For those of you who understandably do not have the time, patience, or tempered temper to read this article in its entirety, let me break it down for you.
Tim Miller is a queer performance artist, and in my opinion, one of the most influential people currently working under that title. His work has traveled ALL over and has had an immense impact on the lives of queer individuals across this country. He is an activist, a leader, an exemplary actor, and even more than that he enables queer youth (along with non-queer individuals) in America to learn how to find and explore their voices and stories. He sets up residencies at college campus pretty much year round and holds workshops with students to write and perform one-person shows. It is important here to note that Miller does not only help students explore queer issues, but the aspects of their lives that most notably require a performative outlet.
Earlier this week, Tim was informed that Villanova University in Philadelphia had retracted their invitation for his workshops on their campus. They cite the feeling that Miller's work is not in tandem with their core values and their mission as a Roman Catholic institution. They further note, "Villanova University is an open and inclusive community and in no way does this singular decision change that." I am not convinced. The fact of the matter is that Tim's work has long stood as controversial. In fact, years ago he was a member of the "NEA four" who sued the National Endowment for the Arts because the government vetoed their grants on the basis of subject matter. However, it is this controversy and dedication to important issues that make Miller's work so imperative. However, it is this fear of sometimes necessary uncomfortable moments that is once again putting obstacles in Tim's path as a visionary...and I am hurt.
In fact, as a queer young person, it was an exploration of Miller's work that truly helped me understand my own identity and to find the strength to fight for the issues that are so important today. It's true! I used to be optimistic and cheerful about the world; I used to think that gay people were privy to big-people things like adoption and not getting the living hell beat out of them in dim public parks. In high school, my speech career led me to a performance of "The Glory Box" by Tim Miller in which I was allowed to explore a queer identity outside of the heteronormative world in which I lived. When I was finally blessed with the opportunity to meet Tim in Austin the following year at one of his workshops, it was more exciting to me than any other celebrity I could have met. This man helped me shape my identity...and it verges on offensive to now hear that other students are being kept from sharing that same type of experience.
I hope that any who read this are compelled to support Tim through any available medium. You can see a small segment of "The Glory Box" online and his books are available in most bookstores or online (Note: Remember the controversy...the video and books stick true to this, but are too good to overlook). And be on the lookout for times where Tim comes onto your campus and holds workshops and performances. If you need more information, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will find out more for you. Tim is, in short, a visionary, and I cannot believe that his work is falling under this kind of attack. Villanova University ABSOLUTELY has its right to deny people from coming onto their campus...I just wish that this right was accessed with a bit more care and consideration.