Category: Sweden

Doin’ time in Northern Sweden

In a few hours I will perform once again in Umeå, Sweden, a progressive city in the North of Sweden. I believe it is the fifth time I have been here, and arriving at the home of Alex & Noa Resare, I feel like I have come home. In fact, the past two days I have slept about 13 hours each night. Their home with their three children is a place where I can relax, recuperate, and just be myself (a person who likes to sleep 13 hours a night and then sit in bed and do my work.)

Tonight I will perform a variety show of sorts, “Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano–Just when you thought it was safe to laugh.” I have done this show more and more the past two years, and have enjoyed being able to pick and choose from nearly a hundred different options of what I can present. Even though it is guaranteed that I will do some bits (Chad & Lorca from Queer 101 & The Identity Monologue) each show turns out different from the last with a clear theme emerging. Tonight’s show I will focus on sexism, misogyny, bodies, and strong women. Here is an outline of possible bits I will perform.

Doin’ Time in Umeå

Intro: Sweden is TOO progressive for my comedy. You all need to elect a racist, homophobic government so that my jokes will mean something (said sarcastically.) I also notice that the flight over alters my body. Once I get off the plane and walk among the Swedes, I am twice as fat as I was in the States. You are all so beautiful, naturally beautiful. Even your fat people here are fit. We could learn from your natural living to just learn to embrace ourselves for who we are.

1. Henry Kissinger had a boob job
2. scene from Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House (Chad & Vlad intro)
3. scenes from “Queer 101–Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs” Chad &Lorca, Earthel
4. scene fromRe-Education of George W Bush–Dr. Meadows does Sodomy
5. scene from I Can See Sarah Palin from my Window–NEW monologue about woman with “issue of blood”
6. scene(s) from Transfigurations–Deborah and possibly man with pitcher of water (I will do all of Transfigurations on Sunday, so I don’t need to do it all tonight)
7. Stand up: some cancer comedy. Don’t you hate it when your mom gets lung cancer? People ask such stupid questions. “Did she smoke?” WTF etc
8. Comedy sketch: Marvin & Samson or How Marvin “did it” kinda
9. Vlad and his superpower. Invisibility can be complicated
10. Identity Monologue

Chances are I will not get to all of this and in fact may end up doing some very different bits. A lot of it depends on the audience. Part of doing solo performance work requires building a dynamic relationship with one’s audience. They give me energy and direction as I share my mind and heart. A bond occurs, often unique from audience to audience, and the show and my performance gets influenced by that bond and our shared needs, interests, and personalities. What I love about LIVE solo performances is that truly anything can happen. And often I discover new material, new jokes, new insights that I incorporate into the act during a future performance, an imprint of that one audience on the enduring work.

I imagine this happens a lot with teachers in the classroom who present some of the same lessons year after year or pastors who repeat sermons (come on, you can confess that you recycle ministerial material.) Jazz musicians have a long history of improv and immediate creation in front of a live audience. There is something magical about the whole thing. If I think about it, I see it is also scary, so I won’t think too much about it. Instead I will rehearse rehearse rehearse and have the words roll around my mouth and tongue and let my body shape shift into characters very different (and some not so different) from me.

I’ll let you know how it goes…


Speaking Out!

Today I have witnessed and heard of extraordinary examples of people speaking out a message of sanity and hope.

1. Anthony Venn-Brown in Australia alerted me to a group of Christian ministers calling themselves 100Revs. They have decided to speak out during the sometimes raucous Mardi Gras festivities in their country, not to denounce the LGBT community like so many have done in the past, but rather to issue a public apology for the awful ways the Church has treated to LGBT people. In their official statement they say,

As ministers of various churches and denominations we recognise that the churches we belong to, and the church in general, have not been places of welcome for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people. Indeed the church has often been profoundly unloving toward the GLBT community. For these things we apologise, whatever the distinctive of our Christian position on human sexuality – to which we remain committed. We are deeply sorry and ask for the forgiveness of the GLBT community. We long that the church would be a place of welcome for all people and commit ourselves to pursuing this goal.

They do not make a position statement about the Bible and romantic and sexual relationships between people of the same sex, rather they stick to admitting a lack of hospitality and love toward LGBT individuals. It’s a good start.

In August of 2007 three lesbians Christians, who were former ex-gay leaders in Australia, issued their own apologies for promoting and providing ex-gay ministry. It makes me wonder if their example inspired the straight ministers to issue this most recent apology.

2. And speaking of ex-gay ministries, I traveled to nearby Storrs, CT today to the sprawling UCONN campus to hear long time ex-gay critic Wayne Besen give a talk about the ex-gay movement. Since he felt the flu coming on, he brought me forward to share some of my experiences as a former ex-gay and now as an ex-gay survivor. I also spoke about Beyond Ex-Gay and the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement.

When I was first coming to grips with my ex-gay past, Wayne’s book helped me so much to get perspective on what I allowed others to put me through and the real damage I suffered from attempting to suppress and change my sexual orientation and gender differences.

In his talk today Wayne reminded me of two powerful tools the anti-gay church and the ex-gay promoters use to lure people like me. For years I fell for the fear and smear tactics. They warned me of the perils of being gay. The loneliness, the life threatening illnesses followed by an eternity in hell. They also smeared LGBT people with countless testimonies depicting a life of drugs, out of control behaviors, toxic relationship and even violence. Perhaps I’ll write more about this in a later post because these tactics really held sway over me for decades.

Wayne showed some video, including the very powerful story of a woman who initially wanted her gay son to go straight. If you haven’t seen it yet, please do. I think every parent considering going to Love Won Out needs to see it.

3. Last but by no means least, my Swedish buddies Alex and Noa Resare have been downright Swedish media whores first appearing in regional magazines and newspapers, then in Sweden’s most read daily national newspaper, and then today on national television. Their story is very moving and powerful. Not only are they gay, but Alex is a transgender man who transitioned from female to male. I am still waiting for some links from Alex so I can properly blog about this (hint hint). Alex shares some of his story at bXg. You can read a little about Alex’s busy week here, but he needs to give out more for his many fans.

UPDATE: here is a link to the TV program. Alex and Noa are about 4 minutes in. Hey Alex, you’re wearing the exact same shirt I wore on the Trya Banks show. It looks better on you. 🙂

I have to dash as I’m getting ready for a show in Providence tomorrow night and then two shows in Philadelphia this weekend.

ANOTHER UPDATE: speaking of speaking out, Dave Rattigan over at Ex-Gay Watch reports that the Anglican bishop of Liverpool has experienced a change of heart and a change of mind regarding his former less than friendly stance towards the gays.

The Bishop of Liverpool has apologized for his part in opposing the proposed appointment of openly gay cleric Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. The Right Reverend James Jones – perhaps the Church of England’s most prominent evangelical bishop – has also drawn attention to God-sanctioned same-sex relationships in the Bible, describing the story of David and Jonathan as a “witness to love between two people of the same gender,” and signalling an openness to more dialogue on the subject.

Winter in Sverige

Thought you might like to see some photos. Alex and I went for a walk yesterday during sunset. We walked into town for fika and decided to stay for the film, The Golden Compass, which I liked very much.

Marvin Bloom Hot & Bothered

Marvin Bloom returned safe and sound to the secure shores of the USA and soon after e-mailed a video file he wanted me to upload for him. I was sick with a stomach virus for a few days, so got delayed, and then I received a flurry of frantic e-mails from Marvin. I tried to explain that I was ill and most likely under attack by the devil (something that I thought he would appreciate), but he claimed that Satan won’t mess with me since, like Joe G., I am backslidden. He then accused me of kissing too many Swedish men. As if I were that lucky.

In this video Marvin recounts yet another bizarre incident that occurred during his brief stay in Sweden. I was off having a normal fika with a new friend when Noa and Alex lured Marvin into a sauna with a pack of other hot naked Swedes. Needless to say this sorely tested Marvin’s ex-gay convictions.

Marvin Touched by a Swedish Angel

In a bizarre incident reminiscent of one that I once experienced, Marvin Bloom, recounts an intimate encounter with a hot Swede that resulted in a sexual release (it is not what you are thinking).

As a former homosexual (AKA ex-gay) Marvin gets touched by the Holy Spirit (or something) and finds even more evidence that God is at work to will and do his good pleasure, and at the hands of a Swede no less!


Marvin in Sweden

Marvin is on the road with me for the past four days. I flew him out to Northern Sweden to help me with my play The Re-Education of George W. Bush–No President Left Behind. Marvin serves as the Emcee of the show and has begun traveling with me. Of course he didn’t want to leave his room all week. Well you can learn about this for yourself.

Spiritual oppression, binding the strong men, “normal” Swedish families and the evocation of Willie Hewes.

Doin’ Time in Umeå

As many of you know I flew to Sweden on Christmas Day and will be here in the Northern city of Umeå until the 17th.

My hosts, Alex and Noa, take very good care of me with a full vegan spread at every meal. They even let me cook when I want. 🙂 I face no danger or fears here, other than I might get crushed in the elevator by the garbage can if I am not wary. Of course if this does happen, I have been sufficiently warned, so it will be my own damn fault.

I realize that less than 10% of people living in the US have a passport. Most of us do not leave our country, which impoverishes us culturally, intellectually and socially. Sure not everyone can afford to travel, but as a culture we cannot afford to stay home either.

I learn so much on the road. It’s like I’ve been on an advanced graduate course learning something new every day about history, philosophy, music, food, science and even math. Last night we had dinner with a brilliant mathematician, Ewa and her partner Pontus. Also Bjorn a professional church musician rounded out the group as we spoke about Swedish and American culture, politics, sexuality and so much more. Nothing like a tasty meal, good wine and even better conversation. I feel fully nourished after such a meal.

Today the whole family (with the three children, Alice the dog, and this crazy American) walked to the store as the sun began to set (about 1:00 in the afternoon).

The youngest possesses perfect faith that I understand every Swedish word he utters. He chatters away about monsters, Spider Man and Bat man. The girls are less shy than when I first arrived, and we have begun to teach each other words and songs in our native tongues. Thank God for the Simpsons! We can speak to each other in Simpsonease, with regular references to Spider Pig.

Tomorrow night I perform at Ålidhemskyrkan, a nearby church (with the coolest building), where I will present The Re-Education of George W. Bush–No President Left Behind. Ah, I want EVERYONE to see this play. In some ways it is my best work.

Artistically I find much satisfaction in the layering of imagery and the slow unfolding of the real message behind the play. The dramatic tensions I seek to provoke as well as the cognitive dissonance I hope to inspire require a careful construction of sentences and a specific delivery that provide me with a challenges at each performance.

Lots of people assume the play is simply a Bush-bashing affair. In a way I want them to think that when they enter the theater. I wish to lure Bush-bashers who may carry certain assumptions about conservatives and Republicans.

I want people, who dissatisfied Washington, spend a lot of energy complaining. The play is ultimately more about them than about the US president. It is more about our own personal policies and life choices than about US foreign policy or the choices made by Bush’s cabinet.

We can each run the risk of bitching and moaning about the state of things in Washington and in the US all the while supporting the Bush administration with our very lifestyle choices, by the attitudes we hold towards our enemies, by what we refuse to know, and the ways we refuse to become deprogrammed from a society that taught us to be racist, sexist, homophobic, and violent.

We look to leaders to institute the changes that will make the world a better place all the while living lives that demand that our president goes to war for oil and supports the oppression of other people so that we can have those low low prices. The American problem is not purely political. It is a social disorder that we face and it is a problem of misinformation that we need to address. But sadly some of us are so easily distracted by Britney’s Who-Ha and the “celebrity news” that they force-feed us (and some of us binge on–me included) that we can loose sight of reality.

So the Bush play is a comedy. Therefore, it addresses some of the most serious issues today. I feel pleased that it is the first piece I will present for 2008. Here’s hoping for many more gigs particularly in the US where it has been hardest for me to get bookings for it.

Okay, vegan food is on the table and the sun has fully set (3:00 PM), so I am off.

A New Year

Greetings from Northern Sweden, Umeå to be exact, where the snow has fallen steadily and no one minds at all. Really they delight in it as they laugh at folks from the US with our winter storm warnings and canceled events.

The new year started well with a house party outside of the city replete with fireworks at midnight. Each day I have taken a walk in the woods and in the nearby park. Today Alex and Alice (the dog) and I walked around the lake, which takes about 90 minutes. Amazing how many people are out and about in the winter weather–skiing, skating, jogging and even riding bike.

In celebration of a new year, I Simpsonized myself. I went for a genderqueer look. You should try it yourself!

I spent the first day of the new year updating my schedule for winter/spring of 2008. I didn’t put everything up yet, but it is a pretty full list up through May with trips to Europe, West Virginia, Philadelphia, Memphis and more. No Texas yet and it looks like I am neglecting the West Coast, but some gigs are in the works on both fronts. I have some VERY exciting things coming up that I cannot wait to share, but I must refrain for several reasons. Soon.

A few things will happen in 2008. One is that I will retire Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House starting in February (which means I will do a little retirement run up through May. Something I learned from Cher).

At the same time I hope to perform The Re-Education of Bush and Transfigurations as much as possible. I feel that both pieces need to be seen and heard by as many people as possible. The Bush play is NOT about bashing Bush. It is so much more. (Bush bashing is so easy to do). And the Transfigurations piece is well, ah, you will have to see it.

I believe both of these pieces require new types of audiences. Sure folks who like my other stuff will totally appreciate these both (especially with so much Marvin in the Bush piece and my newest character Hegai in Transfigurations), but both of these pieces move beyond the gay issue into broader human, social, political, historical matters to consider. Soooo if you have any ideas of where I should present–conferences, colleges, churches, etc, let me know.

While you are on-line…

  • check out the schedule and work of my fellow performance artist, Kimberly Dark.
  • read this well-written piece that got published back in September but I missed at the time. We all want love to win out. But whose?
  • visit the VERY thorough new web page by Alvin A McEwen: Anti-Gay Lies and Liars
  • enjoy the wonderfully hilarious Nina Conti and her talking monkey. (UPDATE: I totally forgot to give credit where credit is due–Hat Tip to Noa for introducing me to Nina!)
  • and wish my buddy and fellow Love in Action survivor, Bobby Painter, a happy 40th birthday.

My friends grow older and I remain the same 😛

Happy New Years!

Recent Church and non-Church Encounters

I try to worship somewhere on Sundays whenever possible. Most often I go to an un-programmed Quaker meeting for mostly an hour of silent worship.

Three weeks ago I attended West Hills Friends Church in Portland, OR and two weeks ago I worshiped at Freedom Friends Church, a semi-programmed Quaker Church in Salem, OR co-pastored by Peggy Senger Parsons and Alivia Biko. On Sunday I worshiped at my local Friends Meeting in Hartford, CT.

Most people know little about Quakers (no we do not drive horse and buggies, and we do not get a cut from the Quaker Oats company). In the US we have Quaker meetings and Quaker churches. Most Quaker meetings in the US and UK do not have a pastor, and the worship is unprogrammed–we sit down, settle into silence and wait. Someone, anyone really, may speak out of the silence. Sometimes what someone says moves me and inspires me. Other times the message confuses or annoys me (especially those National Public Radio messages, which always start”The other day on NPR…)

Most Quaker churches are programmed or semi-programmed with pastors and a specific order of service. I have been to few of these, so I can’t say much more.

Theologically Quaker churches contain people who adhere to a more traditional view of Christianity while Quaker meetings lean towards a more liberal or universalist view. In fact, in Quaker meetings you may find people who do not identify as Christian at all but may be pagan or theist or atheist. Quaker churches may not always be safe places for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people while Quaker meetings usually seek to be open and affirming (and often but not always succeed).

I am a Christ-centered un-programmed Friend (and I would like a venti no-foam, de-caf, soy latte, please). I believe in Jesus and I prefer the silence. In many ways I surf between the two worlds of programmed and un-programmed Quakers–never completely home in either.

At Freedom Friends Church they started with a few songs, an opportunity to share joys then concerns, a prayer time and lastly a period of silence of about 30 minutes with a handful of messages rising from the congregation. They had no sermon.

More and more I believe that this sort of format works well for people new to Quakerism. In the old days people hung out more and spoke about what happened in worship and learned about faith and practice over a meal or while working on a project. But today most people blow into meeting and blow out with little opportunity to know what happens behind the veil of silence.

Personally I think that every un-programmed Friends meeting should have a semi-programmed meeting once every four months. This would be the meeting where one could invite friends who have expressed an interest in coming to meeting. About this I will have more to say at a later time.

On Christmas Eve I attended Catholic mass with my dad. I didn’t want him to go alone as my sister Maria was with her in-laws in Long Island and my sister Nardina and my brother Manuel live far away. So I attended mass–the LONGEST HOUR OF THE YEAR! Actually it ran for 55 minutes, but I swear it felt more like three hours.

Even though the priest told jokes and the choir sang some of my favorite Christmas songs (albeit in a key that most humans should not attempt) the whole affair dragged on forever. Now I know that some people get a lot out of Catholic mass, and that having grown up in that tradition, I do not experience it as an adult convert. But throughout the service, just when I began to really focus on God and listen, they interrupted me with another song or prayer or collection (two times!) or people shuffling down to the altar for Communion (I remained in my pew) or an Irish blessing as we left. How can anyone worship with all that racket going on?!?

Today in Umeå Sweden, where I reside until 17 January, I will meet with a small group of people interested in Quaker worship. They do not have a Quaker meeting here, just a few people who have begun to research Quakerism and connect with Quakers via the web and a retreat center near Stockholm.

They have met very few Quakers, so I feel a concern that they may get the wrong idea from me. I am still a baby Quaker. In the un-programmed Quaker meetings we do not have a concept of a Quaker missonary–that would be blasphemous or something. But here I am in Sweden about to meet with these folks as we share our faith and more importantly the experience of worshiping together. Hmmm, maybe I can start a new wave of vegan, comic, queer Quakerism…

Alex & Noa in the News

My buds in Sweden, Alex and Noa Resare, have a story worth telling. Theirs is a story of love against all odds and the creativity of God. You can read some of Alex’s story over at bXg and his blog.

Recently a regional publication in the city where they live, ran an extensive article about them and their lives as a gay couple with one of the men being trans. Although lots of Americans have this idea that Sweden is light-years ahead of us in regards to LGBT issues, folks still need lots of education. I believe Alex is the first trans person the reporter met.

Here is the opening of the article:

Trots att paret Resare lever trogna sin kärlek och har varit gifta i åtta år, sedan de var 20–21 år, har de fått lämna sitt samfund och rent juridiskt ta ut skilsmässa. Orsaken är att Olivia genomgått könskorrigering och nu heter Alex.

Före könskorrigeringen gick all energi åt till att hålla tillbaka den han kände han var.

– Min Gudsbild och självbild ledde till självförakt, nu ser och uppskattar jag det vackra hos andra och i tillvaron, säger Alex.

För ett par år sedan var de ett aktivt frikyrkopar. Olivia och Noa träffades genom gemensamma vänner. De gifte sig och fick två döttrar. Olivia blev hemmafru på heltid och kämpade för att sköta hemmet perfekt.

Med förväntan träffar jag Alex och Noa tillsammans på ett kafé. Alex har bruna, lite hemlighetsfulla ögon. Stereotypa tankar på honom som Olivia med långt hår, lite läppstift och en dammvippa i handen fladdrar hastigt förbi.
Noa och Alex är inte bara skärpta och villiga att förklara, utan också två människor med en märkbar ömhet mellan sig.

Text: Erika H Magnusson
Foto: Andreas Nilsson

My translations skills fail me. But here is a rough translation. The writer insisted on using Alex’s former name, something that I understand but find disrespectful and something done out of ignorance. I will not use any such names in my translation. Alex can help if he wishes and of course others Swedes read this blog:

Despite that the Resare couple lived a sexually faithful life and had been married for eight years, since they were 20 and 21 years 0ld, they have had to leave their marriage for legal purposes and get divorced. The reason is that Noa’s wife had undergone sex correction and now is called Alex.

Before the sex correction, all Alex’s energy went to to holding back what he knew he was.

“Facing my image of God and my self-image led to lonliness and contempt. Now I understand and see myself as beautiful as other people,” Alex says.

The two were active in the free church. Alex (still a woman on the outside) and Noa met through common friends. They married and had two daughters. Alex became full-time housewife and strove to maintain the home perfect.

With anticipation, I envision Alex and Noa together in a café. Alex has brown, little secret full eyes. I had stereotyped thoughts about him that as a woman with long hair, little lipstick and a feather duster in the hand that flutters rapidly past.

Okay, that is all I can do. You can read the entire piece for yourself here. And feel free to correct my translation. It is faulty at best. Or forget about the words altogether and stare at the gorgeous picture of this amazing couple.