Welcome to author Shane K. Morton, our second guest this week on the tour for the new charity anthology Resist and Triumph, a collection of LGBTQ+ stories celebrating hope and love, and raising money for two great causes, GLAAD and The Trevor Project. Shane is sharing an exclusive excerpt from his contribution today, Get Off of My Runway.
Get Off of My Runway
I am very proud to be a part of this wonderful compilation of authors who have banded together for the Resist and Triumph Anthology. The theme of overcoming the status quo and pushing boundaries to create a world where it is normal for people to be who they truly are without fear of ridicule and shame spoke deeply to me. As a gay man that grew up in the South, I experienced these fears firsthand and by sheer luck made it through those formative years to blossom in college where I met many people like me, that became friends and mentors.
High school was a mine field sometimes. The hallways felt unsafe as did some of the classrooms, but I kept my head up and walked like I was in a hurry or late so I could avoid becoming a target for the dreaded ‘queer, faggot or sissy’ to be thrown my way. I lived in fear of someone discovering my secret. I was artsy and weird and had a quick wit. People knew me as that kid who acted and sang… Mr. Broadway they would sometimes call me. I rarely heard those hateful words thrown my way, thankfully. But others were not so lucky. I had two friends whose high school experience, though similar, was vastly different. They did not hide who they were. They were authentic and brave and fearless, unlike me. They were pushed into lockers and called names in the hallways constantly. They fought back with words, jibes and sharp verbal ammunition. I envied them, in a way. They were stronger than me in every way. I do not know where they are now. They have never come to one of our high school reunions, but I hope they are happy and just as strong now as they were then. I wish we had stayed in touch. Though they do not know it, they were my first mentors, my first warriors.
I would also like to apologize to them, from myself as well as the many others who witnessed these incidents and did nothing, said nothing. We were wrong. We were weak. You showed me the way and I wish I could go back in time and tell that sad teenager (Me), to be fearless and stand up to the bully’s. I think they would now be proud of me. Now, I don’t keep my mouth shut. If you see it. Speak out. Speak up. Be heard and make the bullies cower with their own insignificance.
When the opportunity to be a part of this anthology presented itself, I thought about my high school friend Tim, who became a drag queen at the ripe old age of sixteen. I heard through another friend of ours that he transitioned and is now Kimberly. He was definitely an inspiration for the story. As was another amazing young person I met. A child of a high school friend of mine also inspired this story in quite a few ways. Ah… The youth today, I am truly in awe of them. I am amazed at the strength of todays youth, who continue to make me hope for our future. Their acceptance and love for each other’s differences is a wonderful beacon to humanities growth. Twenty years ago… High school was not the same.
So I thought about these two people and I wrote my first YA story. A story about a high school musical, and a cast of young brave individuals that make a difference to the world around them, by living authentic and honest lives. I truly enjoyed writing Get Off of My Runway. The characters leaped out at me and demanded to be heard. I think in a couple years, I will turn this short story into a novel, there is more to explore here in this world and I look forward to it. But, until then, read these stories of resistance and help us make a difference by buying the book and knowing that your money is actually going to GLAAD and The Trevor Project, two organizations that are close to my heart.
Stand up. Be vocal. Resist. Triumph.
About the Anthology
As 2017 opened, the United States took several steps back in the progress toward equality. In response, a group of authors has stepped up to offer positive stories of hope and love. In an effort to help fight and support those groups who are facing even greater challenges, we wrote these stories to offer a small amount of aid.
Stories of hope, resistance, and ultimately triumph fill the pages of this anthology.
All proceeds of the anthology go to The Trevor Project and GLAAD to help fight the effects of the dark times we’re facing.
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“Have you lost your mind, Timmy,” Lily said as she popped a tater tot into her mouth. It was Wednesday and the cafeteria smelled of french fries. It was everyone’s favorite lunch choice. “This is seriously a bad idea. No one here is that well-adjusted. Seriously.”
“Look, I know it’s a long shot, but I am tired of this shit.” I was pissed off, because this semester we were doing another musical that was female driven. Its my senior year and last semester the theatre department did, A My Name Is Alice. There were only girls in the cast. It wasn’t fair. I had finally hit my threshold of tolerance. This semester we would be performing Gypsy. I loved that musical. I just didn’t like the boys’ parts in it. “I swear I am literally going to explode.”
“Yeah, I get that, I do, and you should totally talk to Mrs. Lovett about it,” she said as she chowed down. It always kind of grossed me out a little. She had braces and talked with her mouth full.
“Sure,” I said throwing my hands up in the air, exasperated at what she considered the best way to handle it. “And do you know what she will do? She will tell me that I need to be a team player.” I had previously spoken to Mrs. Lovett about my theatrical concerns before. They fell on deaf ears. “How am I going to get into NYU or UCLA with crappy roles?”
“I know,” she whined, sitting her fork down and leaning onto the table. She was getting serious. “But, maybe, you could just try a little harder. Make the role something better than it is. I mean, everyone knows that you are the best in the school. What does Tony say?”
Tony was my boyfriend. We had been dating for the last year and he was always the assistant director for our school’s shows. Mrs. Lovett adored him.
“He can’t help me,” I pouted “Besides, I can out sing and out dance any of those girls.”
“But you are not a girl,” she gasped. “Unless you are trying to tell me you are Trans and I am being a horrible friend. Is that what you are telling me?” The look on her face was priceless. I had to force myself not to mess with her.
“I have blue hair, Lily,” I said seriously. “I like my blue hair. I like being a boy. We talk all the time in society about roles and where we fit into them. Well, why can’t I decide where I fit? Why can’t a boy audition for a girl’s role? This school sucks.”
“That I agree with.” She crossed her arms defensively. She knew I was right. “Okay, so you’re right,” she huffed. I told you she knew. “You can audition for whatever you want. If she will let you. You should talk to Sam. He would be able to give you better insight than me.”
She was right. Sam was what I liked to call a swishy sister. The halls of Hell High were his personal runway and he could give a shit. Sam was great. He always had a huge smile on his face and was one of the nicest people I knew. People called him Sassy Sammy. It started out as a slur in middle school, and he turned it into a badge of honor. He was president of the GSA in our school and captain of the debate team. I made a mental note to talk to him as soon as I could find a moment away from prying eyes. He might have some insight into my apparent bad idea.
I found Sam in the library. He worked there in fourth period and loved it. I knew trying to talk to him in his sacred place was a bad idea.
“What?” he asked cattily. I know I’d said he was usually smiling, but I apparently caught him in an off moment.
“Can we talk for a second,” I whispered. I wasn’t afraid for people to know my plan, but I was afraid of the librarian. She had a reputation for being a hard ass.
“I really don’t think now is a very good time, Timmy. I have to put all these stupid books back into circulation,” he said, gesturing to the four books that were lying on the desk in front of him.
“Are you serious, right now?” I replied, trying to throw a little shade his way.
“Whatever,” he said as he grabbed a book and headed towards the stacks. “Well, are you coming?” he said as he pivoted back toward me.
“Yeah, sure,” I said, following him past poetry and into the biography section. “I wanted to ask your opinion about something. Wow, did someone read that?” I gestured to the copy of The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump he was holding in his hand.
“Welcome to Republicanville, Timmy. Have a great time here. Of course some idiot read this. And you can just stop, Lily told me,” he said, whipping around to face me. “Seriously, have you lost your fucking mind? People will lose their shit over this.” So, I was the reason he was not smiling.
“Okay, so it might be a terrible idea. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I shouldn’t do it, Sam.” I tried to sound confident. It would have worked if my voice didn’t crack.
“Whoa, girl,” he said with his finger in my face. It was very diva of him. “I don’t think you have the capital at this school to pull off something of this magnitude. Mrs. Lovett will never allow it, and what of poor Janice? You know she has been excited about this all week.”
“Do you want to hear Janice sing?” I asked, scoffing at him.
“Of course not, she is the bad audition on American Idol. But she’s a girl. You are a boy. And don’t even think about playing the transgender card with me, because you are not,” he said as condescendingly as possible. Being a debater he was really good at it.
“But,” I started.
“No buts. If this was Porgy and Bess would you think it’s okay for you to play Porgy? A black man?” he said knowingly.
“Of course not. I couldn’t be Kim in Miss Saigon either because I am not Asian. However, Momma Rose is usually played by a white woman and I am—” He cut me off again.
“A woman. She is a woman and you are,” he said, trying to lead me towards his logic.
“An actor,” I said stubbornly. “Who can play Momma Rose. Do you agree that I would be the best Rose?”
“Probably,” he shrugged.
“So if it is based on talent, I should get the part?” I said twisting his logic around to fit my needs.
“Probably,” he said getting even more annoyed at me.
“Look, I just think that the odds are stacked against me in this school whenever it comes to the theatre program. There are more girls and they choose plays that are tailored to the girls here instead of the boys. I sat on the sidelines through the pitchiest musical I have ever heard this fall, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to do it again,” I said getting fired up. “If I choose to audition for only the role of Rose, then I should have that right. Right?”
“Well yes.” He shook his head. “But Mrs. Lovett also has the right to not cast you.”
“Well that I don’t agree with,” I said sliding down the wall and landing next to a Britney Spears biography that hadn’t been read in a decade. “If I give the best audition, why shouldn’t I be cast?”
“I find it strange that I have to tell you where we live, Timmy,” he said as he sat down across from me, looking over his shoulder to see if the librarian noticed us having a heated conversation. “This is a very small town, with small minded people who already have a hard time dealing with the fact that there are gay people in their midst. Getting the GSA in this school was a battle at the time, did you know that? The churches and the school board were against it, and it took a few very brave people to stand up and make it happen. They were ostracized at first and belittled and probably beaten up, Timmy. But they did it, so you and I didn’t have to. So we could be a little safer and happier than they were. So we could be having a discussion about you wearing a teddy and prancing around on stage. You would be spitting in their eye.”
“I would be picking the mantle up and taking us to the next level,” I said. “Maybe?”
“This isn’t about advancing a cause Timmy. This is about your own ego,” he said, standing up, signaling that this discussion was over. We were lucky, the librarian had just noticed us.
About the Author
Shane K Morton lives in Studio City, CA with his husband Jody and their fur baby Slayer. His first novel, The Trouble With Off-Campus Housing was published in 2016. When not writing, Shane can be found at a film festival or performing cabaret somewhere in a dark dive bar in LA.