Testimonial on the the Old and the New

Yesterday was a lovely “book-end” sort of day with a positive experience happening in the morning and then repeated in the evening. In the morning, after an amazing breakfast with Rex, the brother of a Friend from Hartford, and Sam, his friend,  where we talked about being gay and the Bible and families and friends who don’t yet get it and so much more, I received an e-mail that cheered me considerably. transfigcardfrontfinal_lr

My Friend Oliver Danni Green, someone I know from the Quaker world but  who is also the TransFormations Oasis Leader at Jesus MC in Indianapolis, saw a performance of my play Transfigurations last month. This is a piece about transgender and gender variant Bible characters.

After the performance a group of guys, all of them with trans experiences, approached me to express their gratitude. I asked if any of them would be willing to send a one-sentence blurb about the play that I can share with others.  Oliver sent me the following detailed glowing response.

What a blessing to finally see Peterson’s newest show, TransFigurations! I’d already seen all of his previous one-(hu)man shows, but over a year went by between when he first began performing TransFigurations and when I was finally able to experience it myself. Of course, while I was waiting, I sent my friends from coast to coast to go see the show and hug Peterson for me, and heard back from each and every one of them that they absolutely loved it.

I finally got to see TransFigurations for myself at the Friends for LGBTQ Concerns Midwinter Gathering at Molalla, OR. I knew going into it that I would probably find myself crying by the end, but I had no idea just how deeply and profoundly it would stir up the depths of my soul that are attached to my tear ducts. Over and over again, in each of the stories Peterson embodied in his play, I saw pieces of myself illuminated that had never before seen the light of day in such a public space. I am, myself, a deeply faithful child of God who has been blessed with the challenge of walking a transgender path. As a religious trans person, I struggle on a daily basis to express the importance of my faith to my friends who are trans, and the spiritual and practical experiences of my gender identity to my faith community.

Peterson’s play did more for me than simply pointing me toward some lesser-known Bible characters with gender issues – it gave me this incredible sense of affirmation that I exist, that the Bible says I exist, and that I can point other people to exactly where in the Bible it says that I exist.

I also have the blessing of serving as the leader of a group for transgender people and our friends and allies at the Jesus MCC in Indianapolis, IN. In my role as the leader of this group, I have the opportunity to provide support, worship opportunities, and learning experiences which specifically speak to the condition of those in our church who are transgender and those who wish to create a more welcoming space for our transgender family members and neighbors. Several of the stories from Peterson’s play have already found themselves hot discussion topics in our church group. We are eagerly looking forward to bringing Peterson to our little cornfield-bordered metropolis to share TransFigurations with our community!

TransFigurations is more than just an entertaining play. It is a full-body, full-soul experience with the power to create immeasurable change in the lives of individual audience members and in the tide of discourse about transgender people in faith communities. Everyone who is alive deserves the gift of experiencing this show!

Wow! When, as the old song says,  “I feel discourage and think my life’s in vain,” I am going to let the Spirit revive my soul with Oliver’s affirming words.

Last night at Rice University in Houston, TX I presented Homo No Mo?!: Orientation, Gender and the Ex-Gay Movement, a lively lecture/workshop with performance. In it I get the participants talking about the  ex-gay movement, and through excerpts of my Homo No Mo play, small and large group discussions, video clips and Q&A, we look at the various methods people try in order to “de-gay” and the many reasons they may choice such a course for themselves or loved ones.

We had a great turnout last night with an engaged audience that really stepped up and asked really insightful questions. One of my favorite was when someone asked, “So at the Love in Action program, did they have any sort of rules or protections to deal with the possibility of a gay man and lesbian woman hooking up?” I responded, “I don’t think they ever (ever!) faced that particular challenge before in the program.” lol

After the show a student approached me and shared how he grew up in a conservative Catholic home and as an adolescent even attended a two week camp which was in part designed to fix his gayness. As a young teen he felt very scared of being gay.

Then in his junior year of high school traveled to NYC for a summer intern program. One day while walking around with friends in the Village (he said he felt uncertain about even being in such a gay part of town), he saw a poster about some play. It was a gay thing so he demured, but someone he was with persuaded him to go.

dvd_front-1Turns out it was MY play–my only NY performance of Homo No Mo, which I presented at Marble Collegiate Church in Chelsea some years ago. He said he went, and it literally changed his life. Later that summer he had his first love with another guy and met a teacher who has since turned out to be a gay mentor.  He has been out and clear about himself ever since. When he heard that the Queers and Allies group invited me to Rice, he was thrilled, and then he came to me and told me the whole story. Yummy!

People often ask me, “Is it hard to travel so much and to get up in front of people and share so much of yourself?” It’s a rare privilege and an amazing opportunity to meet so many incredible people in cool places and to have experiences that shape my world view, challenge my thinking, and open me up to new ideas. But yeah, I feel drained at times and feel the effects of soaking and stirring in so many stories and issues. These positive encounters and the affirming words (along with the on-going love and support from friends) feed me, encourage me, strengthen me.

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This post has 12 Comments

  1. Brian on March 12, 2009 at 2:47 pm Reply

    I didn’t know you performed at Marble! Talking to them about bringing TransFigurations is on my list of things to do. Gotta get on that…

  2. p2son on March 12, 2009 at 2:53 pm Reply

    Brian, hahaha, I included that detail just for YOU! Yeah, it was the LGBT group that had me come. We had a decent turn out. I think we will have a HUGE turnout of Transfigurations when we do that show at the church. 😀

  3. meredithjustice on March 12, 2009 at 5:03 pm Reply

    Peterson,
    I’ve bookmarked your blog. You have lots of love coming your way from Hartford, me included!
    Love,
    Meredith

  4. Vincent Cervantes on March 12, 2009 at 5:33 pm Reply

    I can’t wait to work with you in a couple weeks!

  5. Sheriah in SA on March 12, 2009 at 10:00 pm Reply

    Ha.ha.ha! Peterson, that was a VERY VERY clever question! “So, at the love in Action programme, did they have any sort of rules or protections to deal with the possibility of a gay man and a lesbian woman hooking up?” First of all, the fact that a woman is lesbian doesn’t make her less woman, she is as whole as a heterosexual/straight woman! So, a gay guy wanting to hook up with a lesbian woman is bisexual, end of story..He wants to hook up with a WOMAN, not a MAN. Whoever asked that question should be a journalist!

  6. Sheriah in SA on March 12, 2009 at 10:40 pm Reply

    Peterson, i like most of your stories; they are thought provoking, and you seem to unintentionally leave room to challenge some of your thoughts. Recently, I came across an article that described your play as an”extreme fabrication” for several reasons: 1) Transsexuals no more existed in Biblical times, than did subway stations. Here’s why: The only way a man (and vice versa) can appear to be the opposite sex is through surgery. The first complete male to female operations were performed in Germany in the early 1930s on patients referred by pioneering [homosexual] sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld.” The article also calls your theory “creative reimagining ” and quote, “the pivotal detail in Peterson’s account of this gospel story is the man carrying the jar of water. Apparently, men didn’t carry pitchers of water in Biblical times. Not ever, unless they were Biblical transsexual. Read ex ex gay unfolds bizzare tale of Biblical transsexual-Gay christian movement watch..What do you have to say to defend your theory?

  7. Sheriah in SA on March 12, 2009 at 11:06 pm Reply

    You can look up ex ex gay unfolds bizarre story of Bibilical transsexual-Gay christian movement watch in GOOGLE

  8. p2son on March 13, 2009 at 9:24 am Reply

    Sheriah, you will just have to open up your Bible to find surgically altered, gender variant individuals in both the Old and the New Testament. You are the journalist–do your homework and go to the primary source! 🙂

    And there are plenty of people who transgress and transcend gender in the Bible (and the world today) who do not need to surgery or take hormones. They still fall squarely under a transgender umbrella. The writer of the post you reference ignorantly assumes one needs to have these surgeries in order to be transgender.

    Consider the woman in your own village that you have written about before, who although was male-bodied, expressed herself as a woman. No surgeries required–just authenticity.

    Part of the purpose of the play, Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, is to show the range of gender in the world, the beautiful spectrum that defies simple boxes and body image.

    To those on-line critics of my play, I don’t have much to say until they actually SEE the play. Then they can begin to speak intelligently about it.

  9. Sheriah-SA on March 13, 2009 at 10:23 am Reply

    Actually, after I posted that comment, the thought of Zinnia, the woman from my village who naturally looked both male and female poped up in my mind. I was like, silly me, I shouldn’t have included that part! Ofcourse transgender people can look like that without surgical intervention. Ok, so you win there, maybe now you should talk a little more about the man who carried water in a pitcher? By the way, I can’t write much now, I can only drop by later or tommorow.

  10. Sheriah-SA on March 13, 2009 at 10:33 am Reply

    Just so you know, everything I threw in that article was a quote from that link/source; wasnt my actual words. I was going to provide the link but because I was logged on to the internet on my phone, I had to ask you to look it up via our good old friend google.. Am very busy now. Later!

  11. p2son on March 13, 2009 at 11:02 am Reply

    Sheriah, as to the “man” carrying the pitcher of water, well, this is best shared on-stage and not in blog comments. I will have to just return to South Africa and let you see it for yourself. Either that or you can get the Transfigurations graphic novel when it comes out sometime in the next year.

    But here are some questions for you–
    Who carries water in many parts of the world–men? women? children?

    If it was so common for men to carry water in first century Jerusalem, how would the disciples know which of the many men to follow in order to find the empty upper room?

    Why does Matthew writing to a conservative Jewish audience in his gospel mention the incident but leave out the detail that the “certain man” will be carrying a pitcher of water?

  12. Sheriah-SA on March 13, 2009 at 11:31 am Reply

    Ok, see you in South Africa then. Either that or send me your book when its out. Wait, when your book is out dont forget to let me know when its available in SA…

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