Public and Private

Today I spent 12 hours traveling cross country with my dad. Before we left, I thought of all the funky things I would have to blog based on the stuff that comes out of my dad’s mouth. But by hour six, I realized that this was a special day, something private just for the two of us.

I’ve learned that some things can be public while others need to be private. For all that I tell my story on stage, in this blog and elsewhere, I don’t share everything. I don’t mention every significant person in my life or each encounter that I have.

This includes aspects of my work. I regularly meet with conservative church leaders, ex-gays, and ex-gay leaders. Almost always we meet privately, and unless we agreed in advance, I do not share details of the meeting or that we even met. When I meet with a pastor of an influential conservative church in the UK, he knows I won’t tell others what we discuss. Same when I contact ex-gay leaders.

These privates meetings give us an opportunity to look at the assumptions we believe about each other. They provide us the chance to explore shared values and issues that often get lost in more public exchange.

I may contact an ex-gay leader with information or a question that I wish to discuss privately. I seek a private conversation to hash it out, to get clarity, talk off the record. When they refuse to have a private conversation, then I may choose to initiate a public one.

This recently happened when Randy Thomas made certain statements on a national radio program. I left a voice message for Randy saying I would like to connect before I write anything public about my concerns. Randy did not respond, so I blogged about it. Once Daniel Gonzales made a video based on my blog entry, Randy responded publicly, defensively.

Of course he wasn’t required to respond to my voicemail. I didn’t have to blog about his words. He didn’t have to defend himself. That’s how it is turning out this time.

Part of non-violent activism consists of compelling the other to come to the table. We sometimes need incentives. I look forward to other chances for private discussions with Randy and others at Exodus. Although less exciting, I prefer them to these public ones.

This post has 8 Comments

  1. Noa Resare on November 22, 2006 at 7:43 am

    If you get a chance to talk with Thomas person to person in the near future, please tell him that for most reasonable people the statements “we support a persons right to self-determination” and “we support parents right’s to force their children into exodus programs against their wishes” are contradictive. You have to choose one.


  2. Anna HP on November 22, 2006 at 9:46 am

    The line between public and private sometimes unexpectedly becomes scaresly thin. Ooh and I love your new photo here at the blog, your smile is piercing in a most delighful way 😉

  3. Peterson Toscano on November 22, 2006 at 2:18 pm

    Seems I get most of my visitors from Sweden these days! Nice to see you again noa resare! Well said. You are right, which is it?

    Unless of course just like there was a time (and it still exists for some) that wives were just chattel–personal property of their husbands. Maybe Exodus or Randy at least, doesn’t consider young people to be people at all. Just the property of their parents.

    anna hp, so glad you like that photo. It was taken by the fabulous graphic designer and lesbian mom, Tina Encarnacion. And yes, sometimes public and private become thin even porous. Boundaries are so important.

    I do struggle with work and life boundaries on-line. I seem to work ALL the time, but then I have so many friends on-line. It is hard to get off-line.

    And once I upgrade to the Treo™ 950 Implant, I will be able to surf the Internet hands-free. It will be downloaded directly into my brain. 😛

  4. Scotmagicman on November 22, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    Hey Peterson
    – I really admire the way you keep private and public separate. Takes a rare skill!

    And of course, what you don’t reveal about your private side your public make up anyway… that is, until you get your Treo™ 950 Implant: then your public will be able to hack directly in and get a binary dump of all of you.

  5. grace on November 22, 2006 at 5:18 pm

    Yuck. I hate this issue. And yet, there it is.
    (i also love your new picture, BTW!)
    I personally can’t fathom forcing any of my children into a camp to make them straight. The idea of that is craziness. But, I did force my son to go on a mission trip to Mexico once (he was trying to back out at the last minute) and he was SO incredibly happy that I did force him in the end. It was a great experience and he did thank me for forcing him.

    Of course, those are entirely seperate things. I guess my point is, that there are times when parents have to force their kids to do things for their own good….the “be straight” camp though, is just not one of those times.

    How do you draw the lines between what parents can legally force their children to do and not do?

    Do we have to write all this down and have referrendums and laws and such? Why can’t people just stop being stupid? hehe!


  6. Anonymous on November 22, 2006 at 7:18 pm

    It seems Randy thinks that if it’s legal it’s ethical and he shouldn’t take the responsibility. So why does he still claim Exodus supports self-determination, even when he still seems to be backing LIA’s actions? Does he reason that 16 year olds are not persons?

  7. Jen Burke on November 24, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    Peterson, your thoughtfulness in this area is an inspiration and guide to me. I have dealt with lots of balancing in deciding what to disclose on my blogs, what duties I have to protect others, and how to remain professional while being blunt about realities in my life that won’t change anytime soon.

    I was also struck by this: “Part of non-violent activism consists of compelling the other to come to the table.” What a wonderful way to explain this!

  8. Peterson Toscano on November 24, 2006 at 3:41 pm

    jen, so glad you liked the post. Thanks for blogging about it. We should all have a blogger convention to talk about these many blogging issues. Would be cool. Besides, we could all meet up in real time, take out our laptops and blog about it!

    scotmagicman, dang, now I have to build a firewall around my brain. Do they sell them at Staples or Circuit City????

    Pam, you ask a good question. How do parents decide when their child’s life is at risk and intervention is needed and when it is more a matter of being controlled by fears, particularly, society induced fears.

    I worked with 9th graders for 3 years, and often they had lots of conflicts with their parents. But I saw a difference between those parents who really KNEW their children and others who didn’t have a clue. Some were terrified because their kid was involved in anime or furries or something without considering how smart and thoughtful their child is.

    I don’t pretend to know all the fears that assail parents. Must be terrifying with so many pit-falls that your baby can fall into. But still, a parent needs to test the spirits. Where does the push to force a child into a program come from? Is it out of love for the child or fear? It is so easy to screw up when I am motivated by fear.

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