This trip to Portland I have presented in some wonderful places, but the extremes between some of them surprise even me. A new Friend, Noël, pointed this out to me this evening after my show. She was the only person who witnessed me at both of my presentations today–and they couldn’t have been different.
This morning I spoke and performed for the middle and high school Sunday School class at West Hills Friends Church. This is a Christ-centered Quaker church that is part of Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM).
I don’t know that much about NWYM, but I think it is accurate to say that they are not yet open and affirming of LGBT folks. Like many Evangelical Christian groups, they have work to do. But there are always pockets of people who can see that the church has to catch up with God and that it is time to open the doors to LGBT folks.
So there I was talking about identity, starting discussions and doing some excerpts, (we were all very tired and sluggish–I had a show to a packed house at the Metropolitan Community Church the night before, and the kids were up messaging their friends and playing video games or doing whatever young teens do until 2 am).
One point that came out nice and clear is that the important thing is for people to be true to themselves. If you are straight, great, be straight and if a person of the same-sex asks you out, be flattered, but say, “no thanks I am not interested.” If you are not sure of where your attractions lie, don’t worry about it. It sometimes takes time to figure out who we are. The important thing is that we have quality relationships in our lives.
Then this evening I swung to the polar opposite extreme. I performed at Darcelle’s, a famous drag club currently celebrating its 40th Anniversary. You must be 21 or older to get in the door. Think old-school drag (is there yet new school drag???) with crass humor, over the top wigs and a decor that screams 1960’s lounge. And as I waited backstage and helped Ms. Darcelle herself by pulling up her girdle, I thought Peterson, you have a nutty and wonderful life.
Okay so at Darcelle’s they serve drinks throughout the evening as people sit at little cocktail tables and talk back to the performers. Darcelle opened for me herself with jokes that even made me blush (and that is saying something). And then I presented Queer 101 which looks at homophobia, identity and activism through the words and lives of lesbian and gay poets. It is funny but also very serious touching on issues of racism, fem phobia, intersexuality, God and hate crimes.
And in the midst of it all at one point when Chad gets rejected by Tony (who is also gay but thinks that Chad is too fem for him), you could have heard a pin drop. And then Earthel brought it home with deep wisdom and warmth.
So this morning I was a Sunday School teacher and this evening I got to perform at a drag club, and in both I experienced God and some wonderful people, some of whom may very well needed to hear something different about LGBT issues. I feel very rich tonight, rich in experience and rich in people.
Through it all a bunch of people have been praying for me at my Quaker meeting and here in Portland. This kind of stuff can’t happen on my own. I really need the support of my friends and Friends. Thanks all. (Now off to bed ’cause I still have one more show left to present!)