Mischief and Magic

In this last month I have bopped around the US landing in PA, GA, NC, TN, MD,DC, IL (for a brief layover) and AZ! My body has finally landed home. I expect that like errant luggage, my soul will show up in a day or two just in time for my trip to Indiana starting Friday 🙂

Scene from Transfigurations

Scene from Transfigurations

At the Gay Spirit Visions conference (a spiritual event for male-identified people love men w/out excluding bisexuals) at the opening ceremony we were asked that  since it was the 20th anniversary of the gathering,  each person should think of a word that would describe them 20 years ago and one that describes them today. (22 year old Ryan suggested something like “toddler” for 20 year ago word.) For me words came immediately and stuck while we went from person to person sharing their words. As the talking stick came my way–a delicious phallic number replete with feathers–I said,

20 years ago? Delusional! Today? Mischief. 😛

Yeah, 20 years ago–1989 I was thinking about getting married to a woman. I lived as an ex-gay in New York City trusting God on a daily basis to keep me on the straight and narrow path only to find it to be a slippery slope of confusion, depression and despair.  De-gay myself seemed a noble course at the time and my only option. I deluded myself (society and in particular church leaders colluded with me or I with them) to believe that change from gay to straight was possible and most necessary or else all hell would break loose in my life. Over 10 years later I came to my senses and began to embrace reality and subsequently mental,  emotional and spiritual health.

To recover from years of church-sanctioned psychological torture, I came face to face with various taboos. I remember the first time I took Holy Communion with a group of gay Christians at the Integrity day long retreat in Memphis, TN. I felt certain I sat at the devil’s table and was about to further seal my fate of a life apart from God. I also remember another taboo,  when I intentionally had sex with a guy, my boyfriend at the time, so different from the deluded forays into cruisy parks as an ex-gay when I told myself and others, “Oh, I am just going for a walk in the woodland trails to enjoy the outdoors.” (yeah a regular squirrel searching for nuts!)

In my post-closet life I proclaimed in word and deeds that I rejoiced in the touch of a man and in sharing intimate sexuality with him. I rediscovered my faith and integrated it with the rest of me including my sexual orientation.  I also struggled with finding my way, of developing a moral code of conduct when for so many years my keepers insisted to me  over and over that gays could never live moral, self-controlled, responsible lives. I have had to undo lots of damage.

I came out and out day by day but not just gay. I came out as me–an artist, someone passionate about so many things in the world like veganism, feminism, anti-racist work, mystical spirituality in the tradition of the Quakers and the perfect Massaman curry. I came out artist and activist and ally and much more.  And I still come out. Most recently I encountered the sissy boy I had once been that for too long languished bound and gagged in the closet that once held so many of the parts of me that I have since liberated.

This past month has felt like a leg on what one may call The Magical Mischievous Tour. The stage serves as a faery venue where we enter alternate worlds, transform and dive deep into archetypes and in doing so face parts of ourselves suddenly revealed larger than life and tender as baby skin.

Tonight on my long trip across the country I received a message via Facebook from a man who attended the TransForm Arizona event and attended my performance of Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible. (See the GREAT photo above taken by Lori!) In his message he admits that he approached my work with caution,

To be honest, I really mostly avoid the Bible at this point in my life. Partly because of years of conservative Christian cultural influence on my life, and because of my personal history around not fitting into the boxes presented to me. So, it took a lot for me to sit through the beginning of the performance, however I was hopeful.

I imagine many folks, both transgender and cisgender (non-trans) approach my work with similar trepidation and doubts. When it comes to issues of sexuality, gender identity, variance and expression, not only have Christian church folks most often gotten it wrong, they aggressively attack sexual minorities and gender outlaws (as Kate Bornstein calls gender “transgressors”). In many ways I set myself up for derision and rejectionj–a non-transgender person doing a play about transgender Bible stories? Yeah, way to offend EVERYONE!

Instead I perceive I live and move in a magical theatrical space. Together my audience and I create a space where we drink deep from an ancient hidden well. The water is sweet and fresh. With the audience’s permission and participation, we create a magical moment. The man who attended Saturday’s performance wrote,

It was silent, but beyond silence. It was magic, but beyond that. It was a sacred and profound moment.

Magic. But mischievous too–this magic serves to undermine, subvert, and  challenge binaries and the religious-inspired war against all that some people declare perverted and wrong.  As performer and engaged audience we expose the perversion and wrongness of that misguided and costly war. With a few scarves I do mischief, well and with a lot of help from my friends both in the audience and the many transgender people who inform the emotional narrative of my piece. Strange how little opposition I get from some of these anti-queer religious folks who spew so much confusion and ugliness. Perhaps they see a gay guy flitting about on stage slathered with make-up, telling jokes, and they assume they have nothing to worry about.Little do they understand the insurrectionary nature of stories.

After a month of Mischief and Magic, I need to dwell in a more mundane place of laundry, bill paying and dust mites. After absorbing so many stories profound, tragic and triumphant, I need to find myself again, and for a time let the magical mischievous sprite rest a bit too.


This post has 6 Comments

  1. sexgenderbody on October 20, 2009 at 1:31 am

    a wonderful and detailed post, combining personal experience and lots of details.

    please consider cross-posting this (or any of your fine work) at http://sexgenderbody.com.


  2. Oliver Danni on October 20, 2009 at 5:04 am

    This is me doing the Peterson Is Coming To Indiana Dance…can you see it? Not yet? Oh, well, I will have to show you VERY SOON. Please let me know what your schedule is looking like, ASAP, and when you may have time for visiting. I am working very hard on being un-sick!

    The http://www.gayspiritvisions.org site looks pretty neat; you may want to check your spelling in the post link to make sure people get there. 😉

    Talking sticks sure are phallic! When I used to be allowed to attend women’s events too, a talking BOWL was often used, and I recall at least one mixed-gender event where we had a mortar-and-pestle, which everyone took great delight in “playing with” when the turn to speak became theirs.

  3. Joann on October 20, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Oh, Peterson — thanks for reflecting “aloud” on all this. What a wonderful window you open for us to remember the magic we saw when you performed in Oregon! I’m SOO glad to be part of the world where your mischief is afoot! Love ya, man!

  4. GreenEyedLilo on October 20, 2009 at 8:30 am

    I understand how you feel about letting the magickal part of you rest for a while. I get that way after co-planning and taking part in Samhain. (But I can’t wait for Samhain, still!)

    I about choked on the “squirrel going after nuts” part!

    I am so glad you aren’t what you were 20 years ago, and that you’ve become what you are.

  5. William R. Taylor, M.D. on October 20, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Fascinating post! Looking forward to the support meeting Thursday if that works out here in Hartford. Also appreciated the replies.
    See you later!
    Bill Taylor

  6. Joe G. on October 27, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Love the picture, darling.

    I remember the first time I took Holy Communion with a group of gay Christians at the Integrity day long retreat in Memphis, TN. I felt certain I sat at the devil’s table…

    Wait. That wouldn’t be the devil’s table…?

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