Category: activism

Street Art Utopia

Art, Activism, and Public Spaces.

I love this powerful combination.

If you have not spent time at the blog Street Art Utopia, do yourself a favor and visit to view the whimsical, arresting, and stirring images of street art.

#ItGetsWetter Queers for the Climate Video Campaign

We’re here. We’re queer. And we are taking a sassy approach to climate action!

This week Queers for the Climate announced the launch of the #ItGetsWetter video campaign.

It gets wetter. Seriously. Well it gets drier too, depending on where you are. But mostly, especially on the coasts, it gets wetter. In fact a brand new UN report on climate change says sea levels could rise of over 20 feet if we don’t give our climate a chill pill.

Holy shit! That’s REALLY bad for places like New York, London, Rio, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Shanghai, Mumbai, Cape Town, Miami, New Orleans, and a whole lot of other vibrant cities and coastal communities. And it’s bad for the queers, since we tend to like living in those big, bustling, creative hubs. And visiting them too. Goodbye Provincetown and Fire Island.

So here’s the thinking. Lately people have been dumping buckets of ice water on their head for a great cause, so there’s reason to believe that a video about getting wetter for a cause will grab attention. That’s why Queers for the Climate is launching the #ItGetsWetter challenge, to spread awareness about the climate crisis, spread the word about the upcoming fabulous People’s Climate March, and basically have some fun in the process.

It’s simple and fun. I made mine while hopped up on muscle relaxers after two weeks camping (no, that’s not a lisp you hear–its slurred speech.) Check out the #ItGetsWetter video campaign and make your own!

We are not Gonna Recycle our way out of this Mess

I’m about to piss off some people, but enough already with the recycling.

queer recycle

Not that recycling is a bad thing. It is a very good thing. It is the moral, pragmatic, and responsible thing to do. It feels good too. I love rinsing out the empty baked bean tins, the wine, beer, and gin bottles, and the plastic cleaning jugs. I feel so content sorting them into their appropriate bins, then carting them off to the municipal recycling center where I dump the cans and plastics into larger bins then gleefully toss the glass bottles (hear them smash!) into the dumpsters that correspond to their colors–brown, green, blue, clear. I come home, rinse out my bins, stack them up in my utility room, and start all over again. Recycling feels good. Satisfying.

I feel like I should get a gold star for recycling or a certificate declaring:

Congratulations! You have done your part for the environment.

Recycling seems to have a built-in, feel-good quality to it, one that has been marketed along with the slogan: If we each just do our part, together we will save the planet.

That’s why I think we should stop recycling. Like most products hawked at us, recycling doesn’t deliver on its promise. In light of the colossal changes that our governments and businesses need to make in order to radically reduce greenhouse gases, our individual efforts are about as effective as curing a cancer patient by giving her a gentle pat on the back. It’s sweet, loving, appreciated, but ineffective in saving her life.

Are you feeling defensive? I understand if you are. I am desecrating a sacred rite of modern liberal environmentalism. But the reality is that in the face of the climate crisis that is upon us–the urgent need to force our leaders to act boldly and quickly, the scale of the problem we face–all of our efforts to sort those cans, bottles, plastic jugs, newspapers, glossy print magazines, and flattened cardboard boxes, is about as futile as rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic. Deny it. Try to negotiate if you must. Get angry with me. Grow depressed. These are the necessary stages of grief many of us need to experience before we come to a place of accepting the shit storm that is upon us.

Of course recycle. It is a good thing. But as you rinse out that tin and sort those bottles and tie up those newspapers so neatly and set out the recycling for pick up or take it yourself, do so with the knowledge that these efforts will not save us. Don’t let the recycling euphoria sooth away the growing urgency to act as your life depends on it–because it does.

Want to do more than recycle? Consider attending the People’s Climate March Sept 21 in NYC and check out the LGBTQ Climate Manifesto. If you can’t get there, attend a regional event that same day or organize one yourself. Have teach-in to educate yourself, your friends, faith community, and neighbors.

Want to do more than just a one-day event? (I’m liking your enthusiasm!) Check out the Citizens Climate Lobby, a group that is assertively looking to place a fee on greenhouse gases as a way to radically cut consumption. They even have a plan to help households deal with the higher energy prices that will come with a carbon fee.

We will not recycle our way out of this crisis, no matter how good it feels. But there is still plenty we can and must do. What’s your next step?

(photo credit for TV Elephant Recycling : CoolFunPic.com)

The Need for a Straight Pride March & Other Myths.

Over at Facebook I have many different types of friends (like 2200 friends) and of course they have friends who represent many perspectives. Today on a friend’s wall posting about wearing purple in support of LGBT youth two straight folks raised objectives revealing that they felt “bullied” into showing support of gay kids. In frustration one of them said, “We need to have a Heterosexual Pride Parade.” The other agreedMr. & Mrs. Salt & Pepper.

Now I know a lot of straight people. Some of my best friends are heterosexual. In fact, I come from a distinctly heterosexual family that I love. I know that some straight folks feel put upon by all of the recent news about gay. lesbian and transgender suicides and bullying. “Why do we have to hear about THEM all the time?” Hmmmm. Welcome to my world where I constantly have to go out of my way to hear about anything other than straight lives.

Lately I have been thinking of the subtle powerful force of heterosexism, like high blood pressure, I consider it the “silent killer” insistent and constant in its messaging that heterosexuality is NORMAL, the idealized norm, what everyone is expected to be, an identity that is celebrated, rewarded and represented to the exclusion of all others.

Like a low-grade fever or undetected high blood pressure, non-straight, non-gender normative people live with a steady barrage of pro-heterosexual messages mixed in with anti-LGBT messages. Even in US states where they offer “gay marriage” everyone knows it is not the same as a straight marriage because of the federal protections granted to heterosexual couples and denied to all others. But beyond the legal protections or lack of protections in the household, on the job and elsewhere, we get a deluge of pro-straight messages in pop songs, commercials, movies, religious ceremonies, proms–shoot even salt and pepper shakers! I know that there is a growing movement to include LGBT lives and voices in the media and on the agenda of the board of education, but it’s spotty at best and is often drowned out by the heterosexism that exists in almost every encounter silly and sublime.

Here’s an example of straight pride & privilege.

Marueen says, “My husband Bill & I got together w/ our two daughters & their husbands to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary and Cindy & Todd’s first baby. At church the pastor said a blessing over the family & we recommitted our vows.”

And everyone says, “Oh, that is so nice.” And it is and there are gifts and cards and photos and public sharing on Facebook and beyond revealing pride and affirmation and celebration of Bill & Maureen’s successful heterosexuality.

Of course most don’t think of Maureen & Bill expressing “Heterosexual Pride.”

It’s just “normal.”

There’s a demon in my underwear! Queer and Queerer Ep. 19

What’s worse than crabs in your crotch? Demon possession in your pubic area. This week Zack and I go where few gay male podcasters have gone before. (You will have to listen to the podcast for it to all make sense. Let’s just say, this is the scene they left out of The Vagina Monologues.)

Okay now the proper show notes:

She graced the pages of Glamour magazine. She stunned the nation on Good Morning America. She helped launch a movement (Beyond Ex-Gay) and NOW she is our guest on Queer and Queerer! Zack and I welcome Christine Bakke to the program. Christine is an artist, an activist, and an outspoken ex-gay survivor. As a lesbian who once tried to suppress and change her orientation, she now speaks out passionately about the dangers of treatments that try to “de-gay” you. She joins us to talk about the Prop 8 ruling, its implications for the Ex-Gay Survivor movement, exorcism, demon nests, and activist art!

Remember, send us your questions for episode 20! You can ask us ANYTHING.

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to this week’s episode:

// Here’s some more information about what we talked about this week:

» Read the Prop 8 decision findings of fact in detail.

» The Slate Political Gabfest discusses the Prop 8 ruling.

» Meet Ryan Kendall, Ex-Gay Survivor and Prop 8 witness

» Details magazine looks at gay exorcism

» The APA’s Report on Reparative Therapy

» Be careful not to fall out of your RV!

Almost Home and Apparently Schizophrenic

I fly out of London tomorrow morning heading for NYC and then taking the bus up to Hartford. Phew. I have been away for a little more than a month, but it feels much longer. This trip has taken me to England, Wales, back to England, Northern Ireland, Catalonia, Spain, back to Catalonia, then back to England. I got to see LOADS of Auntie Doris (smooches) and even got little trips in to see Contemplative Activist, John Henson, and my dear friends Jo and Ali in Wakefield. Today I traveled down to Southampton for lunch with Candy, the mother of Esther, my lovely host in Reading and a fellow Quaker.

I had a lovely dinner over at the home Nalini’s and her partner Robert, Esther’s good friends. Had a GREAT show in Reading last night with a large enthusiastic crowd. (I did wind them up a little by promising that they had the power to make me do crazy things on stage just by their laughter and applause and if they played their cards right, I would become their very own performing monkey, which is sorta what happens during Vlad’s dance).

Barcelona with our conference about Reparative Therapy was a HUGE success. We had over 100 people come to the event, people who represented a diverse swath of the population. We also had loads of press coverage with lots of TV interviews and such. I will write more and put up photos and videos in the next week.

Northern Ireland was also a real treat as I got to know the folks in the Icon Community as well as got to travel to Newcastle, Northern Ireland and stay with the sweetest family ever (and even got to practice my Spanish with a three year old)

All around an excellent trip, and I will write more and share more about it in the coming days. I return to Europe next month with a trip to Malta and then some presentations during the Lambeth Conference. My upcoming visit is getting some people chatting including this blog where one commenter unearthed the secret to my theatrical success–schizophrenia!

I am THRILLED to announce that next weekend my dad, Pete Toscano, and I will travel to Chicago to be part of Soulforce’s American Family Outing which will take place this time at Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago. After hearing some about my father and seeing him recently on TV and in film talking about being the parent of someone who has survived the ex-gay movement, they asked if my dad would be willing to come with me to the event. He said yes, so off we go to this VERY large church. You can read more about the outing here.

Soulforce does organizes these outings in hopes of generating a conversation about LGBT issues among different types of families. I know my dad will be a wonderful addition to the team (and will very likely come up with some very original one-liners.) If you would like to contribute to getting my day and me to this event, visit the donation page and in the comments say that your gift is to go towards getting two wacky Toscanos to a mega church.

Must head off to bed for an early drive to Heathrow. Oh, but before I do, have you yet ordered your Homo No Mo Halfway House DVD???

Behind Every King There is a Queer


Today in the USA we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hillary Clinton recently drew fire with her suggestion that President Lyndon B Johnson helped to realize Dr. King’s dream with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. The life, work and death of Dr. King will move you deeply.

But Mrs. Clinton raises an important point. It takes a village to raise the issue and to make change happen. With all of his charisma, intelligence and skills, Dr. King relied heavily on others to not only see his dream come to pass, but even to shape the very nature of that dream.

I think of the extraordinary efforts and contributions of Bayard Rustin, the Black, gay, Quaker, who fought for civil liberties beginning in the late 1930’s. Rustin served as the key organizer of the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, the very first Freedom Rides.

According to Standford University’s King Encyclopedia,

Rustin became a key adviser to King during the Montgomery bus boycott. He first visited Montgomery in February 1956, and published a ‘‘Montgomery Diary,’’ in which, upon observing a meeting of the Montgomery Improvement Association, he wrote: ‘‘As I watched the people walk away, I had a feeling that no force on earth can stop this movement. It has all the elements to touch the hearts of men’’ (Rustin,‘‘Montgomery Diary,’’ 10).

Rustin provided King with a deep understanding of nonviolent ideas and tactics at a time when King had only an academic familiarity with Gandhi. Rustin later recalled: ‘‘The glorious thing is that he came to a profoundly deep understanding of nonviolence through the struggle itself, and through reading and discussions which he had in the process of carrying on the protest’’ (D’Emilio, 230–231).

King recognized the advantages of Rustin’s knowledge, contacts, and organizational abilities, and invited him to serve as his adviser, well aware that Rustin’s background would be controversial to other civil rights leaders. As King’s special assistant, Rustin assumed a variety of roles, including proofreader, ghostwriter, philosophy teacher, and nonviolence strategist.

Rustin was also instrumental in the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), proposing to King in December 1956 that he create a group that would unite black leaders in the South who possess ‘‘ties to masses of people so that their action projects are backed by broad participation of people’’

Along with long-time Civil Rights activist and leader A. Philip Randolf, Bayard Rustin organized the famous 1963 March on Washington where Dr. King delivered his I Have a Dream speech. Dr. King appeared among several other leaders whose organizations helped sponsor the event, but the idea behind the march and the work of organizing it fell to Randolf and especially to Rustin.

What too often happens in the US is that ONE hero emerges both in our history and our movies. This one larger than life figure looms over us as an example of what one man can do.

But what about the women and the men working alongside of that man? What about the people who went before that man opening the ways, building a movement? What about someone like Bayard Rustin, brilliant, vital to the movement, but also openly gay in a time and place when that rarely happened? History, the media and our own deeply ingrained concept of heroes erase or cover over the contributions of someone like Bayard Rustin.

In the US we only have two national holidays that celebrate individuals. One is for Christopher Columbus and the other for Dr. King, two men who both had a quest for a dream. We have begun to see how historians distorted the story of Columbus manufacturing a hero to admire all the while overlooking the genocide he helped to initiate thus opening the doors to the slave trade in the colonies.

Dr. King on the other hand brought about good and positive change to this country. His life and death helped pave the way for presidential hopeful Barack Obama. But Dr. King did not act alone, and by celebrating him as the lone hero, we teach each other the wrong lessons about activism. No one person can bring about change, and when we think otherwise, we despair that we can ever make a difference.

Today in the USA we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, but let us also celebrate all the people instrumental to his life and work.

Listen to or read Barack Obama’s speech he delivered yesterday at Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. He reminds us:

Brothers and sisters, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle for peace and justice, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle for opportunity and equality, we cannot walk alone

In the struggle to heal this nation and repair this world, we cannot walk alone.

You can read more about Bayard Rustin in an article published today at 365Gay.com or at another piece published in the New West Network.

Blogging on the Train

Okay, I am one lucky and happy blogger. I am on a train from Newcastle to Wakefield (UK) and could only get a First Class ticket because everything else was sold out. I get to first class, sit in my plush seat, get a hot cup of tea served to me right away, open my laptop and BAM! wifi. So I blog to you as I speed through the English countryside on my to change trains at Doncaster. I live for wifi.

I just came off a wonderfully exhausting and exhilarating weekend with British Quakers ages 18-30ish. In this one weekend I have had so many conservations with thoughtful, informed and passionate Friends. Really inspires me and gives me hope.

At the weekend I met several people who I only knew through e-mail and blogging as well as dear Friends who I have hung with before (hey Esther, Mark and Alyn!). I got to meet and speak at length with Friend Wes who authors the GatheringInLight blog. Wes is very involved with the Convergent Quaker movement which attempts to help Quakers from various background to connect and converse.

In the past I have read many blog post by Convergent Friends, but I feel like such a novice in all of this that I typically don’t respond other to say, Cool Post! which I am sure they appreciate, but does not contribute much to the conversation. But there is a time to listen and with much of Quakerism, I do much more listening than speaking.

Okay, I want to sit back and enjoy the views, but before I do, I want to share some new music! In Sweden Alex bought me Rufus Wainwright’s newest album, Release the Stars. They adore Rufus in Sweden and the UK (#2 on the UK charts this week). On the album Rufus sings a powerful protest song that speaks to the weariness many of us feel about the US government, its leaders and the harm we have brought to the world.

Speaking about the US as I do my new play, The Re-Education of George W. Bush, I feel so bitter sweet. I come from an amazing country with amazing people, yet we have ruled with violence and oppression. The largest penal colony in the world is in NYC (and grew thanks in large part to Rudolf Guiliani). Our gun laws are outrageous and health care is abysmally bad. We oppress other countries politically, economically and culturally. The waste we produce, the recklessly in which we spend tax dollars, the neglect of the needy and the sellout to corporate interests sickens and saddens me. Then “concerned citizens” spend so much time talking crap about gay people. As if we didn’t have real problems in the world that needed attention! Instead the focus gets put on fake problems that then have a real impact on American families–queer and straight.

In his song Going to a Town, Rufus sings,

Tell me do you really think you go to hell for having loved?
(Tell me) and not for thinking every thing that you’ve done is good
(I really need to know)
After soaking the body of Jesus Christ in blood

I’m so tired of America
(I really need to know)

I may just never see you again or might as well
You took advantage of a world that loved you well
I’m going to a town that has already been burned down
I’m so tired of you America

Day of Truth???

I find my stomach gets sour whenever I read about the “Day of Truth”, and adult-led, anti-gay reaction to the Day of Silence. The Day of Silence allows young people to stand in solidarity with queer and questioning youth, often silenced by the heterosexist societies in which they live. It is not an attempt to convert anyone to gayness (as if such a thing were possible)

So what do some frightened, reactionary adults do? They create the Day of Truth in which they hope to spread lies about LGBT people. I can’t even write about this without feeling sick. It feels to me to be ugly, thoughtless, selfish and unchristian.

Daniel Gonzales produced video analysis to expose the lies behind the “Day of Truth”. The video is brought to you by and hosted by Truth Wins Up. Now I have to go get some Tums or ginger to sort out my upset stomach.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HI4-eDG3Bb0]

Partners

I am sitting in a computer lab right now with Ariadna typing away beside me. She and I are co-writers of the Dos Equis blog. It is a Spanish language blog for gay Christians where we talk about our faith and experiences as queer Christians. Of course I write about the ex-gay movement as well.

Right now we are posting a blog entry together, a little interview. I just gave her a hard question, Como encuentras a Dios–In what ways do you encounter God? Being a religion student, I think she will be at it a little while, which gives me some time to blog here in English 😛

This week I feel like I am bursting with joy and satisfaction. That is big for me. A lot of it has to do with the many partners that enrich my life. Four years ago when I first premiered my Homo No Mo play, I was truly a one-man operation. My good friends Christina, a co-worker from the Watkinson School and Roy Steele,my web master, cheered me on and helped out some, but for the most part I was on my own.

But now, wow, how rich my life has become, rich with partners. I work with Ariadna on Dos Equis. You now know of my partnership with Christine and with Steve on bXg. I have partnered with Soul Force on the upcoming conference. Later this month I get to co-lead a queer Quaker retreat with a wonderful bisexual friend, Judy. Sarah B. Miller has been so amazing doing my booking and giving me clarity about what I do. Daniel Gonzales and I work on scripts for videos and strategize about speaking to the press. I meet regularly with my support committe. Alex helps me with my Swedish blog, Svensk Spädbarn. And with so many of my presentations I get to partner with others to bring together a community.

As someone who lived much of my life in a closet, really in a tomb, I lived in isolation. I felt terrified and refused to let anyone near me lest they see the parts of me I struggled to conceal even from myself. I grew weak in that condition. I floundered. Even when I was married, I held my wife at bay and would not let her come close because I had not yet integrated my faith and my sexuality. I was at war with myself and so unable to partner with anyone.

So as I sit next to Ariadna, oh, and that’s Christine calling me on the phone, I feel like a very rich man with so many wonderful partners in my life.