It’s been a bit of a wild few days. There’s a new charter school in town, The Magic City Acceptance Academy, targeted especially at LGBTQ kids who, in the homophobic culture of the Deep South, are psychologically brutalized by their peers in most of the local public schools. It opened this past year and the inaugural classes have been blossoming in an educational atmosphere that allows the kids to be themselves resulting in improved learning and test scores. It’s the only school of its kind in this region of the country and is attracting students from outside the city and I am very proud of my friends who have worked incessantly to make it a reality over the last few years. It wasn’t an easy job. And then it came into being in the midst of the pandemic…
There has, inevitably, been a backlash as the right wing noise machine has been going after gender nonconforming individuals over the last six months or so. It culminated here with one of the more homophobic, and less successful gubernatorial candidates taking photos of the kids at MCCA and using them, without permission, in attack ads claiming untruthfully that the school was using tax dollars to turn kids gay or some such. That particular noise machine has been ratcheted up to eleven in recent months as we head into the midterm elections because, I assume, that some Republican research firm determined in focus groups that attacking LGBTQ folk plays well to the base and those that will be hurt by it aren’t likely to be voting Republican anyway so what do they matter. It matters because political movements based on dehumanization of the other have a long and sorry history and it rarely stops with name calling and political attack ads.
One of the local theater companies put together a genderqueer Broadway cabaret as a fundraiser for the school and I was asked to do a number and be the MC for the evening. Now standup really isn’t my forte but nearly two decades of being the MC of Politically Incorrect Cabaret has given me a certain skill set in terms of telling jokes, reading an audience, and guiding a mishmash of musical entertainment from one end of an evening to another. This show, which opened last night and continues through the weekend, is a Broadway Backwards evening with the men singing women’s numbers and vice versa. I start things off with ‘Don’t Tell Mama’ from Cabaret. I have to do uptempo numbers for something like this because I’m not really a singer. I’m an actor who sings a little so I need a song that I can sell to an audience rather than them having to endure me butchering some leading man ballad written for the typical Broadway bariten, which I am not, being just a step or two above basso profundo in my natural range.
In keeping with the gender fluidity of the evening, I’m doing the whole show in pumps with three inch heels. I’ve worn women’s shoes and heels before, but never for a whole two hour show with multiple entrances and I’m getting a new level of respect for women and for drag queens. How the heck do you manage to descend a staircase without literally breaking your neck at every step? The show is fun. Audiences are enjoying it, and are being encouraged to be slightly raucous at every innuendo. We’ve managed to keep Covid out of the cast. My projects this spring/early summer have been remarkably Covid free. That’s not been true of some other productions in town. The local production of Kinky Boots has had to shut down for ten days due to multiple cases in the cast, but it will be back next week.
The local patterns of Covid are fascinating. It’s impossible to tell what’s going on from the official numbers as so many people are home testing and not bothering to take the steps to report to the local public health authorities. I have friends who are going out on quarantine on pretty much a daily basis but none of them has been sick for more than a day or two. The numbers in the hospital remain extremely low. I got a report from the VA Medical Center yesterday. Two inpatients with Covid (they generally were running more than twenty or thirty during the surges) but forty employees out on quarantine. Maybe we’re starting to reach the end of the road of Covid as a serious disease that causes hospital level sickness. Maybe we’re not. Time will tell.
There was another mass shooting last night. They seem to be taking place pretty much on a daily basis. This one was uncomfortably close to home, in a local church during a senior citizen’s potluck supper. There are three dead, a suspect in custody, and a reeling community as Birmingham is a city that revolves around church membership. Everyone with a wide circle of acquaintance knows a congregant at pretty much any church in town so I know parishioners, choir members and staff from this church. There’s been no official statements yet on motives but a lot of rampant water cooler speculation. My church has a whole active shooter safety plan. We have to. As Unitarian Universalists are not a conservative Christian denomination, we’re a target. There was a mass shooting at the UU Church in Knoxville in 2008 during service which killed two and wounded six. The motivation of the gunman? Hatred of liberals, Democrats, homosexuals, and African Americans. And this was before the poison of intolerance really started to metastasize in our society around 2015. I’m not particularly afraid of being taken out in a mass shooting event. I figure if I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s just the luck of the draw. The thing that scares me the most about guns is when they fall into the hands of the demented. I do a lot of rural house calls and I am not trained or equipped to take away a firearm from a paranoid patient. If anyone on any of my teams runs across a demented person with an unsecured gun, we hightail it out of there and inform the family we aren’t coming back until something is done.
When you compare the number of innocents that have been harmed by guns over the years to the number harmed by drag queens, I think it’s pretty clear as to which needs more societal control.