Category: family

Half In / Half Out

Over the weekend I got to thinking about some people I know who are partially out as LGBT. They have a few on-line friends who know they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and maybe one or two non-net friends who know. Many of the most significant people in their lives do not know. Perhaps that is the best way for them right now, but I have found that living too long like that can drain us of life.

As I prayed about that I wrote the following poem.

We speak riddles to ourselves,
in whispers,
“I am OK”

But strapped to our backs
We bear a wardrobe,
the opposite of that portal to Narnia,
a closet that dumps us into a smaller world,
a cramped, musty place of shadows.

“I don’t want to upset my mother.”
“My brother will never understand.”
“No need to flaunt it.”
“It’s only a tiny
part of me.”

A part muffled in a velvet-lined padded valise,
Jammed in the back of a wardrobe,
besides dusty boxes of dreams and desires,
A place where we speak riddles to ourselves.

Premiere of New Film about Ex-Gay Movement

Someone has to make the mockumentary, Not Another Ex-Gay Movie! The film festival circuit is about to be glutted with a rush of ex-gay docs and films. Although I have yet to see it, I hear wonderful things about Jessica Yu’s film Protagonist, which features four very different men who each follow a similar journey. One of the subjects is Mark Pierpoint, a former ex-gay and ex-gay minister.

The newest ex-gay doc to hit the screens is Bill Hussung and Mishara Canino’s Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-Gay Movement which premieres March 29th at the Birmingham SHOUT Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

CHASING THE DEVIL: INSIDE THE EX-GAY MOVEMENT is a feature documentary film presenting an unflinching look at the personal journeys of four people who claim to have changed their sexual orientation from gay to straight. Their stories mark the first time documentary filmmakers have been allowed inside the “ex-gay” movement and provide an empathetic and, at times, devastating portrait of those who claim homosexuality is an illness that can be healed

You will see lots of familiar (overexposed?) faces in the film–Richard Cohen, Joanne Highley, Me. You will also see some new folks who speak about their experiences for the very first time including my father, Pete Toscano. He agreed to sit down with Bill and Mishara to tell his story as the father of someone who was once ex-gay. I was in the other room when they did the interview so as to give him privacy, but he told me afterwards that he shared about the painful and surreal experience of attending Love in Action’s Family and Friends Weekend.

I interviewed my dad once about the experience. He said,

We went to the meeting and had no idea of what we were going into. We met a lot of parents in the same category. Lots of kids had no parents there.

Everything seemed to be on the up and up at first. Yeah, but we found out these things aren’t so. I said to them, “You can’t change a zebra’s stripes.” They didn’t go along with me, and they were very aggravated with me for saying so. Some people go through two colleges and they don’t have common sense. I hate when people keep things locked up.

They made me feel that I failed you. That’s how I felt after they got through with me. That’s how they made all the parents feel.

More and more diverse voices have begun to emerge from the many people who have been negatively affected by ex-gay programs like Love in Action. Former and current spouses of ex-gays or ex-gay survivors, former ex-gay leaders and now parents are speaking out. When each person comes forward and tells their story, we get a fuller picture of the many ways that ex-gay experiences cause more harm than good.

You can read an interview with the film’s producer Bill Hussung here and watch the trailer below.

Friday Night Ex-Gay Entertainment

In the Love in Action ex-gay residentatl program, Friday night was movie night. Yeah, we got to see one movie a week in the form of a video (they didn’t have a DVD—it was over 10 years ago). In the following YouTube video I reveal the secrets behind watching films in the Big House. Find out what’s in, what’s out, and why Biblical films were banned!


Weekend in Photos

The weekend I still have long to go, but I doubt I will take more photos as I will be quite busy tomorrow. On Friday I was in NYC and then today I was in the Catskills (about 100 miles NW of NYC) where I visited my dad and worked on my cottage. I have been trailed by a TV producer and film crew for an upcoming feature digging up my life in a difficult but also helpful way. Got lots of work done on the cottage while I also cleaned up some emotional clutter from the past. Amazing the amount of work I got done once the film crew showed up 😛

The photos below are some artsy NYC shots, Christmas decorations by my dad on his house (it has a Candyland sort of theme to it IMHO), photos of my dad’s cat (which was very lovey dovey) and a photo of my cottage. No time for more text. Must get to bed.

Autumn Musings

It would be a perfect autumn day if it weren’t so darn hot and if the trees had actually begun to change color. Usually Columbus Day Weekend (a dreadful commemoration of genocide and greed) is the “peak” weekend for seeing the trees. With the high temperatures and lack of rain, the trees remain green, or simply turn brown and quickly drop to the ground.

I just put up some more performances over at my performance schedule. Others are in the works, but I don’t have enough details to post them yet. I purposely have cut back on my presentations this autumn, in large part because I have begun to work on some new projects and need more time at home to dig into them.

One of these is my Transfigurations play, which looks at the lives and stories of transgender, genderqueer and gender-different in the Bible and the world today. I shared some of this material at Greenbelt and received an enthusiastic response. Ultimately I hope to turn the piece into a musical. I am scheduled to do a version of it on November 19 at University of Massachusetts at Amherst. (I did Homo No Mo there last year and fell in love with the folks at the Stonewall LGBT Resource Center).

In addition to Transfigurations, I have begun researching two other projects which may very well influence my life for the next couple years. I see a time of transition ahead. I already announced that I will retire Homo No Mo in winter of 2008 (just talked to a film director/editor about a DVD version!) Since the summer with the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference and all, I feel I have finally purged my system of the ex-gay movement (it’s taken about 10 years). Time to move beyond ex-gay and to embrace the life I stopped living at age 17. What do I want to be when I grow up? Do I want to grow up?

Of course I will continue to tell my story and support ex-gay survivors, but I cannot go my whole life as the “Homo No Mo Guy”. That would not be healthy for me. So much more to me and so many other passions. Plus so many other survivors are coming forward, I am quickly becoming joyfully redundant.

A year ago my mother died, and her life and lessons inform me so much each day. In fact, a decision she made 25 years ago helped me out tremendously the other day. Since her passing, I feel so much strength, comfort and support. I also have grown closer to my dad. I feel my mom left me many gifts, but she left me probably the greatest gift a parent can leave, should they choose to do so–the gift to love me unconditionally woven together with her belief in me to live my life well. The love and faith sustain me and give me courage.

So the trees are not their normal brilliant colors and the birds don’t know what to do with themselves and we continue an autumn heatwave, but I feel like my life moves along at the right pace and the right season.

How To Be Free

I’ve begun reading Tom Hodgkinson’s How To Be Free, a super book about how to live life fully. The description on the back of the book states,

If you’ve ever wondered why you bother to go to work, or why so much consumer culture is crap, then this book is for you. Looking to history, literature and philosophy for inspiration, Tom Hodgkinson provides a joyful blueprint for a simpler and freer way of life. Filled with practical tips as well as inspiring reflections, here you can learn how to throw off the shackles of anxiety, bureaucracy, debt, governments, housework, supermarkets, waste and much else besides.

Some of the chapters include:

  • Break the Bonds of Boredom
  • The Tyranny of Bills and the Freedom of Simplicity
  • Cast Off Your Watch
  • Smash the Fetters of Fear
  • Escape Debt
  • Submit No More to the Machine, Use Your Hands
  • Live Mortgage-Free, Be a Happy Wanderer
  • Stop Working, Start Living

I think you get the idea. You can also check out the author’s website, The Idler.

The book fits in well with how I have chosen to live my life the past three years since I left the Watkinson School and gone off to do my own thing. Living without a car, in a smaller apartment, with minimal expenses has freed me to travel the world (and get to meet some of YOU who read this blog 😉

As I look to the future, I feel much more in control of my life than ever before. I cannot imagine going back to a 9-5 job like I did for years before I arrived at Watkinson. Even going back to a school, even a cool one like Watkinson, seems too constrictive for me right now.

Today marks the one year anniversary of my mom’s death. Strange how near she has felt to me all year long. I miss her tremendously, but I also feel closer to her than I ever imagined during her illness. Those people we love become part of us even when we are separated by all sorts of distances. I learned much from my mom’s life and from her death. These lessons give me a certain fearlessness and stability that I previously had not known.

Also, ever since the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, I feel I have been released, or I have released myself to live life on a new level. I feel as if I have driven out demons from my past–the quest to be ex-gay, the oppression of a religious system that operates from place of fear, the resistance to be authentic.

I feel as if I have landed back into my body after decades of living as a disembodied, lost soul. Through my performances of Homo No Mo I purged my system of toxins and helped sort out what I had done to my life and let others do to me. I feel free and a hunger to be freer. The best gift I can give to mom and to myself is to live well. I feel excited to see what that looks like.
Thanks Trevor for taking this photo of me on top of the canal tunnel in the Cotswolds.

So Much Ex-Gay/Survivor News So Little Time

I go off-line for one day, and the e-mails and rss feeds and google alerts just pile up!

Here is a little round-up of what is going on out there. First I want to mention Jim Burroway’s post about the “Lesbian Gangs”. This story provides perfect fodder for urban legends and gets spread like a virus by all sorts of folks who talk about truth and family values.

Now I admit we actually have a huge lesbian gang problem in my home state of Connecticut. Some of my closest lesbian friends are gang members, well, actually it is more of a parents’ support meeting and playgroup for their kids, but still these gals are pretty severe. They make their kids go to bed by 8 pm!

  • Ethan Jacobs at Bay Windows just published a detailed piece about the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement with lots of coverage about the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference (ans especially the Chalk Talk), the public apology by former Exodus leaders, the dinner with current Exodus leaders and the on-going Survivor Initiative organized by Soulforce.
  • David Foucher, who also writes for a New England based publication, Edge, published the second in his four part series about the Ex-Gay Movement with stories from both current ex-gays and survivors. Here is Part One and Part Two.
  • The Miami New Times published a LONG article entitled Scared Straight The religious right’s ex-gay movement is scouting local recruits. It is pretty extensive with coverage of both the history of the ex-gay movement and current events. They even mention Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg). I have not been able to read through the whole thing yet, but they try to reveal the human stories behind the people seeking change. (hat tip to the person to who told me about this article–was it you Tom D?)
  • Eugene Wagner at Ex-Gay Watch raises some Questions for Exodus. Also at his personal blog, Eugene posted Rigid, in which he talks about PFOX’s recent negative comments towards ex-gay survivors and something called a Stage Three Mindset.
  • The New Statesman (UK) has put out a special GAY issue to mark the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the change in legislation affecting same-gender loving people in the UK. They contacted me to submit a piece to them for the on-line edition, so look out for it. Check out my piece I am what I am and it’s not about choice (and like my sexual orientation, I didn’t get to choose the title either)
  • Disputed Mutability has begun the first of a series of post in which she looks at the ex-gays and ex-ex-gays: Exgays vs. Exexgays (yes, the title sounds like Celebrity Death Match but I know that is not her style). I appreciate her insights and the care in which she writes.

Lots of news got generated as a result of the Survivor Initiative in Memphis outside of Love in Action.

(hat tips to David Christie and Barry James Moore for providing links)

Click here to get links to the collages and statements presented David and Brandon on Tuesday.

  • Also Bruce Garrett came to Memphis to witness the press conference and documented some of it through photos on his blog. I particularly love the photos of the young people and the posters they saved from the protests of the last two years. They presented one of these to Brandon.

The primary message I hope emerges from the press conference on Tuesday is that going through a process to change or suppress your sexuality has caused much more harm than good for many of the people who attempted it. Sure folks who assist are often well-meaning and sincere, but that doesn’t negate the harm that they assisted us in bringing upon ourselves and our families. The Survivor Initiative serves as more than an opening to dialog (although dialog has begun on several fronts). The initiative serves as a witness and a warning.

I just got an e-mail about the trailer for an upcoming documentary, Gay No More? that focuses on the Ex-Gay Movement as well as Ex-Gay Survivors. (Some quotes by one of the filmmaker appeared on Page Six of the NY Post, hat tip to Joe My God–who is not the same as Joe G.). I sat with the camera crew some weeks ago, but they also met up with my dad and interviewed him too. You can catch a little bit of him talking about zebras as his cat tries to upstage him.

Weekend in the Mountains

Ah, I had a lovely weekend in the Catskill Mountains (New York State) visiting my dad. Steve Boese joined me for the excursion which included meandering meals, lots of lively conversation and little road trips on country roads.

Steve even looked in at the cottage that I own which sits right by my Dad’s house. (photo is of me in front of it when I was age seven) The cottage now needs some work after the former tenants let it go, but I have such a clear vision for the place–simple, rustic, comfortable and designed for hospitality.

I envision a table filled with food and surrounded by interesting, creative, thoughtful people enjoying each other’s company (folks like YOU). On the two acres of land I also have plans to plant an orchard and loads of wild flowers and let some of the field go back to a natural state to provide a habitat for the local animals that find themselves getting edged off the land by developers.

All in all a relaxing weekend which was still wonderfully productive. I am reading a book I cannot put down–Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman. (Thanks Tom D for the book! Hope you had a GREAT 40th birthday) Ehrman raises the all important questions that I had been terrified to ask for years, How did we get our Bible and just how accurate is it?

Over at bXg (Beyond Ex-Gay), Christine and I have updated some new pages. See new narratives–Barbara Leavitt, Lester Leavitt, Eric Leocadio. And read the updated question of the month (ok so it is more like a quarterly feature). Christine also posted the next question, so check it out and tell us what you think. Later this week Steve will have our Collages page up.

Tomorrow some ex-gay survivors will present their collages to the Love in Action staff after sharing their stories outside of the LIA building. David Christie is one of these brave folkks. This is the first time he has told his story in such a public way. Please pray, send warm thoughts and comfort to these guys as they tell their stories. It is not easy work. Also pray that John Smid, the head of LIA and his staff have ears to hear what these survivors have to say. The purpose of the event is not to bash LIA but to talk about the harm that can and does come because of ex-gay conversion therapy in its many forms.

It is too soon to announce anything yet, but be on the lookout–I will have a big announcement in August. (No I am not pregnant, but feel free to speculate–you always come up with the most unlikely and delightful ideas.)

Oh, and here is silly video of Jose Luis and me in Madrid in May. (I have no idea why I lower my voice so much when I speak Spanish–raro)

Straight Spouse and Gay Husband Featured in Press

Barbara Leavitt is a straight woman who married her husband over two decades ago in a Mormon Temple (Latter Day Saints–LDS). They spoke the other day outside of Evergreen International, an ex-gay program in Salt Lake City. Lester turned to Evergreen for help for his same-sex attractions. The Salt Lake Tribune published a piece about Barbara and Lester.

When she married her husband Lester in a 1981 LDS temple wedding, Barbara Leavitt had big plans.

“I was going to be the best wife ever,” she said this week with a small, rueful laugh.
But Barbara always knew there was a part of Lester she’d never reach, some secret, private place filled with thoughts and feelings he’d never share.

In 2006, after 25 years of marriage, it all came out – or rather, Lester did. For most of his life, Lester struggled with his attraction to other men, avidly seeking help and reading literature from organizations that claimed to help gay people become heterosexual or to help weaken attraction to others of the same sex.

The material he received did more harm than good, Lester said, which is why the couple demonstrated outside Evergreen International’s Salt Lake City headquarters on Tuesday morning. Evergreen is a resource for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that, according to its Web site, helps people “diminish same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual behavior.”

When Lester came out to her, she went to the church for support, but got the exact opposite.

In her pain and confusion she turned to her church friends for support and peace. Instead, she said, with rare exceptions, she found only overwhelming fear and discrimination.

“I was told, ‘It’s too bad you can’t love Lester anymore, and that he won’t be the father of your children for all eternity,’ ” she said in her speech.

She added that she received hateful e-mails from church members she barely knew, condemning her for standing by her husband. For Lester, the alienation was more intense.

Read all of the Salt Lake Tribune’s piece A Call for more “Christlike” Approach
The Express Gay News also published an extensive piece about the Leavitt’s, their children and Lester’s partner, Mickey Rowe.

Doin´ Time in Madrid

I arrived in Madrid, Spain last night to visit my brother and his wife (mi cuñada) for a few days. Today is my brother´s birthday (su cumpliaños), and we celebrated with a big lunch in their new flat in the North of the city.

All day long I have spoken Spanish and really should be blogging over at Dos Equis, the blog en Español that Adriana Cabrera and I co-write. Speaking Spanish is much more forgiving than speaking Swedish. Ugh, Swedish! Svensk! In Spanish if you mispronounce a word, people typically know what you are trying to say, but in Swedish, you end up saying an altogether different word (and somehow one that is always embarassing).

On this trip I have proven that change is possible. I started out with US dollars, changed those for British pound sterling, then moved on briefly to the Danish krone, then to the Swedish krona, then back to the pound and now onto the Euro. I am not sure what has gotten a bigger workout, my language skills or my math skills. I say let´s bring on the one-world government and currency and get it over with!

My brother has a vast DVD collection. In fact, we couldn´t be more different in that regard. I own no more than 10 DVDs, most of them anime or things people gave me that I have never watched (except of course Hedwig!). He has a library of over 250 films, including the entire Disney Classics collection (even though they have no children). Most impressive is collection of actual movie classics. His favorite is The Philadephia Story with Katherine Hepburn.

While I was with Spädbarn Alex and Spädbarn Daniel in Stockholm a few weeks ago, we went to Moderna Museet (Museum of Modern Art). There we watched some silent films including Charlie Chaplin´s Modern Times, which I think was very much inspired by Fritz Lang´s 1927 film, Metropolis. Breathtaking in its humor. I learned so much about comedy in the few minutes we stood there watching.

It is getting close to 10 PM, so that means we will have dinner in the next hour or so. Such a strange time table here in Spain. Tomorrow I will have lunch with a former Exodus leader who is now happily partnered with another man here in Spain. I can´t wait to tell him all about bXg.

On Saturday my brother, his wife and I will go North to Bilboa for a few days. I´ve always wanted to go to that city in the Basque Country. Okay, wine and gazpacho is on the table, so I am off. Hasta pronto.

But first some video.

Here is a clip from Modern Times