Who Knows, Who Cares: Theatre And The Space It Creates For the Queer Community

One of the things I love most about theatre
Is the ephemeral disintegration of orthodox socio-cultural identities,
Which typically comes along with losing your self for another,
Gendered expectations of Walk like a man, talk like a man, sit like a man,
Spread your legs, assert your dominance;
No, not you! You’re a woman. You, huddle up.
Occupy less space. Be less loud.

One of the things I love most about theatre
Is the freedom that comes along with it,
The liberty to shrug on a façade,
The sense of autarky that accompanies the anonymity of being someone else,
Your identity – futile, Sisyphean;
A mere puppet, which can be shirked off for an hour
Or a hundred,
Does it really matter?
Who knows,
Who cares.

One of the things I love most about theatre
Is the ephemeral disintegration of orthodox socio-cultural identities,
Which typically comes along with losing your self for another,
Gendered expectations of Walk like a man, talk like a man, sit like a man,
Spread your legs, assert your dominance;
No, not you! You’re a woman. You, huddle up.
Occupy less space. Be less loud.
I watch them crumble, melt away,
As the actors,
Bathed in artificial light and soaked in the joy of performance,
Dissolve into their characters.

And suddenly, I realize, that on stage,
I can’t see the flaws in their skin anymore,
I can’t figure out their gender identity or sexuality anymore
I can’t tell if the homosexuality of a character is a façade or not,
But mostly, I realize that
I don’t care anymore,
I don’t care if the transgender woman on stage
has body hair on her arms
Or if she’s playing the role of a man;
Because I see her as so much more than just that,
I see her as a character, a performer,
But more importantly, I see her as a person
Someone with thoughts, emotions, experiences;

And how stupid we all are to think that a person can be reduced
To something as arbitrary as gender or sexual orientation;
And it suddenly hits me,
After all these years,
What I love most about theatre,
I love that it’s an ideal of what our lives should look like,
Of how we should all think and behave,
If a person’s gender identity or sexuality doesn’t change the way you perceive them when they’re on stage,
When they’re playing a role;
It shouldn’t affect the way you look at them otherwise,
Because on stage, everyone is the same,
Irrespective of they we are and what they stand for.
In the eyes of theatre,
we’re all equally naïve,
equally vulnerable;
and that is, perhaps, the beauty of it all.

One of the things I love most about theatre,
Is its ability to provide a space,
A space to experiment with sexualities,
To flirt with the idea of being gender-fluid,
To explore a plethora of identities
Societal judgement tossed to a side,
Like a pile of dirty laundry;
For society – naïve, credulous,
Raring to attack their homosexual neighbour or colleague,
Wouldn’t dare attack a man playing the role of a homosexual,
“It’s just a role”, they say, with wide eyes and cherry-tasting laughs,
But is it?
Who knows,
Who cares.

One of the things I love most about theatre,
Is the leeway it creates to experience a paradigm shift – an empathy-building limbo,
Which only ever arises after one steps into the worn out boots of a character unlike themselves,
A homophobe playing the role of a homosexual,
A misogynist adopting the identity of a radical feminist protestor,
A confused, closeted transgender woman playing the role of a woman,
At first, there’s disgust. Anger, even.
But a wary toe placed cautiously inside a boot slowly paves way for an entire foot,
As an actor understands their character –
their emotions, their experiences, what scares them, what makes their face light up,
And the disgust is replaced by understanding,
Acknowledgement,
Maybe even acceptance.
The homophobe begins to perceive homosexuality as normal,
The misogynist grows conscious of the burden of oppression placed on the shoulders of women,
The transgender woman grows to embrace her identity,
You could say it’s just a role,
And maybe it is,
Maybe the homophobe remains a homophobe,
Maybe the misogynist merely scoffs and rejects the part,
Maybe the transgender woman remains too afraid to acknowledge her authentic identity,
And that’s okay,
Because someone, somewhere, right now,
is slightly more empathetic,
slightly more compassionate, slightly more tolerant,
Merely because they stepped into the shoes of the other,
They put up a façade;
they played a role.

But was it just that?
Was it just a role?
Could it be just a role if it softened their heart
and opened their arms?
Who knows,
Who cares.

About the author

Asfiyah

17. Queer. Socially anxious introvert. Ironically, a performing arts enthusiast. Experiences bizarre minimalistic urges, with often manifest in a desire to encompass the universe and confine it to a glass jar. Has a penchant for books, cats, doggos, horror movies, sunsets, oversized black t-shirts, mountains, Lucy Rose, and rickshaw rides on rainy days.
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