Category: connections

What Does a Peterson Residency Look Like?

Over the past five years I have taken part in short residencies at dozens of universities in the USA. As a speaker, I do not want to simply drop in, give my talk, and then disappear. I recognize the need for deeper conversations. My work is interdisciplinary–sustainability, climate change, gender and sexuality, theater, Bible scholarship, communications, and media. This gives me a chance to take part in a variety of classes and campus groups.

These residencies provide me with a rich experience where I learn a great deal, enjoy being part of a community, and get to stir up conversations. Lots of people come to the table to talk about issues they normally do not address in the pursuit of their studies and interests. People who have nothing to do with sustainability and climate change, hear about these topics in new ways. Environmental-minded students and science majors hear about LGBTQ issues, justice, and effective communication strategies.

Below you will find a letter written by Dr. Todd LeVasseur, Director, Sustainability Literacy Institute at the College of Charleston. After three days at his school, Todd sent me this amazingly affirming letter out of the blue. He told me, “Use it however you like.” I am grateful because it is challenging to describe the sort of work I do. In addition to describing what the experience of hosting me was like for him and his campus, Todd also includes the wonderfully full schedule he and his staff organized for my time on campus.

A dynamic sustainability speaker on a mission to reach beyond the environmental crowd from Peterson Thomas Toscano on Vimeo.


To Whom It May Concern,

It is with pleasure and gratitude that I write this letter of support for Peterson Toscano.  This letter is not solicited, but is voluntarily offered, inspired by Peterson’s visit to the College of Charleston on Tuesday, February 12th and Wednesday, February 13th, 2019.  

I direct CofC’s Sustainability Literacy Institute, the institutional home of our Quality Enhancement Plant, “Sustainability Literacy as a Bridge to Addressing 21st Century Problems.”  This project is part of our reaccreditation and officially began operating in academic year 2017-2018.  As director I oversee all programming related to the QEP and its guiding definition of sustainability:  the intersection of social, environmental, and economic systems (also known as the Triple Bottom Line).  Each year of the QEP we have a “CofC Sustains/Solves” theme to help focus programming as sustainability is such a broad topic.  Our year 1 theme was water quality and quantity, and our year 2 theme (2018-2019, when I currently write this letter) is social justice and fair distribution.  

As director of the SLI one of my key goals is to provide a holistic literacy of sustainability to our students that moves beyond assumptions and stereotypes of sustainability as “white hetero environmentalism.”  Rather, the SLI’s programming is around intersectional identities and concerns for justice as these relate to social, environmental, and economic systems.  Given these goals as director I am always looking for professionals to bring to campus to help embed sustainability literacy who can address sustainability from such an intersectional perspective.  To this end I peruse the GreenSchool and Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences list serves for suggestions.  In spring of 2018 there was a request for a suggestion of a speaker who brings LGBQT+ and climate change issues together and someone responded to this request with a very positive recommendation of someone named Peterson Toscano.  Given the QEP’s year 2 theme of social justice and fair distribution, I immediately did a web search for Peterson and was inspired by his work and knew he would make a great candidate to bring to our campus.  I contacted Peterson to begin discussions about such a possibility.

Peterson is his own agent/manager and immediately responded, beginning a dialogue that culminated with his just completed visit.  Peterson was always timely and helpful in his communications with me, from emails and then brainstorming phone calls.  He provided a media package, a template for a flyer, and links to videos and articles he has produced that were able to be shared with faculty and students in advance of his class visits.  These resources helped with Peterson’s larger goal, where early in our discussions he shared that he sees himself as a resident scholar for the contracted length of time on campus and therefore encouraged me to keep him busy and to get him in front of as many people as possible while on our campus.  I am pasting below the resulting schedule, as I took him at his word.  Please note that the event with Corina Newsome was made possible by Peterson himself—he paid for her out of his own pocket to join him on our campus so that CofC could offer a discussion on race, justice, religion, and climate change!

I will unequivocally say the below things, given 2+ years of programming over 50 events for the QEP as SLI director, with some of these events costing thousands of dollars to bring to campus very famous people working in sustainability circles:

  1. Peterson gave the most freely of his time and energy to our students, faculty, and staff, with no complaints and unbounded positive energy the entire time on campus;
  2. Peterson’s in-depth schedule allowed for more sustained discussion about intersectionality and sustainability with the most students across our campus than any other programming we have done;
  3. Peterson generated a faculty workshop on “Queering the Classroom” that was attended by 11 faculty, all who learned insights about how to bring intersectional theory and content into classes, regardless of discipline;
  4. Peterson’s unique synthesis of LGBQT+, Biblical Criticism, and Climate Change insights captivated students in every class he visited—he is truly undertaking and performing ground breaking work, in ways that no one else is doing, so all of his interactions were based on a unique perspective that was fresh, engaging, intellectually rigorous, and relevant to many different disciplines on my campus;
  5. Peterson had the most respectful, engaged report with students, faculty, and staff compared to any other visitor we have brought to campus.  This is saying something, as I have brought a lot of good people to campus!  But Peterson has a gift of giving his full attention to any person and their question, and responding to those questions at the appropriate level of rigor.  

Peterson has just left our campus and I am already in dialogue with colleagues about bringing him back in two years for another visit as his visit was so powerful, moving, and engaging, and our students thoroughly enjoyed their time with him in a variety of settings.  I am unable to say this about many others that we have brought to campus, and for sure can say that Peterson is the only visitor I have brought that accomplished so much in his time, for such a reasonable price.  

If you are looking to diversify sustainability on your campus and to open your sustainability discussions to include LGBQT+ and other intersectional issues, then Peterson is worth every penny.  If you are looking to bring someone who has the skill of connecting with any member of an audience, from the most jaded male student who doesn’t believe in climate change to LGBQT+ students who are concerned about LGBQT+ issues but not climate change, then Peterson is worth every penny. (On the latter, in just 20 minutes he had two Women and Gender Studies majors say they had never seen climate change as an LGBQT+ issue but after hearing him speak now see those connections.)  If you are looking for someone to bring fresh energy, an ethic of compassionate engagement, humor, and the ability to connect with your students, then Peterson is worth every penny.

I close by writing from the voice and perspective of a campus-wide sustainability director: a visit from Peterson will amplify your sustainability efforts.  A visit from Peterson will also recruit new student interest and passion in sustainability.  These are core aims of programming around sustainability on any campus, and Peterson will deftly and eagerly help you realize these aims.


Dr. Todd LeVasseur

Director, Sustainability Literacy Institute


Official schedule of visit for Peterson Toscano, February 11-13th 2019, College of Charleston, SC

Monday, February 11
Arrive 7:19 pm Harlan Greene will get Peterson and host for dinner and get to King George Inn
Check in to lodging 1C, King George Inn
Tuesday, February 12
Breakfast Open Open Todd will get Peterson at 8:40am at King George Inn
Faculty training: Queer  Eye for the Classroom–an intersectional approach to instruction 9am-10:30am Stern 201 Todd will host
Class visit: Gender and Sexuality on Stage and Screen 10:50 to 12:05pm MYBK 223 Jesse Portillo, Todd will host
Class visit: Futurity and Restorative Environmental Justice 12:15 to 1:05pm Bell South 310 Kristi Brian, Todd will host
Lunch break 1:10p to 1:30pm TBD Todd
Class visit: WGST capstone 1:40 to 2:55pm MYBK 105 Kris DeWelde, Todd will host
Class visit: RELS 105, Introduction to World Religions  3:05-4:20pm ECTR 103 Ian Sullivan, Todd will host
Corina Newsome and Peterson discussion: Faith, Justice, Race, and Climate Change 4:30pm-6:00pm ECTR 118 Sofia will introduce, Todd
Wednesday, February 13
Breakfast Open Open Todd will get Peterson at King George Inn at 8:15am
Faculty Training: Queer  Eye for the Classroom–an intersectional approach to instruction 8:30am-10:00am Stern 201 Todd will host
Class visit: History of Queer America (HIST 210/WGST 320) 10:00am-10:50am MYBK 303 Sandy Slater, Todd will host
Lunch 12pm-1pm Mellow Mushroom I-CAN students
Theater Master Class 2pm-4pm Meet 1:45pm Cistern Yard Theatre 220 class, Todd will host
Dinner Meet 6:40pm Cistern Yard
Performance, Everything is Connected—An Evening of Stories, Most Weird, Many True 7pm-9pm ECTR 118 Todd will host

Sign Up for the Peterson Newsletter

About four times a year I will send out a newsletter updating folks about the work I’m doing, my tour schedule, and a special note that might be inspirational and hopefully will be entertaining. I hope the short newsletter will be filled with sass, snark, and substance. Also, find out what is happening with my gorgeous and clever husband and his writing projects.

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Oh, the Places You Will Find Us!

Before I forget, check out Horton Hears a Who. Amazing with a wonderful queer subplot if I ever saw one.

I remember when I first came out as gay. Filled with residual shame and still believing all the myths about LGBT people, I hated the idea of being part of the gay world which I assumed had at the center of its universe a bar (a smoky bar at that filled with catty drag queens and drug addicts.)

I have been fortunate though and have experienced all sorts of LGBT people throughout the US, Canada, Europe, West Africa and the Caribbean and have discovered that I need never enter a bar to meet up with brilliant, interesting and thoughtful LGBT people. But I can also meet amazing people at bars too. Also, some drag queens radiate the love of God and a stellar intellect and killer wit.

I can meet LGBT folks at book clubs and film festivals, in cafes and at poetry jams, gay bingo, and at community centers, in churches, choirs, theater productions, anti-war rallies, food pantries, orchid societies, gay soccer teams, softball and bowling leagues, conferences, colleges, hiking clubs, camps, resorts, cruises, and LGBT bookstores.

I find LGBT folks on the boards of LGBT (and other) organizations, at music concerts, and gay-owned restaurants. I meet LGBT folks on-line through wonderful social networking sites like the Gay Christian Network, and of course through blogging. I meet them at book signings and Pride Flag making events, art shows and Gospel concerts, political rallies, and fund raisers for LGBT youth groups.

I meet them in homes for game night or to watch the Super Bowl or NCAA Championships or to just hang out with them and their kids. We go to the beach, out on the lake for the day, for a cup of coffee or a prayer meeting or a music jam. We camp together at arts festivals. We worship at national or regional gatherings. We read together, share music and listen to many different LGBT comedians and storytellers. We work on causes, in gardens, on school projects and art projects or in cooking a meal.

In my LGBT world, I meet hundreds of well-adjusted, content folks living their lives, pursuing their dreams, contributing to their communities. Traveling has helped me to see beyond the myths and find our people in all sorts of wonderful nooks and crannies. None of us need to remain trapped in the shame and the myths.

Of course this is only a partial list. Please feel free to add to the lists in the comment section.

Coming to Columbus & Denver & Portland & Sweden!

Later this month after my show at SUNY Brockport (near Rochester, NY), I fly to Columbus, OH to see my buddy Bobby Painter perform as the leading role of Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (and if you saw my last presentation at Greenbelt, you will know what that story is REALLY all about!)

I just got confirmation that while I am in Columbus I will perform Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House at New Creation Metropolitan Community Church, Sunday October 28 at 7:00 PM. You can get the full details at my site. So if you are in the Columbus area, come on by (and if you want to see Bobby as Joseph, let me know and I will get you the details. He is an amazing singer and has been working out for weeks for the half-naked scenes. Biblical theater can be so racy.)

The following weekend (Nov 2-4) I will be in Estes Park with the Quakers (outside of Denver) and although it has not been confirmed yet, I may present something at the Denver MCC–Metropolitan Church of the Rockies. Keep your eye on the performance schedule.

And for you Texas people….nothing. But my booking agent has begun to make some inquiries in Austin and Dallas. Of course if you have any contacts at universities or churches, let me know and I will pass them on. (I write this because you guys are the biggest whiners in the world about me not doing anything in your area 🙂

In other travel news, I will be back in Portland, Oregon from December 3-17 to hang out with guys of the Anawim Community, who I got to know in January when I joined them at their annual retreat. These are grounded, wise and sincere gay Christan men, deeply spiritual and good fun. I get to stay with Doug and Bruce until they tire of me. I also have some super Quaker connections in Portland (hey Noël and Bonnie!) and Salem (hey Peggy and Alivia!) and other super folks I have met through the university, the MCC and the Q Center. I have no immediate plans to present anything in Portland as I am mainly going to rest and reflect and consume copious amounts of high quality coffee with even higher quality friends, but I may do one or two simple presentations.

On Christmas Day I fly to Stockholm then Umeå to visit Alex, Noa and the kids for a few weeks. Dark, bitter cold northern Sweden in the dead of winter. Delicious. I might just do a show so that I don’t freeze to death.
Boys, you will have to keep me warm!

Having been home for over a month feels great. I tidied up, rearranged, got loads done, connected with friend and feel very very content, so I am glad I don’t go too far for a copy of weeks. Of course with such brilliant people in those far away places, it makes it easy to leave my comfy lair.

Right now I’m listening to the new Radiohead In Rainbows album with its distinctive Radiohead dreamy, dreary sound. Good tunes for an overcast day.

UPDATE: After being harassed for weeks, I caved and joined Facebook. So all you harassers, work your Facebook magic and make me your friends or bedbugs or level 5 angel-sluts or whatever its called on Facebook.

Star Queen–She’s Back!

Through a recent comment left on my blog, I discovered the blog I, Star Queen, which highlights words and images and video about the amazing performer, Star Queen. (You can even see some footage from the documentary about Star Queen in which I appear briefly as a talking head.) I had heard “she” had retired, so I feel thrilled to see her new site and to hear about her recent visit to see Lady Bunny.

I first experienced Star Queen in Memphis at a club called Backstreet. I had been out as a gay man for about five months and it was my first venture in to a gay bar to see a drag performance. My friend David Christie RAVED about Star Queen, but I walked in filled with all sorts of judgment and doubts. That was until Star Queen hit the stage and did a number to a Blossom Dearie tune. I adore Blossom, and I immediately saw so much intelligence in the humor and delivery and choices that Star Queen made.

Over the next few years I got to know Star Queen and more importantly the man behind the makeup. We became friends and spent some good times together. I was still coming to grips with myself and felt very tentative about opening up to the people in my life. Friends at that time experienced a wall I erected that I thought kept me safe. My attitude was that enough people had messed with me in the church and the ex-gay movement; I was going to keep myself from getting hurt again.

Looking back at photos from that time (like the one to the right where I am bearded and Star Queen looks fierce!) and thinking about it, I see what a powerful and wise friend Star Queen (and her everyday self) was in my life. We have since grown apart from each other, something that I hope can be fixed some day.

Thinking about the harm of ex-gay experiences, I consider what it does to relationships post-ex-gay life. How often I second-guessed people’s motives and my own fearing that I was getting involved in a emotionally dependent relationship, something that ex-gay therapists and ministers suggested was as bad as gay sex.

During those first few years I emerged emotionally shell-shocked and wounded. Hurting people hurt people, and in my case, I see how that was true some of the time.

I wish I could remember some of the wonderfully outrageous toasts that Star Queen would raise so that I could toast her back. I wish Star Queen and the man behind the makeup all the best on the journey as an artist and a wonderful human being.

The Power of Blogging

Carol writes:

In the past two years, I’ve read stories and posts and profiles and blog entries, seen pictures, copied quotes and I’ve identified with people outside of my circle of friends. I have become acquainted with new people – and I love it!

She then writes words that give me a big smile and a warm feeling in my heart.

Yesterday all of my girls and I traveled about an hour away to Earlham College. We’d come to watch the one-man performance that portrayed personal experiences of living in an ex-gay ministry. This performance revealed many true-to-life happenings, some of which were humorous to laughing out loud funny, as well as the heartbreak felt by those who try and inevitably cannot, change through any means, their sexual identity/orientation.

By taking on various characters, Peterson Toscano also shared the hope – the hope and the inspiration – to bring love and light to those around us. This includes our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends and family, so that they too can live and feel that God is love, extended to all of us, and that we all may share in that love.

Carol goes on to write about how through reading blogs and connecting with folks outside of her circle, she changed, she grew.

Thank you Carol for staying after the show to chat and to introduce your daughters and granddaughter. I can’t wait to talk again soon.