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.
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.
Turns 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.