“Playwriting as Activism: Advocacy through Authenticity”

[Dr. Diane B. Call]
Well, good afternoon everyone!
Hi. As president of this wonderful
college, I get to say welcome to our community,
friends and our faculty, and our staff
and our students, this is the Spring Presidential Lecture,
and we’re very very pleased to have one of our
very special faculty address you today. Since 2000, the
presidential lecture series has brought a
distinguished member of the CUNY faculty or
higher education leader to this campus for a Fall
lecture, and in the Spring, we get to select one of our own
very illustrious faculty, and that’s
never an easy decision, because
we have so many who are great. I would like to
thank you for joining us today, and I’d like to thank the
Presidential Lecture committee, Dr. David Humphries from the
department of English, who’s a
former Presidential Lecturer, Dr. Azi Aalai, from the
department of Social Sciences, Dr. Paul
Sideris, from the department of Chemistry,
Dr. Sandra Palmer, our Dean of
Faculty, and we all welcome you this
afternoon. Professor Julian Jiménez, and
he will explain his name- plural, names,
[chuckles] is really a star in our
department of Speech
Communication and Theatre Arts. He’s a noted playwright and
director, and his most recent work, called,
anOTHER advances his strong belief that
theatrical voices can ignite a social revolution
within an audience by presenting, really, incredibly strong depictions of people who are sometimes
stereotyped or ostracized, or feeling disenfranchised. His play,
anOTHER, was developed in collaboration with
student performers as one of
the unique aspects of his accomplishment, and
these students, who performed, offer a very
unique access to ideas and
perspectives through their
voices through their movements. The
play, Julian’s play, anOTHER, was honored at
the region to Kennedy Center American Theater Festival in
January, where it was selected
as the opening production of the week long
festival, and the company for anoTHER was
honored with the Citizen Artist Award. It was my
privilege along with colleagues from the
faculty and staff to attend that performance in- it was in
New Jersey, and it was extraordinarily
powerful and moving to be in a
theater with almost a thousand people,
really experiencing this extraordinary work. In the last
week, we received news that the National
Committee of the Kennedy Center
College Theater Festival recognizes
Professor Jiménez and his production of anOTHER with five, five, top honors in the country. So we went beyond
the region, we scored top in the country, for
Distinguished Production of a
new or devised work, for Distinguished
Director of a new or devised
work- [person sneezes]
God Bless you. Julian himself, for Distinguished Ensemble of a
Play, for Distinguished Performance
by an Actress, one of our own
students, Ksenia Volynkina, and the Kennedy Center
Citizenship Award was given, again, for the work that this
play and actually the concept of it,
the work it does to really advance theater. I am so very
proud on behalf of the college to present our Presidential
Lecturer. Known in the theatre
profession as J. Julian Christopher, and known here and far as a
creative and passionate advocate, who really
advances art, theatre as art, and as an
impactful experience, for all
of us- the actors, the production
crew, and the audience. So please welcome, Julian. [audience applauds] [Julian Jiménez]
Thank you, I’m just gonna set up my presentation for a
second. Great. First of all, thank you
so much, Dr. Call and the committee for the
Presidential Lecture for having
me, I am honored beyond belief. I was standing on the corner of
21st and 7th the other day waiting for
the light to change, and a man next to me was
holding a leash to his Greyhound. It was a
beautiful dog. Tight, tight muscles pressed
against grey charcoal skin.
It was beautiful. Suddenly the dog started to
bark, and the man yanked the leash- violently, and
slapped the dog’s face with a
newspaper. I wanted to beat the
hell out of this guy. [audience laughs]
But then the dog looked at me. It looked me straight in my
eyes, and I- in that instant, I knew exactly
what he was gonna do. And he jetted out into the street and
was struck by a yellow cab. For years, I… For years, I’ve felt like this,
hollow, vacant shell of a man, holding the
dead me in place, like, like there’s a corpse rotting
inside me like I’m some sort of
ancient sarcophagus holding me in place, and that
there’s a knife-like pain and every time I breathe, it’s
piercing some new
vital organ, and every time I breathe more, it
pierces through my ribcage and it’s like blood is spilling
out of my veins, and I have
everything I need to live, but
it’s just floating, disconnected,
in my body and that’s how I feel most of
the time. That was a monologue, from my
play Animals Commit Suicide, which I
wrote in 2009. And the reason I bring this
monologue up, is because it talks about queer identity.
And I wrote this play in regards to how I was feeling
as a queer male in society at the time- and
this was pre-lawful, same sex marriage,
now that is, thankfully- hopefully will
remain, the law of the land. And I was
trying to figure out what was my
identity? What was I trying- What did I want? So the play
was steeped in shame, and a lot of people in the
queer community, the LGBTQ
community, are… have a lot of shame, because of
the societal standard of heteronormative
ideals. And I was searching for an
answer of what this could
possibly mean. In the play, the
character is seeking HIV
infection. Now, although this was a work
of fiction, I understood where this
character can come from. It was important that the
character was taking extreme means in order to
identify. The character thought that if
he could identify with the HIV community, he
would have a built in community
that would take him in and embrace him.
And that is what I was searching for at the time. Fast forward. I grew up in Levittown, Long Island, not too
far from here, and I grew up in the early [mumbles] [chuckles]
so, I grew up in- it was the late 70s,
early 80s, and, if you know anything about
Levittown, Long Island, it is a community that was set up post
World War II, mostly for
veterans. So there’s a certain
demographic that is there. And growing up with
a Puerto Rican mother and a Dominican
father, it was, let’s just say it didn’t
come without its set of
challenges. Interesting thing about growing
up in Levittown, Long Island, as a Puerto Rican and Dominican
person, is that we actually didn’t know we were Dominican and
Puerto Rican, me and my sister,
who is in the audience right now. I won’t point her out ’cause I
won’t embarrass her. We didn’t necessarily- we knew
it, but we didn’t know what it
meant to be a Latino, right? We didn’t
understand it, because our
parents rightfully so, and at the time,
chose to not teach us Spanish and grow us up in an Anglicized household, and I understand for
the time period why that was the way it was. About 88.9%, according to the 2011 census is white in Levittown,
and only 11.5% is Latino or Hispanic. And
that’s 2011, so you can imagine 1978, 1980,
around that time. It as a lot less than that. And
I, so I was searching for an
identity for a very long time. What did it mean to be Latino?
What did it mean to be a person who pronounces their
last name “JIM-enez” instead of
“Hee-MEN-ez,” right? ‘Cause
that’s how my parents pronounced it, so I was
“Jim-enez.” So I didn’t know what that was
about, so I was constantly
searching, I was even searching all the
way until I went to college,
and I went to undergrad. In undergraduate school, I
remember going to LASO, which is the Latin
American Student Organization,
’cause I was like I’m gonna- in college, I’m
gonna figure out what my roots
were, right? And I went, and I remember I
was rejected from the entire club. And they said, “You don’t
speak Spanish, you don’t look
Latino, you don’t know what it’s like,”
and I wasn’t Latino enough, so
I was constantly searching for what it meant to
be a Latino male, in life, and how that reflected
me without knowing a word of Spanish. I
can understand a lot of it, ’cause I had a very verbal
Puertov Rican grandmother. [chuckles]
So I can understand, and I you know, my parents spoke
Spanish ’cause they wanted to
keep secrets from us, so around Christmas time, my
Spanish became really good.
[snapping] So, I was always trying to find
that perspective. So then even as I went- after
undergrad, I was like, “I’m
gonna be an actor,” I was a theater minor,
actually, in undergraduate
school, but I was like, “I’m gonna be
an actor, I’m gonna do it.” So
I went out to audition, and I would audition,
and I would audition, and what
ended up happening was they were like, “You don’t
speak Spanish?” ’cause I was
auditioning under Christopher Julian
Jiménez, which is my birth
name. “You don’t speak Spanish.” Or
they come in and they’re like,
“No, you’re Greek.” They’re like, “Oh, no,
you play Jewish.”
“You play Mediterranean.”
“You play Italian.” “You will never be cast as
Dominican.” So being a fresh-out-of-college 22
year old, I heeded the advice of a very vocal and adamant agent, manager, who said, “You’ll get
work if you Anglicize your name- you gotta
change your name.” He didn’t
say anglicize, I’m interjecting that. He said,
“change your name.” so, what
that- I was translating, “anglicize it.” so
I just rearranged everything,
so J. Julian Christopher “J.” is Jiménez, Julian is my
middle name, I just like jumbled it all up. And I
went out to audition. … I didn’t get anything,
because then it was like “Oh, you’re too overweight for
20-something, you’ll get a lot
of work when you’re 40.” … so I’d still be
waiting for another 9 months. So I was like, “Okay.” and then they were like, “Aww,
butch it up! You’re a little
too… fem.” I was like, “Okay, that’s
why it’s called acting, but sure.” So, I didn’t know where I fit in
that entire- in the theater
community at all, I was this overweight,
nondescript Latino who couldn’t speak Spanish,
who was queer. Right? And I’m like, “Where do
I go?” So I was like, “Oh, I’ll just
go- I’ll go to grad school.”
[chuckles] [audience laughs]
When you don’t know what to do,
you go to grad school. At least, that was my reality.
So I went to grad school,
did the whole thing, finished grad school at the
Actor Studio, came, left and realized, I still
was not 40, I was still not brown enough, I
was still not Latino enough, and I was still
not butch enough. So I was like “I don’t see people on stage
that look like me.” I don’t see
people on stage that represent me. I see
stereotypes, I see ideas of people. I see, when I would
go out to audition, they were like, “well what
makes it more Latino?” they’re
like, “Y’know, put a bandana on you head.” Stuff like that.
This is what, this is what you face sometimes in the
professional theater community
’cause the money is the dollar. Right? The dollar is
everything, it is the power. So I decided, “Screw that, I’m
gonna start writing plays that I can be in. So I can perform. I’m going to
perform these plays, I’m gonna
write for people exactly like me.” And that’s
what I did. That’s what I started to do,
and then I realized I didn’t
wanna be in them anymore, and I
wanted to write for people who were underserved, and who
don’t have necessarily, the chance, to
perform something that they would want to perform
because society tells us “You’re not allowed to do that.” So, what I ended up doing, my first- very, very, very,
first play, I couldn’t get it
out of me. I wrote about Levittown,
Long Island. [audience member laughs] “This place is scary, these are
the types of places that breed
serial killers and shit. In the city, slice or
bang- that’s it. Here they will track you down, cut off your
limbs, and keep you boxed up in
the freezer for months. It’s true! No, it’s messed up
out here probably because
everyone who is here, doesn’t want to be
and they got stuck here. ’cause I’m not getting stuck
here, naw, it’s like, I- it’s
like nothing matters here I
don’t I don’t matter, you don’t
matter, all I’m saying is white
people in this country don’t know what it means to be
white and what it gets them. But we do. We think
about it day in, day out, every day like, when I tell
people I’m Latino I get the
double take and not from whites, also from Latinos,
because I don’t speak Spanish,
nor do I care to, but that apparently doesn’t
make me Latino enough. I’m
either denying my heritage, or I want to be
white. Why can’t I just be? I was born here. Why the Hell
should I speak Spanish? What do
they want? Anyone can learn a second language. You can
learn a second language, right?
Wouldn’t that make you- You can
learn Spanish. Would that make you Latino? No! I’m not saying I wanna be
white, naw, I’m saying, to Hell
with labels and just, living.” That was a passage from the
main character in my play about Levittown,
Long Island, which is called,
Nico Was a Fashion Model, about a teenage kid, a Latino
kid who is obsessed with the Punk
scene, if you know anything
about Punk, it’s not very friendly to
minorities, and it was this desire to want to identify
to a different culture than their own, and the
culture that they were
surrounded by, but not fitting
in the Punk scene, not fitting in with
Latinos, and being on the outskirts. Writing about
identity. I think it, sometimes I get upset
’cause playwrights will say,
“Oh I’m writing about
identity.” and it’s like it’s the go-to answer, but the
truth is, identity is at the
core of humanity. If we’re stripped of who we are, we no longer have a purpose in
life. That’s why you even look at why the battle
for same sex marriage was so
important. Why? Because it’s like we would be
nonexistent. Just recently, just a few, I think yesterday or a
day ago, Trump is stripping LGBTQ people from the census. Stripping them. Saying they
don’t belong in the census because they do not
exist, and what I’m saying is we do exist, and there is a way
to make us show that we exist and it could be through art,
and art is a way to make us visible, and say “we
are here, and we are taking space.” [stumbles]
Ooh! Jesus Christ, that’s
what I get for making heels. [audience laughs]
So we’re taking up space. And we should take up space,
and that is the point of art. That make sense? Great. So I was talking about before,
I was talking a little bit
about searching. What does
searching mean? And I realize I couldn’t just
do this by myself. I couldn’t just talk
about- when I was preparing for
this lecture, I was like, “There’s
no way that I can talk about
this, and try and be one voice.” So I emailed and called a few
notable playwrights that I know
and asked them for their opinion on a prompt
that I gave them which is based
on this, so advocacy through
authenticity, playwrighting as
activism. What does it mean to be an
activist? Activism isn’t in a vacuum.
Activism is an action. That’s why “act” is
part of the word. So writing a
play in itself is not activism. It’s
what you do with that play. It’s how that play is
presented. It’s the communities
that you go into to present plays. It’s one
thing to present a play for people who are just like
you. It’s like the people who
post on Facebook, you know political statuses, and they’re
just preaching to the choir, that’s not activism. That’s
just saying to your friends,
“Hey, can you believe this?”
“Yeah, yeah!” That’s not activism. Activism
is when you’re taking action
and you’re presenting it to the people, and the
people that don’t know. So, the first the first person who I don’t
know, but who I admire, and I found this quote,
from Maria Irene Fornes, who is a Cuban-American
playwright, avant garde playwright, she
writes, “When I’m not doing
something that comes deeply from me, I get bored. When I
get bored, I get distracted. And when I get distracted, I
become depressed. It’s a natural resistance and it insures your
integrity.” The purpose of being truthful, and authentic, and
having something that comes specifically from you as an
artist, is the magic potion. That’s when the work flies. And becomes
transcendent. And it has to come from you, and innately
you, and not trying to fit
yourself in a box. I tried to fit myself in a box,
and now I’m professionally J. Julian Christopher. Do I
regret it? Yeah. Does everyone
know me as that now? Yeah, so I’m
stuck. So the first, the next person I asked, well I
didn’t ask Maria Irene Fornes,
she’s in a nursing home in Washington Heights, and
she’s an amazing and a huge influence on my
work, but the next, all that the playwrights coming up, I asked
directly. Dominique Morisseau, is a
wonderful, wonderful playwright, award winning playwright, she
has had shows at the Atlantic Theater,
I believe she’s working on a
musical right now that’s probably
headed for Broadway, based on
the Life of the Temptations, and she wrote about
disenfranchised people. She
writes about Black people in Detroit,
in her cycle, the Detroit Chronicles. She says,
“Playwrighting is one major part of my activism arsenal. It
is where I can expose the people behind the politics.
The people affected by some of
the most dehumanizing policies in social
practices. And mostly it is a way for me
to give voice and compassion
and righteous rage to my community, thereby
defending their humanity to the world, which is
ultimately, the greatest
mission of an activist.” Defending humanity. And you
don’t only have to be a person of
color, a queer person, or a
marginalized person to defend humanity. Advocates
provide platforms for people who don’t have a
voice and voiceless. They don’t
speak for them, they provide the platforms. That’s a true
advocate. The next person I asked was
Diana Oh. Amazing, amazing, playwright, who is also an
activist, you may have seen, there was a viral video
that went around, of her
standing in her lingerie on a soap box
in Times Square, and with messages about rape
culture and sexism and misogyny. And she
goes out, she actually travels and goes out and promotes her
story. And I wanted to have you hear
it from her own words, so she sent me a little iPhone
video clip. [Diana Oh]
I turned to theater
making and writing and song writing and
creating from a place of necessity and I find that when I feel the need to say
something, I end up making something. And
so I think that in itself turns into
advocacy as I am a queer woman of color.
[laughs] So I have a certain gaze on the
world. And a certain opinion, and a
certain experience. And that is, that’s the place I create from.” She’s a queer woman of color
and has a certain gaze on the world, and a certain
opinion and a certain
experience. That’s the place she creates from. The
reason this is so important is
because the voices that we hear and see
on a regular basis are the same voices, or voices
telling us what certain people should
sound like. What certain people should say, how they should say
it. How to be a proper minority. How to be
the minority that knows its place and makes
everything accessible for the
majority. That’s not activism. That’s placating. The next person I
asked is Aurin Squire, who I had the
privilege of going to grad
school with and is a good friend of mine. He is an award
winning playwright, wrote a play called, “Obama-ology”
about the idea of being post-racial in an Obama
world. And he also is a writer on the hit TV series, This is Us,
that some of you may have seen. He wrote quite a few of the
episodes. [Aurin Squire]
Hi, my name is Aurin Squire, I am a playwright, journalist,
TV writer, and activist. I
think the most important thing we
need to be doing as activists is searching, which is going
outside of our comfort zone and
trying to use art to learn about things we don’t
know, and searching is different from research.
Research is reviewing what we already think we know, and
telling the audience and
lecturing them. And I think as
artist-activists, the greatest
thing we can do is search. To go out into the world and to
search for things to present hypotheses that can be
proven right or wrong, and to challenge ourselves, and
when we do that, the audience
is going to be challenged as well. So, that’s my message
about art and activism. Thank you.” “Searching is different from
research.” that’s important to know. Most people think that
when by doing research, they’re actively learning something,
which is somewhat true. But research in form of art, is
just a way to back up your own bias. Because what happens through
research, you’re searching for
the research that you want to find. You have a hypothesis,
you say what you, you say what you
want to say, and then you’re
looking for the research that
backs you up. Rarely do people
research and try and go beyond their own ideas
of bias. Which is why searching is what makes art transcend. Because we’re
searching for an answer. I didn’t have an answer as to
why my parents didn’t teach me
Spanish. Maybe they were protecting me. Maybe it came from a place of a
trauma from them, previously. But
these are the questions that I would never have been able to
try and even figure out and try
to answer if I had not tried to search,
instead of research. I could say, “Oh, you know, the
population is 88.9%, blah blah
blah.” that’s fine, statistics are
great, but what is underneath
it, what is the underbelly? How do we
transcend? I also spoke to Raul Castillo Who, many of you might know
from the HBO show Looking. He was one of the main
characters. He played Richie.
He was also on Gotham as a villain, he’s all over TV,
but he’s also an extremely accomplished playwright, and
this is what he had to say. [Raul Castillo]
“Yeah, hi, my name is Raul Castillo.
I’m a playwright and I’m from a small town in south
Texas called Mcallen, it’s a border town, and I’ve
always felt that I’ve used
playwrighting as a way to put people on stage that I
don’t normally see on stage. I think I was inspired by Miguel Piñero, and Luis Valdez,
writers like that and who put
people on stage that I felt, don’t normally appear
on stage and that in itself is a form of activism, and I
hope is authentic, ’cause if
it’s not, then it’s wack.” He was inspired by Miguel
Piñero and Luis Valdez who put
people on stage that don’t normally
appear on stage, and that in
itself is a form of activism. And I hope it’s
authentic because if it’s not,
then it’s wack. [audience laughs]
And it is. It is absolutely wack
and it is absolutely, completely
authentic to Raul. I wouldn’t
expect him to describe it in any other way. If you’re not
familiar with Luis Valdez, he was the
artistic director of El Teatro Campesino, and he’s the father
of Chicano theater, and Miguel
Piñero is the co-founder of the
Nuyorican Poets Café in the
East Village and was one of the first
playwrights to really examine prison culture after multiple
incarcerations. I then spoke to the amazing,
award winning playwright Caridad Svich, who is also- was a student of Maria Irene
Fornes, and an incredible reteller of ancient work and Greek work. She says, “It’s always about
the now. It MAY be that this historical moment
feels more urgent than ever, but all times should feel
urgent if we are to make art
that is necessary. And if we are really
listening, ear to ground, to the rumbles
in the earth and the seas, we are part of our time and
also part of the past, looking toward the future.
Uncertainty is what we live with. It’s easy to
settle for or wish for quick
fixes, but the soul work that culture
demands is long. So, patient- practice patience.
Lots of it. And witness with clear eyes and
heart, even when it is tough. It’s going to take every bit of
you to make things that may last, and that’s the
bargain. That’s the hand you’re
dealt. None of it may last, but the
struggle is worth it.” It’s interesting, I hear a lot
of theater companies to this day, I kinda get
annoyed a little bit, when I get emails, spam emails
from theater companies saying, “Now more than ever, art
matters!” it’s like why now? Why didn’t it matter before?
‘Cause now we’re seeing marginalized people
compromised? They’ve always
been compromised but now it’s
in your face? “Now more than ever,” is a
trick phrase. It’s not true. It’s always the
time for urgency. It is always the
time to humanize people who are dehumanized. It is always the
time to fight for people who don’t have a voice.
And theater can be that
practice because theater does. It gets into the
community. There’s something communal about it. Art in
itself. Yes, television’s great ’cause it can reach mass
audiences, but there’s
something about sitting in a
space with someone else, and sharing
the same air, and feeling that
energy. That’s where activism should
start. But writing a play in itself, again, is not
activism. It’s what you do with it. There must be a
collaboration of ideas. There needs to be multiple people in the room to
make it work. That’s why I chose it as my
art. As a writer, I didn’t
choose to write novels because I needed
other people to exist with me and to bounce and share ideas
off of. It takes a community to insert that change. It’s how
you can shift the narrative of
society about people who are on the fringe
and the outskirts. I think I may have a
way to do it, if you’ll bear with me. Some
people will argue with me, especially theater
makers. Many theater makers will argue and I’m gonna get
kinda “technical” in a way, but I’m gonna keep it pretty
easy for everyone to follow. I think there is an issue with
the way that plays are presented through dramatic
structure. I think that the structure that
drama is going through, is not serving marginalized people as it could be. So
dramatic structure as we know
it comes from the Greek philosopher
Aristotle, right? It was one to
write about drama and describes it in its
segments in his work, “The
Poetics,” and it talks about in simple, simple, terms,
beginning a middle, and an end. There’s a
beginning and a middle and an
end. That is the structure, it’s
what we know as plot, right? But from Ancient Greece, drama
evolved, and then the Roman poet, Horace, advocated
for the five act structure, which is what we
really know today, and it was
really implemented by the German playwright, Gustav
Freytag, who developed the five
act structure and the five act
structure is what we use to analyze classical and
Shakespearean text. So, easily
to break down five act structure: the first
act is exposition, okay? And what I mean by exposition
is the given circumstances, so
the time, the place, who, where we are, what time
period? Act two is the rising action. What
occurs, what happens, and what are the
obstacles that your protagonist
faces? And of course, act three is the
climax. Right? So the climax happens
and you’re like, “Oh my God, oh
my God, oh my God!” it’s all leads up to the climax. That’s
where most of the action
happens, in act three. And in act four, it’s the
opposite of the rising action,
it’s the falling action. So that’s where everything
starts getting wrapped up,
stories that you’re like “What happened to this person?”
That gets wrapped up, and
you’re getting a nice, neat
story. And then, act five, is the
denouement, or the resolution, which is the final outcome of
the drama. Here is where you really feel the author’s
tone, and there’s usually a
moral, or a lesson that is learned,
right? Why did the character have to
suffer this? Why? Right? I am less interested in the
“why.” I am less interested in
the plot. I don’t think I really
need to know why Godot had- why they were waiting for Godot for
so long. I don’t really need to
know that, because what was interesting about it,
is that what, when they were waiting.
We don’t need to know anything else. In
Aristotelian theater,
characters are shaped by the actions that befall them, but I
don’t think that serves marginalized communities. I am
more open to what I found. I didn’t even
know this structure existed for a while,
’cause we were so Hell bent on Aristotelian structure. I’m
more interested in Ovidian structure, so Ovid, the
playwright, the poet. He talks about in his work, Metamorpheses,
it’s shown that it’s about how you get there,
and what happens to the characters, and
it’s based not necessarily in plot, but in theme. What is
the theme? What is the socioeconomic attributes that are happening to these
characters? What is happening
around them? It’s less involved in what happens, and more
involved in the now, and in the present. The problem
sometimes of Aristotelian structure, which is the five
act structure of plot, is that there are obstacles that the
protagonist has to face, right?
I’m not saying this is true of all- it takes a
deft hand, as a playwright to not create stereotypical characters, when
you’re talking about
Aristotelian structure. Because, if we’re facing
obstacles, The character is either gonna
become a stereotype or a
victim, ’cause marginalized people are
victims. So I’m gonna give you
an example of what I mean by
that ’cause that’s a little, y’know,
intellectual, right? So the
example of that of, let’s take my play
that I did that monologue in
the beginning from, Animals
Commit Suicide. The main character is seeking
HIV infection. He is looking because he thinks
he deserves it. All this stuff, it’s based in
shame. Right? When I originally
wrote that play, both characters who were
seeking HIV infection were
Latino males. Suddenly, the Aristotelian structure has
now set me up for creating a
stereotype. Because now, when people are watching the
play, they’re saying, “Oh, all Latino people want to be
infected. All queer Latino males wanna be infected with
HIV, right?” So I realized, I have an issue. I
cannot make that character Latino. I have to
make that character white. And
the reason I had to make that character
white is because once that
character is white, no one is going to go, “Oh, ALL
white people wanna have AIDS. Wanna be HIV positive.”
That is just not how it happens. Because what
will happen is if I make that
character Latino, I am saying something about
Latino culture. that’s not in the play. Even
though it’s not in the play,
I’m saying something about it. So Aristotelian structure, many times, can set your
characters up as a playwright, to be victims
or stereotypes. Where, Ovid structure, is
taking the people where they are at the time. What’s happening to them in the
now? It’s not placing them in
extreme circumstances and labelling
them. So playwright Sarah Ruhl challenges
Aristotelian dramatic structure
of cause and effect. The structure
inherently forces us to view drama through
the male lens- patriarchal lens. In her book,
“100 Essays I Don’t Have Time To Write on
Umbrellas, and Swordfights,
Parades, Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children,
and Theater,” it’s a long title, she says- she recalls a young
male student of hers describing the
structure of Aristotle. And he says to her, in the
book, “Well first it starts out and then it speeds up and
it’s going, and it’s going, and
then- bam! It’s over.” Sarah Ruhl reflects on this and
says, “And I thought, ‘Do we think
that arc is a natural structure because of
the structure of the male
orgasm?’ Which creates the male lens.
She is- [chuckling] She is making
an analogy that men have created this
structure, and they are not allowing anybody else in. She
proposes in her book the use of the
Ovidian structure as I just
talked about, and it strives- it does not strive
for unity in content and forms so much as a calculated
variety. It is the continuity of narrative, and
not subject matter, which
creates the impression of fluidity.
This sharpens the audience’s curiosity. It
allows for a fluctuation between realism and the mythical world. Cause and effect doesn’t matter
because transformation allows for a more visceral
understanding without a clear
moral. When the moral is not
emphasized, judgment is not a
result. Sarah Ruhl also writes in her
book, “I would agree- I would argue, that at the
level of the story, we crave
transformation as much as we crave verisimilitude. Perhaps Ovidian
form is not taught at universities as a
genuine narrative form because it’s very hard to teach the
act of transformation. Aristotle lays out his theories
in lecture form, easily accessible, whereas Ovid simply
flies. And it is very difficult to teach the art of
flying. Arms up in the air, with slats
of skin peeking through between denim
and cotton. Lights flashing, blinding even through tightly
shut eyelids, boy is to the left of me
spraying beads of sweat as they
dance to bodies, gyrating to boys they
just met. The bass is pumping and I glide
across the dance floor as if the ground beneath me was a slate
of ice and I, the Olympic champion Oksana Baiul. But this
is no frigid ice skating rink. This
is a sauna, of erotic possibilities, and a place
where striking up a
conversation with the statue of David doesn’t need courage,
because here, rejection isn’t
scary. It just sucks. I see a man on the dance floor,
all shirtless with specks of glitter in his chest
hair. He’s just hugged the
tragic queen with a lifted up lace front. He
dances bachata like a Eurotrash meth head, and
somehow, my heart pounds out of my chest, as if
I’m bait on a fishing line, trying to reel him in,
and it does. The whole room
goes into soft focus, like we are Tony
and Maria at the dance, and I breathe in his fuse,
testosterone, sweat, and
Burberry ether and I am set into a tailspin of
longing and arousal Don’t trip, left and right
brain! There is no need to
argue. This man across from me
satisfies logic and
imagination- look at him. I mosey on over to this
gorgeous specimen and place my hand on his hip,
the music and the dance floor give me power to pursue what I
can only look at walking along Orange Avenue. He
places his hand on my hip, our pelvises touch
and we are forehead to forehead. A stream of sweat rolls down
his head and it mixes with mine. His moves are still
Eurotrash-esque, so I pull out my Zumba instructing
skills and teach him a proper
Bachata rhythm. He falls perfectly in line. We
dance. I am his teacher, and he is happily my
student.” That’s from a play I wrote
called, “We Are Molecules.” And it was commissioned by NoPassport Theatre and Missing
Bolts Productions in regards to the Orlando
shooting at Pulse nightclub. The entire collaboration was
called, “After Orlando.” and I think they summoned about
100 playwrights to write short
pieces for it. I wrote that piece as my first foray into Ovidian
structure. Because we all know what
happens at the Pulse nightclub,
right? We all know who dies. We all
know who was wounded and
victimed. But I refuse to have these
characters become victims.
They’re not victims. So I chose to use the
Ovidian structure to talk about the
safe space that they occupied. The safe space that was
violated. We don’t need to know the end. We know what’s
happening in this space. For LGBTQ people, that bar is like church, and I don’t
mean that to be offensive or to be divisive. What I mean
is that it is a place where you feel
safe, where everyone is like
you, and you don’t have to look over
your shoulder, which is the
plight of most LGBTQ people in this world. So in the play, he is
struggling with his attraction to, obviously,
this man across from him on the
dance floor, and he’s having this
fight with his left brain and
his right brain. Each one side of his brain
telling him to give in to the arousal. The other telling him
to stop. It’s not safe. You never know. You can’t
even be safe here. And it’s
about his journey into that. Then the play ends, and we know
how it ends. I also brought this into- use this piece for a part
of anOTHER, which was the play
that Dr. Call was talking about
that we presented here. And we added,
we actually added an ending in a more
Aristotelian structure for
that, through one of the students, Joel
Santenos’ playwrighting, he wrote an
epilogue to it. So we included that. So we collaborated and
took that, “We Are Molecules,”
play and made a new one. But this character, I cannot allow the
character to be a victim. So I didn’t choose to target his victimhood and
create that obstacle, I chose to examine where he was
at the time. What’s so interesting about the Ovidian structure is
sometimes it happens to you. It
doesn’t even know it’s happening. So, again,
anOTHER, which was co-directed by Professor
Huggins, who is sitting over there, we
really created a safe space for students to
explore how to devise work. And by
devising work, creating work that came
from nothing. And in that process itself, is activism. Because it’s
providing students who normally don’t have a voice
in class, there’s sort of this idea of authority, and obeying that authority.
Allowing them to take control
and ownership of their own voices,
especially since our community
here is Queens. We’re one of the- THE most
diverse communities ever. We
need to give them a platform for
their voices. So just the act of devising and
creating work from nothing as a
community in a group, and allowing
students to feel empowered to create, is radical. Look, to be an artist is
radical. Right? We’re in a
capitalist society. I didn’t even go into this
thinking I was gonna be a
millionaire. Right? It’s a radical idea to
do this and choose to do this,
but for every artist who is in the room, and
you know who you are, you can’t
not do it. It’s impossible. It’s like breathing. If you stop, a part
of you dies. So the art can be transcendant,
and the act of creating art can be
transcendant depending on how
you create it. How you choose to
create it. Do you choose to
create victims? Do you choose to create stereotypes? Do you choose to
create hierarchy? That is what prevents activism from
happening. That is when the art truly cannot fly. It doesn’t matter if it’s
Aristotle, it doesn’t matter
who it is. The art cannot fly if you do
not allow characters to live in their
truth, and in their authentic
voice. And if you are writing a piece
that is about a voice that is not your own,
don’t research. Search. The difference- remember the
difference between research and
searching. Don’t research and just justify your
own biases. That becomes a
stereotype. Search for the truth and the
meaning of what’s happening in these characters. In
humanity. Don’t dehumanize them through your
work, because you’re lazy and didn’t search. That’s
my message to artists [laughs] How we choose to use our art
can change the narrative of our
culture. For me, I write for
representation. I write for
that kid that grew up in the suburbs of Long
Island, at the 88.9% white suburb. For
the queer kid walking into his
first gay club. For the anglicized Latino who
doesn’t speak a word of English. For our students who
have stories upon stories to tell, but just maybe not in
the way you’ve heard them
before. But there’s room for them and
there’s room for everybody. But
we need to make it. Those gate keepers,
the ones who hold it, we need to make the room
for those stories. I’ll leave you with a selection
from my latest play, called Bruise and
Thorn, which is not finished yet. I’m not gonna
tell you what it’s about, because as I said
before, it doesn’t matter what
happens. I just want it to fly. “I gotta leave New York City.
This city is bringing me down some. This
shit’s depressing as fuck. This shit is transient, son.
People come. People go. People dumb, people know. They
come again and I get so… so, look I’m
holdin’ it down here in Jamaica where the buses
and trains converge, I’m on the verge of a fit, tell it, about
to merge all my feelings but we ain’t living in
motherfuckin’ Illinois. Here in
Jamaica, Queens, we take and destroy. A ploy,
suppress the honest. Use ’em up like toys. See, New
York City keep people distant like that.
I wear another kinda hat, ghetto bard, swallow hard, like you
livin’ for fat. New York City where you go when you’re
socially feeble. Closing the door to that steeple, I
don’t wanna see all them people
or interaction vulnerable abstraction,
overreaction to the feeble,
fable. New York City is constructing.
Condos, destructing any sense of nostalgia. Nah,
nostalgia’s for straight white
dudes. They got the luxury to reflect. Meanwhile I’ma try
to deflect another asshole walkin’ on the wrong side of
the road. Get the fuck out of
the way, bro before I bust ya
nose! I was born into Jamaica eating
an E train churro. I was born into
Queens, I was born into this borough. It’s all concrete
and trash and concrete, that’s why this place don’t
sleep or however the sayin’
goes on the tourist bait t-shirt hoes. It’s just sharp
edges waiting to cut you at every turn. It’s thorn
worthy ass shit in lessons
learned. Jamaica’s a boxer, and you’re
the sparring partner or the punching bag with that 718
swag. It’s like a Hannibal mask up in Jamaica where they beg
for coins. They want that loot. Even if they gotta give
up the coot, the only root
points moot, love the suit, but ain’t
livin’ in motherfuckin’ CT where it’s mansions and
pretty, anti-city shit. They got them dollars,
button-down collars. New York
got the gay money the same, but needy tame on the
pavement, no shame, the
politician’s to blame. New York City, a symbol of
interlace. What a fuckin’ disgrace. That
as long as I been laying my lineage to
trace, Lady Liberty don’t
belong to this place in all her green grace. She
floatin’ in Jersey! Immigrants thirsty, in a hurry
to end up in a gurney. American dreams are for rich
white dudes. They got all the
means to try and fail, let dreams sail, and
marinate for the victory in
Hell. This ain’t the path for the rest of
us. We just another Rosa
fighting for a seat in the
front of the bus. It makes you SICK. Smog up all
in your nostrils, like blows snorted
from hostile people lookin’ like fossils, or walkin’ dead, it
all fucks with ya head like
utility bills, stacked up and over spilled.
New York City is dead. That’s the point of this thread. Nostalgia’s for straight white
dudes, they got luxury to
reflect. Meanwhile, I’m a deflect, check
it. I was born into Jamaica
eating an E train churro. I was born into Queens.
I was born into this borough. It’s all concrete and trash and
concrete and that’s why this
place don’t sleep or however the fuck the saying
goes on those tourist bait t-shirt hoes. It’s just sharp
edges waiting to cut you at every turn, thorn worthy ass
shit in lessons learned. Jamaica’s a boxer, and you are
the sparring partner or the punching bag with that
718 swag. I gotta leave New York City.
This city is bringing me down
some. Shit’s depressing as fuck! Shit is transient, son! People
come. People go. People are dumb people know. And I get so… So.” Thank you for coming. [audience applauds] So, thank you. So this the part
where we say, “hey, have any
questions?” and I try to answer them. So, if you have any
questions, there’s some mics up
there. Thanks, Billy! Do you have a
question? Oh, you’re just handing it to
him. Okay. Thanks. You don’t have to have one.
[audience laughs] [audience member]
Encore! Thank you.
[audience member]
I have a question. This was
very, very moving, what you just read. But
it didn’t sound like drama, it sounded like poetry. And I
just wondered what’s the
different, how do you define one, versus
the other? [J. Julian Christopher]
That’s a great question. Poetry, well, it’s so interesting
because it depends on your
definition of drama. So, drama, especially in Latin
culture, if you look at some of the most amazing Latino
playwrights, such as José Rivera, it’s very much
steeped in poetry. And that’s what’s so much more fun about the Ovidian
structure for me, because in
Aristotelian structure I feel a need to speak in
realism. And I think that there is a way through Ovidian
structure to transform and go beyond natural dialogue
to get to a visceral understanding of a character. I
could have said that in realism
and could’ve been like “You
know, New York City’s dying and like,
all these condos are going up.
Doesn’t that suck?” But there’s something
different; the rhyme scheme pulls you in, and it creates
the transformation that you couldn’t have through natural dialogue. And you can
do that in that structure
because it allows for magical realism and fabulism
which is when magic happens to people and
they have to deal with it in a
play. Does that answer your
question? [speaker]
But… usually when
I think of drama, I think of at least a dialogue where,
although there are monologues in plays, but it just seems as
though with just one character, there
wasn’t an interaction at all,
and to me, drama usually involves some
sort of interaction. [J. Julian Christopher]
You’re absolutely right. I wouldn’t
have time to do the full scene,
but he’s answering someone’s question
[chuckles] in that play, so. [shuffles]
Sorry, I want to see her.
So, what happens, is it’s
acutally, it becomes a monologue, and the
monologue starts, and then
becomes this sweeping transcendence, and
then they turn into chickens,
but it’s a long story. [audience laughs]
They do. But it takes place in a cockfighting ring, where
like the chickens are actually these queer people
and they chicken fight and they death drop, and do all
like, ball culture like, “Yas,
serve!” right? They do all of that, but
then they go into this
transcendant space. So what happens is with the Ovid-
[laughs] it sounds so weird, when I say it out loud. What
happens with the Ovidian
structure, is that you can go to places that you never
knew, because you’re not, you don’t have to follow,
“Okay, now I gotta get to the
climax, what happens?” So this actually is a dialogue,
and if you had the rest of the
scene, you would hear the dialogue.
But great question! It’s a hard balance, what is poetry and
what’s not. Anyone else? Well that was easy.
[audience laughs] [speaker]
[J. Julian Christopher]
Hi! [speaker laughs]
Oh, well that’s weird. So I wondering. In regards to today’s political climate and such,
would you say that activism especially in regards to
politics and people’s rights and/or lack
thereof, is more crucial than ever, and
if so, how would you go about that,
portraying that? [J. Julian]
I just think that
the conversation is at the
forefront. I think it’s always been
crucial, and we just haven’t
seen it because I think that we haven’t seen it
on this mass scale, and we
haven’t seen someone actively display it, as
our current president does. Sorry to get into politics, but
he’s actively displaying it.
There have been presidents that
have felt the same things that he has,
right? But it’s covered, so it’s not on
display, right? So the idea that someone can be so
forthright, it’s actually an act- for me, it’s
an act of terror. It’s an act of telling someone
that they don’t matter and saying that, “You don’t
belong here,” so yes, as I said before, as Caridad
Svich said before, it may seem
like now is more urgent than ever,
but it’s always been urgent.
We’re just finally talking about it. It’s the same thing
with like, police brutality
against black men, right? We were all
like, “Oh, my God this is
happening?!” Yeah, it’s been happening for
years. Rodney King, that was
the first time we saw it on film, and now everyone
has a camera, so we see it on
the regular. Right? So we’re seeing it on
the daily, so now we think it’s
a problem? But it’s always been there.
It’s just been exposed now, and
now we have a president who’s exposed our shame. I don’t know if that
answers your question. [speaker]
It did, thank you very much.
[J. Julian]: I mean [J. Julian]
I mean, everything I do is steeped in
activism, even if it’s not “activism” I’m not like, “Ra, Ra! Act up!
Fight AIDS!” or you know “Black Lives Matter!” but it’s
the undercurn of my life, it’s
the underbelly. [speaker]
I was wondering. How
did it feel when you actually, for the first
time, when you did your first activism, like, when
you actually felt like you did your part in activism, what was
it, and how did you change? [J. Julian]
Yes, so I remember the exact moment,
the first time I was an advocate and I was an unwilling
advocate. I went to Rider
University. [laughs]
God, I’m gonna get sued.
But I went to Rider University and After the LASO, the Latin
American Student Organization I
got kicked out of, I decided to join Rider FLAG,
which was Friends of Lesbians
and Gays at the time, and this
was in 1996, ’97. and I remember I went and there
was only two people there, two Lesbians and
me, and I was like, “Great.” So you know, and they were
graduating, and then the club
was gonna die, ’cause no one was out at the
time. So I became President of the organization.
Then I remember being at Open House, where high
schools would come to visit to
see what clubs were there, and I was the
only one there, because there was like two other people
in the club that I figured out later
in the next semester, but they refused to
be at Open House because they
were closeted. So I sat at the table and I
remember the Admissions
Director … I won’t say her name.
[laughs] But the Admissions
Director came up and she like, put her
hand on my back, and said, “Are
you getting a lot of attention this way?” And I said- Oh, also, people couldn’t see
my material, so I put a flyer on my chest with a phone
call. And she said, “Are you getting
a lot of attention this way?”
and I was like, “Mm.. yeah. People are memorizing the phone
numbers ’cause no high school
student is gonna come up with their mom and dad and be like,
“I wanna check out the gay
club!” Right? Not in 1996! So, and then she was like,
“Well, I find it offensive. I
need you to take it off.” And I said, “Well, I find THIS
offensive.” I’m like, and I said, “Would
you,” I’m like, “Do you want the Black Student
Union to put the bags over
their heads?” She’s like, “Well, we put you
in the front, what more do you
want?” And I said, “Well we
gave you your own water fountains.” She did not like
me. So, [laughs] so I made a thing
about it, she reported me to my club
advisor and said, “That Jimenez boy was
‘acting out’.” She made it sound like I was
streaking across campus. So then I wrote an article for
the paper exposing her, and it became a
thing, and it became a bigger thing,
and then I became like the “Gay
Activist Kid” on Long Island- in New Jersey, because it was
at Rider, on campus. So I became an activist because
immediately I was confronted with bias that
I hadn’t experienced. When I was in high school, I
went to a Catholic high school
in Long Island, Holy Trinity and I came out during high
school, and they were great. So I thought I would go to
college and it would be great,
and it wasn’t. I received probably the most anti-queer hate, that I have ever
received during the 4 years I was at Rider University. It
was probably the worst 4 years of my life. So that was- it felt charged, and exciting, but
also dehumanizing and angry. I was really angry
for a long time. So, I hope that answers it. Yes?
Hi, this is gonna be a difficult question to ask, but when you were
talking about the Ovid structure, the Ovidian
structure, I remembered back in 2005, I produced a play I had
written which was really like an Oratorio, it was really a
strange play, and y’know it was
set to music and it was about this black
woman confronting this white comedian whom she
disagreed with, and there was kind of like
dialogue between them. I don’t know how well it was
produced, it y’know. Made the
guy linked to bad reviews, but there was this one
reviewer, who came, and he left
after 15 minutes. And I saw that he had
put that up there, that he left
the show after 15 minutes. I asked him, “Why?” he asked me
to send him the script, which I
did. He took out one particular
line, in the script, and took it out of context, and
implied that the play was about
nothing. I was very angry about that, so
there was back and forth email
between us. He finally said, “You have to
be careful about your subject
matter.” I wrote back to him said, “Oh,
now we’re getting somewhere,
you have a problem with the subject matter. What was it
about the subject matter that
bothered you?” he said, “Oh, this is getting
to feel- it’s starting to feel
unhealthy, I don’t think we
should continue this anymore.” From
what I had written, The first five minutes was crammed
with subject matter. The first line was, “I didn’t
build a career out of being real, I build it out of being
shrewd.” That was the first
line of the play. How can you say that’s about
nothing? So, I don’t know if I have
a question in that, but I guess it’s- [J. Julian]
I have a comment!
Please. [J. Julian]
He, clearly, he was like,
“Your play’s about nothing.”
Immediately because his own experience,
he’s only researched, not searched. He’s only coming from
his bias. So his bias is what if it’s about nothing? Why does
something have to- Why does there have to be a
plot? That’s a very narrow view, and it’s
also a very male view, unfortunately. And when
you think about minority
writing, you think about Latin
playwrights, when you think
about y’know, For Colored Girls Who
Have Considered Suicide When
The Rainbow Is Enuf right? That’s poetry, that’s
Ovidian structure. It’s actually Didactic poetry which is part
of Ovidian structure. But, and you think about how
that flies and how that sings, it’s because
marginalized people go to those
places because they have no other
choice. It’s the only way they could express themselves
is going around this
patriarchal structure that has been
implemented on us that makes us be victims. That’s my personal-
I’m sure I’m gonna get a lot of comments when this gets up on
[audience laughs] so the trolls will come out and
argue with me. But, I will argue that I’m not saying EVERYBODY,
I’m just saying, for the most part. It takes a really
skillful hand, to not create victimization and stereotypes
in characters through that structure. It’s just very hard to do.
Thank you. [J. Julian]
But, I would love to read that play.
Like that’s the play I wanna see, so. [speaker]
In terms of your writing,
and everything that
you’ve performed in so far, what do you think is
the most important thing you’ve
learned about yourself, not
just in terms of your identity, but
just a human being. [J. Julian]
… Wow, that’s..
[audience laughs] that question alone got you the
extra credit, thanks for coming! [speaker]
Appreciate that! [audience applauds] [J. Julian]
Well… I have learned that I am a
resilient person, and I have learned that and I’m only gonna talk about
the Queer-Latino experience, ’cause I can’t speak for
Latinas, and I can’t speak for other queer people, but my
queer Latino- I feel like we’re really resilient people,
because we were forced to be, and we had to be, and I’ll talk
specifically about queerness. Queer people for the most part,
there are exceptions, but for the most
part, grow up in families who
are not queer, right? So the famlies
were not queer, so when you’re realizing that you
are different and part of a marginalized society, you
long for that affection. Right? So if someone were to
call me a faggot, it’s harder for me to go to my
father about that, because he isn’t one. If they call me a
spic, I can. ’cause he knows, he’s been
called that. He knows what that
means. Do you know what I mean? So as a queer person, you’re
forced to be resilient, because it is, it begins in such a
lonely place. And you don’t have to be
lonely. And what I’ve learned through my writing is that I
can no longer- so my plays Animals Commit
Suicide, Locusts Have No King,
all these different plays that
I’ve written, up until recently,
have been in Aristotelian
Structure, because I was writing from a
place of shame. And I was writing from a place of,
“These characters have shame,
and they need to deal with it.” It fits that structure, ’cause
they’re the victims. How do I
deal with my shame? I’ve been writing Bruise and
Thorn, which still hasn’t
finished, the last one, the passage I read for you, and
it has not worked, I haven’t been able to
write it. Until recently. And now I’m able to write it
because I’ve discovered that I
don’t need to fit into this structure. I’m writing about
queer- a celebration of queerness, and
is not steeped in shame. So I’m like, “What happens to
these people?” Like, it’s like they’re celebrating their fact.
I’m like, there needs to be
something else, there needs to
be this, there needs to be that. What
I’ve learned is that there
doesn’t need to be an answer to art. So there needs to be the question, there needs to be the impetus,
and there needs to be the
search. So I’m less involved, I’m less interested
in learning about plot or what happens, and I’m more
interested in seeing the search
that people go through. And I’ve learned
that I’m constantly searching. All the time, which is why I
don’t stop writing. [Speaker]
We have time for one more question.
[Another speaker]
Yeah, I wanted to ask you- first of all, I’m very
uncomfortable with the word
“queer.” I don’t like it. I, you know, whatever.
[J. Julian]
Sure. [Speaker]
Okay. I would like to ask you,
if I may, where are
your parents in all this? You
mentioned your sister. What understanding do
they have about you? [J. Julian]: My mother is deceased. [Speaker]
Mhm. Oh.
[J. Julian]
And my father is working. [Speaker]
[J. Julian laughs]
I’m very open with my family. My latest play, which just won an
award, was called The Guilt Mongers, and it’s
actually- Dana doesn’t know
this, sister, but it’s actually about my
mother’s death, and the time that our family
spent in hospice. And can I ask you a question? Why are you uncomfortable with
the word queer?
’cause I don’t like it. It’s an uncomfortable word!
[J. Julian]
Why? [Speaker]
Does that have them mean
“strange?” I mean different. It’s different. [J. Julian]
It is!
It’s different.
[J. Julian]
Yeah. [speaker]
But queer brings up all- I don’t know.
I don’t- [J. Julian]
Well, queer to me is more
encompassing ofan entire culture, so it’s Lesbian,
Bisexual, Intersex, Trans, Gender Nonconforming, it’s a
more inclusive word, and queer is- I think people get upset with the word queer because it
means different and strange, or
funny, right? And I think that that, if you
flip the idea of the Lexicon
that we’re using, right? There is, queer
people are different than heterosexual
people. And that’s okay! I’m against the societal
narrative that we have to be the same. Or, “they’re just
like us,” I’m like no, I’m not
just like straight people. And
that’s okay. Straight people gonna be straight people, I’m
not. And I’m okay with straight
people, they should be okay with me. So queer to me is
all encompassing, and it’s also
the same, it’s also to me in the
same vein as in the
African-American community with the N word. And
taking that word that was used as attacks, and to vilify us,
and reversing it and reclaiming that word and
saying, “Yes, this is me.” And now, that word doesn’t hurt
me anymore, and it’s part of, it’s part of my culture. So I
identify, I used to identify just as gay,
I no longer identify as gay, I
identify as queer, because sometimes I’m
not gender conforming. Sometimes I wear, y’know, Harem
pants and look, y’know dress more feminine, and
sometimes I have long hair and I’ll put it in a ponytail
because No one, NO ONE, in the world will ever dictate who I should
be. And, so that’s why queer, I
wear it as a badge of pride. So, I understand why it makes
you uncomfortable and I’m
sorry, but yeah. [Speaker]: No that’s okay. You have to realize that I’m old, I come from a world where gay
meant happy. [laughter]
[J. Julian]
Absolutely! [audience applauds]
And I am, I’m very happy! [audience applauds] Thank you! [Dr. Diane B. Call]
I was gonna ask,
who here are students but I believe we all are
tonight, with an educator.
[J. Julian]
Aww, thanks. [audience applauds]
.. right there, and right there,
and somewhere around. [Dr. Diane B. Call]
Thank you so very much.
Thank all of you. As is our custom, we have some light
refreshments, and in the Spring- I’m sorry, it is the Spring!
The Fall, [laughs] we’ll have another special
event, but it’d be a hard act
to follow, Julian. [J. Julian]
Oh. They’ll be fine.
[Dr. Diane B. Call]
Thank you again! [audience cheers]
[J. Julian]
Thank you. Thank you guys!


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