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.

This post has 23 Comments

  1. Noa Resare on August 24, 2008 at 10:34 am Reply

    Love the artwork. A good thing also that HRC gets some trans issues into their thinking. I say like my newfound hero Dan Savage: Good luck with that!

  2. Peterson Toscano on August 24, 2008 at 12:46 pm Reply

    Thanks Noa and great to see you! Christine Bakke did the art work. She is a wonder.

    HRC apparently is working hard to educate themselves around trans issues. They recently hired a trans person on staff who I think is going to be a be help.

    So glad you like Savage. He has such a great way of writing. Have you read his book about the 7 Deadly Sins. I loved it.

    Big Kiss

  3. Kristin on August 24, 2008 at 7:17 pm Reply

    Hi Peterson,

    I have been lurking here for quite some time. As a queer woman with a fundie background, I have a personal interest in the kind of work you’re doing.

    I am disgusted with much of the outright prejudice and stereotyping I see leveled at so many members within the LGBTQ community who do not identify clearly as lesbian or gay. I see so much wrong with this play and with your promotion of it–I don’t even know where to begin.

    First, of all, you’re a lone gay man writing a play about the experiences of trans people. Sure, you’ve done some interviews and spent some time working on Biblical exegesis, but seriously… I listened to the interview that you linked from the promotional page. There, you talk about how terrible it is when gays and lesbians “appropriate and steal the stories of trans people.” Even so, it seems clear to me that this is precisely what you are doing. You’re not trans. Doing some interviews? I can’t see how this qualifies you to set yourself up as a spokesperson for trans people. This whole endeavor strikes me as nothing if not profoundly arrogant.

    Second, you speak in the interview about how “blessed” you have been by your trans friends and by just how impressed you have been with their “spirituality” and how much you have learned from them. You go on in the interview to wax poetic about how “spiritual” you think the “trans experience” is. The thing is… Trans people are not here for the purpose of your spiritual education, growth, and evolution as a person. Trans people are real people. They have real lives. You essentialize trans people’s experiences when you go on about their “spirituality,” play into stereotypes that trans people often face, and ignore the hard, everyday realities of what it is like to be trans. As a cis woman, I can’t pretend to know anymore than you do about what it’s like to be trans, but I am fairly certain that *no one’s* life is dripping with this kind of “spiritual guru” quality that you attribute to trans people. That’s offensive and extremely trivializing.

    Not to mention that the “I have trans friends!” thread that runs throughout the interview is patronizing at best. What’s it supposed to mean? That you’re a Very Highly Evolved Individual ’cause you deign to have trans friends? Jeez… Can’t speak for a trans person, but again, I personally could do without friends who take an interest in me in order to prove their Highly Evolved status. Oh, and your comment, “I even dated a trans man once”? What the fuck? That supposed to make you even more impressive? If so, then, wow, I got nothing much to say ‘cept, well… Fuck. You. And I know this blog is all Christian and stuff, but… Seriously, these are serious matters, and you’re trivializing people’s real experiences, and reminders to uphold those Good White Middle Class Parlor Manners… Wouldn’t be a great idea here.

    If you’re really curious about some of the real difficulties that trans women and men face in real life, I can’t recommend Lisa’s blog at Questioning Transphobia highly enough:

    http://questioningtransphobia.wordpress.com/

    And, you know what? Lisa is someone who I know on the Interwebs, and I implore you… Read this post:

    http://questioningtransphobia.wordpress.com/2008/08/24/transphobic-words-and-deeds/

    And, ffs, do NOT go over there, another person who is not trans demanding to be educated. Just read and listen, k? No trans person owes you an education in Trans 101. It’s perfectly possible to read and learn to do better on your own, and it ain’t her job to fix whatever blind spots anyone has. And, before you start lecturing me about what a Great Ally you really are… All I have to say, given the problems I have just noted, is: No way. Sorry, I ain’t buying it.

    Not that not being a Great Ally makes you an Evil Person. There’s no way that I qualify as a Great Ally either, but then, I’m not positioning myself as a spokesperson on behalf of trans people or presuming that I have enough insight into their disparate and varied experiences to premiere a whole play about it. This career move of yours? Really unconscionable. Made me feel like a little like throwing up.

    Needless to say, I don’t plan on seeing the play.

  4. Kristin on August 24, 2008 at 7:21 pm Reply

    And I don’t even know how to begin addressing the fact that you’ll be performing this for an HRC function. It seems…disingenuous at best. Once again, I’m not sure how your perspective is going to teach them anything they need to know to “educate themselves around trans issues,” but then… Whatever. Oh, well… A great career opportunity for you indeed.

    And your endorsement of Dan Savage right here in this post? Not really the point of your post, but seriously… What a biphobic fuck he is. Ugh… Sorry, no. Not a fan there.

  5. Noa Resare on August 24, 2008 at 8:19 pm Reply

    Kristin, since I’m a bisexual (or pansexual as I prefer to label myself when labels are asked for) I’m curious about where you find DS to be biphobic. I’ve only listened to 66 or so of his podcasts, so I haven’t followed his work closely, but if he was rampantly biphobic I thought that I would have noticed.

    Also, with regards to your criticism of Peterson doing trans activism, how would you like to see proper trans activism being done? Is it acceptable for me as a cisperson to be focusing mostly on trans issues when I do the yearly LGBT activism day with the medical student at the local medical school?

  6. Alexander Resare on August 24, 2008 at 8:42 pm Reply

    kristin: Have you ever met an actor before? Their thing is to act. Mr Toscano is an actor and quite a good one too.

    He is not holding speeches about his life as an excellent ally but acting a play.

    The movie Boys don’t Cry changed my life. Not because Hilary Swank is a transman, she is as far as I know a ciswoman, but because the story was a story I needed.

    As a transman falsely knowing that I was the only one out there a movie about someone like me changed my life.

    Another life changing moment was to learn about the trans characters the Bible writes about. I had to dig deep to find some stories after a life of reading the Bible and I am so grateful that Peterson makes it easier for other transpeople, allies and others to learn about that.

    And he does it in a really good way to.

    Even if he had never met a transperson and were heterosexual and normative in every way he would do a good thing performing Transfigurations.

    If talented transpeople made better shows that would probably be a really good thing. But I doubt it will happen.

    And besides all that I just want to say that I think it is fun to see someone tell Peterson to go fuck himself. I don’t at all write this to shut you up. I just vent to give my side of the matter. But I am not a spokesperson for the trans gendereds. No one is. I don’t believe in the whole spokesperson thingie at all.

    I believe in people speaking up about what is on their mind. And both you and mr talented actor is doing that.

  7. Anonymous on August 24, 2008 at 8:54 pm Reply

    Wellllll, there was the time that Savage bought into the laughable Bailey study–and its construction in the media–about how bisexual men are rarer than purple unicorns. Perhaps that doesn’t qualify as rabid biphobia, but it does require a certain susceptibility to biphobic manipulation.

    “Well, how should we do it, then?” is often a rhetorical question, but…

    She didn’t actually say that cispeople can’t be allies or talk about transphobia. Given traditional exclusion on the part of organizations like the HRC, somebody’s gonna have to open the door, right?

    She pointed out that transpeople are used quite often by many different political factions as proof of some pet theory or another, and that the LGB community hasn’t resisted this impulse. And it’s true. The tranny-as-spiritually-evolved-being canard is all over the goddamn place, and it’s annoying. First of all, no group of people are put on earth for the edification of the rest of us. Second, transpeople might not feel terribly revolutionary; they have the right to individual political beliefs and identities. Third, TaSEB often blurs some very interesting, significant intracommunity distinctions–between, for example, a genderqueer-identified gay cissexual man and the transguy he has “even” dated. Raven Kaldera and Vivian Namaste, though they’ve both transitioned, are very different people living very different lives. Finally, superhuman still isn’t human.

    I’m a writer myself, and I started writing plays–at twelve–because of a couple of queer Bible riffs. I appreciate the premise and I think it offers a lot of interesting possibilities. But these relationships aren’t always healthy, and transpeople have every right to worry about getting smacked around.

  8. Joe G. on August 24, 2008 at 10:39 pm Reply

    First of all, the artwork for your poster for the show is stunning. Christine did a lovely job – brava!

    As to Kristin’s “concerns”:
    You’re not trans. Doing some interviews? I can’t see how this qualifies you to set yourself up as a spokesperson for trans people. This whole endeavor strikes me as nothing if not profoundly arrogant.

    So a white person can’t speak up for people of other races? A straight person can’t write or perform a story about a sexual minority?

    BTW, Peterson does not present himself as an expert. Often times interviews are constructed in such a way as to give that impression of the person being interviewed when in fact it may have been edited that way.

    Then again, given that you know Peterson’s motivations so well, I might be wrong about that last assertion.

    Trans people are not here for the purpose of your spiritual education, growth, and evolution as a person. Trans people are real people. They have real lives.

    Nor are they here for you to posture self-righteously.

    As a cis woman, I can’t pretend to know anymore than you do…

    Exactly, so stop writing as if you do!

    Not to mention that the “I have trans friends!” thread that runs throughout the interview is patronizing at best. What’s it supposed to mean? That you’re a Very Highly Evolved Individual ’cause you deign to have trans friends?

    Or that you’re a Very Highly Evolved Individual for defending them (when in fact the majority might not feel they need such defending)?

    And, ffs, do NOT go over there, another person who is not trans demanding to be educated. Just read and listen, k?

    Now whose being condescending? Don’t need you to tell me or anyone else for that matter what I should or should not read, k?

    There’s no way that I qualify as a Great Ally either, but then, I’m not positioning myself as a spokesperson on behalf of trans people…

    Could of fooled me by this diatribe.

    Thanks for your argument “from authority”. While you point fingers at Peterson for doing this you do the very same yourself.

    Can’t wait to see the play, Peterson, along with all of your trans allies (e.g. Alex, Mila, Jayna…)!

  9. Kristin on August 24, 2008 at 11:16 pm Reply

    Mkay, about Dan Savage. I’m bisexual too, btw. Well, so there is what anony above writes about. I haven’t read anything Dan Savage in years. I read his column for a while many years ago, and repeatedly saw columns urging folks not to date bisexuals ’cause… So, I’m paraphrasing: “They’re just experimenting, and they’ll break your heart and leave you for a het relationship, so stay away!” And that. That’s classic biphobia–the assumption that all bi folk PREFER straight relationships and that we’re incapable of being faithful in same sex relationships. Last time I checked, these archives were available somewhere online.

  10. Kristin on August 24, 2008 at 11:17 pm Reply

    Oh… And, as far as I know, it’s not a position that Savage has ever refuted. Glanced over a recent column fairly recently when I picked up an indie paper in New York, and saw that same old thing.

  11. Kristin on August 24, 2008 at 11:21 pm Reply

    “Also, with regards to your criticism of Peterson doing trans activism, how would you like to see proper trans activism being done? Is it acceptable for me as a cisperson to be focusing mostly on trans issues when I do the yearly LGBT activism day with the medical student at the local medical school?”

    WHAT? I don’t think I came in making claims about what “proper trans activism” should look like. I criticized what Peterson is doing. I saw some very self-serving transphobic tropes being picked up yet again by another non-trans person, it made me angry, and I spoke up. That is all.

  12. Kristin on August 24, 2008 at 11:24 pm Reply

    Alexander Resare:

    “Have you ever met an actor before? Their thing is to act. Mr Toscano is an actor and quite a good one too.

    He is not holding speeches about his life as an excellent ally but acting a play.”

    Yep, I’ve met an actor before. Peterson describes himself as an actor and activist, and this play clearly has activist purposes. It’s not just some “apolitical” work of art. And even if it were… He’s responsible for the art he produces. I’m not debating his right to do this kind of art. I’m critiquing it.

    “The movie Boys don’t Cry changed my life. Not because Hilary Swank is a transman, she is as far as I know a ciswoman, but because the story was a story I needed.”

    I never said that a cis person should never, under any circumstances, portray a trans person in any artistic medium.

  13. Kristin on August 24, 2008 at 11:28 pm Reply

    “And besides all that I just want to say that I think it is fun to see someone tell Peterson to go fuck himself.”

    I didn’t say that. I said, ahem: “Fuck. You.” And, again, it was contingent on my having the proper understanding of the statement: “I have even dated a trans man” (which, yep, is condescending and offensive in the extreme, and… If I ever hear anyone say they “even” dated a bi person once? That won’t be pretty either.). I can see it offended some sensibilities around these parts, but, well… As one who used to run in church circles, not unexpected. Not that all of you are churched, but… Rambling… So, on to the next response.

  14. Kristin on August 24, 2008 at 11:34 pm Reply

    Anony–Thanks for what you say here. I can, um, see why you’d feel pressured to go anonymous on this thread.

    And this part:

    “She pointed out that transpeople are used quite often by many different political factions as proof of some pet theory or another, and that the LGB community hasn’t resisted this impulse. And it’s true. The tranny-as-spiritually-evolved-being canard is all over the goddamn place, and it’s annoying. First of all, no group of people are put on earth for the edification of the rest of us. Second, transpeople might not feel terribly revolutionary; they have the right to individual political beliefs and identities.”

    EXACTLY.

  15. Kristin on August 24, 2008 at 11:48 pm Reply

    Joe G.:

    “So a white person can’t speak up for people of other races? A straight person can’t write or perform a story about a sexual minority?”

    Um, nope. Never said that whites shouldn’t “speak out” as anti-racist allies. I said that Peterson, a non-trans person, should not appropriate trans experiences. And, nope, a white person shouldn’t appropriate the experiences of POC, and neither should a straight person appropriate the stories of sexual minorities. Jeez…

    “BTW, Peterson does not present himself as an expert. Often times interviews are constructed in such a way as to give that impression of the person being interviewed when in fact it may have been edited that way.”

    Hmm… Well, then, you and I interpreted the interview differently. And, nope, I don’t need you to help me better understand how interviews work, thanks. I heard what was said.

    “Nor are they here for you to posture self-righteously.”

    “As a cis woman, I can’t pretend to know anymore than you do…

    Exactly, so stop writing as if you do!”

    Oh, how special! The classic response: “You noticed the transphobia, so you must be the transphobe!” Hey, you know what? I’ll call out transphobia whenever I damn well please, whether or not you think it’s “self-righteous.” Fuck off.

    “Now whose being condescending? Don’t need you to tell me or anyone else for that matter what I should or should not read, k?”

    Hmm… You’re Joe G. My response was directed at Peterson. Are you the same person? In any case… Once again, you have misread Really Fucking Pissed Off Person as “condescending.” Just as you did when you informed me that I was “self-righteous.”

    “Thanks for your argument “from authority”. While you point fingers at Peterson for doing this you do the very same yourself.”

    Hmm… Could you please explain to me what authority I claimed? I never claimed authority. I’m not the Christian claiming higher authority here. I’m offering critique.

    Thanks for your, um, engagement. I do fucking love it when folks see fit to put me in my place. Once again, for good measure: Fuck off.

  16. Joe G. on August 25, 2008 at 12:11 am Reply

    Kristin:

    You came here and wrote a lengthy post that was more than critique, but was accusatory, inflammatory, and included flaming, which of course you know you did given that you took the time to come back and leave 7 more comments, oh great activist and defender of trans people.

    I think I see what’s going on here much better:

    Write inflammatory post with lots of flaming
    + get lots of comments in response
    + spend even more time cluttering the blog with more comments responding to those who criticize you with even more flaming
    = troll.

    Sorry Peterson, I dun got roped in. My mistake. I’ll ignore the troll from here out.

    I hope others don’t follow my example on this one. OOPS.

    Kisses galore to Peterson!

  17. Kristin on August 25, 2008 at 12:39 am Reply

    “Write inflammatory post with lots of flaming
    + get lots of comments in response
    + spend even more time cluttering the blog with more comments responding to those who criticize you with even more flaming
    = troll.”

    Hmm, okay, I suppose if strongly criticizing Peterson ’round these parts is trolling, then you called it. I’d be a “troll.” You’re right that I was angry. I’m still angry. And I have a right to be angry when people fuck up, even if they’re Big Important Gay Leaders like Peterson Toscano.

    As for “cluttering” up his blog. Those are direct answers to responses. Of course, I came back. I don’t usually leave hit and run comments. People had responded. I answered. Figured that was what threads were for…? Didn’t think there was a comment limit. Anyway… Joe G.–Who the fuck are you, and why are you telling me how frequently–and in what tone–I am allowed to respond?

    So, my motivation in posting today? I continue to have an interest in progressive Christianity. Some day, I think I may return to it. But many of us who do not identify as gay or lesbian within the LGBTQ community are often ignored, stereotyped, and mistreated within the community. So, I was excited to see that a progressive Christian was talking about trans issues. Then I saw the form it took, and I became disappointed and angry. That and the fact that trans stereotyping makes me angry–those are the sum total of my motivation. I’m pretty transparent that way–not much for internet games. By the way, who the fuck are you to tell me how many comments I can leave?

  18. ArrogantWorm on August 25, 2008 at 5:48 am Reply

    Bit of a long comment, unsure where to start. Listened to the interview, noticed the apparent undesirables ‘femme, fat and disease’ when talking about straight-acting, masculine, gay male personal ads and how femme isn’t a bad thing but yet those straight acting gay men are still quite fearful of it, and yet …fat and living with a disease was left there because, it’s assumed, everyone thinks those should still be acceptable to avoid. Now, you didn’t state that fat people and/or people living with a disease are logical to avoid, and it was very likely it was an off-the-cuff comment, but that’s how it came off to me. I didn’t like the ‘even dated a trans man’, that too came off as …not good. The ‘even’ makes it sound like you’ve ‘gone that extra mile’, as if dating one of us was a personal accomplishment.

    Also, gotta say; I’m not particularly spiritual in any direction, let alone about my transition. Nor do I like others attributing spirituality to me just cuz I’m trans. There’s sort of a Positive Stereotype (still a bad thing, since stereotypes are false, and even positive stereotypes encourage Expectations) floating around that no matter how trans people experience themselves we’re regulated to Bringers of Obscure/Mystical knowledge. This spiritual teacher beliefs come from, my understanding, a preconceived notion of duality in gender identity that’s been combined into some sort of ‘oneness’. I dislike it a lot, it’s up there with the ‘You’re the best of both worlds’ comment I heard a while back when a friend of mine was commenting on my behavior combined with how he apparently thinks of me.

    You say you think that caring for people and the quality of forgiveness as a female trait in Joseph’s story, that he “thought and reacted more as a woman” using that example, so in essence he was transgender inside as well as outside. If I’m mistaken about your meaning in the interview, please correct me. Anyway, I haven’t found that my gender identity is based on some quality that’s supposed to be observable mainly in men (as I’m going in the opposite direction). Again, not what you stated, but it’s the mirror opposite. The great large bulk of trans people don’t transition because of sexed stereotypes about how they believe a gender should think. That opinion is the basis of why a lot of cis people believe transitioning people should act in certain ways in order to be considered the ‘opposite’ sex. Break whatever behavior that people consider undesirable for what you say you are and suddenly, your gender identity is considered ‘false’ cuz you’re not thinking in the right ways. Happens all the time. Going back to Joseph, I don’t find women to be any more compassionate and caring than men and the idea that women as a group are the epitome of such things is itself sexist, it’s considered another Positive Stereotype. Nitpicky, but I don’t believe in ‘male energy’ either, as I can’t for the life of me figure out what the energy is supposed to be based on besides masculine or feminine cues. That’s also used to discredit trans women as women, the concept of ‘male energy’. Conversely, there’s ‘female energy’, which is used to discredit trans men. You using ‘male energy’ to describe a trans man is the first time I remember ever seen such, threw me for a loop.

    Now, about your play. Very interesting concept, gender and the bible, and with all the research and wonderful language tidbits it would make an interesting book. You’ve got a wonderful story-telling voice that rolls right along, you’re a talented voice artist. About your identity history piece, though. I swore I caught what my overtired brain can only describe as a ‘Mammy’ voice (it’s a long-held trend, sticking black women with those voice inflections and accent). S’a caricature, not a nice one s’far as I’m aware no matter the context and since you’re not of the group that it insults, can’t use it let alone reclaim it (no laughing, I’ve seen the ‘reclamation!’ thing b’fore) and also with the Arabic guy, y’know, ‘obligatory’ thick accent? Also a caricature of a widely insulted and denigrated group in America, especially now, considering the current hostile climate. I understand that you want to put different personas out there and that it could appeal to the audience with the mix of characters combined with the same kind of struggle, but those caricatures are insulting and problematic at best.

  19. Anonymous on August 25, 2008 at 6:35 am Reply

    “So a white person can’t speak up for people of other races? A straight person can’t write or perform a story about a sexual minority?”

    Again, not what she was saying.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if a straight person who tried to write herself into the head of a lesbian–or a white person who tried to write herself into the head of a chicana–came in for a lot of criticism. There are homophobic portrayals of gay people by straight writers, and racist portrayals of people of color by white writers. To turn your fatuous question around, you aren’t arguing that people who write about minority groups from the outside can’t be criticized, are you? I’m guessing not.

    And there are things peterson’s said in the interview that kind of make me wary.

    And she isn’t speaking for–rather, she’s repeating a criticism of trans portrayals that transpeople themselves frequently make. I’ve seen performance pieces on that exact subject–they probably won’t make it anywhere near the HRC–it’s not a minor or a minority complaint. The Saintly (and Celibate) Gay plagued pop culture for a couple of decades; it’s natural for the same trope to attach itself to a new embattled group.

    “Write inflammatory post with lots of flaming
    + get lots of comments in response
    + spend even more time cluttering the blog with more comments responding to those who criticize you with even more flaming
    = troll.”

    Yes, well. Is it trollish to respond only to those criticisms you feel are unfair? She linked to a couple of blogs by real live transpeople–can they speak for themselves?–and there are two comments right here.

  20. Kristin on August 25, 2008 at 12:35 pm Reply

    A.W.–Well said. And thanks for pointing out some of the problematic elements here that I overlooked. I was nodding right along with everything you said. Specifically here:

    “I don’t find women to be any more compassionate and caring than men and the idea that women as a group are the epitome of such things is itself sexist, it’s considered another Positive Stereotype.”

    Amen. This is right up there with statements like, “If women ruled the world, we wouldn’t have war.” And, yes, as a feminist and a woman, I absolutely find them insulting and sexist. Essences attributed to men and women? Not really okay in my book.

    And, yes, I too noted the “mammy” voice and the stereotyped Arab account. I don’t care how good one feels one is with accents, that’s never cool.

  21. Kristin on August 25, 2008 at 12:41 pm Reply

    Also, A.W.–On the fact that “fat and living with a disease” are just left there: Again, yeah, as someone who is both fat and living with a disability–not okay.

  22. Kristin on August 25, 2008 at 12:48 pm Reply

    Anonymous:

    “And she isn’t speaking for–rather, she’s repeating a criticism of trans portrayals that transpeople themselves frequently make.”

    Yeah, THAT.

    “I’ve seen performance pieces on that exact subject–they probably won’t make it anywhere near the HRC–it’s not a minor or a minority complaint.”

    Mhmm. Along these lines, I do find it problematic to suggest that the HRC is “learning.”

    Did ya’ll catch this recent bit about elderly woman, Catherine Cusic, being assaulted by hired “security guards” there and thrown out of a recent HRC function?

    http://www.bilerico.com/2008/07/elderly_transwoman_dragged_screaming_fro.php

    Yeah, um… Those are the folks I want as *my* damn allies./snark

  23. Kristin on August 25, 2008 at 1:08 pm Reply

    Oops, didn’t mean “account,” meant “accent.” Sorry. Was typing quickly there.

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