This weekend was full of more than just Professional Development opportunities; it was packed with Personal Development opportunities as well. Friday night was a celebration for Bayard Rustin’s centennial at UIC. I learned a lot about a man who was behind the scenes in many Civil Rights events. I think it’s easy for theatre people to relate to someone who’s not always in the spotlight, but is always part of the show. I could also relate to him on a personal level. He fought for black and gay issues in a time when that was taboo. I happen to be a gay man who is dating a black gay man, so the topics surrounding these issues of homophobia and racism are a regular presence in our lives. I also could relate to Rustin because he spent a while in the prison in Ashland, Kentucky. I grew up in Kentucky, and went to college just outside of Ashland, so I know how people from that region behave. Not that I know how the behavior becomes heightened in the prison, but I know it stems from the same hatred.
Bayard Rustin fought to make it easier for my generation to come out and be proud. But I didn’t grow up without challenges. After helping the Y make decorations for a high school Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) dance, I saw how much easier this new generation was having it as well. Not to say they don’t face bullies everyday, but the fact that they can even consider coming out at age 14 means we’ve come a long way as a society because of fighters like Rustin.
Because of the Centennial event, I had to switch my shift working at the shelter to Saturday night. Of course, many of these young adults are kicked out of their home for being LGBT. This also put a different perspective on the past, present, and future of gay society for me. These kids are not as privileged as those in the GSA, but are they really so different? They too have people at home that don’t accept them. They too build new families amongst their peers. One of the most difficult parts of volunteering at the shelter this weekend was running into one of my previous students. Could I have helped prevent this child from becoming homeless? Or did I do enough by instilling passion for the arts in him? That’s all we talked about–his continued involvement in theatre, and his future plans for school.
I also had the chance to network with another passionate group this weekend. The hosts of the event were so friendly, and I would love to get involved. But despite our common passion, it’s just too soon to jump into something so similar to what I recently had to give up. It was almost like looking into a mirror ten years from now, and so I knew I was being tested by the universe.
I’m not quite sure if I’m walking away from this weekend with the right lessons, but I know I’m walking away a little wiser.