Update from the Road: Quakers, Eunuchs, and Manatees

Ann, Andy, and Heather at Palm Sunday Service in St. Petersburg

After a week in North Carolina with folks at Guildford College, Elon, and Wake Forest, I’ve been in Florida for a week connecting with friends and doing presentations at churches. (I even saw  a baby manatee in the wild!)

I have been able to hang out with wonderful Methodists and some sassy folks at the Metropolitan Community Church, including Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, who gave me a copy of her new book, I Love to Tell the Story.

My main reason for being in the state is for Southeastern Yearly Meeting of Quakers. This annual gathering begins tomorrow and goes through Easter.

In addition to periods of worship, we will also take part in workshops and listen to various talks. FWhat I love the most is sitting in the silence of worship before God and listening. While I am happy to attend most styles of church services, they are often too noisy and busy for me. I prefer to be still and know God in the silence.

View from Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, FL

My presentations with the Quakers will center around climate change as a human rights issue. While I am not an environmentalist in any traditional sense, I am concerned about climate change as a social justice issue. My hope is to share some of this leading I have while hearing from others who are also engaged in climate work.

After my time with the Quakers, I head up to Tallahassee to present at Florida State and to see my friends, Petra and Liz. In my presentation I will share some of my own experiences of trying to “de-gay” myself as well as share some LGBTQ responses to climate change. I will also perform a scene from my performance lecture, Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible.

Spanish moss action in Tampa

Speaking of which, an article about the Transfigurations movie appears in The Blaze this week. I had not heard of this on-line newspaper before, but it is the digital news site created by Conservative pundit, Glenn Beck. I am grateful for the opportunity to share a little about how there are people in the Bible who transgress and transcend gender for their time.

While it is never appropriate to impose modern notions of gender on ancient texts, what I have found is that based on the strict gender norms in the Bible, some of the most important characters broke out of these roles and norms. It is in breaking these that they are often able to do extraordinary and unexpected things.

Perhaps the silliest statement in the article is by the person they interviewed to counter my views. I’m quoted:

“A eunuch in that world was not really a man or a woman — they were considered a third gender,” Toscano explained. “They were normally castrated before puberty, so they had high voices, they didn’t have beards, they couldn’t have families, they couldn’t have children, so they were sexual and gender minorities.”

The Discovery of America by Salvador Dalí

Reacting to my assertion that eunuchs represented a different gender in the ancient world and as such, stood out, Andrew Walker, a Southern Baptist Convention commissioner said, “His interpretation is nothing but shear, unbridled radicalism and it’s simply brazen because he’s taking an interpretation of the text that scholars have not found to be the case as far as ‘gender non-conformity.”

You can read the article, New film depicts Bible characters as gender non-conforming. But what does the Bible say? for yourself. You may want to avoid the comments.

And for the record, my last name is spelt Toscano. Unless it is a vowel-fluid name and sometimes presents at Tuscano, as it does in the article in some paragraph.

You can see my performance schedule here. Feel free to say hi over on Twitter or Facebook. The road can get difficult at time, and I love to hear from friends.

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