Category: Uncategorized

Taking on Coronavirus, Climate Change, and World Leaders

Producing two different podcast episodes this past week gave me a chance to process the many strong feelings I have around the current Coronavirus outbreak.

Through Citizens Climate Radio, I spoke to three experts who helped me better understand and similarities and differences between the Coronavirus and climate change. How local and national government responds, the need for an engaged and active imagination, and the role of empathy come up in our conversation.

I chat with Dr. Natasha DeJarnett, the interim Associate Director of Program & Partnership Development at the National Environmental Health Association, Leonardo Martinez-Diaz, the director of the Sustainable Finance Center at the World Resources Institute, and Alice. C Hill, a senior fellow for Climate Change Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

It is an incredibly helpful discussion for anyone doing climate work who feels derailed by this immediate existential threat upending all our lives.

The other podcast doesn’t speak directly to the current Covid-19 crisis, but does focus on the vital role of prophets to call out leaders who lead us down a deadly path.

In the current Bible Bash podcastt you will hear Rev. Scott Kershner, chaplain at Susquehanna University, and I talk about John the Baptist from the Matthew 3 narrative. While Scott gives us the historical context of the story and its significance, I connect it to contemporary times and the roles performance artists play to use costume and setting to deepen the message they want to communicate.

This is seen most dramatically and effectively in the work of the young Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg.

Like John the Baptist, she made a spectacle of herself, sailing to America, then she stood on the world stage and addressed the rich and powerful. Her directness offended many who deemed her disrespectful and even rude. By dismissing the messenger, they attempted to shift focus away from her message.

Talking about these weighty issues can be helpful right now. That said, sometimes silence is the best response. I appreciate what fellow Quaker, Mark Russ tweeted earlier today:

(Featured Photo by Gavin Tyte on Unsplash)

Headphones On — My new direction for 2020 and Beyond

Since 2004 I have worked full-time as a theatrical performance activist, presenting original one-person comedies about the extremely serious issues of reparative therapy, Bible interpretation, and climate change. Performing on-stage has been one of my greatest joys. Once I get into character, I am fearless, incredibly comfortable in my skin, and free to be wildly creative.

As an actor who cares about making the world a better place, I am thrilled I figured out how to merge my activism with my art. So many people helped me with this through the years: In the beginning the members of Hartford Friends Meeting encouraged me to bear witness to the harm I experienced from conversion therapy. In a cramped attic apartment on Beacon Street, small groups gathered to give me feedback on the little scraps of performance I was piecing together. From that tiny studio apartment I created Doin’ Time in the Homo Halfway House, Queer 101–Now I Know my gAy,B,Cs, The Re-Education of George W. Bush, and Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible.  Then in Sunbury, PA, I found a new set of friends and fellow artists to give me the feedback and support I’ve needed to engage in climate work.

After thousands of performances in over 30 states and 20 countries, I now see a shift occurring in my public witness and outreach. In the last 12 months I produced 49 podcast episodes for five different shows. After taking a course in writing radio dramas, I wrote one myself and started producing them.

I receive much pleasure from spending hours pouring over audio clips, shaping them into stories, writing scripts, editing, adding music, and getting them out into the world. Very quickly I am becoming a full-time audio producer and podcaster.

This year I joined the Rock Candy Network and along with Stephen Long, host of Sacred Tension and the members of the band Eleventyseven, we have been encouraging, promoting, and helping each other.

In addition, I have begun to assist and mentor others in creating their own podcasts. Storytelling through audio proves to be powerful and personal. It is also relatively inexpensive to make and much more sustainable than traveling far and wide to perform, both in the impact to the planet and to my body, mind, and heart.

I will still do some live presentations, but I will be much more selective about where and when I perform live. It is time for me to step back more and more from those platforms as younger artists with fresh ideas deserve those spaces.

If you know of such artists/activists/performance trouble makers, let me know about them. As requests come in for me to speak about LGBTQ issues, queer Bible interpretation, and climate justice, I would love to refer the venues to these up and coming new voices.

Please feel free to sample some of the audio I produced this year.

Behold The Bubble&Squeak Podcast: Audio Weirdness

Bubble&Squeak is a podcast with uncanny sounds, funny interludes, and stories—most weird, many true. Like most of my stage shows, this new show is difficult to explain. It is VERY different from Citizens Climate Radio. It is a little like an older show I did, Climate Stew, but Bubble&Squeak is not a climate-change themed show. I think it is a Peterson’s weird random thoughts-themed show. It is an audio version of the bubble and squeak dish.

According to Wikipedia

Bubble and squeak is a traditional British breakfast made from boiled potatoes and cabbage. In modern times, it is a dish made with the shallow-fried leftover vegetables from a roast dinner. The main ingredients are potato and cabbage but carrots, peas, Brussels sprouts, or any other leftover vegetables may be added. The chopped vegetables (and cold chopped meat if used) are fried in a pan together with mashed potatoes or crushed roast potatoes until the mixture is well-cooked and brown on the sides. The dish is so named because the cabbage makes bubbling and squeaking sounds during the cooking process.

You throw into a pan whatever you have and fry it up, and hope it all works together. Usually it does. The logo design is by Christine Bakke. The theme song is Worthless by The Jellyrox (available on iTunes, Spotify.) The show is part of the new Rock Candy Network of podcasts. I do a podcast with Liam Hooper that is also on Rock Candy. It is called The Bible Bash Podcast and is a project of Ministries Beyond Welcome. You can find Bubble&Squeak on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Stitcher, TuneIn, and GooglePlay.

Each episode of Bubble&Squeak will have three parts.

Photo by Eric Muhr

The first episode is entitled Naked Mugging.

Part one: “Is that all you got?” The story about about a real life mugging, and here I thought it was going to be a hook up. It is an weird and important story (yes there is nudity) because it is when I realized I wanted to live.
Part two: Radio Drama: A prank call to the past (Hembach’s General Store in 1944.) I call this country store in 1944 and ask for tofu and kombucha.
Part three: A Sound Slice–a tricycle in Manila December 2018. Each show will include one of these. It is audio I recorded during one of my travels or even at home. I set the scene and play about 30 seconds to give you a soundscape.

As of today I have three episodes available for you. Each one is 15 minutes each. New episodes come out each month.

1. Naked Mugging

2. Hairless Gerbils
Part One: A previously unaired excerpt of an interview with writer Elizabeth Rush, where she talks about sexual harassment all too common with women writers.
Part Two: A Southern preacher, Elizabeth Jeremiah, from The Elizabeth Jeremiah Global Worldwide Ministries in Jesus, nearly wrestles with Donald Trump’s demons.
Part Three: A Sound Slice from Donard Bar in Newcastle, County Down, in Northern Ireland or the North of Ireland or just Ireland, depending on who you ask.

3. Jerk Demons
Part one: A true story entitled “Did you just masturbate?”
Part Two a reading from the Lost Gospel of Thaddeus
Part Three A Sound Slice from Viñales, Cuba.

Apartheid, Hunger, Miami, and Climate Change. Lessons learned from change agents

Citizens Climate Radio Ep 36 How to be an extraordinary climate advocate with Sam Daley-Harris and Glen Retief

Sam Daley-Harris, author of the book, Reclaiming Our Democracy, helped develop a model of advocacy that empowered citizens to connect directly with lawmakers. This model has helped shape organizations like Citizens Climate Lobby and the Friends Council for National Legislation. Sam reveals some of the sources for his own inspiration. His parents–their faith and public witness–along with insights he gained from his twelve years playing in the Miami Philharmonic orchestra directly contributed to his success in addressing world hungry, promoting micro-loans for the poor, and in training climate advocates. Sam highlights the important roles advocates play in taking on climate change.

Another climate advocate, Glen Retief, had the opportunity to take on the rebel role during the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa. He stood up to the racist policies of his government, but not as a rebel. Instead, he took on the role of advocate–lobbying, writing letters, and going to meetings. You will hear about the seemingly impossible task to turn his country around and the extraordinary lessons he learned that he now applies to his work in promoting solutions to climate change. Glen is the author of the Lambda Awarding winning book, The Jack Bank–A Memoir of a South African Childhood.

Listen Now!

Art House

Elizabeth Doud takes on the role of Siren Jones in her one-person performance, The Mermaid Tear Factory. Based in Miami, Florida, she has been a catalyst to engage other artists in conversations around climate change. Each year she helps organize Climakaze Miami.

Elizabeth explains why she sees Miami as the city of the future–both with its international changing demographics and the many ways climate change is reshaping the city. She also shares why artists need to break away from telling the story of climate science and instead dig deep into the hard emotions around climate change.

Puzzler Question

You attended one of the recent student walk-out demonstrations. While there you spoke to a parent, Claire. Claire’s daughter was a protest organizer. You tell Claire how you speak to legislators about laws that will address fossil fuel pollution. You see yourself as an advocate, working in the system to bring about change. Claire confesses, “I would never have the patience for that. I am so angry and I need to protest.” She then asks, “So why do you do that kind of advocacy work instead of protesting and civil disobedience?”

Try answering the puzzler question. Leave your name, contact info, and where you are from. Get back to host, Peterson Toscano by June, 15, 2018.You can email your answers to radio @ or leave a voicemail of 3 minutes or less at 518.595.9414. (+1 if calling from outside the USA.)

Dig Deeper

You can hear Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher RadioSoundCloudPodbeanNorthern Spirit RadioGoogle PlayPlayerFM, and TuneIn Radio. Also, feel free to connect with other listeners, suggest program ideas, and respond to programs in the Citizens’ Climate Radio Facebook group or on Twitter at @CitizensCRadio.

If you listen on Apple Podcasts, please consider rating and reviewing us!

Words of Wisdom that Inspire and Guide Me

Sometimes we drug ourselves with dreams of new ideas. The head will save us. The brain alone will set us free. But there are no new ideas waiting in the wings to save us as women, as human. There are only old and forgotten ones, new combinations, extrapolations and recognitions from within ourselves–along with the renewed courage to try them out
-Audre Lorde

. . . [O]nce we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives.
-Audre Lorde

This is what you should do: Love the earth and sun and animals,
despise riches, give alms to everyone who asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labour to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people,
re-examine all you have been told in school or church or any book,
dismiss what insults your very soul,
and your flesh shall become a great poem.
-Walt Whitman

Corazón Nuevo
Mi corazón, como una sierpe,
se ha desprendido de su piel,
y aquí la miro entre mis dedos
llena de heridas y de miel.

New Heart
My heart, like a serpent,
has detached itself from its skin,
and here I look at it between my fingers
full of wounds and honey.
-Federico Garcia Lorca

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
-Max Ehrmann


Happy 2018 — Remember Who You Are

Susan Govatos Joseph’s Dreams

Today I am working on an essay for a British religious education publication. They asked me to explain my view of Joseph in Genesis as gender non-conforming, and how I suggest religious education instructors teach it to their students.

For me unearthing gender and sexual minorities in the Bible is essential work. These overlooked characters remind me of the many people marginalized in the world today.

Of course some people chose to fly under the radar for good reason. In some places it is perilous to be open about being LGBTQ. Just last month police raided the Queer Kampala Film Festival where my Transfigurations movie along with many others was supposed to screen. I heard reports that no one was injured or arrested. They got out just in time, but this is not the first time LGBTQ people in Uganda have been targeted by authorities.

I am still editing my piece on Joseph and why I think it is important to bring out of the shadows gender outlaws in the bible. I have been mulling over one line I wrote:

We live with mysteries inside of us we come to understand over time, and if we are willing, we sometimes share these with others.

My top nine photos of 2017 on Instagram. Follow me petersontoscano

As I reflect over 2017,  I have been sitting with some of the mysteries inside of me. I wrote a memoir that sits in my documents; I am not sure if I am ready or willing to release it into the wild. Perhaps I am waiting to better understand myself. It is also true that some things are too precious to share publicly.

One goal for 2018 is to screen the performance version of the Transfigurations movie at festivals in North America and beyond. This is different from the version that most people have seen. I will release this version under the title, Transfigurations–Gender Outlaws in the Bible. Description:

A disciple on a pilgrimage spends the night with strangers and tells stories of gender and sexual minorities in the Bibles. As the narrator reveals the many gender non-conforming Bible characters, this one has to decide if a more personal disclosure brings death or life?

In the performance I never appear as myself. I don’t explain my interpretations. Instead it is the story of an unnamed disciple. Woven into the narrative are quotes from the Gospel of Thomas.

It is an interesting Gospel for what is familiar to many of us–sayings that appear in Mark and Matthew–and what is so different. Many of these sayings have to do with identity. Like this one:

Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom].”

The main character quotes from Thomas’ gospel and these sayings serve a thread to the performance version of the film.

Most people will see the lecture version, which makes no reference to Thomas’ gospel. I imagine this is the version that will be most helpful to Christians trying better understand gender and sexual minorities in the Bible. The performance version though is more artistic with a dramatic ending.

As I write this, I am also considering a theme for the year. My friend, the writer Shirley McMillan (who has a new book out, The Unknowns, which I highly recommend) tells me that she sets a theme for the year which serves as an affirmation of sorts.

I have been thinking of what that might be for me. One thought I am toying with is: Remember Who You Are.

Yeah, working on that…


Happy New Year and Greetings from Cuba

Here is wishing you an excellent 2017

Those of us doing work around LGBTQ rights, climate, and justice issues know we have work ahead. My hope is that we continually have each other’s backs, that we learn more about the needs and desires of our various communities with the many intersecting issues that bind us together and sometimes put us at odds with each other.

I will likely not post anything until mid-January as I will be in Cuba and out of Internet reach. It will be like living in 1985, but with better Spanish skills than I had back then.

Resolutions? Nah!

Typically I do not make New Years’ Resolutions. Instead I write a list of goals I have for the year, some aspirations, and a list of people who I hope I can go deeper with in friendship. I’d love to hear some of your goals and aspirations (and resolutions if you do that sort of thing.) Feel free to leave a comment or contact me through the many social media channels.

If you miss my voice, check out Citizens’ Climate Radio. Great new show dropped on December 26th with some gorgeous poetry by Lilace Mellin Guignard.

Transitioning into new work

Transgressing Gender in the Bible

Transgressing Gender in the Bible, poster designed by Christine Bakke

This has been an exciting summer. Last month I was in Ontario at the Skylight Festival where I performed the final public performance of my piece, Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible. In it I explore the stories of gender non-conforming Bible characters. In a few days I head to Portland, OR to film the play so it is available as a DVD and download.

I premiered the piece in November 2007 and have taken it far and wide to universities, churches, Quaker meetings, drag bars, Sunday schools, and conferences including Gender Odyssey, Transcending Boundaries, the European Forum of Gay and Lesbian Christians, and Creating Change. I performed the piece in the United States, Canada, Malta, United Kingdom, Sweden, and Norway. I presented it at various LGBTQ conferences and faith conferences. I was honored to have been invited to present it at transgender conferences and retreats multiple times.

A Performance Retires

toscano transfigurations

Photo by Lori D

But the time has come to lay it down. So much has changed since I premiered it. There are so many trans people who have gone through seminary since and are doing great theology work. New ideas and approaches are out there. And I need to pursue my leading to use comedy and storytelling to explore climate change as a justice issues.

For over the past two years when people have contacted me to do Transfigurations often I have referred them to other LGBTQ speakers, particularly trans speakers. I got a request recently to present at a Transgender Day of Remembrance. Since my work is well received by trans people of faith, they have invited me in the past to present as part of a TDOR event.

Other Voices, Other Rooms


poster by Christine Bakke

This week it was a non-trans organization in Pennsylvania that invited me to speak. I responded:

Hi there. Lovely to hear from you. I have retired my transfigurations play and next week head to Portland OR to turn it into a high quality film. I suggest you chat with someone at TransFaith. They are based out of PA I believe.  They can connect you to Trans speakers who will be a great fit for your TDOR event.

I have a list of folks I suggest in different parts of the US and the world. I would love to make the list bigger. Do you have suggestions about who you recommend as a trans or genderqueer speaker? Leave a message in the comments or contact me through the contact above.

And if you would like to get on my mailing list so that you can hear about when the Transfigurations film is ready, just signup for my newsletter.

(featured art by Mila and Jayna Ponder)

A Reflection from Rural Pennsylvania on the Orlando Shooting


NYC Pride remembers Orlando victims

A Small Town Vigil

The day after the Orlando shooting, community members gathered at the little park in the middle of the tiny city of Sunbury, PA. Most of the people were straight. Many were people of faith and clergy including the rabbi from the local synagogue, the president of the Mosque and his wife, and an assortment of Lutheran, Methodist, and Unitarian ministers. Many of these were friends–Nina, Scott, Lori, Soren, and Ann.

Like so many LGBTQ people that week, I needed community. And while part of me wanted to be surrounded by other queer folks, having all of these straight people, feeling the pain, showing their support, this cheered me.

Making Sense of the Horrific

After the candlelight vigil, Nicole, one of the local community organizers, asked me if I would be willing to write an Op-Ed piece for the local paper. They have a regular slot for essay, and she wanted to give it to me. I said yes, then for the rest of the week struggled about what to say.

Orlando was overwhelmingly horrific, but I kept thinking about the many murders in just the past year of transgender people, particularly people of color. The violence in the Pulse Club was concentrated, but much of the violence in our community is spread out. It is at events like the Transgender Day of Remembrance, that the we see the dreadful body count because of violence and hate.

People kept asking me, “What can we do?” And I sputtered. I am no expert. What can we do?

I went into the writing process with these questions and thoughts in my head. Here are some quotes from the piece. You can read the entire Op-Ed here at the Sunbury Daily Item.


Some thoughts on Orlando and violence against LGBTQ People

A safe place became a place of carnage. The number of dead and injured from the Orlando shooting is staggering. A majority of the victims are Latino young men, many originally from Puerto Rico. Still this is not an isolated incident. Though rarely covered by the national and local press, I hear about the relentless assaults against LGBTQ bodies and lives today, especially black and Latino transgender people.

snuffedoutcandlesimgEvery Nov. 20 I attend an event called the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is the day we gather to say the names of the transgender and gender non-conforming people murdered in the past year. We cannot compile a full list of all the dead as many of these crimes are underreported, but the list is always long; the level of violence is always extreme.

At the 2015 Transgender Day of Remembrance, we read the names of over 85 transgender people who were brutally murdered, many in the United States, including Jasmine Collins, who a year ago this month was stabbed to death in Kansas City, Missouri. Her killer prevented others from offering Jasmine CPR. A month later in Fresno, Calif., K.C. Haggard was also stabbed to death. The incident was captured on surveillance video. As she lay dying, bystanders ignored K.C.’s pleas for help. Police are still looking for suspects.

This most recent mass shooting, carried out with a semi-automatic assault weapon, on American soil, at a gay club, on Latino night, by a terrorist declaring his allegiance to ISIS should raise many questions.

One question I have is this: What are we doing to let our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth in the Susquehanna Valley know they are loved, they are valued, and they are welcomed gifts in our homes, our schools, and our community?

From the Sunbury Daily Item:

Forward Thinking–Love and Value member of the LGBT Community


Featured image: art by Cai Lane at West Gallery in Burlington, VT Laced (As Pure as New York Snow)

On Art, Comedy, and a heterosexual God

We cover lots of ground in the first part of my interview with the Student Christian Movement in the UK. In particular we talk about comedy and how it can be used to explore trauma and oppression. I guess you can say that comedy is a subversive art. In using it, we do change the way our audiences feel and think. Perhaps this is why some folks are so resistant to humor.

Missing the Point

Still some people get so caught up in the words that they miss the point. That or they get confused that the topics I pick are so deadly serious, they fail to see the humor in it. In a way that is understandable–what is so funny about cancer or homophobia or global warming?

The role of the artist is not simply to entertain, but at times to use comedy to focus us in on an issue deserving of our attention. But comedy comes with risks that people will not get it or appreciate it. And the risk that we can get it wrong.

IMG_4072Reacting Badly to Good Comedy

Most recently Pat Boone, the pop singer of old and a white American Christian icon, has spoken out about a parody on Saturday Night Live. The sketch comedy piece reveals the heterosexism that is at the heart of much of the anti-LGBTQ Christian rhetoric. It is satire about how some Christians say they are the most oppressed group in the country (the white Christian woman character says this to her Black friend.)

It is clearly over the top, exploiting and exploding stereotypes that some Christians have about gays and that some liberals have about conservatives, but it makes an important point about the lengths some folks will go to force God and religion to give moral authority to oppression. As I say in the interview, comedy can be a tool to expose injustices.

An Interview with a quirky queer Quaker

Many of your performances employ humour and comedy to make serious points about LGBTQ+ inclusion, gender, climate change and other issues close to your heart.  How does humour help you tackle these and other issues? 

Humour relaxes the body and the brain. When we experience fear and shame, we physically tense up. This tension happens in the brain too – neural pathways close making it harder to reason and retrieve information. This is why when we begin to panic, it’s easy to forget simple instructions. Comedy helps to loosen us up. This is especially important when talking about hot topics like sexuality, faith, gender, climate change, and justice.

Comedy also helps to shed light on issues and expose injustices. While it is true that comedy can be violent, for example when it mocks others, it’s a powerful tool to help us see our own shortcomings as well as to highlight the flaws in systems and in the way the world works. The role of the court jester is not simply to entertain, but to say the things that people are often too afraid to utter. The comic jab can lead to revelation and action.

I agree that comedy can be and has been used to hurt others and dehumanize people and groups of people. It can be rude and crass and disrespectful. But I have found over and over that it is a way to bring people closer to hot topics that desperately need our attention.

You can read the entire piece: An Interview with Peterson Toscano–part one.

Also, feel free to share with me your thoughts about comedy. When does it work for you? When does it cross the line? What are examples of comedy that does social good.

Here is my latest comic video that uses satire to draw an audience into a serious topic.

Here is the Saturday Night Live satire: God is a Boob Man