Category: performances

Blogging from London

I am blogging from the Friends Center bookshop and cafe across the street from Euston Station. They have wifi and free computers for anyone to use off the street. I love that.

Not much time. I have to prepare for my talk/presentation tonight at the Courge UK meeting here in London (at an undisclosed location. They are funny about letting people know where they meet. I feel so covert.)

My presentation will center around some of the research I am doing for my next play Transfigurations, which will look at the lives and stories of transgender, genderqueer and gender different people in the Bible. In addition to performing the gAy,B,Cs from Queer 101, I will share some of what I have unearthed about trans folks in the Bible. So much wonderful information about trans people who were utterly essential to the stories in which they appeared.

Many people ask, But who are these trans people in the Bible??? I’ve never seen them.
Of course many of us have not seen them. We have been trained to look the other way, the gender normative way. Just the stories of bisexual, lesbian and gay people in the Bible seem to have gone missing, but at closer inspection, with lavender lenses, suddenly we see they have always been there.

Sorta like our own world today. Folks in the “mainstream” can miss out on the reality of all sorts of other folks who are not represented in media, elected offices and in ministry. Takes some asking, seeking and knocking.

Praised and Dazed

Yes, I realize it has been several days since I blogged. Over the weekend I co-led a retreat for BGLQT Quakers (I like to to mix up the letters) with my Friend Judy, an amazing bisexual, artistic, singing therapist (just to name a few of her labels). The retreat turned out to be very centered and spiritual, AND I survived a weekend without my cell phone and Internet access (but I did have a dream about AIMing)

Yesterday I spent much of the day with some filmmakers working on a journalistic documentary about the ex-gay movement. I know I encourage lots of folks to share their stories, but I so easily forget how exhausting it is to do so. Being honest, vulnerable and present throughout the telling can knock the wind out of us.

After the filmmakers left, I decided I would not go on-line and answer the 250+ e-mails waiting for me. I would not start reading The Transcended Christian, a book a publisher sent me to review. I would not go on-line to work on bXg or the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. Instead I made a pot of sweet brown rice and watched a silly movie. Then I slept 10 hours. Telling our stories can be so rewarding and so exhausting.
So please as you tell yours, take care of yourself.

I am home for three days before I head out to Denver for the weekend to present at the Liberty Education Forum, “a non-partisan foundation that conducts educational programs, grassroots training, and research on gay and lesbian issues. The Liberty Education Forum’s mission focuses on gaining new allies for equality among conservatives and people of faith.”

Going through my many e-mails as I sit in the library today, I read one with the subject: For your blog or wherever.
Zan Gibbs from the Portland-based Sexually Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC) wrote,

SMYRC, the Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center, in Portland Oregon has had the ultimate pleasure not once, but twice now, of being blessed with the presence and performance of Peterson Toscano.

My job at SMYRC for the last ten years, has been advocacy, support, leadership development and counseling for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans… LGBTQQIPAA… youth….. 23 and under. But my real job here is cutting and dying hair, and working the sound system for the drag queens. Needless to say for Peterson’s sound, I was front row for both shows (and the sound still wasn’t perfect!).

This is what I learned: the LGBTQQIPAA alphabet we have here right now is too long, and queer is to iffy, so we now use Peterson’s “Gay B C’s”… much better. I also learned that if we are going to spell out the whole alphabet soup, we need to add the H, because Heteroflexible is my new favorite word.

I’ve worked with this population for over 10 years, and very few things captivate their attention for more than 30 minutes, and make them howl with laughter to boot. Peterson had them focused and cackling away in their seats for over an hour each time. I think collectively Peterson has now earned 392 crushes from SMYRC. We love him.
Is he married?

If I could marry an organization, it would be SMYRC. They take such good care of their participants and create a safe and fun place.

So with a special warm glow from Zan’s words, I go return to the pile of e-mails in my inbox.

Oh, I am listening to an amazing album by genderqueer singer/songwriter namoli brennet. Get it; it’s amazing.

Video–Tyra, Vlad & More

Okay gang, I have some video for you. First is a clip from when Steven Fales and I appeared on the Trya Banks Show.
(Note: if you ever appear on a daytime TV program, NEVER tell them that you had an exorcism or other extreme momentary experience. They will focus so much on that they they could actually miss the point.)

Ex-Gay Watch links to a video ad for Exeter International, a thinly veiled parody.

There is a good reason I don’t watch myself perform on video–it is scary and I may never perform again. Am I really this bizarre??? Peggy Senger Parsons caught some video of Vlad in the act during my recent presentation of my one-man (multi-character comedy) The Re-Education of George W. Bush. The question is, when I make a complete fool of myself, will my friends ever tell me??? Peggy writes,

Vlad presented an interpretive dance to a hidden Condaleeza Rice in the audience. Vlad’s goal was to entice Condi to run for president and re-instate Russia as the United States favorite enemy. Apparently -they’ve missed us.

Seeing this I realize it is time for a diet and exercise–I think I have had far too much sweet brown rice this past few weeks (see video here of my current food loop)

And this just in (well uploaded) Christine Bakke (still glowing from her recent appearance on Good Morning America–view clip here) and I met up in NYC yesterday and here is video to prove it. We have fun with the word lesbian. You can say it too, go ahead, try it!

Tender

I’m feeling tender today. Good thing that I am among Friends here. Peggy Parsons, the amazing motocyle-riding, Christ-centered Quaker minister and her family have put me up for the night here in Salem, OR. Peggy is the real deal pastoring a semi-programmed Quaker church, preaching wherever the doors open and working with trauma victims in Burundi–many of them Quakers.

Last night the brilliant Quaker artist (music, visual art, humor, you name it) Alivia Biko cooked us a killer vegan meal replete with vegan chocolate chip cookies. I felt loved. (BTW both Peggy and Alivia miss Joe G. Just saying in case he is lurking 🙂

Yeah, I am feeling tender as I soak up all of this love in Portland with Doug and Bruce and Bonnie and in Salem with Peggy and her family and Alivia.

This tour has been great in many ways but harder than most. Since the launch of bXg, Christine, Steve and I have received so many stories from people sharing their trauma from ex-gay experiences. I read some of these and start to cry. Lots of people have been hurt and allowed themselves to be hurt. It feels good to see people finding healing, but the process is painful for most.

Feeling tender about violence. Many of us unprogrammed Quakers know Virgina Tech, site of the recent deaths of 33 people, because we have had our annual gatherings there before. In 2005 I performed my Homo No Mo play there. Seeing the photos of the campus seemed so creepy having been in many of those places for worship and fellowship.

Feeling tender about Quakers and the rift that exists between many of us. Some Evangelical Quakers take issue with queer Quakers. Last week I read of a dreadful report of an Evangelical Friend condemning same-gender loving Quakers in the harshest terms. With lots of programmed Evangelical Friends Churches in Oregon, it feels strange knowing that perhaps because of my queerness, I might not/will not be welcome.

Feeling tender about some queer folks at a Quaker venue who took issue with my apperance, wondering how on earth I could still identify as a Christian after all that the Christian church and Exodus had done to me. The thought that I am gay man who identifies as Christian offended them deeply. I get this reaction at times from folks in the LGBT community, but it smarts extra hard when it comes from folks in a Quaker context. Among unprogrammed Quakers, I find I walk on eggshells when I talk about my faith in Jesus. Is that just me being over-sensative or does this reflect a serious issue within the Quaker movement?

Feeling tender about doing my show today, The Re-Education of George W. Bush. It is the most personal of all my plays, even more so than Homo No Mo. I appear in the play as myself three different times to talk about my mom–her life, her death and her wisdom. I also take on a bunch of issues close to my heart–the war in Iraq, skin privilege, the environment as well as oppression of LGBT people. I have not performed the play since January, so I will rehearse all afternoon.

Feeling tender about lots of things, which is often the life of an artist. Feeling grateful too for freshly baked vegan cookies and a big glass of rice milk over at Alivia’s house last night before bed. It wasn’t really the cookies, but the love behind them. I bet you have your own comfort foods that get to your heart too.

You’ve Been SMYRC’ed

Tonight in Portland (PDX) I got to revisit SMYRC, the Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center. A youth center started by youth some years back, it is a safe space for LGBTQ youth to hang out, play video games, enjoy Dance Dance Revolution, do hair, work on theater, and just be with friends and caring adult volunteers.

They do a GREAT job at keeping the young people safe with very clear guidelines about appropriate, respectful, acceptable behavior. The room filled this evening with all sorts of Queers–goth, butch, fem, genderqueer, latino, Black, bisexuals, questioning, transgender and whatever.

When I attend the True Colors Conference each year, I hear folks in my generation (Generation X) say how they wish they had something like this when they were growing up, it would have made all the difference. Yeah, I tend to agree. If I had SMYRC growing up, I think I would have found myself so much sooner and would have saved myself and others years of turmoil and heartache.

Last January I presented Queer 101 to the group and during the Q&A session we talked about faith and spirituality. The young people really connected with the topic, one that at times does not get much airplay in the LGBT press or community discussions. In large part because of that discussion in January and the resourcefulness of Mark Middelton, one of the adult volunteers, they now have a weekly spirituality group.

Together they are going through a book by Cherie Carter-Scott called If Life is a Game, These are the Rules. The first rule that they have looked at and discussed together is:

You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for the entire period.

They’ve been talking about body image and that intimate relationship with self. Over coffee at
Pix, (heavenly evil all in one cafe) Mark and I reflected on those queer people who refuse to come out of the closet and be real in front of their friends and family. Mark noted that we have to be the first people to love us and then model it for others. Where was Mark when I was a teen? (Okay, he wasn’t born yet).

You can read more of the rules here.

Tomorrow morning at the Q Center I lead a talk called Faith, Families and Queers: Surviving, Thriving and Having Fun. I actually have no clue what I will say. I know some about faith and some about fun, but the family part…hmmm. We’ll see. I would like to share some of the transgender people I have been finding and communing with in the Bible. Their stories astound me, so hidden, yet so essential.

It’s Not About Sex

This morning I did two performances of Queer 101-Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs at a high school in Greensboro, North Carolina. The show looks at homophobia, identity and activism through the word and lives of lesbian and gay poets.

Although it was INSANELY early in the morning (don’t they realize that most youth do not fully function until 11 am?), the students responded well and asked great questions. After the second show, some students approached me to chat a bit about the show, queer issues and their lesbian, bisexual and gay friends.

One female student told me that some of the guys at the school felt anxious about the show thinking that I would talk about gay sex and then try to convert them to being gay (the famous “gay agenda”). Not the first time I have run into this assumption both from students and parents. I am so glad that at one point in the play Chad, one of the characters, rattles off his list of what he is looking for in a potential mate.

Of course he would have to be male. Oh, nothing personal ladies but I know what works for me. And he would have to be gay. Nothing personal straight guys, but I know I can’t change you and you can’t change me, so why should we frustrate ourselves.

A student told me how she appreciated that I acknowleged that the students already knew info about LGBTQ issues and that I didn’t speak down to them about the topic. Apparently they had other speakers recently who assumed all the students took issue with the issues. Turns out the students simply took issue with feeling patronized.

We also talked about some guys’ negative reactions to gay guys or guys they presume to be gay. One student spoke about a gay guy who had a locker directly above a straight guy. The straight guy would not go near the locker whenever the gay guy was there for fear that he might get hit on.

So we began to talk about that whole issue and why some straight guys have that impression that gay guys will hit on them and the sometime violent reaction to that fear. I mean you would think someone would feel flattered that someone found them attractive. (On her blog today Christine writes about Anthony, an 15 year old openly gay teen in Colorado. Some other boys violently assaulted him.)

What it reveals though is that many straight guys who hit on women and look at them lustfully do not do this to affirm these women and express their appreciation of women’s beauty. Rather it is an act of power, oppression, even violence. The men objectify the women thus exercise power over them. The thought that another man would do that do them freaks these guys out.

Perhaps they think it is okay to objectify and dehumanize a woman, but suddenly when the tables turned they feel very differently. It reveals that these acts are not about sex. No they about about power, oppression and violence.

High school students can be so thoughtful in these sorts of discussions. I appreciate how we can go deep and get real so quickly.

Now off to lunch, then we watch some Trya Banks (where according to Christine I look like I’m sporting a funky military look) then I do a special presentation for 5th graders and then some middle school students. Phew, then I get a break for a few hours before I do my evening show.

Off to Portland tomorrow!!!

The Power of Blogging

Carol writes:

In the past two years, I’ve read stories and posts and profiles and blog entries, seen pictures, copied quotes and I’ve identified with people outside of my circle of friends. I have become acquainted with new people – and I love it!

She then writes words that give me a big smile and a warm feeling in my heart.

Yesterday all of my girls and I traveled about an hour away to Earlham College. We’d come to watch the one-man performance that portrayed personal experiences of living in an ex-gay ministry. This performance revealed many true-to-life happenings, some of which were humorous to laughing out loud funny, as well as the heartbreak felt by those who try and inevitably cannot, change through any means, their sexual identity/orientation.

By taking on various characters, Peterson Toscano also shared the hope – the hope and the inspiration – to bring love and light to those around us. This includes our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends and family, so that they too can live and feel that God is love, extended to all of us, and that we all may share in that love.

Carol goes on to write about how through reading blogs and connecting with folks outside of her circle, she changed, she grew.

Thank you Carol for staying after the show to chat and to introduce your daughters and granddaughter. I can’t wait to talk again soon.

Here, There and Everywhere

The response to the new web site and The Survivors Conference has been great! Lots of folks are signing up for the conference and logging in their interest to get involved in the site. Now that BeyondExGay is off the ground, so am I.

I fly out of Hartford this morning for a three week trip that will take me to Indiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, North Carolina and Oregon. And I get to see some of YOU!

First off to Earlham College in Richmond, IN where I will perform and connect with students. Then I fly to Newark, NJ to meet up with my dad. We will spend the night at my cousin Louie’s house (yes, I have a cousin Louie), then my dad and I will go on a road trip to visit my Uncle Frankie and Aunt Rolla (yes, I have an Uncle Frankie) in Eastern Tennessee.

After that we see an old family friend, Gloria, in Winston Salem, North Carolina, then my dad drops me off in Greensboro, NC where I will perform at Guilford College and New Garden Friends School April 11 and 12.

I then fly off to Portland, OR where I have a show there on the 13th before I head out to Corvallis, Bend, back to Portland then onto Salem.

You can find out the details at my performance schedule where you will also read about my upcoming presentations in Denver, Colorado, Oxford, London, Wakefield, UK and Lovely Lund, Sweden. Yummy, very yummy.

(yes, yes, I know that Texas is not yet listed or Tampa!).

I am especially pleased about the many Quaker venues where I will perform. I have my travel minute on me and will get it endorsed as I present from place to place.