Doin’ Time in Cambridge


spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

Sunday morning I took an early train from London to Cambridge (and on the Underground had to navigate through many London Marathon runners wearing nothing but tight spandex. Distracting!)

After attending Quaker Meeting for worship and then lunch with my good friend Esther and her girlfriend (who is adorable and wonderful), I gave a presentation at the Quaker Meeting House,  a highlights show of sorts where I did bits from several of my plays.

Quaker Meeting Houses are not designed for theater (although much theater and drama sometimes occur during our time of worship and especially business meetings), but I like to present there as a way of both in-reach to the meeting about LGBTQ concerns and out-reach to the community in hopes of introducing folks to Quakers (who can be pretty cool).

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

Last night I spoke at Cambridge University about the Ex-Gay Movement.  Lots of people who know little about the ex-gay experience may assume that it is just something that uneducated and unintelligent people choose to do.

My primary goals were to help the audience members (a packed house by the way!) understand the basics of the very complex ex-gay world and more importantly to comprehend the many different reasons why someone may choose and ex-gay route for themselves. I speak about some of those many reasons here in a YouTube Video.

The whole ex-gay thing may seem utterly illogical and irrational. But many of us who pursued such a course had what seemed highly logical reasons. Many of us were college educated and have at least average intelligence.

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

Sadly fear, guilt and shame clog the brain making it nearly impossible to think clearly. That with a load of anti-gay messages coming at us from all corners increased the shame and fear. We then found “therapists” who offered “treatment” in Jesus’ name and with what initially sounded like solid science. Many of us folded under the weight of it all and succumbed to a path that kept us running in circles in some cases for years.

tulips in Cambridge

tulips in Cambridge

What surprised me were the number of students at Cambridge who are still fairly closeted about their own sexuality. It seems as I travel to campuses around the US most students are open about their orientation and gender identity with friends, families, church, etc.

From what the students told me here and from what I have heard from both teachers and students on previous trips, seems that secondary schools are really dreadful for LGBTQ students and teachers and children of LGBTQ parents.

With the Gay Straight Alliances we have in the US, it seems that we have a little more to offer. When some of the students heard about these sorts of LGBTQ-affirming organizations in state-run schools in the US, they just marvelled.

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge.

Yes, things are so much better, safer, legally secure for LGBTQ people (especially in the UK), but putting these protections into place, helping people grow in their own understanding, undoing the damage of Section 28 and other laws that silenced teachers and students in school, this will take work to unravel.

As you can tell from my photos, I have been taken by the amazing spring flowers here in Cambridge. I will end this post by posting the most beautiful. (Enjoy Sheria!)

Esther outside her college

Esther outside her college

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge

spring in Cambridge


This post has 8 Comments

  1. Elly on April 28, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Lovely to read Peterson, and the flowers look beautiful, brightened up the very grey afternoon here just seeing the photos of them!

    This: ‘seems that secondary schools are really dreadful for LGBTQ students and teachers and children of LGBTQ parents.’ I have personally found to be very true, sadly. The year I left, a large proportion of the girls lower down in the school decided that ‘bisexual’ was pretty much a synonym for ‘cool’ and all started coming out – it seemed somewhat ironic seeing as I’d spent the previous 7 years being bullied and beaten up for my sexuality.


  2. dorellostreet on April 28, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Cambridge is such a beautiful city as your photos clearly show 🙂

  3. Iain on April 28, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Hi, Peterson,

    You mentioned about students at Cambridge being fairly closeted about their sexuality.

    As well as having to face prejudice, I think this might be an Oxbridge thing as well. I was at Trinity from 77-81, and had a girlfriend who was a PhD student from a London University. What she noticed was that Cambridge students were most unwilling to collaborate and help each other out in their studies, compared with London where it was the norm.

    It may come about because it is highly competitive to get into Oxbridge, and those who get there haven’t yet grown up enough to realise that it’s better to cooperate with others than trying to compete against them.

    It’s all very childish, of course. I’m just wondering if the habit of keeping your work to yourself coincides with keeping your sexuality to yourself as well. Are you doing any non-Oxbridge universities? I think you might find the situatuion somewhat different there.

    One of my facebook friends whom I knew at Cambridge came out as gay, but many years after.

    Incidentally, Oxford and Cambridge were the first places in the UK to convert to Natural Gas, because of the high suicide rate among students.

    I may, if I have time, come and see you in Oxford on May 23.

    Pictures were great!


  4. Sheria in SA on April 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Thank you! This time you have outdone yourself Peterson! Only one word to describe your photos, breathtaking!! Am speechless…I dont think photography is just a hobby for you, it MUST be one of your passions because you do it so well. Thank you again for posting them!

  5. p2son on April 29, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Iain, I will be at unis in Southampton, Bradord and Lincoln in May. Perhaps I will notice a difference. I want to make clear that I met plenty of openly LGBT people at Cambridge who have come out to family and all. It was just that there seemed to have been a higher percentage of closeted people than I normally meet at US universities

    Your comment reminds me of a narrative we put up over at Beyond Ex-Gay. Kathryn writes about how she used her studies to avoid truly coming out.

    Raised saturated on a constant diet of heternormative imagery and assumptions at school, in the media and at home, I deeply feared belonging to a highly stigmatized group. Like most teenagers, I longed to belong, fit in, and be accepted. I therefore strove to conform to heterosexual norms as much as possible. Image of rows of wooden chairs

    Ironically, although I formally came out to my parents at the age of seventeen, I remained spiritually, socially and emotionally deeply closeted.

    Although I did not actively seek to change my sexual orientation, I did seek to actively repress it. I used my studies (at this time I was a university student) to completely avoid and deny my sexuality. Books were my closest and most trustworthy friends. I hid from others and from myself.

    You can read her entire narrative here.

  6. p2son on April 29, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Sheria, I thought you might like these.

  7. Sheria in South Africa on April 29, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Like? No, I love them! Thanks again. Was nice and thoughtful of you…

  8. Parysa on July 14, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Hello – don’t normally comment on random blogs or whatever, but this seemed really interesting.

    I just graduated from Cambridge this year, and it’s truly amazing just how many men there are gay!! (an interesting fact in itself – I’ve just been searching for the stats).

    I’d have to disagree with Iain about Oxbridge men being more in the closet – in fact, many people found that Cambridge was THE PERFECT place to come out – and I agree with Peterson in what he suggested: secondary schools really don’t do enough here to make people aware of homosexuality. Many of my friends told me that they just worked it out for themselves over the course of a few years.

    Interesting stuff, Peterson. Thanks.

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