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Young Writers Project: 'About My Shoes'

Henry Lang, a sophomore at Hanover High School, wrote this piece in response to the Young Writers Project prompt to write about an injustice either witnessed or experienced.

About My Shoes
By Henry Lang
Grade 10, Hanover High School

I started acting in plays long before I knew how to tie my shoes. Actually, I’m horrendous when it comes to shoe-tying. I wear my loafy Merrells every day to avoid failure. My peers have joked, “Seriously, Henry? Why do you wear Merrells all the time? They’re so gay.” 

Hold up. Gay? What do you mean “gay”? How is a pair of perfectly comfy Jungle Mocs® considered gay? They’re dull brown, so I’m pretty sure you aren’t hinting at the brightly colored definition of gay. Do Merrells “just scream gay” because they’re primarily worn by homosexuals? Interesting. Are you implying that shoes allude to one’s sexual orientation? Oh, I get it now. Since Ellen DeGeneres frequently wears sneakers, everyone else who owns a pair is lesbian.

Let’s get this straightened out (no pun intended). 

Any authentic theater environment is full of camaraderie. I’ve yet to encounter another setting that’s as diverse and welcoming. Sure, there are gay actors out there. But why does society stereotype male actors as gay?

Several summers ago, I played Thisbe in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I went on stage in full drag: a silver dress, three-inch heels, and a hot pink wig. The audience roared with laughter when I spoke in falsetto. Yeah, I guess you could say that my performance was “gay,” but that’s acting.

In May, I’m playing Sky Masterson in the Footlighters’ spring production of “Guys and Dolls.” Sky is suave, classy, and smooth as velvet. He’s the quintessential gambler of 1950s New York. Sky is everything that I am not. I’m driven to dig deeper to portray such a heroic masculine character. But again … that’s acting.

See what I mean? Like any conundrum, sexuality keeps us up at night. We toss, we turn, we live, we learn. Stereotypes are a waste of time.

I’m not upset if you think my shoes are gay, guys. To be perfectly honest, I’m honored. Last time I checked, “gay” is defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary as “lighthearted and carefree.” As far as I’m concerned, you can never go wrong with gay. Well, that and wearing Merrells.  

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