Sam Brooks’ play is a series of monologues and anecdotes written with poetic punctuation and emphatic font changes.
Vignettes include ‘being gay doesn’t mean having to be gay culture’, ‘non-epic coming out story’, ‘in love with a straight guy’, ‘I’m a terrible gay’, ‘everyday hate’, I am not a girl’ and ‘I am Queen.’
For the finale of OUTLIERS, we’ve chosen the ‘I want to be Beyoncé’ monologue where a young gay man joyously explains, sometimes in song, why Beyoncé was a better role model than the gay men on offer.
“What’s better for a little gay (soon-to-be-gay) kid to hear than a magnificent goddess asserting her place in the world… That’s what a little gay boy wanted! Not own the world. Not own himself. But own his place.”
In the Writer’s own words
I wrote Queen when I was 19 and shelved it because I thought nobody would care.
I put it on because it was in my back pocket and I was feeling unproductive.
Looking back at it seven years later, it’s like looking into the diary of a different person. It is earnest, painfully so. Even the knots that the play ties itself into trying to be arch and witty are more earnest than anything else. I see my inexperience as a playwright, and I see a writer pretending to be smarter and more aware of the world than he is.
Which is kind of the beauty of the piece, looking back at it. I remember someone who didn’t feel like he fit into the established narrative that people had for gay men in many ways, even if he did fit in in different ways. I remember someone who felt like he had an anger that he hadn’t seen articulated onstage before and that it needed to get out there immediately. I also remember someone who had read For Coloured Girls and wanted to do a gay version of that.
The Beyoncé piece excerpted in Ensembleimpact is a prime example of that. At nineteen, I didn’t have a lot of gay male role models. There wasn’t a gay man I wanted to be like or aspired to be like. So like many gay men looking for inspiration, I turned to a woman.
Gay men have found inspiration in women for a lot of times, on screen, on stage, in music. We don’t see ourselves onstage, so we align ourselves with an experience, with a struggle that we can relate to. The nerdy girl has a crush is a narrative that very closely aligns with the gay boy having a crush on a straight guy. There are narratives of societal oppression, repressed desire and internalised hatred that are easy for gay men to latch onto and apply to their own lives.
On the flip side, there are narratives of success, moments of expression and images that gay men can also latch onto and apply to their own lives. At nineteen, I didn’t know who I was supposed to look up who was actually like me. So I picked Beyoncé.
At twenty six, I realise how problematic it might be to align my struggles with that of an African-American woman with her own set of very unique struggles that I will never truly be able to deal with. But a nineteen year old is not aware of that. He just needs someone.
Queen is for that kid who doesn’t have anybody to look up to, so he looks up to Beyoncé. He’s too busy trying to get by and figure himself out to be woke. Queen is for that kid looking for someone else to share his anger. Queen is for that kid.
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