Category: Media

The tide is turning. Republicans concerned about climate change

Just like with LGBTQ rights, it is inevitable that Republicans and Conservatives accept the reality of a changing climate and the risks it poses for us as a nation and for people around the world. While many despair over the partisan fighting over the reality of climate change, behind closed doors more and more Republican lawmakers admit that we have a problem with a disruptive and rapidly changing climate. Some of these folks just came out! 11 Republican members of the US Congress signed onto the Gibson Resolution. They signal their concern about climate change and issue a call to action.

What is wonderful about the resolution is how it provides a Conservative framework and language around global warming and extreme weather. This is essential for Conservative citizens to wrap their heads around this issue. They need to hear their messengers frame the message for them.

Here is a funny yet informative audio clip starring Elizabeth Jeremiah, one of my zany characters. She is an Evangelical preacher lady who weighs in on the Gibson Resolution. Even if you could care less about climate change or the resolution, you may enjoy how Elizabeth Jeremiah asserts herself. (transcript below)

News: The Gibson Resolutions–Republicans Addressing Climate Change

Republican member of Congress member, is concerned about climate change.

Republican member of Congress member, is concerned about climate change.

Our climate news story is about Republicans and climate action. I know most news stories you hear about Republicans are about climate denial and climate inaction. But there is a move afoot by Republican lawmakers to change all that. Back in Episode 27 we told you that Republican US congressman Carlos Curbelo from Florida voiced his concerns about sea-level rise and expressed a commitment to find common ground to address the causes of climate change—namely pollution. Now Curbelo along with 10 fellow Republicans just issued a resolution to address climate change. Led by Representative Chris Gibson, a Republican from Update New York, members of the US congress from six states signaled their concern about climate change. They also expressed their willingness to seek solutions to curb pollution and protect citizens and the US economy.

The resolution draws on Conservative values in a call to climate action. It is worth sharing some of the key points with you. And helping me with this is Elizabeth Jeremiah.

Hello Elizabeth, how are you?

Yes, this is Elizabeth Jeremiah from the Elizabeth Jeremiah Global Worldwide Ministries in Jesus. I am blessed that God has given me this opportunity. Ok Peterson, let’s see what these so-called Republicans are resolving. How about you read them out and I’ll comment.

OK. here goes:
# 1-Whereas it is a conservative principle to protect, conserve, and be good stewards of our environment, responsibly plan for all market factors, and base our policy decisions in science and quantifiable facts on the ground;

Well, yes, I agree if they also include the Word of God. Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path. And yes, I agree with the stewardship part. We are just sojourners here. No one likes messy renters.

Republicans resolve to do something about climate change.

Republicans resolve to do something about climate change.

Next point: Whereas prudent, fact-based stewardship of our economy and our environment is a critical responsibility for all Americans in order to ensure that we preserve our great Nation for future generations;

Oh, I understand, this is a provision to ward against generational curses that will plague our children and our children’s children’s children. I suggest they also pray a hedge of protection.

Uh, next point. Whereas there has been a marked increase in extreme weather events across the United States, including more frequent heat waves, extreme precipitation, wildfires, and water scarcity;

Like that drought in California, Oh my avocado, and the drought in Guatemala, where I have friends who are missionaries and they tell me how the people there are suffering.

Whereas this has had noticeable, negative impacts that are expected to worsen in every region of the United States and its territories, including, longer and hotter heat waves, more severe storms, worsening flood and drought cycles, growing invasive species and insect problems, threatened native plant and wildlife populations, rising sea levels, and, when combined with a lack of proper forest management, increased wildfire risk;

Flooding in NYC during Superstorm Sandy

Flooding in NYC during Superstorm Sandy

It is the Plagues of Egypt all over again! Apparently I had been misinformed about this. I now understand that these extreme weather events and judgements have nothing to do with the increased legal activities of the homosexual. I believe this not because you are telling me or what the scientists have to say.. I know this now because The hip young new pastor at my church, Pastor Lance, who has the anointing and who looks like he is 12 years old and is a wonderful man of God actually preached on the wild notion that all this mess is a result of the out of control fossil fuel lifestyle. IN other words, pollution. You can hear it for yourself in his sermon on the YouTube. It’s called. They done poisoned the well.

Thanks, I’ll look into it.

#6 Whereas, if left unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate have the potential to adversely impact all Americans, hitting vulnerable populations hardest, harming productivity in key economic sectors such as construction, agriculture, and tourism, saddling future generations with costly economic and environmental burdens, and imposing additional costs on State and Federal budgets that will further add to the long-term fiscal challenges that we face as a Nation;

Strange though how they don’t mention how these consequences will affect the church of God which is under attack by liberal secular humanists who hate our freedoms in Christ. I bet they are going to propose lifting our sacred tax exempt status in order to foot the bill for all this. .
So what do they propose to do about it?

1 Resolved, That the House of Representatives commits to working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, (exceptionalism: Oh yes, that’s because according to the Bible and Ronald Reagan we are a city set on a hill) to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact. (Like the SUV parade they hold every year at the Warrior of God Men’s Prayer Conference. Those boys will even have to shut down their petroleum fountain show.)

Yeah I’m not sure what that is. But I do like the resolution. Elizabeth. It’s well worded and sounds like good news because if we are going to see robust action to address our climate crisis, we need all hands on deck, particularly Republicans. Right? It’s Good News.

Now Peterson don’t be culturally appropriating the phrase “Good News” which is a registered trademark of the Gospel of John.”

Well I think it is a good idea. So to the listener, if you live in the US in a Republican congressional district, I urge you to call or email your member of congress today and urge your representative to sign onto the Gibson Resolution. The more pressure we put on lawmakers, the more likely they will act.

Any final words Elizabeth?
I will let God have the final word: In 2 Chronicles 7:14 the Almighty God proclaims. If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Thank you Elizabeth. And we will keep track on further Republican climate action. Stay tuned.

Possessed by Marvin Bloom in the middle of an interview

The only known photo of Marvin Bloom

The only known photo of Marvin Bloom

I recently sat down for an interview with Tyler Sit from A Place to Start Church. Tyler asked me lots of questions including, What is so funny about climate change? I start to talk about how to keep people engaged in a discussion about climate change and how to use humor to help bring this about. Then just as I am answering his question BAM I am possessed by the spirit of Marvin Bloom.

Enjoy this short clip.

Myrna — The Pilot Episode. Watch NOW HERE on-line for limited time

(Exciting NEW TV pilot below you can watch NOW)

I have had the delicious privilege of getting to know Marlo Bernier. She had a long and successful career playing male parts on TV and in films before she came out female. Marlo sat for mini-interview here on this very blog. (Three short parts. Read it here, here, and here!)

Marlo Bernier, the mastermind behind Myrna

Marlo Bernier, the mastermind behind Myrna

Marlo and her team have created a network ready pilot of a new television program called Myrna. It is about a an actor who transitioned from male to female and now seeks to move forward in life, love, and career. I previewed the pilot some months back but was sworn to secrecy. It was hard because I wanted to tell all of my friends, particularly those with transition histories of their own, looking for new, quality entertainment created and performed by transgender people.

image

As I watched the first episode (on a train on my iPhone no less),  the depth and thoughtfulness of it impressed me, especially because it did not go in the directions I expected.  This is not a transition story, but a beautiful and at times hilarious human story of a woman who is finding her way in the world regardless if the world is ready for her and she is ready for it. It also provides insightful, at times biting and revealing commentary about the entertainment industry.

Through it all the character of Myrna (played by Bernier) shines through as a flawed, resilient, honest character. She reminds me of the best of Louie CK’s searing honest comedy that is consistently vulnerable but never self-indulgent or shaming. I expect this show to take off.

For a very limited time (Tonight through Thursday) you can watch it for free. So for the first time ever in a public platform: Myrna!

Click here to go to Vimeo and see it yourself.

Myrna – Pilot Episode – “You’re Not Done Yet” from Jennifer Fontaine on Vimeo.

Learn more about Mario Bernier, the creative genius behind Myrna, as she appears on “The Rebecca Juro Show” this Thursday. streaming live, 7-9pm EST, 4-6pm PST. Studio Call-In: (646)564-9501 Show Homepage: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rjuroshow

Art, Racism, and a Return to my Childhood

While traveling on the train across the USA, the standard questions people ask are:

  • Where are you going?
  • Why are you traveling?
  • What do you do?

The last one is the hardest to answer. What do I do? I’m a comic, a Bible scholar, a human rights activist concerned with LGBTQ rights and climate justice. Do I really want to say all that as we travel trapped in a rolling tin can for days together? Sometimes a seat mate will demand a joke or a debate or both.

Now thanks to WITF radio, a public station that serves much of Central Pennsylvania, I have a short interview I can reference fellow passengers. In fact, I should just save the interview on my phone, and when they ask, I can hit play while I waddle off to the loo.

The interview also reveals the roots to much of my activism, roots that run back to my earliest days around the dinner table at Grandma Toscanos’ home. I come from a very mixed extended family where people were treated differently because of their race, ethnicity, and class–and it wasn’t pretty. It did teach me early on how the world works–privilege and power, distrust and disenfranchisement. Through the years since, I keep discovering the same systems of discrimination in the Evangelical Church, the LGBTQ “community,” and most recently with climate change.

Joe Ulrich does an excellent job of distilling our 25 minute interview into 3.5 minutes and provides some great music to go along with it. In fact, I learned a thing or two about music and editing from listening to the episode. Enjoy!

Responding to NPR’s Ex-Gay Puff Piece

These days I stay out of the ex-gay fray. I spent far too many years enduring the ex-gay lifestyle, then for nearly a decade I processed the harm that gay reparative therapy brought to me and so many others. In 2008 I retired my one-person comic exposé of an ex-gay boot camp, Doin’ Time in the Homo Ho Mo Halfway House, and focused my performance energy on exploring the many gender non-conforming Bible characters. Most recently I am playing considering LGBTQ response to climate change.

Perhaps I should have gone to Quaker Meeting for Worship with my husband, Glen, on Sunday morning, but I stayed home instead to attend the film Trans that the local Unitarian Church was showing in the early afternoon. Since I have elected to stay off-line on Sundays (Ah, it’s been glorious, like living in 1992 all over again and enjoying books and music and letter writing without the tyranny of Twitter), I listened to our local NPR station as I puttered around the kitchen.

I was shocked to hear the story of a man who liked men but married a woman because of his faith in Jesus. He is a pastor, and while he did not like to use the word “sin” when talking about gays, his message was the same old tired anti-LGBTQ dribble that certain types of churches and Christian organizations have been dishing out for decades. Having gone down the same route myself, I heard through the kinder gentler language the thumping heart of the anti-LGBTQ message. Rachel Martin, the NPR host probed a little with her questions, but did not challenge the story with any facts about how medical associations worldwide have denounced gay reparative therapy and the harm that comes from suppressing one’s orientation and gender differences.

Since I was living off the web for the day though, I needed to pause and not respond on-line immediately. I filled my day with other things that nourished me and connected with LGBTQ people and allies in my community. The next day I had multiple Facebook messages about the segment, and lively discussion ensued. I may have the most diverse collection of Facebook friends including some who still identify as ex-gay or who are straight and married to an ex-gay. They say they are happy, and it works for them.

Having friends who have a different worldview, who listen to news from sources that sound like science fiction to me, softens me to think about the humans behind the rhetoric. It helps me to attack a message without dehumanizing my opponent. Writing an article for the Huffington Post about the NPR “Puff Piece” (pardon the pun), I kept my ex-gay friends and their spouses in mind. I also thought of my former self who was once fiercely committed to destroying the gay part of me and truly believed this was a holy act. Holding onto these tenderly did not drain the passion or clarity from my denunciation of the message being broadcast. Rather it helped fuse my head with my heart.

Here is my HuffPost article: It Gets Boring: NPR Features Same Old Ex-Gay Story

And here is a video I produced some time ago in which I explain the many reasons I spent so many years desperately hoping to de-gay myself.

WVIA ArtScene Interview–comedy, climate change, and funny voices

In our local area we are fortunate to have WVIA Radio, a public radio station that still offers local programming. One of these is ArtScene with the host, Erika Funke, who records an interview with someone then edits it, adding music, quotes, and commentary to make a nice final product. It airs weekdays at 11:00 am.

I had the privilege of sitting with Erika recently for an interview that aired this week. In it I got to talk a lot about being a character actor and fusing art with activism. I spoke about my new play, Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat? and even gave some samples, moving in and out of character during the interview. I also spoke very candidly about climate change and why I feel hope. I also got to I explain in detail the Citizens Climate Lobby’s approach to a carbon fee and dividend and gave a shout-out to the Sunbury Chapter, the smallest CCL Chapter in the country. Homo No Mo?!?

Erika wove in great music and lots of interesting information about Walt Whitman, one of the subjects of my new play. And what an interviewer. She sat in her chair shooting questions at me and then, like an orchestra conductor, she egged me on to get the best possible performance out of me. I don’t know who was more animated, me with my characters or Erika with her enthusiastic interview style.

I like the final product a lot, and wanted to share it with you. Enjoy ArtScene and a chat about performance art, climate change, and funny voices.

And if you want to hear more funny voices, climate comedy, and hope for the future, check out the Climate Stew, the global warming podcast that’s not afraid to be funny (or gay)

Doin’ It at Home

“It” meaning my perforamnce work. I live in Hartford, CT, but I rarely perform there these days. That will change this week.

After a whirlwind surge through the US (Tue in Seattle, Wed in Miami, Thur in Hartford) I return home. Tomorrow morning at 9:00 am I will be on our local public radio station WNPR for the ‘Where We Live’ program to talk about my Transfigurations play. Scott Turner Schofield will also be featured to discuss his upcoming performances next week in Hartford. The Hartford Advocate did a piece on the two of us–queer performance artists doing transgender related theater (see http://www.hartfordadvocate.com/article.cfm?aid=14514 )

Tomorrow evening I will perform Transfigurations in Hartford, technically a CT premiere after nearly two years of presenting it throughout the US, and in Canada, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Malta and South Africa.

I feel excited about presenting it to folks in the city where I live.

Former Ex-Gays Speak Out & Continue to Organize

There has been lots of ex-gay related news the past few weeks.

  • A wave of news stories both in the US and UK gay and mainstream news centered around Bryce Faulkner.  It’s been well over a week since anything has been published about this story.  We all hope Bryce is well wherever he may be right now.
  • We have also heard stories of gay exorcisms in the US and in England.
  • The APA released their findings after spending two years looking at gay reparative therapy and concluded that it does not work and should not be attempted because it can likely cause harm.
  • And last week, amidst reports of financial difficulties, Focus on the Family announced they will no longer host Love Won Out, a conference that targets parents of queer and questioning youth and ministers who work with youth, and has handed it over to Exodus to run instead.

Phew! That’s a lot of news to digest. As an ex-gay survivor, I have been especially interested in the many ex-gay survivors, particularly folks in their 20’s, who have been telling their stories on-line and in the media.

In an article for Edge, Great Lakes Regional Editor Joseph Erbentraut interviewed ex-gay survivors Jacob Wilson (age 23, Iowa), Vincent Cervantes (age 22, California),  and Daniel Gonzales (age 29, Colorado).

Gonzales ultimately abandoned the teachings as he independently realized that his homosexuality was “neither something that needed to or could be changed.” He, as well as Cervantes and Wilson, now participate in a group called Beyond Ex-Gay, a network of ex-gay survivors who share their testimonials with hopes it will dissuade others from seeking harmful therapy.

“These programs are everywhere and so few people know they exist,” Wilson said.” For us to come together and be one voice saying that these ex-gay programs do more harm that good, telling people that you’re OK being gay and OK the way you are, I believe saves lives.”

Read the whole article here. Vince Cervantes has also announced that he will appear on the Tyra Banks Show in a program that will look at ex-gay treatment and particularly the awful world of gay exorcisms.

Some of you may remember the name of another ex-gay survivor, James Stabile, who dramatically got caught up into the ex-gay world with a fanfare of Christian media grandstanding his “conversion.”  Stabile eventually sorted himself out and shared his story of how he fell prey to anti-gay religious teachings. Now at peace with his gay orientation and his faith, he recently announced that he has started Love Actually,  a local support group in Dallas, TX for others who have been through ex-gay ministries and treatment.

“I thought, there has to be a place you can go if you have been in straight camp,” he says. “Somewhere you can be brought back into who you are and feel loved.”

It was an experience he really needed because, although Stabile identifies as gay, he says he felt like he didn’t quite fit in with the community after his experiences in reparative therapy, and after announcing he was straight on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club.”

“I didn’t feel like I fit in the gay community, but I was not straight,” he said.
He says he found an online home at  BeyondExGay.com, where he first started to realize he was not alone, that there are many others like him who’ve been through the same process and “came out gay all over.”

“Love Actually is a place people can come to and know they are not alone, they are loved and loved by God,” Stabile says.

Read the whole article over at Dallas Voice.

Christine Bakke and I founded Beyond Ex-Gay in April 2007.  In addition to adding over 100 pages of content to the site we have  helped to organize gatherings for ex-gay survivors in Irvine, CA, Nashville, TN, Denver, CO, Memphis, TN and Barcelona, Catalonia. We are connecting with hundreds of ex-gay survivors in North America, Europe and beyond. Some of these feel it is important to publicly share their stories to serve as a witness of what they encountered and as a warning to others who are considering gay reparative therapy or ex-gay ministry for themselves or a loved one.  In so doing they are helping to reshape public discourse about these treatments and ministries.

If you have not done so yet, check out this Brian Murphy’s film about the first Ex-Gay Survivor conference which was sponsored by Beyond Ex-Gay and Soulforce:

The role of the Internet has helped tremendously in connecting ex-gay survivors with each other an in organizing our events and actions. I recently wrote in article for the Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide about the power of the web in regards to former consumers of ex-gay treatments and therapies (See ‘Ex-gay’ survivors go on-line.) In addition to our website, Beyond Ex-Gay has a Facebook group with over 400 members in it, most of whom are ex-gay survivors. Over 500 people have contacted us directly through our website, some still in ex-gay programs looking for answers and honest information.

Over the past six months Christine has made a special focus to create the Beyond Ex-Gay Community, an on-line social networking site specifically for survivors to connect with each other about their ex-gay experiences and their recovery from them. No doubt you will hear more about this effort over the next few months.

The next ex-gay survivor gathering will be November 20, 2009 in West Palm Beach, FL. Beyond Ex-Gay will organize the gathering as a pre-conference event leading up to the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, an event sponsored by Soul Force, The National Black Justice Coalition, Truth Wins Out, Box Turtle Bulletin and Equality Florida. This same weekend NARTH, an organization that claims that something is wrong with LGBT people and that they must be fixed through therapy, will hold their annual conference also in West Palm Springs. Last year several of us ex-gay survivors along with allies gathered in front of the NARTH conference held in Denver, CO as public witnesses to the potential harm that comes from gay reparative therapy.

I am especially pleased with the Anti-Heterosexism theme that Soulforce and the rest of the organizers have chosen for the pro-LGBTQ conference. In the discussions about gay reparative therapy so much of the focus gets stuck on religion. We have some who seem to think that the conflict facing a person of faith who is also attracted to the same gender is primarily and exclusively a religious conflict.   They maintain a stunning oversight of the vast heterosexist infrastructure that exists in practically every level of society–religious as well as secular exerting daily pressure on LGBT people to straighten up and be gender normative.

The belief that fuels much of the desire to go straight is that heterosexuals are more valuable than gays or lesbians or bisexuals. Heterosexuality is still presented as the idealized norm through virtually every institution, film, pop song, government policy and print or TV ads. In its simplest terms the message pumped out day after day is that Straight is Great! and anything else is “less than,” suspect, evil. No sexual orientation is superior to another. Being honest about who you are and your orientation and gender identity is great and worthy of support. It is also worthy of representation in the media, religious institutions, and public policy.

It is thrilling to see all of this organizing and speaking out by ex-gay survivors and allies. The power of personal testimony brings healing and it brings change. At one time when someone mentioned ex-gay therapy, the average person would say, “Oh, that’s crazy; it’ll never work. How silly.” More and more people have begun to realize that not only does ex-gay therapy not work, it is completely unnecessary and most likely is dangerous to pursue. Dozens of ex-gay survivors have told their stories on-line through videos, news stories and more. I have a feeling many more will step up to share their stories–why they went ex-gay/what the ex-gay world looked like for them/what good, if any, they encountered/ and what costs (emotional, spiritual, financial, etc) they incurred.

Beyond Ex-Gay Goes to Nashville

This year Christine Bakke and I have committed to organize regional events in order to connect with other ex-gay survivors as well as stand as witnesses to the destructive results that often occur from submitting to ex-gay theories and treatments.

So far this year Beyond Ex-Gay has partnered with local LGBT groups in Memphis, TN and Barcelona, Cataluña to put together series of events that has helped to educate the public about ex-gay experiences, their potential harm and the ways that people can recover.

One of my hopes has been to take part in existing LGBT conferences to add an ex-gay survivor track or presence to them.  Next month Christine and I will go to Nashville, TN to take part in the Our Family Matters Conference. The conference will cover many topics about faith and sexuality, but specifically the organizers have given us time to speak about ex-gay experiences and to connect with fellow survivors.

Tennessee’s Out & About paper ran a story this week about ex-gay survivors and the upcoming conference.

For nearly 20 years, Peterson Toscano underwent a variety of treatments meant to suppress his homosexuality. Two of those years were spent at Love in Action, a residential treatment center in Memphis.

The religious-based ex-gay movements are meant to straighten gays out but often do more harm than good, Toscano said.

“Right now, people in some churches feel that they must hide the fact they are gay for fear they will be thrown out,” Toscano said. “Many of us have tried to change, but instead of finding a blessing, the programs I attended nearly destroyed my faith and my life.”

Toscano will offer his unique perspective as part of the Our Family Matters Conference held Oct. 22 through 25 at Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville.

Launched as a live version of Kim Clark’s acclaimed documentary, God and Gays: Bridging the Gap, the conference will address questions related to the relationship between God and the GLBT community. The event will include a film festival, live concerts, national keynote speakers Jack Rogers and Rev. Deborah Johnson, and three days of workshops

Other presenters will include Mary Lou Wallner, who I first met through participating in the film project Fish Can’t Fly and Christian singer (and now publically out gay man) Ray Boltz.

On Thursday October 23 Christine, Darlene Bogle and I will take the evening to share about our ex-gay experiences and how we survived and now thrive as we worked through our ex-gay pasts. You may remember that Darlene joined two other former Exodus leaders in issuing a public apology for their roles in promoting and providing ex-gay treatment. I will also do excerpts from some of my plays including Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House—How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement!

On Saturday October 25 we will get to meet with ex-gay survivors in a workshop setting which will give folks a chance to connect with each other, share their own stories and find strategies for recovery from the harm they experienced through ex-gay treatment and theories.

Since Christine and I will not be the key organizers  of the conference, we will have SO MUCH more time to hang out with survivors during the many breaks, meals and other sessions. Check out the full schedule and please consider coming to the Our Family Matters Conference!

November 7-9 Christine and I along with Daniel Gonzales and several local groups will organize a series of events in Denver, CO in response to NARTH’s annual anti-gay conference. We will host an art show, a performance, ex-gay survivor gathering and a summit for LGBT-affirming leaders. You can learn more about our Denver event here.

Marvin on the Airwaves

Since coming back out of the closet (ex-ex-gay) in April, Marvin Bloom, a devout Jew for Jesus, has been making the rounds at various podcasts. His gay-friendly rants have been heard on Spanking Bee Arthur, The Flatus Show and more than once on Joe G’s Bored Beyond Belief.

Currently you can hear Marvin on Episode 81 of Mila and Jayna’s Trans-ponder. In fact, you will also get to hear me too since in his new segment, Moments with Marvin, he interviews me.

In other news, I have a boyfriend, and he is not Marvin.