Doin’ Time in Carbondale, IL


Reporting to you live (but only just awoken) from Southern Illinois. I have a show here tonight and will be joined by two former Love in Action participants–Bob Painter and J! I also get to see a former student of mine from my times at the Watkinson School. This afternoon I will have lunch with a Christian group then I will speak in a Sociology class.

I never mentioned the details on the blog, but last Wednesday I presented at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts. It was a real Quaker affair. One of my Quaker buddies, Althea, who I knew from the Young Friends programs, invited me to come and present my Homo No Mo play. Other Young Friends came from area schools and Bill and Bobby Taylor of my support committee gave me a ride and held me in the Light throughout my presentation.

Mt. Holyoke is one of the best and most progressive liberal arts schools in the nation (they put the liberal in liberal arts). All women with some trans men, I really wondered how my message would fit in. So much of the ex-gay experience is a white male experience–particularly at Love in Action.

Instead of doing the play, I suggested to Althea that I do my presentation, Talkin’ Trash in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. In that talk I bring up women’s issues and the ex-gay approach to trans issues (which is to basically ignore them–kinda like the mainstream gay and lesbian community). Thanks to folks like Christine and Peggy and others, I have a clearer picture of what happens for women in the ex-gay world.

Although tentative at first, in my presentations I’ve begun to speak out more and more about my faith journey as a gay Christian. Organizers often say things like, “This isn’t a religious community, so you don’t want to talk too much about that stuff.” But to suppress that part of my story would be like suppressing the gay part. Just like I am wired to like guys, I am wired for God (well not in the sexual way–you know what I mean).

It seems harder to come out Christian among an LGBT crowd than it is to come out gay at church. But to deny the Jesus part of me would be just as harmful as if I were to deny the gay part. It is part of my identity, part of me. And to present anything other would be dishonest.

Perhaps it is the Quaker testimony of integrity that helps fuel my willingness to step up and share my faith (even though as Quakers I feel we are discouraged from sharing our faith too vocally with non-Quakers or even with fellow Friends). That coupled with the healthy examples I have seen at Quaker meeting of people who have fully integrated their faith with the rest of their lives.

John Humphries (a member of my support committee) went to Iraq as a direct result of his faith and interactions with the divine. His activism springs from his faith journey, just like the way he and his family create community and conserve energy and develop their musical skills. It is all connected.

During my closing remarks at the presentation at Mt. Holyoke I asked.

Was I a Christian struggling with homosexuality or a homosexual struggling with Christianity?

Just like in so many settings where I have talked about my faith, people came up to me and said, Thank you so much for sharing your faith in your presentation. I too have faith but feel so silenced talking about it.

I am seeing more and more that “coming out” is not just about the gay part of me, but embracing and affirming all parts of me–the Quaker, the vegan, the artist, the Jesus lover and so much more.

This post has 8 Comments

  1. alex. on October 17, 2006 at 8:15 pm Reply

    (even though as Quakers I feel we are discouraged from sharing our faith too vocally with non-Quakers or even with fellow Friends).

    I have tried to google about this tonight but didn’t get any good hits. Why are you discouraged from sharing your faith too vocally? Have any good articles about this? I have to form thoughts vocally in order to understand myself so not talking about my faith would be to not keep my faith, I think. But I wouldn’t even be able to try, I talk to much 🙂
    But I’m very intressed in reading about others view on the topic.

  2. Anna HP on October 17, 2006 at 8:16 pm Reply

    Peterson!
    “Coming out” is never about just being gay, it´s a confirmation of yourself, who you are. And that including the vegan, the christian and of course the tartex-lover.

    Since you find yourself in different situations all the time and the fact that you may end up “coming out” more then once, I belive you grow stronger from that. And maybe along the way you find that beeing gay is just yet another side of the most wonderful person you are.

    ps! I let my friend (the karaoke dragqueen) do what he wanted with my hair. I am now a redhead 😉 There´s a picture in my blog. And if you wish to read any of it, I´d be happy to translate it for you.

  3. Jay on October 17, 2006 at 9:44 pm Reply

    Was I a Christian struggling with homosexuality or a homosexual struggling with Christianity?

    I like this quote, and I like to think that I’m both.

  4. grace on October 17, 2006 at 11:04 pm Reply

    This is why (well, one reason) I love you so much! You are willing and open to the leading of the Spirit. You know that I believe you are a Christian first and foremost….and then there’s all the other stuff. I can see that your faith drives your decisions and your choices….this is one of the key elements of Christianity that most folks seem to miss….and you get it. It seems so many in “Christian” circles are way more concerned with the choices/decisions/actions/behaviors of others when they have plenty of work to do on themselves.

    love ya!
    pam

  5. Gregg Koskela on October 18, 2006 at 12:13 am Reply

    This is a phenomenal post! It models and challenges us to honesty, authenticity, and a true embrace of who we are…and to speak it in front of others. Thank you.

  6. Anonymous on October 18, 2006 at 12:29 am Reply

    This post really speaks to my condition, too.

    –Tom D.

  7. Peterson Toscano on October 18, 2006 at 6:01 am Reply

    Alex, I think Quakers, at least unprogrammed Quakers, do not speak much about their faith more so because of a cultural norm that somehow got established along the way. Other Quakers could give you the background much better than I could. But there is an aversion to evangelism that goes back to the days of the early American settlers who tried to convert the native people who were here already.

    Early Quaker recognized that God was already at work in the native people. I think with modern liberal Quakerism that respect God in everyone else, I think there has been a reluctance to impose our spirituality on others since so many abuses were done to others who were evangized.

    As a result, many young people from Quaker homes complain that they have no clue what their parents believe. They see the lives of adults that speak to spiritual realities, but the words are so rarely spoken.

    Perhaps because of my evangelical background, I feel it is imperative to talk about my faith, and end up talking about my Quaker faith quite often (as you know first hand).

    I really wish more liberal Quakers would speak up about what they believe. This is happening more through the Quaker bloggers. You can read Quaker posts at the site http://www.quakerquaker.org.

  8. Peterson Toscano on October 18, 2006 at 6:04 am Reply

    anna harry potter, I must see this red hair on you! what is your blog address?

    pam, thank you for those kind words, i know you mean them and I feel affirmed by them.

    jay, that is a lovely way of putting it. really brings out the complexity of the reality we face as people with same-sex attractions who also love Jesus.

    gregg and tom, thanks for visiting, so glad you find the post one that speaks to you.

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