Fabulous Stories

Can I opt for some forms of censorship and not others? 

Do I get to pick and choose?

A high school in Western Massachusetts is feeling the heat for its decision to stage a production of “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told,” a satiric play by Paul Rudnick that retells the creation story of Genesis with gay and lesbian characters. According to school officials, pressure to cancel the production is coming mainly from out-of-state religious groups who are offended by a gay and lesbian slant on the sacred text. The school argues that the play is not anti-religion and is actually a serious exploration of faith.

I don’t know the play. If it makes a mockery of the Torah, my sacred book, or of Judaism, then, as a religious person, I would be offended by it. If it delves rather than mocks, if it sincerely re-imagines the story in a gay and lesbian context, then, as a Jew, I would call it midrash: a creative retelling, an extrapolation that spins out from the original words to expand and deepen our understanding and experience of the text.

I don’t know which of these the play is. When it comes to censorship, it doesn’t matter. As a writer whose work has recently been the target of a campaign of suppression, I understand only too well that even if the play offends me, even if I might question the school’s choice of this play (would they choose to mount a satire of Islam? Of Tibetan Buddhism?) since they have chosen to mount it, I must support it.

Of course I’m not unaware of the irony: in the Valley of the Politically Correct, some of the people who will support the school and the play will probably be the very same who call for suppressing my freedom of speech. My memoir, Sex Changes, tells a very personal story about the painful experiences my children and I endured with a transgendered former husband and father. For some, that is by definition a story that must not be told. Just as, for others, a gay version of a sacred religious text is by definition an offense. 

Sometimes the fabulous stories are the ones we’d rather not hear.


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2 responses to “Fabulous Stories

  1. Fevrier Honnete

    Thank you for this — beautifully said. I remember being horrified as a young woman in 1977 that the ACLU was supporting in court the right of the American NAZI Party to hold a march in Skokie, Illinois, where one in six residents at that time were Holocaust survivors.

    It was and is so very offensive to me that people like THAT would be allowed to insult, frighten and confuse elders who had already been through such horrors. At the time, I read every news story I could find on the subject, often casting aside the articles with rage. Over time, however, the case made me much more aware of the wisdom of our Constitution, the danger of letting government officials — especially local government officials — pick and choose between which parts of the Constitution they would allow and for whom. It’s one thing to have a national debate before the Supreme Court. It’s quite another to allow village law enforcement — or school officials — to suspend the Constitution at will.

    These marchers were very nearly universally reviled — much like the misbegotten Westboro Baptist Church today — and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. While the march was allowed on First Amendment grounds, the marchers changed their mind and marched in Chicago instead, and millions of Americans got a civics lesson that we’ll never forget. It is summed up in the famous quote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

    We were given a precious gift by our Enlightened founders, imperfect men all. We must be eternally careful to not squander it. Cases like the NAZI party or Westboro Baptist remind us that by censoring one subset of people, we endanger ourselves. As much as I hate some points of view, I would hate even more if a group like the “trans” lobby were able to censor ME for saying something currently un-PC like: “A man in a dress, make-up and heels is still a man, no matter how he feels inside, and I would prefer it if his desire to cross-dress didn’t trump my right as a woman to female-only places to disrobe, shower and go to the bathroom.” Who knew in 1977 that I would be FIGHTING for my Constitutional right to say so — and sometimes failing in that fight?!?

    • Thank you. That some trans activists have opted for very aggressive censorship and intimidation would seem to place them apart from any other movement for liberation and civil rights. That the objects of their aggression are by and large a threatened and often disenfranchised group – namely, women – places them beyond my ability to comprehend.

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