Next Tuesday my partner Glen Retief and I will both present at an LGBTQ conference in Oslo, Norway–Homo og trans–Meningsløse kategorier?. The theme of the conference is gender and sexuality in a trans-cultural perspective. This event is sponsored by LLH (the National organisation for LGBT rights) Skeiv ungdom (Queer Youth) and Skeivt forum (a forum for Queers within Academia) The conference itself will be funded by the Norwegian ministry of foreign affairs.
As a white South African involved with the Queer Liberation and anti-Apartheid movements, Glen will read an excerpt from his upcoming memoir, The Jack Bank, and recount some of the activism he witnessed and in which he took a part. In addition to doing excerpts from my plays Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and Queer 101–Now I Know my gAy,B,Cs, I will present a paper entitled The US-Based Ex-Gay Movement: Aggressively Dangerous at Home and Abroad.
I am an ex-gay survivor. I spent 17 years and over 30,000 USD on three continents attempting to suppress and change my orientation and gender-variance through a variety of programs, Christian ministries and therapies. I took part in what is known as the Ex-Gay Movement or Reparative Therapy. Not only did the process prove ineffective—it did not in any way make me any less gay and only temporarily altered my gender presentation—it also proved destructive. In speaking with over 1,500 fellow ex-gay survivors we have outlined nine areas of harm that come from reparative therapy within the context of homophobic and heterosexist societies. Many of us began these potentially harmful treatments through a religious context, but we have since unearthed many non-religious factors that motivated us. Although primarily a product of the USA targeting adults, the modern Ex-Gay Movement has steadily expanded its influence at home and abroad. In the past 20 years they have shifted their focus to include queer and questioning youth in the United States while also exporting their treatments and theories abroad with projects in parts of Asia, Africa, South America and Europe.
In addition to my presentations at the conference, I will perform in Oslo on Monday night at Blitz presenting Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano. It will serve as a premiere of some new material I have been working on for my newest play I Can See Sarah Palin form my Window! Lessons Before the 2nd Coming.
In an effort to ensure that no American is left behind, comic actor Peterson Toscano presents a zany, thought-provoking and surprising play. Dreams from my Mother meets Going Maverick with a Russian folk-pop interpretive dance thrown in. One actor, five characters & and everything you need to know before Jesus Returns, Palin becomes president or Obama destroys us all!
Next Friday I also present my play Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, a piece that looks at the many gender non-conforming people in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Turns out some of the most important people in the most important Bible stories were gender variant or gender non-conforming. While I do not believe we should base our laws on the Bible, I have found that discovering and spending time with these Bible characters as well as spending time with transgender people and transsexuals has deepened my faith and my commitment to justice.
Here’s a video where I talk about transgender rights and the reality of gender non-conformists in the Bible.
Before Oslo we spend a day in NYC where I will catch up with my nephew (who is so cool he a room at the New Yorker hotel for his college dorm room) and hopefully get to grab a coffee with fellow performance artist Scott Turner Schofield. Glen and I will also pop into the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) for an exhibition of William Kentridge works, an artist from South Africa, as well as the highly popular Tim Burton exhibit.
From New York we spend the weekend in Paris before heading off to Oslo. I am especially looking forward to worshiping a the Paris Friends Meeting (Quaker) which I have heard about from other Friends who have been there. I wonder what French silence is like… I see lots of good bread and wine in my immediate future. But even with all of the charm and allure of Paris, I am most looking forward to Oslo. I have discovered that when I travel I am most interested in people and food, in that order or better yet together. At the conference I will get to hang out with a new buddy, Tarald Stein, the Norwegian poet and queer/trans activist.
I’ll also get to meet up with a bunch of other people engaged in justice work including Victor Mukasa who will present on The U.S. Christian Right attack on lesbian, gays, bisexuals and trans persons in Africa: Introduction of the “Anti-homosexuality Bill” in Uganda. Victor spoke in December at the UN about human rights violations against LGBTI people on the continent of Africa. Here is video of that address. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jT0AEeJip_s&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00]
As often happens at conferences like this one, I expect to learn a lot, particularly as one of the primary focuses will be centered on transgender issues and concerns. My first role as an ally is to listen then to listen some more.
And in honor of my French and Norwegian excursion, my Jesus Loves You! tweets will be in French and Norwegian 🙂