Thursday, August 31, 2006

Refresh, Renew, Recuperate

I arrived home at 6:00 this morning. That's about 30 hours after I woke up yesterday in Scotland and began the LONG days journey into night, a night I began to fear would never end.

After 2.5 absolutely delightful days in Scotland where I hiked with a dear friend in the Scottish Highlands and visited the Ancient Kingdom of Fife on the east coast, I headed back.
Let's do the travel math, shall we?

1. 90 minute car ride to Glasgow then wait at airport.
2. One hour Flight to London
3. Get bags, check into KLM then wait at airport
4. One hour flight to Amsterdam then wait in airport
5. 6.5 hour Flight to JFK Airport NYC
6. Get bags, trudge through customs take the Air Link Train to the Subway
7. Wait 45 minutes for subway
8. 60+ minute subway ride to 42nd Street Port Authority Bus Terminal
9. At bus terminal I learn that Peter Pan Bus Company (I kid you not) just changed their schedule. My 11:30 PM bus will actually not leave until 3:30 AM. Nothing before that.
10. Hang out in the bus terminal and environs from 11:00 PM until 3:30 AM. (Think of one of Dante's level of hell--a particularly stinky level with no where to sit and where you fend off multiple offers for drugs, sex and violence.)
11. 2 1/2 hour bus ride to Hartford.
12. 20 minute taxi ride home (because I had to share since there was only ONE taxi for 6 people)

Needless to say I feel shattered. So today is a day to put myself back together. Eat healthy raw foods, drink lots of water and green tea, do laundry, sleep, sit in the sunshine, lean up against an ancient tree and enjoy some light human interaction--no deep theological/social activist conversations! Right now I sit perched on the sunny front porch at the Humphries' home. 72 degrees, sunny with a cool breeze that stir the wind chimes to gentle action.

I head off to my parents' tomorrow or early Saturday. My sister just flew in from Minnesota. My brother is on business in England right now, but will rearrange some things and hopefully join us soon. We will have more time together as a family. I know our mom will be leaving us shortly, perhaps within the next two weeks. We have time left yet to tell her how much we love her and just be there for her as she transitions from this life.

I often ask other artists and activists how they do it. How they live life fully engaged with the issues, the pain, the beauty, and yes the bills while also taking care of themselves. And how do single parents do it or even partnered parents, or people with disabilities or folks with jobs plus school, or people struggling with mental illness--with all the pressures within and without, with all the added questions about the future and concerns for the present?

It is not selfish to take care of ourselves. In fact, it is selfish when we do not. When we plunge into the work without proper boundaries to safeguard our own health and well-being, we only create unnecessary burdens for ourselves and others. These moments of feeling physically and emotionally spent serve as helpful reminders that we are just made of dust, fragile beings who need the basics to survive and thrive.

And with that I go off-line to refresh, renew and recuperate. I will post photos in the next few days. Thank you for all your prayers and kind thoughts. I apologize in advance if I don't respond right away to e-mails and such.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Doin' Time in Greenbelt (two)

I am exhausted (shattered they would say here). Wow, what a day. It started with an unbelievably intelligent, rational and inspired talk by theologian James Alison on the Old Testament "anti-gay" passages. I love that man. I want to have his biblical love child.

Loads to tell you, but I must go to bed. Three highlights I will share.

1. As GCN friends John, Trevor and I walked from the Brian Houston concert (AMAZING!) a woman in her late 30's approached us apologetically. She wondered if we would be willing to consider attending the Christian speed dating event. Apparently they'd been getting many more women than men and needed to drum up hetero male business.

John responded, "Well, I live in South Africa, so I don't think it makes sense for me to go." She looked to me. "I am gay," I replied. Then she turned to Trevor, "I am gay too." She thanked us with a sigh and moved on in search of more available men.

We chuckled about it, then Trevor grew serious and said. "You know that is the first time I ever publically admitted I am gay. It's a real breakthrough for me." I felt warm inside thinking about that all day.

2. My presentation started at 10 pm, but of course I was at the Cabaret by 8:50 to check things out. A poetry slam event filled the space. Just as I approached the door, a woman in her late 50's stepped out. She recognized my face from the program and said, "They told me that you started at eight, so I've been here, but I doubt I can make it later." She then touched me deeply when she added, "I am a heterosexual woman and my husband is a vicar and chaplain at a women's prison where he works with many lesbians. I decided that at this year's Greenbelt, as a Christian, I want to learn more about gay people." I melted on the spot.

She ended up coming to my show with her husband and introduced me afterwards. (They've been together for 37 years) We talked about having me at York sometime to visit and maybe even speak with ministers there.

3. Sarah Jones! She is an Anglican minister who years before ordination had had sexual reassignment surgery. The church knew about her sex change at the time she pursued ordination and didn't think it a problem. A few years after she started working in the church, a reporter found out and a huge media circus ensued.

She spoke clearly, passionately and even with humor about her experience from childhood and the many steps it took her to finally understand that she was actually a woman with the round "bits". In doing so she gave the audience the gift of breaking it all down so tenderly and carefully. She admitted though that sharing so much of herself is costly and that after a presentation, she often experiences a moment of deflation and even depression. She explained that is part of the cost of doing this work of educating allies. How true.

What a powerful witness! I can see that as she tells her story, shares herself, that the scales fall from the eyes of straights and same-gender loving bio men and women. I want to tour with her!I will share more of her talk later this week.

My show was a massive success. The venue was completely overflowing. They turned people away. Great questions afterwards and I saw a young woman I met in Tennessee earlier this year. What a surprise.

Okay Quaker worship is at the satanic hour of 9:00 AM, so I must get to bed. I am about to burst though.

Oh and although it wasn't raw, I had a VEGAN cream tea!

Off to Glasgow tomorrow afternoon!

Doin' Time in Greenbelt (one)

Wow! After a day a Greenbelt here in Cheltenham, England I now know why so many people implored me "You must go to Greenbelt!" From the Tiny Tea Tent (organic, fairly traded and solar powered) to funky and deeply moving performances (and a tad bit subtle at times), this feels like home. Plus Jimbo has been the PERFECT host and a great help to me as I prep for my presentation.

Tonight I share Talkin' Trash in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. As I was preparing my notes after spending a few hours at Greenbelt, getting a feel for the crowd, I realized that I only ever presented this talk/performance in academic settings--American University, Sarah Lawrence, University of Puerto Rico, etc.. But tonight I will speak to Christians, Emergent Christans, Crunchy Christians, Post Christians, Straight Christians, Gay Christians, even Chapstick Lesbian Christians (kinda the fruit and granola version of lipstick lesbians).

So I decided to includ my Pastor Meadows character in the mix of excerpts I perform. Also, I will share the struggle that gripped me for so many years with the question, was I a Christian struggling with homosexuality or a homosexual struggling with Christianity?

You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. How true, but for so many years the truth that I clung to actually kept me in bondage, kept me from growing spiritually and living the abundant life I had been promised.

On my flight over I sat next to Father Peter, a Catholic priest from Nigeria who just finished studies at Cornel University. It seems I have some sort of gay plane ministry to possible religious oppressors. But just like the genuinely nice couple I had met from Focus on the Family last year on a flight to Colorado Springs, Father Peter remained open as we talked about queer issues in the church. As I told him of my struggles to change, to "get right with God", he admitted that I said things he had never heard before.

He continued to come back to the refrain, "but be sure to remain open to biblical holiness" (nice way of saying you need to repent of being gay or at least acting on it). Holiness means something to me. I don't believe I can live my life any ole way but need to be led by the Spirit, by the still voice within.

But who gets to decide what biblical holiness looks like? Usually the people in power. Just like the white Christian colonists imposed all sorts of cultural restrictions on the Black Africans in Jesus' name, some straight Christians have imposed their norms on same-gender loving people and people with gender differences. I mentioned this to Father Peter who responded that he knew exactly what I meant. The Bible has been used to oppress and control others while promising liberation. Lord knows women understand this.

Okay, gotta go and hear the amazing James Alison speak on the clobber passages.
So 10:00 tonight, Greenbelt in the Foxhunter Cabaret...I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Off to Greenbelt

Firstly if you have not done it yet, go down and listen to Marvin's Aunt Sylvia in the previous post where she gives an update on "Marvy".

Okay gang I head off for a very quick trip to England, via Amsterdam, (with an even quicker side trip to Scotland) so that I can present at Greenbelt. For those who don't already know about it, Greenbelt is a HUGE Christian arts festival (about 17,000 people) with lots of bands, "Christian acts", worship, drama and Christian comedians (shudder).

They placed me in the comic/light entertainment category because they were not sure what else to do with me. It will be entertaining no doubt, but light? Maybe they mean Light entertainment because they know I am a Quaker ;-)

I go on at 10:00 in the evening for the Saturday cabaret. I feel I must purchase a little black skirt or something. Hang on! I already have one... I mean if I am going to be progressive and shocking...

I will meet up with folks from Gay Christian Network (Thank you Jimbo!!), some Quaker friends (um CA, no raw fish and chips thank you very much) and a gentleman I recently met at 7th Day Adventist Kinship (their LGBT group). At Greenbelt I will present Talkin' Trash in the Homo No Mo Halfway House which is a talk with performance from my play. I get to be more personal in this presentation and reveal the motivations that led me to seek change from being gay.

I see now that many factors influenced my drive to rid myself of my same-sex attractions, but often at the very center was my desire to be close to God. As part of my intro at Greenbelt, I've been toying with sharing a little song that I created during one of my times of worship when I first became a Christian.

Of course it feels so intimate and revealing. It would be easier to talk about my mastabatory practices than about what happens in my private prayers. But in singing it perhaps it will help the group hear my heart's cry during those years (and today). I sing it and it never fails to still me.

Oh my God I long to know you
To sit and listen
To watch and worship
Seek your face
Behold your beauty
Your joy-filled presence
this is an audio post - click to play

Monday, August 21, 2006

Word from Marvin!!!

After attending the Family and Friends Weekend at Love in Action, Marvin's aunt, Sylvia, shares her eyewitness report.
this is an audio post - click to play

Saturday, August 19, 2006

UnFair--Vegan Unfriendly Excursion

On Thursday the family traveled to the Delaware County Fair. For those not familiar with New York State, there is NYC--vast metropolitan famous city, then there are much more rural swathes of land (and smaller cities).

Walking around the county fair, with all the livestock, country music and folks wearing cowboy hats eating all manner of fried foods, most people may find it hard that we were less than three hours from Manhattan.

Personally I detest county fairs. It's not the provincial flare or the homespun activities. I enjoy that part lots. It's just not a fun place for a vegan (or animals) from livestock to tigers in tiny cages.

From the Land-O-Lakes butter scupture (w/ a man and pig in an oddly obscene pose) to the hundreds of animals locked up in small pens, I felt like an alien on a planet of barbaric oppressors. Sure young people learn lots of useful skills in caring for an animal and everyone is free to eat the foods s/he desires, but at what cost?

We are trashing the planet and our bodies while also causing tremendous suffering to animals through our demands to consume a diet high in meat and dairy products.

A direct outgrowth of my coming out experience has been to become much more aware of other oppression in the world. As a result, I have become (and am becoming more fully) a Quaker, a feminist, an anti-racist, and a vegan. So much death and violence in the world; who wants to be part of that culture?

We talk about changing the world. Many complain about our political leaders who do not follow policies that protect our planet and life. You can do something. Try to abstain from meat and dairy at least once a week. It will do wonders for your body and will give a break to the overtaxed planet. And to my fellow vegans--know of any vegan fairs???

Friday, August 18, 2006

A New Song

The other day at the home of composer Lee Hoiby I mentioned how much I love hymns but more and more find that I cannot sing them. I start off with one of my favorites and stop realizing that my beliefs now do not match the lyrics. Sometimes when I have my quiet prayer time, I sit and go through 20 or more songs before I hit on one with which I agree.

Lee promised to share a song he wrote as a salutation "from the God in me to the God in you." Sounds like a Quaker power anthem! Really it is a lovely song called As the Work is Done.

Here is Lee performing it. He hasn't played it for years and apologized afterwards for stopping a few times, but like Joe G. with his podcasts, I think I perfer this version to a polished one. (And yet again the audio and the video got out of sync when uploading. Any suggestions on how to avoid that???)

I find it to be quite moving.

And with his permission, here are the lyrics:
As the Work is Done

From the god in me to the god in you, salutations!
On the path to our destinations, we share this air and sun
As the work is done.
And the less we hide what's inside us,
The more we trust in our truth to guide us,
The more we all are one, as the work is done.
And the work is done by you and me,
And the work is done to make us free.
And the more we see everything we do as creation,
The more we know there's no separation,
That all is really one as the work is done.
And the work is done by you and me,
And the work is done when we are free.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Card (w/ special thanks to Christine)

Sarah B. Miller, the amazing woman who books my plays and presentations, told me it was time for a new promo card to send to universities. Well she and Christine conspired (with photo help from Tina Encarnacion)to come up with a lovely 6"x 11" card. Well done Christine!

You will see I have two new talks that I now offer:
Waking Up from a Biblically Induced Coma
Slow Dancing with the Enemy--Effective Strategies for Engaging your Opponent.

The Bread Man Strikes Again

I've shared before about how my father maintains the charmingly odd practice of buying bushels of bread, cake and doughnuts to distribute to friends, animals and strangers.

We all need something to keep us out of trouble.

Yesterday Hospice came to talk with my mom about her life and death. She has decided that although she has trouble swallowing due to her cancer (or the cancer treatment) she will forgo tests and treatment and let things take a natural course.

I have been with my parents since last Friday spending quiet afternoons on the porch.

We all have our ways of coping. These days I turn to the Internet--blogging, YouTube (Cher did a music video with Meatloaf in the 80's!), e-mails. I used to turn to Oreos, but with my new raw foods diet (two weeks!) I changed my eating patterns (Oreos? vegan? I used the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of veganism on them during much of my mom's chemo.)

I have learned a new trick that helps distract me a bit from the pain of seeing a loved one suffer. Eyebrow Plucking. Yeah, one must be fully present to pluck one's eyebrows. It provides the right amount of pain to enable a person to snap back into this world and usually a worthwhile product. Warning: Don't pluck too much or too often or you will look like a mole.

I've also taken to leaning against old trees, resting my back on them and being quite still, pleased to be fixed to the earth while my heart opens to the Spirit which comforts me.

My dad continues his bread frenzy as evidenced by the photos of his latest gathering excursion. He has also taken to painting. Not art, but simply painting any surface that can be painted. His newest drug of choice is latex paint.

God is present or can be present in all these things. And indeed, we welcome God into our family, (but I'll abstain from the bread and doughnuts.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Less Than Narrowsburg

From 1st Grade until 12 Grade I went to Narrowsburg Central Public Rural School. It is a huge name for such a small school. With less than 360 students from K-12, my graduation class of 36 was one of the largest.

The name Narrowsburg, I was once told, has to do with the fact that the narrowest part of the Delaware River winds through the town (it then opens to the widest part, but somehow they focused on the narrow portion). But growing up it was how narrow minded the town and school felt to me that really stood out and influenced me.

I never knew of any openly gay adults when I was a kid in the late 70's and and 80's. There were always gays and rumors of gay, but they never came out in the sunlight. They might as well have been vampires the way people spoke of same-gender loving people.

But how times have changed! Stroll down Main Street and find quaint antique stories, first class galleries, cafes and posh restaurants. That and a very clear gay male presence. In fact, four of the dozen or so main businesses on Main Street are owned and operated by openly gay males and male couples.

My favorite is Mole Island Bears by bear master Kelly Dean. He sells his fully moveable and carefully crafted animals all over the world, but keeps his studio and store in Narrowsburg.

I always get wine at Stanley and Mike's store adjacent to their cafe. And a new coffee shop owned by two younger gay men is due to open in the next few months.

Driving in my Friend Elenor's hippy Quakermobile, my nephew Greg and I spent a little time browsing in Narrowsburg. I bought a two-disk Sonny & Cher album (that's an LP record for some of the younger folks) and a bottle of Bodega Norton's Malbec wine (one of my favorite wines for under $10). We also popped into the Charles Maraia's photo exhibit "Freckles" at the Delaware Valley Art Alliance, (they are also staging the opera Aida this week)

Such a cool town, with a little more visible presence of lesbians and trans folks, they just may have to change the name.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Algo En Español

Gay, Christian and Spanish speaking? Where do you go?

I haven't found many Spanish language blogs yet that explore the challenges that LGBT people of faith often face. In this past year I have met men and women from South and Central America and Spain who have struggled with their sexuality because of their Christian faith and society in general. They have learned to accept themselves but still face intense battles from family and friends and often do not know what to do with the faith of their childhood.

Recently I met Ariadna, a lesbian Christian originally from Colombia who currently studies at a school of religion here in the states. She and I have partnered together to create Dos Equis (XX as in ex-ex-gay) a Spanish language blog that will talk about faith, sexuality, the ex-gay movement and our journeys.


Monday, August 14, 2006

If You Were Gay

Have you tried Google video yet? I am a big YouTube queen, but I really like the layout of the Google beta version of their video search. Here is an anime music video of If You Were Gay from Avenue Q. The song is great where someone assures his friend that if he were gay it would be A-OK.

Dispelling the Myths

A former Love in Action client recently e-mailed me. Now an out gay man with a delightful partner whose family is supportive of the couple, (although his own father is not yet), he told me that he experiences unexpected difficulties.
I think I'm trying to sabotage my happiness, because I believe that I don't deserve this love that I found. I can't believe I'm (sa)ying this, because I thought I had left all of this behind. It's coming out in all sorts of ways....panic attacks, some violent, dark thoughts, obsessing, because i'm having dark's a vicious cycle, and i want to put an end to it.
In response I wrote something like this:
There are some big myths both in some churches and parts of the "gay community"

The classic Christian testimony is that before Christ, someone's life is a mess, lost in sin and despair, apart from God. They give their heart to Jesus and experience a new life filled with joy and peace and purpose.

The classic coming out scenario is that before coming out, life is a mess, lost in shame and fear and self-loathing, apart from the true self. They come out and experience a new life filled with joy and peace and fabulous parties. (A trans male friend of mine says that there can be similar a similar myth for some folks whose choose to have sex reassignment surgery).

Okay, these are stated simply, but you get the point.

Both are bullshit (pardon my language)

These life changing events can bring much joy and peace, but both the old feelings and situations exist and new feelings, difficult feelings arise. Coming out is a long-term experience and happens in phases and can be tumultuous, particularly if someone attempted to suppress same-sex attractions and gender differences for years. Once out, we still have the same old things to deal with--family, fears, doubts, etc.

In my play about my ex-gay experience I compare the coming out narrative to Lazarus after Jesus raises him from the dead and liberates his friend from the tomb. The recently resurrected man stands still wrapped up in the binding and blinding grave clothes. Jesus says, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go" thus asserting that the coming out experience is not a solo act but takes the hands and hearts of others in our lives to help us to become whole. (It takes a village...)

Being out and being whole are two different things. Some come out and leave it at that, but that is the first step of a larger journey. Just like some get "saved" and leave it at that and never develop a spiritual life. Coming out (or embracing oneself, being real, transitioning or whatever the change experience) does position someone where s/he can better face the challenges of life, the past and the future.

So it makes sense that you feel loads of stuff right now that seems contrary to the life you have finally allowed yourself to enjoy. We are encoded with superstitions, doubts, shame and fears that the church, family and society handed down to us. These bitter gifts get woven into our brains and emotions and needs to be undone. (a lot like racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia). Part of the work is to undo the damage internally--exhange those bitter gifts (even if you don't have the receipt).

Do not conform to the patterns of this world--you are bad, you can't possibly be happy, you grieve God, something terrible will happen--but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.

Let's shatter those myths and demonstrate a new construct that we can model for the wider world desperate to come of their own closets. (yeah, often straight folks live in closets too).

Denmark & Sweden Here I Come

Previously I announced my UK tour dates. I now have most of the details for the Scandinavian leg of the tour. In the words of Sarah, my excellent and delightfully sarcastic booking agent, I am officially a eurotrash porn star. That is her way of affirming the work that I do.

Okay, gotta go and learn Danish and Swedish then translate my plays. :-)

Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House
Sunday, September 17, 2006 7:00 PM
Brorsons Kirke
Rantzausgade 49
2200 Nørrebro
Copenhagen, Denmark

Theater Workshops
Wednesday & Thursday September 20 & 21, 2006 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Malmö, Sweden
For members of the RFSL (iksförbundet för sexuellt likaberättigande) theater group and anyone interested in knowing more about the group.
For details about these workshops:

Talkin' Trash in the Homo No Mo Halfway (performance + talk)
Saturday, September 23, 2006 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Regnbågsfesten 2006
Monbijougatan 15
Malmö, Sweden

Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House
Sunday, September 24, 2006 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Regnbågsfesten 2006
Monbijougatan 15
Malmö, Sweden
40kr or 20kr for members of RFSL

Play and/or talk with EKHO
Tuesday September 26, 2006
(more details to be announced)

Here is the description of Talkin' Trash in the Homo No Mo Halfway House
Toscano kommer att med mycket humor berätta om “ex-gay”-rörelsen, en 30 år gammal rörelse med bas i USA, som försöker omvända homosexuella. Toscano har själv gått igenom dessa olika program och berättar om den skada denna rörelse tillfogar människor. Han kommer också att berätta om rörelsens aktiviteter i USA och Europa.
Peterson Toscano är skådespelare och aktivist från USA, som spelar och skriver one-person-show komedier. Toscano har spelat i Nordamerika, Europa och Afrika. Som aktivist rör hans arbete främst HBT-frågor, men han engagerar sig även i frågor rörande etnicitet, religion och klass.
Which roughly translated means that I am a eurotrash porn star.

(photo credit Tina Encarnacion)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Looks Like a Job for Willie Hewes!

Jen Burke over at Transcending Gender writes about She Draws Comics--100 Years of America’s Women Cartoonists, an exhibition that has been running since May at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) in New York City. Writer and "Herstorian" Trina Robbins is the mover and shaker who helped get the show going. An overlapping exhibition, Masters of American Comics, also showed at MoCCA. Apparently we have no masters who are woman--at least none were included in the Masters' exhibition.

Quoting Brian Walker, the co-curator of the Masters exhibit, Beverly Wettenstein at Women’s eNews reports:
“The majority of female comic book cartoonists working today are self-published, on the Web, in zines or books from small presses because mainstream comic books are focused on boys,” Robbins says.
Willie Hewes, (who although Marvin is clueless about it, is actually a woman) please come to the US and resue us! Hey, why don't you publish one of your fine comics and let me distribute it far and wide?

Battle Over "Footprints in the Sand"

Footprints--An Inspirational Comedy, the first play I wrote, premiered in Memphis, TN in 1999. Based on the popular poem Footprints in the Sand, in which a man has a dream that he is walking on the beach with the Lord and sees his life represented by footprints in the sand, I created four characters who each claim that they had the dream that led to the famous poem.

I actually began writing the play while I was in Love in Action. We needed comedy to survive the hard times there, and many a night we'd gather in Jeff's or Scott's bedroom as I tried a new character telling a new version of the story.

I still perform the play, most recently last October in Connecticut (and a command performance for Christine in Colorado). I will also perform excerpts in London this fall for Courage. Audiences ranging from Southern Baptists to LGBT Episcopalians have enjoyed it.

About three years ago I go received the following e-mail from a man named Basil Zangare:
I see you currently have a production running based on the poem Footprints in the
Sand. My mother was Mary Stevenson(Zangare) the author. I'm always
interested in how and when people first heard the poem.

Your slant on the story behind the poem doesn't seem all that different from
real life. My mother had been trying to regain her rights to “Footprints”
for many years.
Basil, (which also happens to be the name of one of my Footprints characters), then tells me about a growing controversy over the authorship of the poem.
In the meantime a lot of people have come forward claiming to have authored it. Many are quite laughable claiming to have written it as recently as late as 1997 even though it has been seen in print since about 1950. It had been very disheartening for my mother to see so many taking credit for her work.
I knew a little of this controversy when I first built my Footprints website with my friend, Roy Steele, but assumed the right author was Mary Stevenson, yet another woman who did not get her due.

Then the other day I get this e-mail from Burrell Webb:
I appreciate that you have displayed my poem titled "FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND" on your web site however I disappointedted that you have credited it to one of the women who have been claiming credit for my work.

You must realise how this hurts me and I am sure you would not want someone to credit your work to another.

Therefore I ask that you take the time to either credit my poem to me or return it to "author unknown" as I origionaly released it.

Your prompt attention to this matter will be appreciated.
Both Webb and Zangare claim they have had forensic work done to prove the true authorship of the poem. (Webb here and Zangare here). Even the folks at picked up on the controversy.

I decided that I will credit the poem to either "author unknown" or "author greedy for attention and money". I don't know Webb or Zangare apart from their e-mails. They can both be very decent guys, but face it, there is a HUGE Footprints market out there. You can purchase the Footprints Afgan (a blanket not a person we walked all over from Afghanistantan--although post-911 they are also available) for $44.95, the Footprints Porcelain Plate for $9.99 (reduced from $10.00!), the Footprints Wall Clock for a starting bid at ebay of $36.32, the Footprints Scented Candle for $10.00 (fixed price), and for a mere $79.00 the Footprints Diamond Heart Shaped Pendant.

In other words, there's gold in them there Footprints! And I guess whoever can claim ownership of the poem can cash in on the profits. I know I sound dreadfully cynical, but why does something that inspires (or sickens in some cases) so many people have to "belong" to anyone? Of course if there was some guy running around performing a show called No Gay No Way or something like that, I might feel a bit defensive, especially if he broke into my lucrative Homo No productcct line (including the Homo No Mo Thong reasonably priced at $9.99!)

No idea how the Footprints war will ultimately play out. Micro-Celebrity Death Match? Footprints in the Sand Volleyball tournament? Footprints Def Jam Poetry Slam? Ah, WWJD?

(photo by Edward Rust--unless someone comes forward and says otherwise, then I have to hire some forensic experts to sort it all out)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Unexpected Simple Pleasures

I am spending a few days with my parents, and surprisingly enjoyed the day which was filled with unexpected simple pleasures. I say surprisingly because my mother's current health issues grow increasingly more serious.

She felt enough energy to go to the local supermarket in Jeffersonville, NY to do some shopping for my nephews. Once in town we popped into Samba, a new Brazilian juice bar and English language bookstore. Just riding in the car, sitting next to each other felt so good. Not knowing how many such trips we will enjoy, I felt very present and realized it was so much more than a trip to the store.

After we returned, I planned my evening raw meal. Yeah, still doing the raw thing and loving it. My dad picked fresh tomatoes, basil, and garlic from his garden. I sliced some portobello mushrooms, layered the other items on top and bathed them with extra virgin olive oil. Then I covered it with a glass lid and put it out in the sun to marinate.

In the afternoon, my mother napped, so I took a ride to nearby Callicoon, NY, the town where some of the movie Transamerica was filmed. I stepped into the oddly named Whokilledkenny? Bookstore which sells some very old books--really good books. So many options! I ended up choosing Gertrude Stein Remembered, Picasso, by Gertrude Stein, and Walt Whitman--A Gay Life by Gary Schmidgall. (I also bought Dorcas Miller's Track Finder for my dad's upcoming birthday, but don't tell him.)

Lee, the elderly gentleman who manned the store started chatting with me about my books as he rung up my books. I sat, and we talked some more and I soon discovered that he is an 80 year-old gay man. His partner owns the store, and Lee covered it for him for the day. What a delightful, wise and interesting man. He and his partner has been in the area together for over 25 years.

We talked about art, religion, history, queer theory, street theater and health. We talked about our art. Although quite modest, turns out he is an accomplished composer of operas and other music. I felt so enriched speaking with this man twice my age, connecting with one of my queer elders. (check out Lee Hoiby's site and hear some of his music). How rare it is for some of us to engage in an intergenerational queer dialogue.

When I returned home, I joined my father and my Aunt Ginger for a glass of wine on the back porch as the sun set and my dad's two new kittens (an early gift from my sister) explored around our feet. My mom woke up from a long afternoon nap then let me cook her dinner. Yeah a vegan can make steak--hey, anything for mom.

I sat and ate my perfectly marinated tomatoes and portobellos along with some fresh raw corn on the cob drizzled with Trader Joe's new Australian virgin olive oil. My mom ate her dinner, most of it, bit by bit, which somehow made my own taste that much better.

We now sit in the living room watching the 1982 Clint Eastwood Soviet spy thriller, Firefox, and I feel grateful for this day filled unexpected simple pleasures.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Yearly Meeting After Glow

Although I feel physically wiped out, I also feel so revived in so many other ways from my time at yearly meeting. So many things to report that I really don't know where to begin. I will have some photos posted later this weekend.

The high schoolers once again stood out as spiritual leaders in the community. Their meeting for worship with attention to business where they chose there slate of ministry and council members was focused, centered and spiritual. To see these young people grapple seriously with issues of pastoral care simply blows me away.

They supported me so much with my show. They served as ushers for the audience and whipped everyone up in a semi-frenzy with their dancing and singing to my pre-show music (my killer cool mix). We had an absolutely packed house (600+ people), and the Young Friends cheered me on the whole way.

During the Q&A the Young Friends asked insightful questions that helped us to move the discussion deeper. The last question I got was PERFECT. An adult Friend asked, "So what can we do in our yearly and monthly meetings to help LGBT people?"

Just the question I hoped for, just the response that I prayed for. I suggested that they continue to ask that question to the LGBTIQ folks in their community; I only represent my own experience and it is important to hear from our transgender Friends, our bisexual Friends, our intersex Friends, our lesbian Friends, our gay Friends. Our "lifestyles" and histories look very different. Some are parents, senior citizens, athletes, scientists, Christians, farmers, teachers, long-time partnered and so much more.

Two things I suggested that individuals and meetings can do are:
1. Listen. Then Listen. Then Listen some more. The work of being an ally requires deep listening and understanding. I explained that as a white man I often get it wrong. Being an ally requires a graceful resilience. Because of the society where I was raised and the many messages I received, I am racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and insensitive to the needs of people with disabilities. I have to unlearn much of what has been engrafted into my mind. (Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind).

2. Many LGBTIQ people who grew up in faith communities have been deeply wounded by those communities. As a result, for some it can feel painful and dangerous to walk back into a place of worship, especially if the worship and culture looks similar to what they knew when they were younger. Some feel the deep loss of relationships while others feel post traumatic stress from years of oppressive talk and toxic teaching.

Quaker meetings have a unique opportunity to reach out to LGBTIQ folks. Our meetings for worship look nothing like most mainstream religious practice. Our belief that that of God in everyone and that the Spirit can and does speak through EVERYONE is a message that even in liberal pastor-driven churches is not demonstrated. We can and should not only say that we are open and affirming, but actually take special efforts to create programs and events for people who are same-gender loving, transgender, bisexual and just plain different from the heteonormative world.

The day after my show, Luke, one of the young people, stood up in business meeting and proposed that the Young Friends write a minute affirming their belief that God is in all people. He said that we need to send out the message to other meetings where young people are often silenced by policy and teaching against queer and questioning folks. Now that is love in action.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Being True to Yourself

Don't ask me why I am up at 4:15 am, perhaps overtired or it was the raw fresh corn on the cob I ate right before bed (so awesome)

In my early morning surfing, I came across an opinion piece printed in yesterday's The Gateway, University of Nebraska's student newspaper. Michael McManus writes about the importance of being an individual by sharing how his own willingness to bow to others' expectations even led him into gay reparative therapy.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I was a loser for the majority of my feeble 22 years. I was what I like to call a people-pleasing pushover, “PPP” for short. I was the guy who always tried to fit in, picked up the bill at restaurants and said “yes” in situations that obviously deserved a simple ”no” response. I was a PPP professional. It was an easy way to make friends and an even easier way to lose the small amount of personal identity that I had.

I think I realized the severity of my situation when I told my parents I would go to counseling to try and turn “un-gay.” I knew it wasn’t going to work, but who was I to disappoint? I put a smile on my face, gave my parents false hope, and let the counselor explain to me why I was wrong. I remember sitting there, listening intently. I imagine I was experiencing the same thing that guests on Dr. Phil go through. They know the guys full of shit, but they pretend to be interested. I was such a pushover. First of all, my ex-gay counselor was gayer than me and second of all, I knew everything he was saying was complete crap. I left the session drained and exhausted. It was that same day that I became comfortable in my own skin; I became an individual.

Read Above all else; stay true to yourself

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Dreaded Wall of Apathy

Earlier this year I presented at a liberal college in Vermont. I faced something there more terrifying and difficult than in any other presentation. Usually people come down decidedly about the queer issues I present. They are hot or cold--hot for queer rights and the end of oppression or cold set against us. But at this school with an audience of about 350 students, I hit faced a lukewarm reaction. "Whatever. I don't care."

Throughout the show I felt like I was swimming in the pool of Jello. Afterwards I felt more exhausted and defeated than I have ever felt in any action or presentation I have done.

I am reminded of that as I prepare for my presentation tomorrow night among liberal Quakers here in New England. Sure there are allies gallore and folks who say they are more than willing to undo the oppressions of sexism, racism and homophobia, but very often I run into a strange phenomenon, one that I can fall into too. It is apathy dressed up in accomplishment.

Bring up a hot button issue and the most stifling form of defensiveness takes the forms of listing off all the many things the person or group has done to fix that issue. Not that these accomplishments need be minimized, but one of the problems with being progressive, ahead of the mainstream, is that we can get into the place of treading water as we wait for the mainstream to catch up.

So here is my dilemma. I will be with a group of people who for decades have been threshing (and thrashing) issues affect LGBTIQ folks. They have a good and solid history of speaking out, writing minutes, affecting change. But homophobia still exists in the Yearly Meeting and Monthly Meetings. Suicide is still the number one cause of death of LGBTIQ youth in the US, including Massachusetts where "gay marriage" has been legalized.

So when I stand on that stage after my show, taking questions and later in the week, and Friends ask me, "So what can I do?" What shall I say?

Thoughts? Insights? Suggestions?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Denver Post Article

Last week I had a great long talk with Cindy Rodrí­guez from the Denver Post. She had recently done a piece about Mike Haley of Focus on the Family (and a former Love in Action staff worker). Her follow-up piece is entitled "Reparative Therapy" Represses.

We talked for nearly two hours on the phone, which brought up lots of memories of my "ex-gay" years--so much longing for a different life, striving to be all that I believed God meant me to be, doing whatever it takes to "get right with God". Then to consider all the people hurt in the wake, it shook me inside. It took a few days to feel stable inside again.

I know it is important to tell our stories. Important for us and for others to hear, but I also know the process drains us. I encourage lots of folks to get out there and share their experiences, but I warn them that it comes at a cost, great reward too, but a cost.

In her piece Rodrí­guez writes about one of my exorcism experiences (when I was commanded to vomit my demons of homosexual into a bucket.) and my time in Love in Action.
...Toscano learned how to speak in a more affirmative manner, with the last syllable intoning down instead of up. He learned how to walk and shake hands in a "manly" way. And there was lots of praying.

He graduated from the program but after six months, the real him came out. It took years for him to realize he needed to stop hurting himself by trying to change: "It's extremely dangerous when we try to become something other than ourselves," he said.

It's a lesson that applies to all people who are marginalized in our society, but with all the pressures to conform it's understandable why some would rather remake themselves.
She then goes on to discuss John Paulk and a recent conversation she had with him.

She also provides a Spanish language version “Terapia reparativa” reprime (sombrero tip to Christine), which works out very well as I have joined together with a Spanish speaking lesbian Quaker about doing a blog in Spanish about our experiences struggling with our same-sex desires and our faith. I'll let you know when it is ready to roll.

Raw Wicked Energy

Okay, I am a vegan (no meat, dairy or fish products in my diet), and this week I decided to go raw. I've been hearing great stuff about diets with all uncooked non-animal foods. It is supposed to be great for the immune system, detoxification, weight loss, and ENERGY.

I am a mellow guy leaning toward lower energy. Well day four of this raw diet and I am absolutely bouncing off the walls. Wicked energy. I don't walk, I scamper (which is a little less than a run). I just got off the phone with Christine (she is doing some rockin' design work for me) and I think I thoroughly confused her. Christine, I swear it is not cocaine; it's broccoli.

Who knows where this will go. As if I weren't weird enough. I can just see my friends rolling their eyes when I break the news that I've gone raw.

Haiku on Personal Messages

Our New England gathering of Quaker meetings has a long recent history of what is called a popcorn meeting during adult worship. We gather in silence and after just a few moments, an adult Friend stands up with a message, then another, and another, and another, and another, and another with less and less space between messages. It got so bad last year that the teenagers left the meeting in protest then crafted a beautifully worded minute calling the adults to a deeper more centered worship.

Today's worship was noticeably different--much quieter and thoughtful. No messages about pets for a change. At least four Friends pondered questions about if there is even a God. Good questions, but they reveal the spiritual dilemma (bankruptcy?) of many modern liberal Quakers who believe in almost anything and nothing in particular. The teens look at us confused--what do Quakers believe?

A few folks gave messages of a personal nature (self-centered sort of musings in a public worship space) which inspired one of my fellow Hartford Quakers, David Zevin to compose this haiku. (Read it aloud for the best results)

Haiku on Personal Messages

me me me me me me me

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Safe Among Friends

I arrived yesterday at the New England Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker). It's the annual gathering of all Quaker meetings in the New England states (CT, RI, MA, VT, ME, NH). I have a double treat this year. In addition to serving as a Resource Person for the high school program (aka Young Friends), I have been asked to present my Homo No Mo play for the entire sessions. Huge honor and it feels especially good to do it among my own people for a change.

Being with the Young Friends inspires me deeply. Back in 2001 when after I had pretty much left Christian churches but still felt a drawing to God, I stumbled into a Quaker meeting house. I didn't wish to join or even to be known--just worship and leave. I felt afraid that I would learn to love another group of church folks only to get rejected by them when I didn't line up to their expectations. I visited Quaker meeting for worship then slipped out before anyone could meet me.

But then four years ago I volunteered to work with the Young Friends. The Young Friends showed their love for each other in so many ways. Outwardly through hugs and their youth love piles, through listening intently to each other, being kind and tender, and then sitting in silent worship. Teenagers, sitting in a room, in the presence of the divine, silent, reverent, lovingly holding each other in the Light.

I saw their love in action through their service projects and their minutes about issues of oppression. I heard them speak passionately about LGBT issues, affirming that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. I heard their outrage when they learned about the ex-gay movement, how they believed it was just plain wrong for someone to feel compelled to change.

Seeing all that, I felt like the Grinch who after he stole Christmas, witnessed the pure faith and love of the Whos down in Whoville, who even after losing their Christmas trappings, still had the essentials--love and community. The Grinch's shriveled heart grew many times larger and a beaming smile broke over his face. Then he joined the Whos for their Christmas feast (and I imagine a lifelong of community with them).

Although I will most likely be physically exhausted this year from the many hours of program stuff and the multiple late nights, I feel certain that yet again I will be recharged inwardly by the Light and the love of Friends young and old. And in the work we all do, this work of undoing oppression, of unearthing our own racism, sexism, homophobia, in speaking to our oppressors, loving them and seeking to discover that of God in them, we all need to be recharged every now and again.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Doin' Time at NOMAS

I head off to Mahwah, New Jersey for the annual conference of NOMAS, The National Organization for Men Against Sexism. I will perform Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House tonight.

The conference should be awesome, but sadly I have to leave right after my show so that I can go to Bryant University (used to be a college but it grew up I guess) in Smithfield, Rhode Island for the New England Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker).

With my Quaker folk I will participate as a resource person for the Young Friends (high school) program again like I have done for the past few years. Lots of laughter, worship, games, theater, and the coolest business meetings you could ever imagine. These young people inspire me deeply with their commitment to silent worship, social justice and love for one another. I actually credit the NEYM Young Friends in large part for helping me to open up once again to a community of faith. Three years ago, seeing their sincere faith and evident love, my hurt and hard heart experienced healing and opened up to the idea of belonging to a group of religious folks again.

I will perform Homo No Mo on Tuesday evening for the whole of yearly meeting. Big deal in some ways and a great honor. AND I get to see LOADS of dear Friends. I will have Internet access, so hopefully I will blog from NEYM.

If you are near New Jersey tonight and want to check out the show, here are the details:

Thursday, August , 2006 7:30 PM
National Organization for Men Against Sexism
31st National Conference on Men & Masculinity
Creating Connections for Gender Justice
Ramapo College of New Jersey
505 Ramapo Valley Road
Mahwah, NJ

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Broad Diversity of God's Hatred

God Hates Shrimp! Yeah it is about time that God's people stood up against another abomination. Gay bashing is getting so old, and we don't smell nearly as bad as three day old seafood. (Not to mention the yucky poop track visibly running down the back of those nasty bottom feeders!)

Hat Tip to Craker Lilo