When is a joke not a joke? Well, perhaps when it crosses the line. There is a fine line between humor and instilling a stigma that lasts for years, creating insecurity and shame. Two things have taken place during the past few days that honestly cause my mind to become boggled, and both are directed at gay people.
First, Tracy Morgan thinks he is being funny while mentioning the fact that if his son told him he were gay that he would kill him. How this is humor I am unable to answer. Not just one, but two things are completely insensitive about his statement -- that someone who is gay deserves to be murdered and that he, in desperation, would murder his own son. I wonder how the families of the teens who are bullied at schools across the nation take to this type of humor. If they find it funny they certainly don't fit the description of a family.
Secondly, I had the displeasure of viewing the Hedgerow Theatre's latest Ray Cooney farce "Two Into One." I want to thank the Hedgerow for giving me the complimentary ticket, as generally the Cooney farces during the summer are quite entertaining. However, and this is no fault of the actors on the stage, the second act of the production utilizes the possibility that two characters might be gay as a joke. They are referred to as 'pooftas' and at one point one of them is referred to as a 'maniac.' The manager character in Cooney's script seems to view homosexuality as a complete abomination, telling one of the suspected gay men at one point to 'sit down' as if he is a child and at another point says 'he will not have poofta trains in his hotel.'
Sadly, most of the audience sat and laughed loudly at the fact that someone, or two people, might be having a gay relationship. One of the supposed gay characters actually says 'Do I look gay?' as if there is some type of similar sterotypical look that gay people have. The audience laughs.
What if, in the case of Cooney's script, the joke was about whether someone might be black? Would the audience laugh when the character on stage says "Do I look black?" Would the manager of the hotel in the fictional farce tell the suspected black person to 'sit down?' What type of names would the character be called? And who in the audience would laugh? No offense to Cooney or the Artistic Director at the Hedgerow Theatre, but what if the script had a character that was suspected of having an affair with a playwright or a theatre director and tried to cover it up with lines like "Do I look like a writer?" Perhaps there is a certain way that writers should look and the audience could then laugh at that little bit of wit.
Now let's change Tracy Morgan's joke punch line a bit and hear it for ourselves: "If my son was Muslim I would kill him." Is that funny? How about "If my son was short I would kill him." Is that funny? I mean, some people are born into the Muslim religion, some are born short, and --hear this people--some are born gay.
The world that we live in is a world of many types of people. None of us are going to like everyone we meet, nor will we get along with every associate or acquaintance in our lives. But somehow along the way we have forgotten the word 'RESPECT.' You don't have to like your neighbor, what they do, or who they are. But you should not assist in making a joke out of them either. That's why a young man, who had a lot of talent and creativity to offer this world, jumped off a bridge last year when his life was made public prior to his sacred moment to make that life known to others.
Strong word: 'sacred.' Strong, powerful, and true. It is not up to any of us to think we are better than sacred and that we have the right to point fingers, to laugh at whether someone might be gay.
As you read this ask yourself a question: If your son, daughter, cousin, mother, father, aunt, uncle, friend, neighbor, doctor, lawyer, teacher, or even pastor told you they were gay would you react like Tracy Morgan, or Ray Cooney (or the audience at the Hedgerow)...or would you say 'OK, so you're gay. Well, I'm human. So we are the same. Let's have lunch.'