How did I survive gay conversion therapy?? Theater and Quakers Helped

Quakers Speak So Thoughtfully

QuakerSpeak-Logo-No-SubheaderI recently sat down with Jon Watts over at Quaker Speak. He creates wonderful videos about Quaker life and practice. They are all so thoughtful and insightful. A recent one featured George Lakey focused on non-violent responses to terrorism. I have watched it three times already.

You can also learn about Discernment or about the famous Quaker, John Woolman, or testimonies of people talking about their first time in Quaker meetings.

An Odd Duck of a Quaker

QuakerMan-sI love the series and watch all of the videos, so you would think I’d be thrilled when Jon contacted me and asked if he could film me. I wasn’t. I feel like such an oddball Quaker, like in Sesame Street when they sang, “One of these Things is Not Like the Others.”

My form of queer performance art goes down well with Quakers, but I did not think that it was a good fit for this sober, reflective wonderful web series.

In fact, the first time we attempted to film an interview, I had a dreadful cold and could only talk in a deep wet voice that sounded like a cross between Harvey Fierstein and Bea Arthur put through an audio filter on the frog setting.

The Reluctant Performance Artist

We tried again. Jon really wanted me to perform some of my monologues from my shows, but I resisted. Maybe because I like to be in control of my theater and to perform it in front of a live audience. While the content of shows may not change from performance to performance, each one is tailor-made for an audience. There is something extra special about the live presentation that can’t be captured on video.

Homo Nomo Halfway HouseSo in our interview I only answered his questions and kept my characters and monologues to myself. He then asked permission to view my autobiographical play about my ex-gay experiences. It is something I have long ago retired and only now perform one short scene from it. It made sense to me that he go back and view it and see if it can be part of the interview.

Jon expertly edited in scenes from my play Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, which was filmed in Memphis, TN back in 2008 and edited by the wonderful filmmaker, Morgan Jon Fox. Morgan also created the documentary, This is What Love in Action Looks Like. Jon Watts then wove in the play with the interview.

Trauma, Recovery, Survival

For the Quaker Speak video Jon asked me lots of questions about my years trying to de-gay myself through all sorts of conversion therapy programs and ex-gay Christian ministries.

He was especially interested in how I survived. Ah, the role of Quakers in my life along with theater helped bring me back to like. I mention Diane Weinholtz in Hartford, CT, an out and proud Quaker who first told me about the Quaker meeting and worship. Thank goodness she did because I was desperate for a spiritual home even as I was completely unsure of my faith.

Recovery from trauma takes time. Sharing our stories can be liberating. It can also traumatize us anew. I find I speak less and less about my conversion therapy experience, but I do recognize the importance of the story and especially the lessons I learned in unpacking it.

Here is the video Jon Watts created: How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement with Theater. Visit the Quaker Speak Site for full transcript.

Want to see all of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House?

Download Now Available.


This post has 2 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Farris on May 9, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    I discovered you through the Quaker Speak weekly videos.
    You are incredible. A brilliant representative of the type of genuine people with spirit and attitude that I’ve found in my meeting.
    Never stop shining.
    Elizabeth in New Zealand

  2. Peterson Toscano on May 10, 2016 at 12:14 am

    Thank you, Elizabeth! I appreciate you taking the time to leave a message. That means a lot to me.

Leave a Comment