I attended a fabulous performance of “The Wizard of Oz” last night and afterward, I got to thinking about the lessons, parallels and symbolism in that play and how they might apply to the gay and lesbian community. You all think I’ve gone crazy? Nope, I assure you I’m serious.
Think about it. We’ve got Dorothy, a strong female character who isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind and isn’t afraid to go the mile to make change happen for herself and her friends. She suddenly finds herself in a foreign environment where she must face difficult challenges and stand up for what she needs — and that girl does not back down. She’s an activist of sorts, fighting for the simple basic needs that we all have: a brain, a heart, courage and a home. Not necessarily in that order, of course, but follow me on this. Dorothy is representative of the women and men who have championed the gay rights movement. Dorothy is every person who has given their time, energy and money to fight for the repeal of DADT and DOMA. It’s a long, hard process but it has to start somewhere. As Glinda advises, “it’s always best to start at the beginning – and all you do is follow the Yellow Brick Road.” Just as activists for gay and lesbian causes have fought hard and won, Dorothy followed that yellow brick road a long way in order to get the result she wanted. It wasn’t easy and that nasty wicked witch threw her a lot of obstacles in her path. But in the end, she won the battle. She also got that nifty broomstick.
We’ve got two wicked witches and a good witch. The wicked witches terrorize people for sport. (One is eradicated early on when the twister drops Dorothy’s house on her. Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead). The good witch educates and protects them. Glinda the Good Witch tells Dorothy that not all witches are ugly … just the ones who are bad. Metaphorically, I see that parallel in a lot of gay and lesbian situations. There are some downright ugly people out there who commit horrific acts against gay and lesbian people simple because they (the perpetrators) are bad people. They launch verbal attacks and violent physical assaults on decent human beings for the simple fact that they happen not to be heterosexual. The heinous murder of Matthew Shepard comes to mind. Dorothy should throw a bucket of water on those horrible people. Perhaps they’ll melt.
Then we have groups such as GLAD and PFLAG and GLSEN and True Colors … those are the good witches who educate the general public and protect gay and lesbian citizens. They are the groups that make it snow on the field of poppies so that the bad witches don’t get the upper hand. They are the organizations who stand up to the bad witches and warn them, “be gone before somebody drops a house on you!” You really do have to work with me on the metaphors and symbolism … just close your eyes and click your heels three times.
The scarecrow starts off not having a clue which way to go. Once he gets his bearings, he stays on top of his game right to the end. Grassroots organizations like Love Makes A Family were successful for that same reason. Nobody had a clue how to make gay marriage a reality. LMF figured out the strategy and made it happen in Connecticut. There are other organizations like LMF all across the country. They’ve figured it out, too, and they won’t stop trying until all 50 states recognize and allow gay marriage.
The tin man is a cool guy. He just wants to love and he’ll fight flying monkeys and wicked witches for the privilege. He’s the Plaintiff in every lawsuit that has been brought to court in order to make same-sex marriage a reality. He’s every gay man or lesbian woman who has testified before a legislative hearing. He’s every gay or lesbian person who has made phone calls, carried signs, stuffed envelopes and fought for the right to marry the person they love. He has a lot of heart. As the Wizard explains when he gives him the ticking heart “testimonial” after he and the others return from their battle with the wicked witch, “a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” The parallel here is acceptance and support of gay and lesbian relationships by the straight contingent. (Repealing DOMA would be helpful).
You’ve got to love the cowardly lion. He’s afraid until he learns that he’s not alone in his fight for courage. With the support of complete strangers, he is able to obtain what has eluded him for a lifetime:
“How? Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on a mast to wave? Courage! What makes an elephant charge his tusk, in the misty mist or the dusky dusk? What makes a muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the Seventh Wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?”
Um, courage! In the fight for gay and lesbian rights, courage is the hallmark of the movement. If not for the courage of a few individuals, organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and Get Equal would not exist. It has taken a lot of courage for every person who has fought the long battle for equality. To every one of those people, “for meritorious conduct, extraordinary valor, conspicuous bravery against Wicked Witches, I award you the Triple Cross. You are now a member of the Legion of Courage!” Thank you for fighting.
Yes, “The Wizard of Oz” can teach us all a lesson. Speak up, fight, don’t give in and don’t let the wicked witches get those ruby slippers.
In the end, I hope that every gay and lesbian person will enjoy true equality in his or her lifetime.
Toto, too? Toto, too.
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copyright 2011 Irene C. Olszewski