Anti-LGBT Censorship at CDM High?

rentposterI was startled at first when I saw the story at Queerty. And now that the principal’s storyline of events isn’t being confirmed by any one else, I’m starting to freak out. Is anti-queer censorship alive and well at Corona del Mar High School?

It all started with this letter from a current CDM student, which I’ll post in its full entirety:

Hello everyone,

Today, most of the cast of RENT was informed that our show was cancelled. Even though we had yet to begin rehearsals, we were justifiably shocked and demanded to know what the reason behind this was. In the past, there have been minor complaints here and there about the content of some of our shows; though Mr. Martin, our director, is very conscientious about the limits of free expression in a school setting, we inevitably catch some parents off-guard with occasional profanity or sexual innuendos. However, the reason for the cancellation of RENT is much more disturbing.

Mrs. Asrani (the principal) is firmly against the portrayal of homosexual characters in RENT, despite the fact that all displays of affection have already been edited out of our script. Of course, a gay couple kissing on stage should not be inherently more offensive than a straight couple kissing, but that’s beside the point (sort of). The fact that the administration would not even allow a positive PORTRAYAL of these gay characters, whose romantic tendencies have already been neutered in Musical Theater International’s “RENT: School Edition”, is appalling.

You do not need to be a fan of RENT, a member of the Drama Department, or a homosexual person to take offense to this blatant form of discrimination. Of course, there is much more disturbing content in RENT, which we would have been happy to omit if the School Edition did not do so already, but it was readily apparent that gay characters were strictly taboo. This is not the first time this has come up: the administration reacted with outrage to a monologue from our last musical, “No Reservations”, that sympathetically portrayed a gay character. Though there was nothing remotely offensive about the monologue, they were clearly not okay with it, and that is what led them to take action and prevent us from producing what was sure to be a great spring musical.

If you are at all disturbed, offended, or shocked by what our administration has communicated to us, I urge you not to dismiss what has just happened. Our administration has sent out a very clear message that they think homosexuality is wrong and its portrayal onstage is harmful or objectionable in some way. Instead of focusing on the life-affirming, empowering message of RENT, they approached the work with narrow-mindededness and rejected it BEFORE THEY EVEN READ THE SCRIPT.

Do not sit by and allow things like this to keep happening. Our school prides itself on its association with humanitarian organizations and its label as a “No Place For Hate School”, but those distinctions feel incredibly hollow to me now. Though the Drama Department has already began the process of selecting a new spring musical, we plan to take action to defend our rights of free speech and express our concerns. The number for the ACLU’s (American Civil Liberties Union) Southern
California division is (213) 977-9500. I plan on calling tomorrow. To me, this is about much more than our spring musical; it is about a principle. I would hate to leave CdM knowing that I did nothing to prevent, in some way, a form of discrimination that was encouraged within our own school.

It would be best if the angry parent phone calls and emails to CdM were kept to a bare minimum for the time being. Focus your energy, if you have any desire to, on contacting the ACLU. They are experienced in these matters, and there is a correct way to do this. For anyone who is interested, I would love to keep you posted on any updates I get through my communication with them and with my drama director. Thanks so much for reading through this rather lengthy letter…it’s
not easy for me to be concise on a subject like this.

Now before anyone tries to accuse me or someone else outraged by this of “overreacting”, let me say this. I attended high school in South County, at Trabuco Hills HS to be more exact. I remember the drama department there tackling some similarly “dark” scripts, the only difference being that they were more hetero-centric. So are sexual relationships and death OK topics for high school plays so long as only straight people are experiencing them?

That’s what students and drama department faculty at CDM are concerned about, that the school’s principal doesn’t want “homosexuality” on stage. So is it fair for the school to blacklist anything having to do with at least 10% of this nation’s population? Are we still in an era when something involving LGBT people is “taboo”? Is Prop H8 scaring schools into censorship?

Because the student that first exposed this story asked that we concentrate our efforts in getting ACLU’s help, I’ll respect this person’s wishes. The number for their LA office (I couldn’t find a number for OC) is (213) 977-9500, and you can email the Orange County office at ocinfoATaclu-scDOTorg. You can read here on how ACLU accepts cases.

And if you know someone involved in this case or you yourself have personal experience with CDM High’s Drama Department, please email me at andrewATtheliberalocDOTcom with your story. I promise to treat you with respect and not to publicly “out” you if that’s your decision.

(Also check out Heather’s take on the controversy at OC Progressive.)

  7 comments for “Anti-LGBT Censorship at CDM High?

  1. Brian
    February 14, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    This does not really suprise me here in California and especially OC, a center of hatred and intolerance. There is no end to the scapegoating of LGBT people led by religion. This is especially sad on the aniversary of Lawrence King’s murder and a year long campaign by religous people to dehumanize GLBT people. They have no shame and they will not stop until we all stand up and demand an end to this igorance.

  2. KatherineDarmer
    February 14, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Hello. I am a law professor and a lawyer for the Orange County Equality Coalition, which represents LGBT interests. If a student wishes to contact me directly about this at my email address, I would like to discuss this further.

  3. February 14, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Professor Darmer-

    Thanks for dropping by! Btw, if someone from CDM is reading this and wants to take up OCEC’s offer, please email and/or contact the group via Facebook…

  4. Damon
    February 17, 2009 at 2:06 am

    I still don’t see how another article on the queerty site shows that no one is backing up the principal’s story…it’s been one day, and the school is on break. So, by no one having spoken on her behalf in 24 hours, that obviously means the principal is lying…

  5. Adrian
    February 17, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    it looks like censorship is alive and well here at your own blog “The Liberal OC”.

  6. February 17, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Why Adrian? Because we closed comments on the “Moderated Comments” thread? How many times was Paul going ask the same question, get the same answer and still not get it? When we get into those cycles, it means the conservation on that string is over and its time to move on. In fact, Paul was even given instructions on how he could have best gotten an answer to his question.

  7. February 17, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    We do not censor here. We do however delete irrelevant comments and mostly those are in violation of our TOS. I will not be approving any more of your wild allegations.

Comments are closed.