Comment: Acting on homophobia with Pink Triangle Theatre

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

My personal wake up call to the ongoing realities of homophobia came in late 2009 with the widely publicised homophobic attack on Trainee PC James Parkes in Liverpool. 

In June of that year I and my partner of 12 years, Jason Bromley, had a civil ceremony.  Our lives revolved around our jobs, each other, and our two non-profit organisations.  Life was good.

This horrendous incident was just like waking up.  This still went on.  People were still being hurt, attacked, even killed in this world simply because of who they were, who they loved.  Where had we been?  Well, we’d been living our pseudo-straight lives away from the gay scene blanketing the rarely publicised, yet ongoing, hate.

Coming from a theatre background, and being awake, led us and two of our friends down a clear path.  We had to do something. 

Homophobia has so many sparks, so many little ways to hatch without being noticed or acknowledged and we all know how, all too soon, this beast can grow legs and become dangerously powerful.

Pink Triangle Theatre was born on Feb 10th 2010.  SHOW ONE, our first performance was written, rehearsed and ready to go by early May, and on May 17th 2010 (IDAHO) we performed it at an event in Oldham.  The audience feedback told us all we needed to know. (you can see some of it here)

The very next day, 15 year old Dominic Crouch leapt from a six storey building after a barrage of homophobic abuse at his school.  If confirmation was needed to tell us we had done the right thing, that we were working on an important project, that was it, right there.  You see, Dominic wasn’t even gay, and yet his life had been taken by homophobia.

This beast was far more powerful than we had imagined.

Researching the subject reveals so many tales, so many faces, it can be and often is gut wrenching reading them, but it’s so important too.

Our work has been endless, emails and letters, phone calls and snail mails galore.  Proudly proclaiming:

“We’re here, this works, we have carefully monitored proof of its effectiveness”

Emails to Councillors are deleted without being read.

Promises from local sports teams or influential towns folk never come into fruition.

Thankfully, this trend seemed to be a mere ‘Oldham thing’.

Our work so far has taken us into schools, colleges, universities, libraries, theatres even prisons , and the feedback is always the same, incredibly powerful:  “Really opened my eyes”.  “I am never using the word gay in a negative way again”.  “I am no longer homophobic”!  Our monitoring results can be seen in full here.

Our two years plus of banging our heads against brick walls, in between powerful performances, has seen many changes to us as a group.  The players have changed several times as people went on to University or full time jobs, but the ethos has always remained the same.  Tackling homophobia, bigotry, hatred and intolerance.  Head on!

We have a new work premiering this August at the little gem known as The Three Minute Theatre in Manchester.  SHOW ONE, TOO! Incorporates our first piece with brand new characters, scenes and scenarios, and also adds two female players to the line-up making it a six player show.  Themes such as bi-phobia, transphobia, homophobia in sport, internalised homophobia, late in life lesbianism and so much more are covered.  It’s an exciting venture.

In the meantime, we are soon to be filming a small feature for the newly titled ‘Live With’ show on Channel 5 and we have several school shows coming up.  One in Formby in May, and a mini tour of Thurrock in Essex, which we have affectionately titled ‘the towie tour’, during which we will perform in nine schools this July.

It would be nice to feel that a group like ours had more support for the LGBTQ Community as a whole.  Homophobia is one of those things we are all, on some level, aware of, but it all too easily slips under the radar.  For us, it simply can’t.  Not ever again.

We do, with all sincerity, look forward to the day when this kind of work is no longer required.  Then we can focus on other things, comedies, musicals, romance even.  For now, we are needed here, doing this.

To the younger generation we say, we have your back.

Do you?

Paul J. Burgess is a Founder, Director, Writer, Actor with Pink Triangle Theatre.