by Aaron J. Albano
In light of recent discussion by Actors' Equity Association to change the name of “The Gypsy Robe,” Broadway actor Aaron J. Albano shares his opinion on the name change.
This Robe debate has saddened me in ways I did not expect from this community. When I first received the email my first thought was “Why?” Like many voices opposed to the change, I thought about the pride that I have felt bearing the moniker, the community that has been built around it, and the values that I’ve grown to associate with it. And like all those voices, I grew defensive, thinking, “this is how it’s always been,” or “we don’t mean it offensively,” or “who is even asking for this? Shouldn’t the union be focusing on bigger things?”
And over the course of the day, I’ve reflected on how horrible those mindsets are, and how reminiscent they are to other similar recent events in our nation.
Am I sad that I’m losing a term that I myself associated with many great things in my life? Sure. I’m aware that that word has a very different definition to me than it does to the people it offends. Am I upset? No, because I don't have the right to be. Just because it doesn’t offend me doesn’t make it okay, and using tradition as an excuse to keep it isn’t a good enough reason. I am not a part of the people group that the word offends, but that doesn’t mean the word isn’t offensive. It offends someone, and that should be enough for us to evoke change.
The argument that the union should be focused on more important things is frankly what saddens me most. Why can’t the union do both, especially when one of those actions is speaking for a marginalized people group that is clearly not being heard? That is a value that I would want in any part of my life, professional or otherwise.
Yes, for me, there is a tragedy in losing this word that I held dear. But also for me, it is a small price to pay for the inclusion and validation of people who are not me. And while the word is lost, the values it stood for are not, and I have faith that we will find an equal, less offensive, more appropriate word to stand for the community I love and cherish.