Not by the neck, gay guy!

There was one piece of furniture I never wanted to see in my Bucharest studio—a bed. I had one when I moved in, but it had a thin metal frame and at the first party I threw about 10 people sat on it for a picture and quickly turned into a hammock. This gave me an excuse to throw the frame away and settle for mattresses.

One day a City employee came to check the gas pressure of my stove. I let the man in and sat back down on the mattress, my back against the wall. I was on the very left of this picture wearing my red sweat pants and a T-shirt. To my right sat my tall roommate, wearing nothing but a pair of boxers and a guitar, which he strummed in peace. To his right was a skinny guy in urban chic gear. We were quite the sight for a man checking the pressure of gas.

As he was walking out, he stopped, grinned at us and said: “Have a good day boys” as if he anticipated we’d be engaging in the craziest lube party of 2001.

None of us took it as an affront and none of us felt the need to chase him down the hallway to the elevator with a picture yelling: “Sir gas-pressure-checker-man, this is a picture of my woman. W-O-M-A-N. We don’t engage in man-to-man combat as you rudely suggested.”

But that what if we had been offended? Or scared that we gave the gas-pressure-checker-man weird ideas about apartment 47?

Nu de gatThose are the questions tackled by “Nu de gat” (Not by the neck), a play by Mihai Ignat and directed by Catalin Chirila, which premiered this weekend at Teatrul 74 in Targu Mures (what a spectacular location T74 it is). “Nu de gat” is an engaging play about homosexuality set in a Romanian context.

As I wrote earlier this year, Romanians are not necessarily the most tolerant of people. And it’s not just gays we dislike; it’s all these “others.”

This is a country after all in which Ion Antonescu (well known for exterminating much of the Romanian Jewry) has been voted among the top 10 “Great Romanians.”

The play is about two male friends (played by Stefan Roman and Ciprian Mistreanu) who are having a beer in a bar (the audience is supposedly sitting at the other tables). They start by talking about how one of them needs to have the electricity in his bedroom fixed and how the other one’s uncle will help get the job done. Then we learn that the uncle has two gay children (a boy and a girl). The guy with the electricity problem says it’s fine with him (he’d love his children just as much), while the nephew telling the story acts outraged.

Then, in a swift turn of events the nephew tells his friend that he is gay and he only used the uncle’s story to test his friend’s tolerance. This is where roles change and two friends become gay guy and straight guy. Gay guy insists he is telling the truth and says all the women around him are for show. Straight guy can’t believe it. The guys must be in on this joke, right?

Soon enough straight guy realizes this is no joke and defensively asks gay guy if he was ever attracted to him or had sexual thoughts about the two of them. Gay guy laughs it off but straight guy is getting more and more uncomfortable being on the same couch with gay guy.

By the end of the play gay guy tries to say his coming out was a joke, but straight guy doesn’t buy it anymore. They almost get into a fight when gay guy tries to put his arms around straight guy. Not by the neck!

As the play wraps up, gay guy is left alone staring at us, the other people in the bar, trying to gage whether we heard any of this and whether he is safe. Great play!

Maybe it’s through art that people will learn more about other people and understand that the differences are nothing but blind spots we refuse to work on and, even worse, refuse to acknowledge. The contrast between the seemingly tolerant straight guy at the beginning of the play and the scared and angry straight guy that stormed off at the end perfectly illustrates the confusion, lack of understanding and intolerance permeating Romanian society today.

About a week ago I was walking with a friend through downtown Targu Mures and came across a group of teenagers putting up posters that said: “In Romania, polygamy is banned and marriage is allowed only between a man and a woman.” I knew instantly this was a campaign against gay marriage and I found it amusing to see how quickly we import big American debates in Romania. The gay marriage issue aside, I was curious to see who was behind this.

So I went up to the kids and asked: “Whose money is behind this?”

“The church’s,” they said.

“The Orthodox church?”

“No, all churches.”

Wow, I said to myself. Leave the churches to find common ground in hating gays. Hey, who am I to judge? Any cause bringing various denominations together is great. Gays, watch out. The United Forces of the Romanian Clergy want you!

Apparently this initiative is looking to gather 500,000 signatures to push for a referendum amending the constitution to specifically state that marriage should be between a man and a woman. “The purpose of starting a family is to procreate and contribute to the natural demographic process, a process sufficiently endangered by leniency towards abortion and birth control.”

It was bad enough that women decided to have careers and not shoot out babies like Pez dispensers. Now there are these gays that don’t respect the moral values of the country and don’t (or can’t) fulfill their civic duty to procreate and keep the nation strong.

I wish the church had convinced those kids to campaign for something else. Better schools, better education, more dialogue… But those aren’t things in need of salvation. Those are just fine and dandy in their rotten state.

Moral values on the other hand need knights in shining armor parading their sweet intolerant innocence from town to town, praying left and right that no devious gay man or lesbian woman will ever grab them by the neck.

4 Responses to “Not by the neck, gay guy!”

  1. You should follow up on this. I have often found that the vague non-answer regarding where the funding/supplies for a particular project are coming from is a hallmark of the American evangelical churches. Perhaps this is related to the anti-spousal abuse campaign that was taking place in the center? I wouldn’t be surprised…

  2. This is so tipically Romanian. We’ve just finished using Church money to solve all other issues: no more beggars, no more orphans, and now it’s time to concetrate on gay marriage. Total waste of funds here.

    I believe it’s bad idea not only because the money behind it could be put to better use, but also because this is still Romania: the country who can barely stand a gay pride parade. Who are we kidding, we are not open-minded enough for all the debates we so gladly import.

  3. In Romania, it’s only okay to be gay if you are a member of the clergy itself.

    Just keep it on the down low that Christ never spoke against gays because we’d like to use xenophobia as a control device.

  4. Damn you and your public brain. I wanted to be the one to write the gripping critique on this in-your-face social commentary. Though on second thought maybe its better that I didn’t. I probably would have made some cliched reference to art imitating life or vice versa. You smell what I’m stepin’ in?

    I thought it was well done as a play, great atmosphere at Teatru 74 and interesting concept of having the play take place amongst the audience. The subject matter and charcterization was also spot on delivering moments of intensity as well as laughter.

    Though your review was good I was hoping you were going to be able to tie in our post play green room discussion on pros and cons of various hair removal techniques. I know, I know, I posess a never-ending source of material for you to blog about. The pleasure is mine.

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