Geoffrey Nauffts on how he’s fighting for gay rights through his Tony Award-nominated play, “Next Fall”
By GEOFFREY NAUFFTS May 9, 2013 5:02PM
Updated: May 10, 2013 10:08AM
I met the love of my life not long after I turned 40. He was a Christian, and as someone who’s pretty much had an aversion to religion my whole life, this was the last thing I ever expected. We struggled to find some common ground, but in the end, it was that inexplicable thing called “love” that kept us together. Eleven years later, we’re still going strong, and he’s still very much a mystery to me.
Sensing there was something universal in the journey we’ve shared, I wrote a play. What began as a small off-Broadway production quickly gathered momentum, and moved to Broadway, where it received two Tony nominations. Essentially, it’s the story of two men — a believer and a nonbeliever — who, five years into their relationship, are faced with a life-threatening accident that forces them, and those around them, to grapple with some of the more significant issues we face today. One of those issues is same-sex marriage.
I’m not really a “political” person. But I vote and pay taxes. I do jury duty. I even volunteer from time to time. I eat and drink in moderation, don’t live beyond my means and I’ve never filed for bankruptcy. I’d say I’m about as close to being a model citizen as you can get.
Why, then, am I not afforded the same unalienable rights my fellow citizens enjoy — some of whom are less law-abiding than I am? Why does the religion of some in this country subject so many others to bigotry and discrimination? Isn’t that one of the basic tenets our country was founded on: the freedom to believe (or not believe) as we see fit, and to not be persecuted for doing so?
I wrote “Next Fall” as sort of a wake-up call in response to these questions. I wanted my partner, who was not out to his evangelical family at the time, to imagine what it would look like if we were ever in a situation where he was laying in a coma, and I had no access, no rights, no voice.
Well, he heard the call. Not only does his family know about me now … I’ve spent holidays with them. And, like so many of our gay couples across the country, we’re hoping to get married soon and perhaps raise children. But, no matter how far we’ve come, we’re still waiting for the rest of the world to catch up. This was again proven just last month when Roger Gorley, a gay man from Missouri, was hauled off in handcuffs after refusing to leave the bedside of his partner of five years.
I recently wrote a screenplay for HBO about the declassification of “homosexuality” as a mental illness in the DSM (psychiatry’s diagnostic “bible”). I was just a kid at the time it happened, doing cartwheels in my backyard, oblivious to the courageous gay men and women who were fighting for my freedom. It was fascinating to research, but disheartening to know that more than 40 years later, we still haven’t achieved equality.
At the risk of sounding corny, I’ve always believed in man’s innate goodness — that underneath our differences, the desire to love and be loved connects us all. This is what my play is about. If an atheist and a Christian can work it out, why can’t the rest of the nation? If this sounds like a shameless plug … it is. For AstonRep Theatre Company, for the gay marriage bill currently before the Illinois House of Representatives and for all of humanity.
“Next Fall” is playing through May 25 at The BoHo Theatre (7016 Glenwood). Visit Astonrep.com for tickets and more information.