Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How has Laramie changed?

Journal Entry: Leigh Fondakowski

Leaving Laramie this morning I feel a sudden sadness.  This is a place that has held a lot of meaning for me and for so many people.  One can never say with any degree of certainty what "all" of the people of Laramie think or feel about Matthew Shepard now.  We can only touch down with so many people, and on a case by case basis measure the change in people's hearts through the conversations that we have.  How has Laramie changed?  The people I have met with in the last 48 hours are truly remarkable people -- smart, self-reflective, caring people.  Many call the changes in Laramie inadequate -- Jeffrey Lockwood yesterday called it collective amnesia, a "collective forgetting."  Father Carl at the Neuman Center closed our interview this morning by saying, "Its still not easy to be gay in Wyoming.  People aren't shouting it from the roof tops.  They know who they are, they are comfortable in their own skin, the quietly worship alongside everyone else, they quietly live their lives in a place they love."  And I was struck: is that the highest ideal we can hope for as queer people in society?  To live in a place where we are quietly accepted and yet still struggle to have basic rights under the law -- accepting homophobia as a part of life?  Matthew Shepard has changed so many hearts and minds -- the legacy of his death has clearly shaped the destiny of a lot of people close to him and to the crime.  But how that change reverberates out to the community in general remains unclear.  Maybe time will have more answers.   For now, history is sketchy.  A gay man who grew up in Wyoming and now lives in Laramie said to me yesterday, "Maybe it's time we start talking about forgiveness -- stop arguing over whether or not it was a hate crime or drug crime or some combination of both -- but really talk about forgiveness.  Cathy Connolly is running for a State House seat.  The gang of four on campus (Zackie Salmon, Beth Loffreda and Cathy Connolly among them) continue to fight for domestic partner benefits, for GLBT curriculum, for ideas that will shape the hearts and minds of the next generation of Wyoming kids.  They are doing the good work.  They are fighting the good fight.  And the people who are open to it here in Laramie are still asking the questions.

-Leigh

6 comments:

Jenilee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenilee said...

Thank you for your thoughts, and for what you are doing.
I am a lesbian from Ohio, and also currently involved in a production of TLP. I co-hosted a radio show this morning to promote the show, the first thing the host said to me as he let me in was, "don't say anything about that kid being gay". It just didn't fit their audience. Who is their audience? The teenager who is afraid to come out to his parents? The 40 year old lesbian who has never taken her partner home for holidays because it isn't right?
I'm not sure if I will ever, in my lifetime, see a general acceptance of homosexuality, but I also don't want to sit back and do nothing. That makes me as much a part of the problem.

Please know that your group has done as much for the community, to change people's hearts, and you are appreciated!

tristen said...

glad to see one of you are doing something in the right direction on this second part mrs. lucy is a great person..

greg said...

Hi tristen,

seems like you are here in Laramie. I leave tomorrow but could meet in the morning on the 21st at coal creek down town. You available. I would like to here from you what else you feel needs to be talked about.

Let me know here.
Greg

Ourtbeat said...

This reply is a bit late seeing that this post is from last month, but it's been a busy 30 days or so and I'm finally getting a chance to catch up on this blog. Jenilee, if you read this, thanks for speaking out on the radio about TLP. In 2002 I acted as assistant directory in an Ohio production of TLP and had to deal with quite a lot of ignorance from school faculty, students, and parents. It's sad that Ohio is still in that space like so many other places in our country. The only thing that will help it evolve is to keep educating the ignorant and showing people that gay is not something to be feared. TLP clearly shows that. It's a play that speaks to everyone regardless of their views and opens people's eyes to how human we all are and our abilities to change and evolve.

Jenilee said...

Thank you for your reply. What part of Ohio was the performance in? Our show ended this week with a performance for "Out in Akron" a week long celebration of the community..... Our audiences were small across the entire run....but it only takes ONE person....The quote we stood by during the show was: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."