Category: Sweden

Coming to Columbus & Denver & Portland & Sweden!

Later this month after my show at SUNY Brockport (near Rochester, NY), I fly to Columbus, OH to see my buddy Bobby Painter perform as the leading role of Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (and if you saw my last presentation at Greenbelt, you will know what that story is REALLY all about!)

I just got confirmation that while I am in Columbus I will perform Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House at New Creation Metropolitan Community Church, Sunday October 28 at 7:00 PM. You can get the full details at my site. So if you are in the Columbus area, come on by (and if you want to see Bobby as Joseph, let me know and I will get you the details. He is an amazing singer and has been working out for weeks for the half-naked scenes. Biblical theater can be so racy.)

The following weekend (Nov 2-4) I will be in Estes Park with the Quakers (outside of Denver) and although it has not been confirmed yet, I may present something at the Denver MCC–Metropolitan Church of the Rockies. Keep your eye on the performance schedule.

And for you Texas people….nothing. But my booking agent has begun to make some inquiries in Austin and Dallas. Of course if you have any contacts at universities or churches, let me know and I will pass them on. (I write this because you guys are the biggest whiners in the world about me not doing anything in your area 🙂

In other travel news, I will be back in Portland, Oregon from December 3-17 to hang out with guys of the Anawim Community, who I got to know in January when I joined them at their annual retreat. These are grounded, wise and sincere gay Christan men, deeply spiritual and good fun. I get to stay with Doug and Bruce until they tire of me. I also have some super Quaker connections in Portland (hey Noël and Bonnie!) and Salem (hey Peggy and Alivia!) and other super folks I have met through the university, the MCC and the Q Center. I have no immediate plans to present anything in Portland as I am mainly going to rest and reflect and consume copious amounts of high quality coffee with even higher quality friends, but I may do one or two simple presentations.

On Christmas Day I fly to Stockholm then UmeĂĄ to visit Alex, Noa and the kids for a few weeks. Dark, bitter cold northern Sweden in the dead of winter. Delicious. I might just do a show so that I don’t freeze to death.
Boys, you will have to keep me warm!

Having been home for over a month feels great. I tidied up, rearranged, got loads done, connected with friend and feel very very content, so I am glad I don’t go too far for a copy of weeks. Of course with such brilliant people in those far away places, it makes it easy to leave my comfy lair.

Right now I’m listening to the new Radiohead In Rainbows album with its distinctive Radiohead dreamy, dreary sound. Good tunes for an overcast day.

UPDATE: After being harassed for weeks, I caved and joined Facebook. So all you harassers, work your Facebook magic and make me your friends or bedbugs or level 5 angel-sluts or whatever its called on Facebook.

Doing it in Swedish

While I was in Lund, Sweden this spring, I sat down for fika (a little afternoon sweet snack with coffee or tea) with journalist Tor Billgren. Tor interviewed me for Swedish radio.

In the interview I speak about my marriage, my time at Love in Action, ex-gay “success” and the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference. I also do a short excerpt of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House where Chad and Vlad talk about the program rules.

I asked Tor about the broadcast details of the interview.

It was aired by Sverige Radio (The National Broadcasting Association) on channel P1 on June the 29th. The program is called “Människor och tro” (Humans and belief) and is a journalistic magazine which deals with religion, beliefs and clashes within the world of faith.

Before the interview the host gave a short summary of the ex gay-movement, and introduced your project and that your conference took place in the same city as the Exodus-conference. And then you explain how you chose the location.

Although some of it is in Swedish, the bulk of the interview is in English. You can have a listen here.

Rainbow Mass in Sweden

I love Sweden, especially because of some very dear friends I have there. Courageous people who explore their lives, sexuality and faith in so many creative ways from Karaoke to Monster drawings.

Lots of folks think that Sweden is a gay paradise where EVERYONE is absolutely accepting and affirming. They do have progressive laws for gays and lesbians (although my state of Connecticut provide better legal protection for transgender people than Sweden’s current laws), but tensions, challenges and difficulties still exist.

Noa Resare (the other husband in the team of Alex and Noa) recently helped organize the Rainbow Mass up in UmeĂĄ. He shares a story of the event and the growth of one Lutheran priest in the process:

One of my responsibilities today was to arrange a Rainbow mass in the lutheran church at the center of our town. Finding a priest willing and able to step in and celebrate with us when the one we had asked had to cancel for medical reasons was more difficult than I had imagined. Finally, after having contacted 22 people that all said they couldn’t help me for various reasons I finally found someone reluctantly willing to celebrate with us.

His name was Erik, and he was a swedish lutheran piest of the old kind. He was someone that you would suspect was still using the old translation of the Lord’s prayer (the one obsoleted by the new official swedish Bible translation that we got in 1981), a suspicion that turned out to be correct.

I was happy that he agreed to do it, but when we had our mass today many little things was not as we had discussed. He didn’t specifically welcome the LGBT community as we had agreed, he refused to call themass “Rainbow mass” (that is sort of a trade mark for LGBT friendly services in Sweden), and he held rather long sermon about forgiveness starting out with Mt 18:21-22 (when Jesus says that we should forgive each other seventy-seven times). It started out kind of good, but then his focus shifted a little bit too much onto the notions of sinfulness and cleanness.

However, when we started to celebrate communion together (I helped people with the wine, he distributed the bread) I felt that this mass was a big moment for him. He did something that he hadn’t done before, and probably hadn’t even dreamed of doing. My feeling was that as he was administering the communion, seeing people coming forward to share communion that he had never seen in church before, some with rainbow colored clothing, some women with men’s clothes, a girl with a pink wig, he was changed. He was seeing new things, a new kind of diversity among the people sharing communion.

I was deeply touched by this, as I sat down listening to the organ music ending our service. Seeing someone’s eyes open, old and perhaps judgemental ideas just falling to the floor when challenged by reality, that was simply amazing.

Thank you Noa for organizing the Rainbow Mass and for giving me permission to share this account. Big hug!

Doin´ Time in Madrid

I arrived in Madrid, Spain last night to visit my brother and his wife (mi cuñada) for a few days. Today is my brother´s birthday (su cumpliaños), and we celebrated with a big lunch in their new flat in the North of the city.

All day long I have spoken Spanish and really should be blogging over at Dos Equis, the blog en Español that Adriana Cabrera and I co-write. Speaking Spanish is much more forgiving than speaking Swedish. Ugh, Swedish! Svensk! In Spanish if you mispronounce a word, people typically know what you are trying to say, but in Swedish, you end up saying an altogether different word (and somehow one that is always embarassing).

On this trip I have proven that change is possible. I started out with US dollars, changed those for British pound sterling, then moved on briefly to the Danish krone, then to the Swedish krona, then back to the pound and now onto the Euro. I am not sure what has gotten a bigger workout, my language skills or my math skills. I say let´s bring on the one-world government and currency and get it over with!

My brother has a vast DVD collection. In fact, we couldn´t be more different in that regard. I own no more than 10 DVDs, most of them anime or things people gave me that I have never watched (except of course Hedwig!). He has a library of over 250 films, including the entire Disney Classics collection (even though they have no children). Most impressive is collection of actual movie classics. His favorite is The Philadephia Story with Katherine Hepburn.

While I was with Spädbarn Alex and Spädbarn Daniel in Stockholm a few weeks ago, we went to Moderna Museet (Museum of Modern Art). There we watched some silent films including Charlie Chaplin´s Modern Times, which I think was very much inspired by Fritz Lang´s 1927 film, Metropolis. Breathtaking in its humor. I learned so much about comedy in the few minutes we stood there watching.

It is getting close to 10 PM, so that means we will have dinner in the next hour or so. Such a strange time table here in Spain. Tomorrow I will have lunch with a former Exodus leader who is now happily partnered with another man here in Spain. I can´t wait to tell him all about bXg.

On Saturday my brother, his wife and I will go North to Bilboa for a few days. I´ve always wanted to go to that city in the Basque Country. Okay, wine and gazpacho is on the table, so I am off. Hasta pronto.

But first some video.

Here is a clip from Modern Times
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDTVzWtsMD0]

Homophobia and Ex-gays in Sweden

Like many people raised in the USA, particularly with an Evangelical church background, I always thought of Sweden as a place where gays and lesbians were freely accepted by a society that had done its work to embrace all of its citizens. And really it is an amazing place with progressive laws for many of its citizens. But anti-gay sentiments can still run deep regardless of laws. Anti-gay messages still get into the public’s minds through preachers, neo-Nazis and just plain ignorance.

In September when I visited Sweden for the first time, I felt shocked to hear about homophobic attacks in major cities like Stockholm and that most offices of the RFSL (the national LGBT organization) could not put signs up in front of their offices and meeting places because of anti-gay vandalism. At that time I also learned about people who felt compelled to live double-lives in order to find acceptance within their families, communities and churches.

In regards to the ex-gay movement, many Swedes told me that nothing like this happens in their country. That pleased me to hear, but I had my doubts. Sometimes ex-gay ministry happens under the radar through independent churches where youth ministers and pastors, influenced by US doctrines, engage in practices that most of the public never hear about.

During my most recent trip I heard from a teen who attends a charismatic church in the Stockholm area. At a gathering this month of teens they had a special speaker, a woman who says God delivered her from homosexuality. She used to be a lesbian, but not anymore, well not so much. She did go onto to say that she doesn’t really enjoy kissing men so much and still has some struggles. (Alex heard the same account, so perhaps he can add more details if I got them wrong or if there is more to add)

Who knows why the church chose this speaker? Perhaps one of the young women among them showed signs of lesbianism (what exactly are the signs anyway?) The organizer’s message came through loud and clear though that the “lesbian lifestyle” was not within God’s perfect plan and therefore the faithful must resist, repent, reform. I sense from the teen telling me the story though that most (but perhaps not all) of them saw through the ruse.

But what other messages do they transmit to these young people in Stockholm? If being lesbian is out of God’s perfect plan, then what does that make lesbians and gays? Sinners? Enemies of God? Enemies of society? Evil?

Where does violence against gays and lesbians and transgender people arise? I find it curious that Neo-Nazis and certain types of heterosexual Christians spend so much time attacking lesbians and gays. They use different weapons, but to me their hatred and intolerance comes from the same spirit. A spirit that proclaims, You are wrong, sick, flawed, a threat, and therefore you must be dealt with in this life or the next.

Alex sent me a link to an article about a horrific attack on a lesbian at the offices of the RFSL in Stockholm this week. It reminds me of a similar attack that took place near Boston not too long ago.

A woman thought to be in her forties was struck in the head with an axe in central Stockholm on Monday afternoon.

The attack took place at the offices of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) on Sveavägen just after 3.30pm.

Police arrested a man around fifteen minutes later in connection with the incident. He was still carrying the axe when he was apprehended.

RFSL chairman Sören Andersson has confirmed that woman was an employee of the organization. He is in no doubt that the crime was motivated by hatred.

“It’s obvious that this can’t be anything other than a hate crime directed at our organization,” he said.

“This clearly shows that the work done to counteract hate crimes has not been sufficient. More needs to be done. It is dreadful, really dreadful, when staff cannot feel safe at work,” he added.

The woman has been taken to hospital where the seriousness of her injuries is not yet known.

The former lesbian speaking to a youth group and a man attacking a lesbian in the same city are unrelated. But are they really? If you inform young people that it is wrong to be gay, outside of God’s will, even a threat to society like many anti-gay ministers proclaim, isn’t it possible that the result would be that someone reacts by hurling anti-gay slurs, vandalizing LGBT centers, or by physically attacking lesbians, gay couples or trans people?

How responsible are we for the words we speak, the messages we transmit? What happens when ex-gay leader teaches that gays are outside of God’s perfect plan while at the same time the same leader insists that he takes a public stand against homophobia? Can’t they see how they contribute to homophobia and operate under the same umbrella as people who violently hate gays?

Sticks and stone may break your bones, but words, well, they often the fuel the violence.

Never in Sweden, right?

I am in the lovely university city of Lund where they know me as Queerstand-up komiker och aktivist Peterson Toscano. I did a talk last night before they showed the film Fish Can’t Fly. They said that that film has been the best attended event so far during the film festival.

Lots of people here say that ex-gay stuff doesn’t happen in Sweden. They no longer have an Exodus affiliated program. Their ex-gay program doesn’t say people can change, but rather they need to remain celebate. But all of these crazy things we do in the US do not happen here in Sweden. Or do they?

After my talk, I met a man who has been a Swedish Pentecostal minister for 30 years. He prayed, sought God, endured exorcisms and much more all in the attempt to change his same-sex desires or else get delivered from homosexuality. He is actually at the very start of his journey out of that closet and is not even ready to visit bXg. But he came to the talk and the movie.

During Fish Can’t Fly there is a scene that I have always hated. It takes place in a gay charismatic church in Florida. I was charismatic/pentecostal for years. I went to churches where they lifted their hands, spoke in tongues, prophesied, cast out demons and got slain in the Holy Spirit. The primary reason I joined such a church was because after some years in the Evangelical non-charismatic church, I thought I needed more power from on high in order to drive out the darkness of my homosexuality.

So whenever I see the scene of this gay church with the same worship style, I cringe. I do not think I could ever go back to that sort of a church, even a gay one. But this pentecostal minister confided in me that when he saw that scene, he wept openly. He asked, can it be that I can worship like I do and still be open about my sexuality? So thank you Tom Murray for including that scene in your movie!

Church is not big here in Sweden, and folks like Jerry Falwell, who recently died in the US, are virtually unknown. As far as I could tell, there has been nothing mentioned in the national press about Falwell except for a short blurb in on-line edition of a printed paper. One person explained that the Swedes find comments by Falwell so outrageous that they would simply print nothing about him instead of giving him airspace.

A reporter e-mailed me to ask my reaction to Falwell’s death. That is basically how I found out about it, through that e-mail and another from a fellow blogger. I bet if I hadn’t checked my e-mails, I would not know.

I read how Falwell had died probably due to heart troubles. My immediate thought was, “If he were a vegan, I bet he would still be alive today.”

Falwell is a product of the US and of the liberal policy regarding broadcasting licenses. In most countries in the world, it is extremely difficult to get airtime and especially difficult to own and operate TV and radio stations. In some places, far too difficult. But in the USA it is far too easy, and since the 1920’s, evangelists have been spewing racist, sexist, homophobic, heterosexist, poltical garbage along with the Good News right into the homes and hearts of Americans looking for answers in a Post-Industrial and Post-Modern world.

The impact is far greater than most of us can imagine. The reach that many of these folks have had is unreal. Someone like Falwell should have been laughed off the scene a long time ago, but he had reach through his media arm. And sadly, in the US, if you talk, particularly with the authority of the scriptures and a broadcast license, they will listen. Get your photo taken with a few presidents, make some clever predictions, soak your message with fear, and you have yourself an audience who will lap up all the crap you have to dish out without thinking for themselves.

This sort of thing in Sweden is foreign. The concept is bizarre. I imagine the Religous Right, who for decades has pointed to Sweden as the bastion of all things liberal and wrong with the world, would LOVE to change all of that. But with folks like Ă…ke Green and Fred Phelps stirring up trouble, one imagines the Swedes would see the insanity for what it is–hate, fear and lies.