By Dominic DiCaprio For InPlay Capital Region
On December 18th, 2014 I discovered the fact I was gay. On August 28th, 2015 I began to accept it. On March 8th, 2020 I discovered why any of this matters. These dates correspond with two masterpieces, John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and The Angry Inch and Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance, that created the man I am today.
To start, Hedwig came at the perfect time in my experience and discovery of being a gay man. I discovered the soundtrack about a week after I figured out the fact that I was gay, but had chosen to ignore it. Hedwig was a person who was hurt, abandoned by all they loved, left for dead by everyone, but in the end, it didn’t matter.
Hedwig, like me, took life for granted. We focused too much upon the fact of who was gay and who isn’t, what’s right and what’s wrong, who we hurt and who hurt us. We both became so involved with semantics about life we never were able to become the beautiful and meaningful person we all are. The final shot of the play, Hedwig standing on the stage, no wig, no fancy costumes, no “rock star” personality to hide behind, but just Hedwig broken, alone but at the end so proud of who they are.
Hedwig taught me that our pasts shouldn’t tell us who were are, they only show us who we can be. After I was graced with the beautiful presence of Taye Diggs and Rebecca Namoi Jones’s masterful performances, I thought my path was over. I had learned to accept myself for being gay, my story was completed, or so I believed.
This past March I found myself watching The Inheritance, what I expected to be another Angels in America. I was a 20-year-old in 2020 and AIDS, while still a major concern in the world, does not reach the magnitude it once did. While I did recognize the tragedy that was the AIDS epidemic, I saw it as a past issue, another plague like the Bubonic Plague or Smallpox. It was in The Inheritance where I learned how important a history that I didn’t even know existed was to me. A legacy was created for me that I was so unaware of, activists such as Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, Matthew Shepard and most importantly, the victims of the epidemic.
They not only fought to survive, but they fought to live, for people like me, to live. The Inheritance told me that the history of gay men should never be forgotten, but remembered and passed down. These shows taught me that being gay, while it begins as a sexual orientation, becomes so much more than that. They reminded me that there is a legacy before me, people who not only fought for their right to love but their right to live. Now I understand what makes any of these shows matters, to learn from my past and create a legacy for those ahead.