Freedom Summer '96

by Paul Pellerito
August 1996

I'm not exactly sure how to start this column; I've done a lot in the past month. I guess I should start with what's going on in my life right now.

I came out to my mom in May... the day before Mothers' Day. I didn't plan it that way (of course!) but she ended up asking me the big question.

She still doesn't believe that I'm gay, even after two months. I guess it's going to take her awhile to get over the denial. Fun!

She's got me going to therapy, because she believes that I've been somehow persuaded by what I've read, or convinced by who I've talked to. Sheesh. I've been trying to tell her that it's impossible, there's no way anyone can get inside my head.

Her main defense has been that she doesn't even place me into the category of 'acting gay' ... something I don't even understand. All of a sudden I have to be some limp-wristed flaming queen. Well I'm not, but I am gay. Talk about relying on stereotypes.

All this, and SHE asked me if I wanted to go see the Birdcage. I thought maybe this meant she would be a little understanding. I guess gay people are okay, as long as it's not her son.

I completely understand this. I would probably flip if I found out my son was gay. But I'd get over it (after all, I am gay) and it would take a lot less time than two months.

But alas, minds change slowly these days... Meanwhile, her trust in me has gone way down. She's found out about all the times I've lied to her about going places and people I know, just so I could have some semblance of a decent life with people like me. So now, she thinks every thing I do is gay-related. I'm sure we all know how good that would be, but it's just not going to happen. I'm not that lucky.

Anyway, I had a blast in Nebraska the last week of June. My Thespian troupe went to the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was five days of great fun.

I'm sure most of you know that the gay/straight ratio is 1 to 10. Well, there it seemed like 1 to 3! Everywhere I looked, the gaydar was going CRAZY!

One of the first plays we saw was called Removing the Glove, put on by a troupe from New England. It's all about a teen's coming to terms with being left handed, something his society thinks is wrong. It's really a very clever analogy about gay and lesbians in high school.

I ended up hanging out with the cast occasionally during the week, and I even pondered coming out to my director and a few people in the troupe, thanks to an activity we did the last night of the festival.

I went to a workshop during the week on Theatre of the Oppressed. The whole thing started in Brazil as a way to get people to work through their problems with the government. A group performs a semi-improvisational skit, and the audience has a chance to determine the outcome a second time around.

The last night of the festival, we performed the skits we has constructed in the workshop for everyone. I was in one with our troupe sponsor about a kid at a dance in junior high. Kinda bland, but it was fun. After everyone who had been to the workshop performed their skits, the audience voted on which one to do.

Well, where there's oppression, there's gay people. Sure enough, there was a skit about a lesbian having trouble coming out to her friends in high school. Several people got to replace the protagonist and try and change the outcome, and I was one of them.

So there I was, standing up on stage, proclaiming that I was a lesbian. I had to explain it all to these two jocks (played by two gay guys, ha!). Seeing how I had first hand experience, it went well, but eventually I got off stage because someone thought they had a better idea.

It was great fun, and after that I was pumped. If it wasn't eleven o'clock at night, I probably would have came out to my sponsor, but I really didn't feel like dealing with the potential risks involved.

I know he's pretty open minded, but it's hard to tell with some people. I though that with my mom, too. I didn't want to risk not being in any other show because of a close-minded director.

All in all, it was fun! And I think some minds got changed along the way. I had fun being pretty much out for a week!

I did meet some great people there, and I hope some of them even come here, since I spread the word about Oasis as much as I could!

Well, next month marks my six month anniversary with Oasis, the six month anniversary of my home page on the Net. I'd like your ideas on something special I could do for both this column and my page. Mail me with your ideas.

Take care everyone! See you next month!

Paul Pellerito, 17, will be a Junior at Jenison High School in the fall. He lives in Jenison, Michigan, just outside Grand Rapids. His interests include theatre, music, reading, and spending time with his friends. Even though he's not out on his homepage, he invites you all to visit. He can be reached at paul@oasismag.com.
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