You’re back, and I’m still gay, and for that I say hooray! Welcome to Part 3 of Baby Gay, the series where I tell childhood stories that will make the both of us laugh but will make me blink a bit more than usual as I unpack some past things and write three more pages about why this seemingly inconsequential moment reveals a quintessential part of what’s it like to be young and anything but straight. It’s great to single-handedly hold up the entire worldwide, generation-wide experience of sapphic identity, y’all, just great.
Today I’m telling the story about the second ever screenplay I wrote. The first had to do with three best friends who turn into fairies (and meet this very very very beautiful fairy queen.) The third had to do with these seven classmates (two of whom were very very very good friends) who, to rebel against their evil fourth grade teacher, had a secret operation to put all of their bottle caps for the schoolwide bottle cap collection in the other fourth grade classrooms’ bucket. Because that’s exactly how to get what you want.
This second screenplay, like all the others, was not finished past the halfway point of the first act, but unlike the others, was a complete rip off of a classic public domain work that I had recently become obsessed with at the time of writing it. And I know my We’re Fairies! and Operation Bottle Cap scripts are around somewhere in my room because I haven’t gotten rid of anything I have ever possessed (but with this new year I am starting to!), but this sophomore screenplay is something that is right under my bed. That means I’ve got direct quotes from my childhood artistry for y’all. You’re getting all the poor grammar and random capitalization of certain words. I haven’t looked at this content since I wrote it, so you’re getting some raw reactions in these forthcoming paragraphs. It’s time to me to translate all of that gay goodness for you all, because I know that was what exactly what was going on in this script. I’m gonna tell you more about what writing was for me as a baby gay, and what writing is for all the babies in the world — it’s how we start saying exactly what we see in life and what we want to create for ourselves.
I wasn’t really a baby, I was like, 10 years old when this happened, but like, any time before and directly after my coming out is classified as baby gay time. I was in the third grade, I was starting to get serious about this theatre thing. I was in my first musical at Saturday theatre camp, and cast in the ensemble, which I found to be preposterous, considering I was good enough to be cast as Dorothy in the local strip-mall dance and drama school’s production of The Wizard of Oz. I was so glad to finally be the lead. For character prep, I watched the movie daily, just staring lovingly at Judy Garland’s red lipstick.
I knew from a very young age that if I wasn’t happy with the way things were, I could write an alternate reality in a notebook I wouldn’t take much care of but would love dearly. I thought The Wizard of Oz could use a redo, and I think the reason for writing myself in as the protagonist was that I didn’t want there to come a day in which I wasn’t playing Dorothy for a living. So I started writing a screenplay for a movie with a title I cannot recall. I fully intended for this to be produced and released within the next ten years of my life. I named the protagonist Lissie because it was a nickname I was desperate to have for many years (and it eventually stuck when I was in high school, spelled Lyssi, and half the people in my life now know me as this). Her full name was Felicity Maria though. Because American Girl Dolls, and being Italian.
The story begins at a house party in the far off, beautiful land of New Jersey where third-grader Lissie and two of her friends who are guys, Joe and Nick, are outside playing football while the girls play tea party. (This instance of story-self-insertion is entirely inaccurate, as I was, am, and will be afraid of all sports balls. But both real-me and screenplay-me often wanted to code myself as “one of the boys” because we’ve all ingested gender and sexuality coding that places the masculine and feminine on polar opposites and so being “one of the boys” would make girls see me a different way, and closer to the way I wanted them to, right?) Lissie throws the football, Joe falls while trying to catch it, and they comment about how good Lissie is at the game. Nick notices a scar on Lissie’s arm, and then I’m missing a couple pages to explain that, but I’m pretty sure it’s from Lissie “breaking her arm” a couple years before (which is something I actually did in my real life and thought was the biggest deal ever and meant I deserved a book deal, movie premiere, and guaranteed lead roles forever.)
I know from memory that next in the story comes one of the kid’s moms (who I’m sure I described in the story as very beautiful and nice, because…well…I’m not getting into that right now.) After that I don’t know what leads to the tornado happening, but yeah, there’s a tornado. Lissie is on her way inside for safety, but she drops her teddy bear (which apparently she had while playing football), and she goes back to grab it. Her mom shouts for Felicity Maria to get back there but the kid falls over and knocks her head.
She wakes up in a sunflower field, hears whispering, and sees three people. She asks, calmer than real-life me ever would, “OK two questions…where am I and how did I get here?”
They tell her she’s in Myestiria, where all people in tornadoes are transported to. Lissie asks who these people are, and — y’all, we’re getting to the gay part now — one of them shoots back, “That was 3 questions.”
I can imagine this character in my head even a decade after writing her, with her straight jet black hair, dark purple dress, and gum-popping tendencies. She’s sassy, she’s sensitive, she’s beautiful, and she’s the love interest I wanted to end up with in my own story, even if I didn’t know that fact.
Queen — Well you’ve already met Vilet Maria Carmela Anna. (Yes, Vilet. I promised to give you verbatim coverage. Also, y’all remember Violet from the Incredibles? These character’s similarities aren’t a coincidence.)
Vi — Call me Vi (gives tiny grin) (I imagine writing that stage direction gave me butterflies in my stomach. I read it over and over again.)
Queen — and Sir Edward
Ed — Hi (I imagined him as a scrawny silly kid, a la the kid actor on Disney Channel who is always tripping over stuff that isn’t there.)
Queen — We like to call him Sir Eddy (ruffles his hair)
(Vi laughs quietly) (Okay, are you noticing how I am only specifying her actions and literally not caring that much about anyone else’s, not even those of my own character?)
Ed — Ed is fine
Queen — And I am Queenlinda of Myestiria — I’m a Fairy (I imagined her a Glinda clone. Essentially.)
Lissie — (laughs) Yeah, I can see that. (Wow, I was fresh. Well I wasn’t allowed to talk back to adults in real life, so I had to let it out somehow.)
My character asks how I get home, and Queenlinda says I have to go to the Pink Palace, and I ask how to get there (this screenwriting is efficient AF), and Vi shoots back ‘“that’s five” (back to the questions quip from last page). According to Queenlinda, there’s a lot of “obticales” on the way there, and Ed notes the irony of the Pink Palace being so pretty but having such a “dandareus” journey to getting there. Lissie invites them to go with her because “it’s more than likely that you have some wishes that need to be granted” (because that’s apparently something the Pink Palace can do even though it is not established before — efficient but plot-holey writing, I guess). And it’s true, they do have wishes: Vi wants friends, Ed wants to be not clumsy, and Queenlinda wants to be able to magically grant a wish without it turning into a disaster.
So they start on their journey, they get to a sea of lava, and Queenlinda helps them fly over. They all hold hands to stay together on the flight Lissie is holding Vi’s hand. Of course. I remember how excited I was to write that.
The next scene is them at their camp in the nighttime, and Vi is awake so Lissie goes up to her.
Lissie — Hey.
Vi — Hi. Can I ask you something?
Lissie — Sure.
Vi — What if my doesn’t come true? (I forgot to write the word “wish” in the script.) What if I can’t make friends on my own?
Lissie — it’s actually pretty easy you just go up to a person and say Hi. And if you choose the right one they’ll say Hi Back. but, after a short time and they don’t want to be friends anymore, That’s their loss.
Vi — Wow. That’s good advice. My mom always said “Friendship is like a Diamond. Just as pretty, just as valuable, and it can be as big as you want it to Be.” But guess what.
Vi: Would you consider me as a Friend to you?
Lissie — Yeah
(Lissie and Vi hug)
Okay…let’s talk about this part. Because looking at it now, 10 years out, I see a couple things happening:
I see the friend conversation reflecting a lot of what I was feeling about friendship at the time of writing this, because I was picked on a lot as a kid, usually for being “too much” or “too nice.” I was very much myself at all times, and I was taught to never dull myself down for classmates or fellow dance students. I was nerdy, I was bubbly, and I didn’t like Justin Bieber or talking meanly about others, and that just didn’t jive with a lot of my peers. I didn’t exactly connect with the folks who were nice to me either, though. Boys were too rough, and girls were too concerned with boys for me to even pretend to relate to. I struggled to find real friends who cared as much about the movies I wanted to make, or Disney princesses, or very specific songs by 80’s rock bands as much as I did.
I also see this friend conversation being about Vi wanting to say something to Lissie that my third-grade vocabulary couldn’t handle. “As big as you want it to Be.” My only social relationships with girls and women at the time was family or friendship, so in this scene I see my young writing trying to open the world for Lissie, Vi, and myself. I’m so glad this scene gets a happy ending, and I remember replaying this scene in my head a lot.
Also, when I was 10, I thought that diamond quote was going to make me millions. I could see it in my head designed on posters in Claire’s and written on sparkly over-priced shirts and sweatpants at Justice.
The next scenes are irrelevant to our gay analysis, and I’m missing a couple of pages. Eventually some pirates show up. One of them is named — and I am not joking — Pirate Joe. And for some reason our heroes are on the pirate ship, and Pirate Joe chases after them, and this is where I stopped writing — but I remember there’s a part where Vi almost falls off the ship, and Lissie saves her in a very dramatic moment. (I think I just wanted them to hold hands again.)
And that, my friends, is where both the writing of this script and my memory of the story end.
I remember guarding this notebook very closely. I was very specific in picking who could know I was writing a movie. I only told them if I wanted to get some praise from a stranger, familiar, or neighborhood mom for being a creative genius, or if I trusted a friend of mine enough to have these tabs on me. That’s how it felt — like this was not something for public consumption, even though I wanted to walk on a red carpet for it.
I was very protective over my future writing, too, all the way into high school. Honestly, I remember feeling embarrassed whenever someone would mention it. It’s something I had rather talk with my online fanfiction friends about it. If someone said it out loud, it felt like they had too much information on me.
It took me a long time to understand why my writing was such a touchy subject. It’s because it was how I communicated my queerness before I even knew of my queerness. I know I wrote about a lot more things than love — I wrote about adventure, magic, and girl power. But tucked into all of my early stories was some sort of relationship that was bordering on young, sapphic romance, because I needed some way to process how I was feeling and to practice feeling these ways. On lines of a notebook, I could make it like a school assignment, but not have to hand it into the scary teachers. I could use my imagination, and create something of my own to hold and cherish.
Part of being an artist whose work has a lot to do with text has helped me understand that nothing really just happens out of the blue in the stories we write. Everything comes from something, either from the inside or outside. I can source so much of my childhood from these few pages, what I was feeling, what I was writing. We always need to pay attention to what stories we want to write at any age — they are the most honest way that our hearts and souls communicate with us.
This script is devoid of detail, full of sass, and always almost-there. The only thing I was outright about in this whole story is that the only main male character was a fool. (Of course I put the man as a fool, what else was I supposed to envision him as? He was a man.) I’m finding that I didn’t need to be outright about anything else though, because age grants us increasing wisdom to see what we were always trying to say. No wonder someplace over the rainbow caught my attention.
About the Author:
Alyssa Sileo’s Thespian identity comes first and foremost in anything she carries out. As a member of the Drew University Class of 2022, she studies theatre arts, women’s and gender studies, and Spanish. She’s a proud NJ Thespian Alumni and member of their state chapter board. She is the leader of the international performances network The Laramie Project Project, which unites worldwide productions and readings of the acclaimed Tectonic Theater Project play and encourages community-based LGBTQ+ advocacy. Alyssa is humbled to serve as the 2017 Spirit of Matthew Award winner and as a Youth Ambassador for Matthew Shepard Foundation. She believes there is an advocacy platform tucked into every piece of the theatre catalogue and intends to write outreach into the canon.