything—”even Ricky Martin!” Rudnick told me he based the character on Maggie Gallagher and Michele Bachmann, “who are pure comedy gold because they’re irrational and vicious. I love that they tend to spew prejudice, but they always end with ‘I don’t hate anyone.'”
Rudnick is obsessed with trying to make sense out of the contradictory points of view rattling around these ladies’ heads. “Gay marriage would probably not impact them in the slightest,” he says. “It would cause them no financial distress, and they wouldn’t have to park their car somewhere new. It seems like such a demented fear!”
But I happen to share that fear, for very different reasons. I’m afraid of intimacy, and besides, I have a mortal terror of becoming utterly boring. I’m a gay outlaw—and Rudnick completely understands. “Gays are beginning to experience what a lot of long-running straight couples go through,” he agreed. “A lot of straight people find marriage dull or a government inroad into their private life. I think marriage should be available to everyone, but I don’t think it’s right for everyone.” I guess unlike gayness itself, it should probably be a choice.
True to his own words, Rudnick has been with the same guy for 18 years, but they haven’t made it legalicious. “We’re beginning to feel the New York nudge,” he told me. “You need an additional stamp on your gay passport nowadays. I’m a little in the Rachel Maddow camp. I’m 100 percent for the legalization of gay marriage, but I’m not so sure I’ll take a sip.”
But what about the big party you get to throw (while sipping from punch bowls)? “I have a fear of wedding ceremonies,” confesses Rudnick, “because I try to think of them in completely theatrical terms, but sometimes, as in a Kardashian wedding, there’s a certain doom over the proceedings. Every time Rick Perry talks about the sanctity of the male-female relationship, you think, ‘OK, are there any exceptions to that—like the Kardashian family?'” Still, Kim’s wedding was poignantly beautiful, especially when everyone threw handfuls of Minute Rice.
Someone with no use for sanctity, my third playwright, Neil LaBute, fascinatingly plumbs the dark side of human nature for a living. LaBute’s entry in the gay-wedding evening—Strange Fruit—is, as expected, a thorny bouquet. By using dual monologues to describe a gay relationship, it’s structurally similar to his short play Bash, and though this one involves a wedding bash, it also goes to the dark side in ways that tie the knot around one character’s neck.
“It’s hard for me to tell a straight, outright happy story,” LaBute admitted to me. Not surprisingly, he didn’t argue when I brought up the potential downside of progress. “Reality rears its ugly head,” he says. “There’s the joke of people saying, ‘I want there to be gay marriage, so everybody can understand how hard or awful marriage is.’ It’s like a kid who finally gets to be 21 and says: ‘Wait a minute. Now I can drink. Do I really want to drink?'” Of course the need for the right is a given, he added, “but the argument continues.”
Not for me. It’s definitely not happening, people. But maybe Afghanistan would be a little campy.