Gay Life Volume 33, Number 3
I first heard the music of Les Miserables as a child. My parents bought the soundtrack in anticipation of seeing the show at the (now extinct) Mechanic Theatre in 1989. Though we weren’t invited along, my best friend and I memorized every word on those tapes. For weeks we listened from the backseat on the way to school, and we often broke into song on the playground.
Our hearts broke at the failed life and early death of Fantine, Eponine’s unrequited love for Marius, and Javert’s misguided struggle and suicide. We sang along with the prostitutes in “Lovely Ladies” and with the protesters in “Do You Hear the People Sing.” Through this music I was introduced to new and fascinating issues I had never previously contemplated. And I understood that while this was a fictionalized story, phenomena like war, poverty, revolution, and suicide, are all very real.
I listen to the music now in anticipation of my own trip to see Les Miserables at the Hippodrome in March, and I recall the adult concepts I so successfully internalized as a child. I am also reminded of a day in my more recent past. On November 2, 2010, Election Day, I spent a few hours asking voters if they supported discrimination protection for transgender Marylanders and marriage for same-sex couples. I then asked them to sign petitions that Equality Maryland would send to Maryland legislators.
While many responded positively, one man was clearly offended. He said he didn’t appreciate that his wife was approached earlier, when she had their kids with her. It took me a minute to understand that he found our questions inappropriate topics for the ears of his children.
While I don’t know these kids, I can’t help but consider the subject matter that I could handle, and even appreciate, at a young age. Perhaps as adults, it is too easy to underestimate children and their capacity for understanding the world around them. Or maybe some people still need to learn that love and equality are not risqué topics at all.
Maggie Beetz, Editor