Category: tour

Doin’ Time in Seattle

After a whirlwind adventure in Washington, DC, which included a heated toilet seat with special cleansing superpowers, I landed in Seattle, Washington with a full blown case of the cold. Fortunately I had a full two days with nothing to do but indulge in a NyQuil induced coma. I emerged 48 hours later c0ld-free but muddy in the head. One stiff cup of a Seattle soy latte cleared away the funk and gave me liquid courage to explore the city.

The Gender Odyssey Conference began today with registration and meet & greet. I saw Katie, partner to Paige, so I didn’t feel so all alone and awkward. Tomorrow I will attend a few different workshops including, one on being Genderqueer and another on Class, poverty and the trans community.

I will leave the conference right after lunch to head two hours north to Blaine, Washington near the Canadian border where I will perform at a music festival (well with some comedy thrown in).

With Tropical Storm Gustav threatening to slam into the Gulf Coast on Tuesday, I may have to change my travel plans to New Orleans. Portland anyone???

Okay, off to bed with me with visions of trans men dancing in my head…

Transfigurations in DC & Beyond

On Monday I begin a three city tour of my new play, a one-person, multi-character, multi-gender play, Transfigurations — Transgressing Gender in the Bible, which explores the lives of transgender Bible characters.

On Tuesday August 26, 2008 I will present the play at the headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) 1640 Rhode Island Ave, Washington, DC. An hors d’oeuvres reception begins at 5:30 PM with the performance starting at 6:00 pm.

On Wednesday I fly to Seattle, Washington for the Gender Odyssey Conference where I will mostly soak in the many amazing workshops, but I will also offer Transfigurations as a workshop on Sunday afternoon.

Then I fly to New Orleans to take part in the Many Stories One Voice Conference. In addition to performing Transfigurations, I will also attend and present at For Such a Time as This: A Transgender Pre-Event.

The last time I presented the play was earlier in the summer in Malta. The response there surprised me with many people telling me how deeply moved they were by both the material and the way I presented it. I feel so fortunate to have this play to perform. Please tell your friends in DC, Seattle and New Orleans about it!

For my full performance schedule, click here.

Hanging in Hatfield

Ah, I had a stellar week in/on Guernsey. I felt kissed by the warm sun everyday (and smacked in the butt by the icy waters). Perfect weather and a true break. I got to meet many family members of Auntie Doris. She originally hails from Guernsey and her extended family have overrun the island. One could not keep a secret in this place with a cousin, aunt or sibling popping up everywhere one goes.

I learned so much about the WWII Nazi Occupation of the island. I learned much from our visit to the Occupation Museum, but I found that the letters and artifacts from the occupation that Auntie Doris’ grandmother saved made the whole era come alive. So hard to imagine how this quiet tidy island filled up with Nazi troops, with homes and cars commandeered, signs in German everywhere and very little food or other rations.

Auntie Doris introduced me to several family members at their homes over meals and at the beach. Each one belongs to one of the island’s many churches (52 according to Auntie Doris) and many of them serve as leaders of their evangelical/charismatic churches (I really don’t know how to class them as I did not attend but went to the Quakers instead. Some are Elim Churches and others are New Frontiers with probably some independent ones as well.)

During these encounters we spent a great deal of time talking about the scriptures and of course sexuality. I especially appreciated praying with Auntie Doris’ cousin Becky and her husband Pierre. Dinner with her sister Louise and brother-in-law Phillip also served as a highlight with thoughtful and thought provoking discussion.

Now I have returned to London for the evening. Tomorrow I head to Canterbury/Kent for Lambeth. I will stay right there on the campus and will have a pass to go into many of the sessions. Goodness, what shall I wear? All these bishops have these lovely frocks. I can’t compete!

I feel honored to be part of the historic Lambeth Conference, and I look forward to seeing things firsthand. I hope to do some blogging from there, but we shall see what sort of time (and wifi) I have.

Do remember to ask me about the loaves and the fishes. This miracle has seriously challenged me ever since I stayed in Malta and began thinking and meditating on greed (not that the Matlese were greedy mind you. I just read a lot about the current housing loan crisis juxtaposed with the Hebrew prophets.)

Oh, and I just got word from my local public radio station that a program we did last year wow a PRNDI award. Catie Talarski, the segment producer, felt strong that she wanted to include the transgender perspective to the discussion, so invited local trans activist JeriMarie Liesegang to be part of the show. As a result, it came out quite well.

Where We Live has been honored with a first place award from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI), a national organization dedicated to the professional development of public radio journalists.

The national award, announced at PRNDI’s annual awards banquet in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, July 19, 2008, was presented for a show produced in 2007 about the issues of gender identity.

The program explored some of the realities of sexual identity and gender identity at the root of this issue. We talked with a performance artist who tells the story of an attempt to “cure” his homosexuality – and with someone who changed gender, and we discussed health impacts for the very diverse gay and transgendered community.

Doin’ Time in Guernsey

From the island paradise of Malta (ah those pea pastries, yummy beaches and beautiful new friends) I have jetted to the another island paradise, Guernsey, one of the Channel Island. I’m with Auntie Doris, who will have photos up today I believe. We stay in her grandmother’s home overlooking the English Channel. Most people I’ve met say it has the best views of any place in the island. I totally agree. Gorgeous.

Today we took a ferry to the smaller island of Herm for time on the beach and a swim in the soul-freezing water. Even though it was so cold, I still managed to swim for about 20minutes and get some laps in. I also nearly completed the book, Notes From an Exhibition by Patrick Gale. The writing and the story holds me transfixed, but I also appreciate the inclusion of contempory Quaker characters. Gale even includes descriptions of Meeting for Worship, Quaker weddings, funerals and more.

This weeks serves as a proper holiday for me (quite rare actually) but also a time to prepare for the Lambeth Conference where I will offer talks/performances as part of the “official fringe” events. Most likely I will not be on-line much until Monday night, so if you e-mailed me, I am not ignoring you, just resting and praying and sunning and reading and eating and singing ABBA tunes and not near a computer or wifi.

If you want to check out what is happening in and around Lambeth, check out Ruth Gledhill’s daily input for the Times of London or Bishop Gene Robinson’s (aka “the gay Gene”) Canterbury Tales from the Fringe (hat tip to Liz Op)

Photos from Malta

My dear friend and host in Malta, Diane took some photos of my visit and my performances that I thought I would share with you. I head out today for the UK where I will be with Auntie Doris for one week in Guernsey then off to Lambeth.

Here you see me with Diane


Performing in the Re-Education of George W. Bush


Lunch at the Open Centre with Mario who is saying some things that literally blows my mind.


Kissing Fudge the dog.

As Deborah in Transfigurations
At the beach with Marjon, Fredrick and the dogs, Fudge and Milly

Moved in Malta

My trip to Malta quickly comes to a close when I fly back to London on Monday. Last night I performed The Re-Education of George W. Bush–No President Left Behind! to a lively (and sweaty) audience in a super cool performance space called Warehouse No. 8. It literally had been a warehouse and still retains some of its rustic and industrial charm. It reminds me of some of the loft theater spaces in NYC during the 1980’s–the kind of space that inspires progressive theater.

Earlier this year I have performed the Bush play in Sweden, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each time I wonder, Will it work here? I do not presume that my performances will translate into other cultural and political-social settings. So far the piece has worked out in these non-US venues. Of course all these places have nearly constant exposure to US media, so many of the references and in-jokes do not seem all that foreign. Also the play pokes fun at George Bush in part and the USA and its citizens to a greater extent. This gives the European audiences a chance to hear me talk about “the other” without feeling defensive. Almost always after each European performance one or more audience member tells me “you know we have many of these same problems in our country.” (these problems=sexism, white privilege, inhospitality towards asylum seekers, etc)

Last night at Warehouse No. 8 I felt uncertain if the Bush show would work, especially in the summer heat (no air conditioning in this cutting edge space) and with the explosions from nearby festivals to the saints (they have loud saints here). But it worked. They laughed less than most audiences but afterwards many came to me effusive about how they enjoyed the show and how surprised they felt that I said something serious and thoughtful.

During the Q&A session I received two questions that stand out for me this morning.

1. Did you choose to go into ex-gay therapy/treatment or did someone force you?

Hmmm, good question. I have to say it was a little of both. I mean, yeah, sure, I constantly elected to go into a program, speak to a minister or a counselor. I willingly spent my own money on trying to de-gay myself. So yeah, I chose to live that way. But I also felt deeply coerced by society. Everywhere I went I heard how bad it was to be gay–on the playground, from the pulpit, through politicians and in the press. I swallowed those lies and believed them as if they were the gospel truth. I then went to war against myself thinking I was doing something holy that benefited me and society.

You can say I was weak. Instead of standing up to all that pressure, renouncing it and boldly stating, “I am what I am, and if you have a problem with it, too bad!” I bowed to the pressure. I was programmed to hate myself, and I went along with the program. It makes me wonder today about other ways I have been similarly programmed and have not yet liberated myself.

2. How has coming to Malta helped you in your own “re-education” process?

Excellent question. I had two significant and possibly life-changing
encounters this week. One was lunch with a Dominican priest who worked for many
years in Brazil. He was a personal friend of Poulo Frere. You can say this
priest ascribes to what has been called liberation theology. He looks at the
scripture with class lenses to see the plight of the poor and the oppressed. He
wanted to meet with me because he cannot come to my Transfigurations performance tonight. He felt curious about these transgender Bible characters I unearth.

I see the character of Joseph in Genesis as a very positive and powerful person because of his gender differences. This priest had not seen that before. He sees Joseph as someone who consolidated all of the land from the people so that the leader, Pharaoh, could have complete control and power. We came to a
place where we agreed that both of these readings can live side by side. Someone can do great things as a great person and also abuse power in ways that harm others while benefiting those who already have power and privilege.

That night I read through the both the major and minor prophets in the Hebrew scripture and discovered that they cried out about the same two things over and over. 1. The need for the people to return to a more pure form of worship stripped of idolatry and 2. The need for the people to no longer oppress the poor for their own gain and along with the need to stop injustice in the land.

These prophets never talked about sex, well, except for a few heterosexuals misbehaving. They talked about devotion to God and a quest to return justice to the land.

Yesterday I had another significant lunch at The Open Centre, a halfway house complex of sorts for men from Africa who arrived on Malta as asylum seekers and have since been released from detention but don’t yet have the legal or financial means to enter fully in the mainstream of society. I learned that for everyone of them who arrives safely on little boats and rafts, four of them die on the journey. The stories of violence, extreme poverty and trauma that they left behind in search of a better life for themselves and their families shocked me in large part because I never read these stories in the newspapers I get back home. I met a psychologist from Eritrea and many men of deep faith both Muslim and Christian. The needs they have can easily overwhelm a visitor. How they live with them I cannot imagine.

I began to wonder, do we have such centers in the US? What happens to the many many detainees in my country, similar men from Latin America and Africa and other places who come to the US looking for the opportunity and freedom we constantly advertise in our movies and such? I do not know. I realize I need and want to educate myself. I now want to contact my cousin Peter who works with asylum seekers in Connecticut.

Yes, Malta has challenged me to re-educate myself

Today I meet with perhaps the only two Quakers on the island. They want to start a meeting for worship here. I think of the small group of Quakers I met earlier this year in Northern Sweden who just started their own official meeting. I feel grateful to have these connections with Friends with familiar practices as well as new kinds of friends I meet who challenge the ways I think. I am a very very fortunate man.

Doin’ Time with the Sunday Times of Malta

I sat for a long interview the other day with Ariadne Massa, a journalist with the Times of Malta. She seemed fascinated with the ex-gay portion of my life and asked many questions about that experience. Of course she on my never dying adoration with the a lovely compliment in the opening paragraph.

With his infectious smile, spirited remarks and positive energy, it’s hard to imagine how Toscano suppressed his true being for 17 years to fit in society’s pigeonhole of ‘straight’ people. At 43, the long traumatic journey has failed to etch wrinkles in his flawless complexion, which he attributes to daily moisturiser and veganism.

See I am a living breathing billboard advertisement to the wonders of being a vegan. Shoot if the environmental impact doesn’t move you or the reality that it is a more humane choice, surely I can appeal to your vanity!

What I like about sitting for interviews is that it forces me to think about places in my life that I might not normally consider. Being in a Catholic country like Malta got me thinking about my own Roman Catholic roots. Ariadne’s questions also got me thinking to my earliest days when I realized how I had been different from other boys around me.

“I knew I was different at six. I was on a cabin cruiser with my family and I was staring at these beautiful lace curtains and I just wanted to touch them. Suddenly my uncle roars: ‘Don’t wipe your hands on those!’ ” he says, smiling.

By the time he was eight, he had crushes on his male teachers , which he kept to himself.

“I got the message pretty quickly that boys are supposed to like girls, and I heard bad things about homos, fags and queers,” he adds.

Raised a Catholic and fascinated by spirituality, Toscano contemplated becoming a priest because being celibate meant he did not have to deal with his sexuality. He even went on a Capuchins’ retreat and that was where he confided in a priest.

You can read all of Ariadne’s article A Musing here.

I will have photos up from the Malta Pride March once I get them from Clayton, a young gay Catholic man who looks like an exact copy of my friend Vince Cervantes. It was weird. I felt like I spent the evening with Vince. What I loved about the Malta Pride event was that EVERYONE marched in the parade. The route took us through the most populous part of the city with thousands of people going in and out of clubs flanking the parade route. That meant that most of the parade viewers were straight people watching this amazing spectacle of a pride parade plow through their partying.

The rally afterwards had a decidedly political bent as the political climate in Malta has not been affirming or supportive of rights for LGBT people. Moviment Graffitti, a far left human rights group marched in the parade as well. This group stands up for the rights of all people who are marginalized and discriminated against. I admit I felt a little anxious marching through a crowd of intoxicated straight revelers, but we encountered no opposition or negative reactions. On the contrary at times the crowd cheered us on.

Afterwards at dinner some of the Maltese apologized for having such a small Pride March compared to what we have in the US. I explained that in most parts of the US our Pride events are actually quite small compared to NY or San Francisco. Places like Richmond, IL or Rochester, NY have modest events. They also expressed surprised when I spoke about problems with racism, homophobia and sexism that still exist in the US. They had the impression that we were beyond all of that. Perhaps that is what they experience in the movies or in our news reports, but the reality is that in the US we have work to do around skin privilage, male privilage and heterosexism. It astounds me that we have so many people living in the closet still in the US today, but then again I completely understand it.

In the article, I got to express some of these thoughts,

Toscano’s advice to gay people is: “It’s not easy or convenient, but if we’re ashamed of ourselves, it’s as if we give them permission to treat us shamefully.”

Now I must dash to take a shower to wash off all of the salty sea out of my flawless complexion :-p

(Photo: Jason Borg)

Magnificent Malta

I arrived in Malta on Thursday night and have been to the sea two times. Since it is only a seven minute walk from where I stay, I will go pretty much everyday. I love to swim and rarely get to do so these days, so it is laps and more laps with respite on the beach for me.

I have experienced great hospitality from my Maltese friends, especially Diane and her partner Marion. Today we ate lunch at a stellar Italian restaurant. Paulo, the chef, heard I was vegan and went to town creating me an enormous dish of fresh pasta with plum tomatoes, olives and garlic. Yum. Forget the churches and palaces, when I travel, I like to eat.

Malta remains a conservative country with over 90% of the population Roman Catholic. It is one of two countries in the world where divorce is not legally available. The Sunday Times, a right wing paper, has only just recently published articles about gay Catholics like James Alison, who was here not too long ago. I sat with a reporter for the paper yesterday, and she sat wide eyed as I told her about my descent into the ex-gay world. She had no idea, but then she knew of many closeted Maltese. Many eventually leave the island to live more openly. Shame that family and friends accept some of us only on conditional terms. It encourages dishonesty, secrecy and the building of walls.

Tonight they will have their gay pride parade. Since it is so hot during the day, they have the parade at 9:30 at night. Memphis could learn something from this! Then I will hang out with the boys. Most of my times have been with some lovely lesbians, including attending a screening of the lesbian love story, The Gymnast. My estrogen levels are rising and I need to balance them out a bit :-p

My shows are not until next Friday and Saturday. The censors approved them after reading my script, but only for people 16 and older. I guess I am edgy for something. Okay must shower off all the salt from the sea and get myself pretty for pride.

To Lambeth and Beyond!

I take off today on a whirlwind island hopping adventure. I first travel to the island nation of Malta (south of Italy) where I will be for 10 days as the guest of Drachma, a Catholic group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

In Malta I will meet with the members of Drachma, lead a Bibliodrama or two, and perform two plays: The Re-Education of George W. Bush and Transifgurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible.

From there I pick up Auntie Doris and we head off to the island of Guernsey for nearly a week. She raves about this channel island where she grew up, so since I had the time I thought it would be a nice excursion. And I can also keep Auntie Doris out of trouble :-p I haven’t talked to her about this yet, but it would be cool to meet up with some of the Evangelical leaders there to talk about LGBT concerns and pastoral care.

Rested up from my trip to Guernsey, I head to Kent, England for the Lambeth Conference where I will offer a talk as part of the official fringe events. I’m even on the official schedule! Okay this is a BIG deal.

Free performance by Peterson Toscano who shares his spiritual journey, explores queer issues and tells how he survived the ‘ex-gay’ movement through comedy and excerpts from his play “Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House”.

The Anglican Church meets only once every 10 years and this year the BIG issue is the GAY issue. I will do my presentation twice which will include some of my own personal journey, excerpts from Homo No Mo and more. You can find info about it here.

If you are interested in going to either talk (or both!), do register for the free tickets. They need to have a sense of how many are coming.

(photo credit Ted Waddell)