The Many Flavors of Gays

When I lived in Quito, Ecuador as a missionary and then later when I volunteered at Exodus’ Latin American headquarters, I ate a lot of ice cream. I was not a vegan then, and freshly made ice cream they sold along the Avenidas tasted better than Bryer’s ® ever did.

Oh, and the flavors they offered! Fruits I never heard of before like Mora and Naranilla. Tropical flavors–mango, pineapple, avocado and even tomato.

Most of my life I only had three flavors: chocolate, vanilla and my favorite, mint chocolate chip. But that all changed in Ecuador.

Back in my missionary days I believed there was only one kind of gay–the sick pervert who engaged in sex anywhere and with anyone. He carried diseases, always tried to seduce straight men, and had no regard for God or any sort of moral code. At Christian college I would go with a group into Greenwich Village in NYC to tell gays that unless they repented of their evil homosexual lifestyles, they would burn in hell far from the presence of God.

I was the biggest homophobe I knew and of course I turned the loathing onto myself more than any other person.

But then after nearly two decades of fighting off my same-sex desires (often unsuccessfully) I accepted myself as gay and began the long hard work to heal my battered sense of self–a work that continues.

About a year after I accepted myself as gay, Rev. Timothy Meadows of Holy Trinity Community Church in my then home of Memphis, TN, asked me to write poem about the Memphis LGBT community for the mother of Matthew Sheppard who was coming to speak. He had me interview scores of queer people–all types, all flavors.

Lesbian moms, senior citizens both single and partnered for years, Black gay male professionals, bisexual grandparents, gay athletes, transgender Christians, queer teens getting ready for the prom, all types, sizes and backgrounds. Many lifestyles and so much health and well-being.

Meeting all those folks was one of the first teps to replace the lies I harbored about myself & others.

This post has 9 Comments

  1. Ally on February 24, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    There’s nothing like meeting real people to call your prejudices into question, is there?

    One of my goals for this life is to be one of those real people…and another is to meet lots more of them. Because I have my prejudices too.

  2. Anna HP on February 24, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    We all have prejudices, the biggest one is to say you don’t someone very wisely said. And Peterson, having the courage to try those new flavors is what makes you (and everyone else) so wonderful. Just think what would have happend if you didn’t have the guts .. you would never have tasted Tartex 🙂

  3. Clint on February 24, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    Any chance of posting the poem?

  4. Anonymous on February 24, 2007 at 5:37 pm


    Parallel to this is the experience people have when they realize they are part of a flavor themselves. As a deeply closeted gay man of evangelical background I had little experience meeting others like myself. Ironically that changed when I joined an ex-gay therapy group. I met guys like me, and I learned I was a part of a flavor. And as I got to know many of them and see the beauty of their souls, I began to be able to see the beauty of my own soul. And that helped me accept myself as is. And that learning goes on when I read this blog; because I’m not the only one who had those demons prayed out of me. I’m not the only one who turned self-loathing into an art form. I’m not the only one who spent two decades either denying or fighting off same-sex desires (I’m 42 going on 43, and yes it’s a remarkable parallel.) I’m not the only one in the personal hell of trying to reconcile faith and sexuality. And I’m not the only one who has survived the baloney spread by the ex-gay movement and its supporters.

    Keep up the good work. And bring your performances down here to Texas, we need all the help we can get.

    PW in TX

  5. Daniel C on February 24, 2007 at 11:09 pm

    Sometimes I find that strange.. Was it YOU Peterson? I mean YOU you… It’s not at all like the person I met, and its so hard to understand.. That this person was really you?

  6. Ally on February 25, 2007 at 10:25 am

    And bring your performances down here to Texas, we need all the help we can get.

    Have I not said this? Have I not said this?

    You could think of it as a mission trip, Peterson… =)

  7. Peterson Toscano on February 25, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    ally, I know, I know, I really want to come on a “mission trip”to TX. Hook me up! 🙂 You get me a contact at a university or church or something, and I will track it down. These folks don’t typically respond to cold calls.

    daniel, I know what you mean. I sometimes look at the past and wonder what odd spell I had been under. For all that we prized individuality in the US, it amazes me how much group mentality takes over in nearly every community.

    Clint, I’ll add a link to the poem.

    Anna HP, good thoughts, especially the Tartex.

    anonymous, wow, what similarities there. So glad you were able to escape the shadows and come into the light.

  8. Daniel C on February 25, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    As I am allways the sceptic: here is a nice thought about this idealisation of individuality.

    In the movie “Life of Brian”, every person in Jerusalem gathers outside poor Brians window where he tries to convince them to trust themselves..
    “You’re all individuals” he shouts out.
    “yes” the crowd awnser in a choir “we’re all individuals”. And amongst them one man says “well.. I’m not”. And everyone else goes “shhh”.

  9. Steve on February 27, 2007 at 5:31 am

    It took seeing the lives of two committed, partnered gay Christians to even allow myself to consider the remote possibility that I was gay.

    Tom was a lawyer who had been the local Catholic parish’s adult instruction leader, and Michael was a Carmelite priest and spiritual director. They spotted me long before I was ready to come out – and their loving encouragement helped me get honest about who and what I was.

    But it was their example – of being comfortable with being gay, of being reconciled to their faith, of being gay and out and sober and free – that helped give me permission to slowly creep out of the closet myself.

    A man in recovery here (sober 45 years) is fond of saying, “If anyone else had done to us what we had done to us, we would have killed the son-of-a-gun a long, long time ago.” I was my own worst victim for years. And I understand homophobia in others more, having looked at all the lies I believed about myself. After all, children (and adults) learn what they live and live what they learn.

    Thanks for the honesty and openness, Peterson.

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