Last week during a performance of "The Laramie Project" at Ole Miss -- a play describing the life, the brutal beating, and the death of Matthew Shepard -- audience members began booing, calling out anti-gay slurs, and harassing the actors, including myself.
I was the only openly gay actor in the show and, every time I came on stage, I felt like I was being laughed at and taunted. Audience members even began making fun of some of the most important parts of the play.
Those of us on stage were devastated by this display of anti-gay sentiment in the audience -- especially as we prepare to mark the 15th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s tragic death. But we refuse to let these taunts be the end of the story -- we are using this horrible experience to push for real, concrete change at Ole Miss.
We want to see sexual orientation and gender identity added to Ole Miss’ non-discrimination policies so that no students, staff members, or faculty ever have to feel afraid of being harassed.
We are calling on the administration of the University of Mississippi -- known as Ole Miss to most -- to rise to this occasion and to go beyond simple apologies and investigations.
Ole Miss already has a non-discrimination policy in place that covers sexual orientation in faculty employment procedures -- which is a good first step, but clearly not enough to institute a more accepting university culture. We look forward to working with the Chancellor and the Dean of Students to review all university policies and overhaul them to include protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity.