It is just lovely here in St. Albans, England with so many cool LGBTIQ Christians from all over Europe. (I got an invite to Malta in July!!) I got LOADS of time with Auntie Doris (in fact I will hang out with her next week after my trip to visit John Henson in Southern Wales.) I also got to hang out with Nancy Wilson, the moderator of the Metropolitan Church. She had come to the Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference last June, so we were finally able to catch up.
Last week I performed my last performance of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and tonight I made my UK premiere of Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible. These are such different pieces that my fear has been that people who have seen Homo No Mo come in expecting much of the same zany, piled on humor.
Transfigurations is nothing like that. It functions more as a drama than a comedy with a slow, steady, meditative pace to it. As a performer, I don’t have the advantage of hearing the audience laugh, so I still find it hard to gauge the audience until the very end. Tonight’s audience gave me a long sustained standing ovation. Phew. I worry before a new show.
The local paper where I performed Homo No Mo wrote a piece about my final performance and quoted me from my Q&A session. I talked about the early days of my faith when I first came out as, about my feelings towards ex-gay leaders, and a little about my marriage to a woman. We were actually married for seven years, but had only been together for five of those years before we dramatically separated.
Toscano was so convinced that he could conquer his sexuality that he married a woman he met in New York City. The union lasted five years. He said it ended in disaster, as do most such marriages involving men who are ex-gay. He said, however, that while he was married, he was treated with more respect than before he was married, because people assumed he was straight. He said, “I was more respected, accepted at church, on jobs, everything. There’s some real straight privilege in this country, and you earn some of that when you get married.”
When Toscano ultimately rejected the notion that he could become ex-gay, he also rejected religion, at least for a time. Because, he said, “I was taught over and over that you can’t be gay and Christian.” He heard that message from the church and, often, from the gay community as well.
“For a time,” he said, “I aspired to be an atheist and failed miserably because I’m just far too wired for God. That caused me to go on another journey to try to figure out what I believe. And how I integrate my spirituality, my sexuality and my personality altogether.”
I even get a plug in there for the Quakers. (No, I don’t get any kick backs from Quaker Oats when I do Quaker evangelism).
Ultimately, he said, his answer was the Quaker community, where he is now active at local, national and international levels. “For someone who’s been oppressed by the church, and bullied and told what to do so often, it’s very validating to go in a place where they basically say, you’re coming with something valuable and you’re welcome to share it here,” he said. “Also, they are very concerned about the environment and peace and social justice and equality, and those are things that are all very meaningful to me.”
About the play and my personal relationship to it, they write,
Critics have called the play funny and hysterical, but they have also remarked that Toscano does not bash the members of the organization that tried to help him change his ways. Instead, he treats them with a degree of affection. Responding to a question about this, Toscano said, “On the one hand, I’m being highly critical of them, but I do it with a great deal of passion and understanding because that was my world for many years. I know what it’s like to be a born-again, evangelical, conservative, Republican Christian. And when I was in that world, I really believed I was making the right choices, often out of deep compassion and moral conviction.”
You can read the whole article by Fritz Mayer over at the River Reporter.