by Paul Bowers
In a press release this morning, S.C. Superintendent of Education candidate Gary Burgess said that "all of America should be outraged" at USC Upstate for attempting to stage the one-woman theater piece How To Be A Lesbian in 10 Days or Less.
Writer and performer Leigh Hendrix, a South Carolina native now living in New York, was scheduled to perform her show at the school's April 10-11 Bodies of Knowledge Symposium, but the school cancelled the performance after Upstate lawmakers, including Republican Sens. Lee Bright and Mike Fair, took the piece's title literally and raised a stink about it. In a TV interview, Fair said that students need to be exposed to gay-themed materials like "they do skinheads and radical Islam. They don't need to be exposed to it."
In a statement explaining the show's cancellation, USC Upstate spokesperson Tammy E. Whaley told WYFF News 4 that the play's title, "while deliberately provocative, is satirical in nature but has not been received as such. The controversy surrounding this performance has become a distraction to the educational mission of USC Upstate and the overall purpose of the Bodies of Knowledge symposium."
The satirical piece features a character named Butchy McDyke, an over-the-top self-help motivational speaker, and bills itself as "a hilarious coming out story for queers and non-queers alike." In a statement to the Huffington Post about the brouhaha, Hendrix wrote, "I made this piece to laugh at myself and my own ideas of what one has to do to be queer, to be an artist, to be a human in the world."
But now, after the play has already been cancelled, Burgess — a longtime school administrator and adjunct professor — is jumping on the irony-proof bandwagon. Here's part of his statement:
Sexual orientation, and teaching children about sexual orientation, is exclusively the purview of the home and Houses of Faith. A seminar teaching young adults how to be heterosexual or homosexual is completely off limits to schools, colleges, and universities. How much training does it take to have human beings, sexual creatures, participate in sex? This is ludicrous. This is dangerous. This is destructive ...
These programs, which try to indoctrinate our children, must be completely defunded, and those who use tax dollars in such a way should be fired.
USC Upstate Chancellor Tom Moore already responded to the original onslaught from Sen. Fair, so we'll just re-use this quote that he gave to The State for an April 10 article:
"I've been surprised by what seems to be a narrow view of the role of higher education by some in state government. Some in the General Assembly see higher education as intended to serve their concept of state interest, their idea of what is appropriate."
Burgess is one of 13 candidates who have filed for the superintendent position. The incumbent, Republican Mick Zais, has announced that he will not run for re-election.