Quirky, queer Quaker
I just finished a residency at Penn State University in State College, PA. What a huge campus! I caught about 50 Pokemon and lost about five pounds that with all the good food my excellent host Peter Buckland provided. In classes, discussions with staff, faculty, and students, and through a public performance, together with my cast of characters, I explored the intersections of LGBTQ issues, faith, theology, justice, privilege, and climate action.
The Collegian sent a reporter to cover my performance of Everything is Connected–An Evening of Stories, most weird, many true. In the article, Quirky, queer Quaker relates LGBTQA and religion issues to climate change, Antonia Jaramillo, interviewed Peter Buckland, from Penn States Sustainability Institute.
Peterson is a person who is so many of the issues that are being discussed in today’s society — LGBT issues, religion issues and climate change — and he’s so relatable and so approachable that he’s able to make the divisions in our country seem irrelevant.
I love that last part–he’s able to make the divisions in our country seem irrelevant–because I feel so deeply that with climate change, we are all in the same boat together. Now as Marvin Bloom, one of my characters likes to point out, “Yeah, but we are not all on the same deck!” But with a problem this large and invasive into every part of our lives and loves, we need all hands on deck.
Making odd connections in three acts
In the article you get a sense of the three acts I present in the performance.
In Act I, titled, “Homo No Mo,” Toscano discussed his struggles with his sexuality when he was younger and all the different methods he tried to “de-gay” himself.
“I tried to be straight but I failed so I tried harder and decided to become an evangelical, conservative republican Christian, basically a mini Ronald Reagan,” Toscano said.
Performing gender normative behavior as Esau in upcoming film version of Transfigurations
Act II is Transfigurations–exploring gender non-conforming Bible characters.
After several years, Joseph rises up to second in command in Egypt and when confronted with his siblings again, instead of punishing them, he takes them in as equal and forgives them, “saving us all,” Toscano said as the character, Esau.
Then it gets tied together in Act III Climate Queer
“There’s still hope, still solutions to combat climate change,” Toscano said as the character Marvin Bloom.
Through his monologue, Toscano related his two previous Acts — homosexuality, religion and transgender issues — to climate change.
(We) had to change public policy, convince the public and change their perception during the times of the “GRID [gay-related immune deficiency] plague,” Toscano said. Then in Joseph’s story, Joseph was able to help prepare the pharaoh and the Egyptians during the seven year drought but at an expense to the public.
Both these cases discuss the struggles that humans have been faced with and the solutions they have come up with to combat their obstacles, Toscano said.
“Climate change is basically sexist, racist and classist,” Toscano said. “Climate change is a justice issue and we have to come up with a solution in a just and equal way.”
I find it is actually rare for a journalist to pay such close attention to one of the performances and get the larger message. They often get distracted by my protracted journey to try to de-gay myself. That is understandable–it is a weird and flamboyant story. Still it has been essential for me to take the lessons I learned in the Homo No Mo Halfway House–lessons of privilege and justice–and apply them to other concerns.
Be aware that the word homosexual is tossed around a lot. I only use it in my show when I talk about my past in gay conversion therapy: Was I a Christian struggling with homosexuality or a homosexual struggling with Christianity? The latest style guides for the Associated Press and New York Times point out that using the word homosexual in reference to LGBTQ people through the media is now considered offensive. The preferred term is gay, although I opt for LGBTQ or queer or often rattle off Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. I recognize that there are no perfect terms.