Justin Leaf is shedding light on yet another form of discrimination, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” by transforming it into a riveting contemporary ballet performance. He takes a journey from his uniform of isolation to freedoms which life should certainly provide.
In her popular blog LEFTFACE, Brittney (The Army Wife) says of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” ”But what about the con’s about repealing DADT? The biggest argument has been to not mess with the military — to do a “social experiment” — in the time of two wars. Isn’t that just an excuse, though? Aren’t we ALWAYS in some sort of conflict? The United States Army is essentially the police of the world, and we are always somewhere, doing something. So if not now, then when? Iraq is in the process of being phased out, and Afghanistan — well, we don’t really know when that is going to be over. There will never be a “good” time. So why not now?“ She is absolutely right. This kind of argument is simply trying to protect bigotry and keep homosexuality taboo, misunderstood and isolated.
While some of us may feel strongly opposed to war and military, if we want to have equality we need to address it across the board and not just in places where we feel comfortable. It may be hard to relate to people serving in the military but as a gay man I recall how frightened I was to simply come out in my High School environment for fear that I would be bullied, exiled from my friends and ridiculed by my religious upbringing. So I waited until I lived in San Francisco for over a year and built a community that embraced my personality. This only has made me a better member of society. I am less confused, more informed and confident in what choices are my own. What I have shared with my family is this statement, “Do you think I chose this? A life where my body chemistry is opposed to my family’s beliefs, friends’ beliefs, and half of the country’s beliefs. Who wants to be discharged for being honest! NO, I didn’t choose this and I certainly didn’t want to live in fear that I would be.” I am proud to be a gay man and have no interest in forcing my sexuality on anyone else but until you allow us the right to honesty I will continue to fight. That is the problem here. We don’t want to be dishonest, we have tried to change our sexuality, we have had doctors tell you that it isn’t a disease, we have proof that it doesn’t affect our work ethic, so what do you want? They want me to be dishonest so they can live a lie.
The most heart wrenching issue here is that these government laws are only set to protect bigotry. Might I remind you of other statements that have come in the past:
“I don’t want to serve with women.
I don’t want to serve with Muslims.
I don’t want to serve with blacks.
I don’t want to serve with hispanics.
I don’t want to serve with Asians.
I don’t want to serve with Native Americans.
I don’t want to serve with Jews.
I don’t want to serve with gays.”
There is no difference here.
Justin is being honest and vulnerable in this performance about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In 2009 he was awarded a McKnight Fellowship for Dancers. As part of the Fellowship program, the Southern Theater commissioned a choreographer of his choice to create a solo expressly for him as part of their SOLO Commissioning Program funded by the McKnight Foundation. He chose to work with performance artist John Kelly. The performance is entitled “Cohesion” and was premiered at the Southern Theater in July of 2010 as part of SOLO, which featured six McKnight fellows in new dances. Now catch his performance at FORM + CONTENT Gallery in February, curated by Camille J. Cage.
Justin says, “I prefer to tell a story with dance. It isn’t always a popular direction but by telling this story you offer someone an opportunity to feel something, digest it and develop an opinion.”
Photos by Paul Virtucio