Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Performance Schedule Feb & Mar 2007

Okay, I have some more presentation dates I am ready to announce.

I'm thrilled about my fourth year presenting at the True Colors Conference. This year I will present two new workshops with a new collaborative performance piece called Dragged Out of the Spiritual Closet. The piece will explore the spirituality of several queer folks (including Earthel and Chad). I am writing and performing it with Momma aka Worthie Mecham, a female impersonator and Christian speaker from LA.
(Oh and Elliot will also present a workshop at TC this year too!)

Now that I premiered The Re-Education of George W. Bush, I have begun to research and write my next play Transfigurations--Exploring the Gender Diaspora, a theater piece about trans, genderqueer and gender-different people in the Bible. I will weave the real life stories of trans folks with Bible characters who lived outside of traditional gender roles (there are many of them--you'd be surprise).

Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House
Friday, February 16, 2007 7:30 PM
Bryan Junior Room
Frank Family Science Building
Guilford College
Greensboro, NC
(If you haven't already heard, there was just a terrible incident on this campus where three Palestinian students were attacked allegedly by some of the school's football players.)

Queer 101
Sunday, February 18, 2007 8:00 PM
Mid-Winter Gathering
Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns
Summit Retreat Center
Brown Summit, North Carolina (just north of Greensboro)
Retreat Participants Only

Special Appearance
Sunday, February 25, 2007 11:45 AM
Chelsea Community Church
346 W 20th St
New York, NY 10011
(718) 886-5463

Doin' Time...
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Venue and Time TBA
Syracuse University
Sponsored by Syracuse University's LGBT Resource Center

Doin' Time...
Saturday, March 10, 2007 Time TBA
Unitarian Society of Hartford
50 Bloomfield Ave.
Hartford, CT 06105-1006

Workshops & New Performance Piece!
Friday & Saturday March 23, 24, 2007
True Colors XIV Annual Conference
Central Connecticut State University
New Britain, CT

Monday, January 29, 2007

Carp in a Barrel

These days in Portland I have met SO MANY amazing people. People filled with wisdom and history and activism. Mark Middleton is one of these (along with his cutie pie partner, Nick. Happy Birthday Nick!). A volunteer at SMYRC, a house leader of the Anawim community, a web genius, skydiver and so much more, Mark's approach to life and ministry defies convention.

Over coffee and some unbelievable vegan desert delicacies at Pix, Mark shared a story that tickled and moved me. It's a true story about how they used to transport fish in barrels cross-country in the old days of the US. In the story is a GREAT object lesson about how we can keep each other from growing stale in our minds and world view. I asked Mark if he would blog about it and he did:
The journey these fish were on lasted for several weeks at a time and caused a dilemma of sorts. The fish would get comfortable, lazy, stagnant and would either die or become so sedentary that their flavor would go down the tubes. By the time these barrels of fish arrived in the San Francisco port, the fish were of so poor quality that they were barely useful for fertilizer.

A enterprising woman by the name of Ethel Brandorff had an idea. In the barrel full of other, comfortable fish, she would place a single carp. The carp were irritating to the other fish, and nipped, taunted and kept the other fish ill at ease…. not killing them, but giving them a reason to swim, hustle and keep their wits about them. The carp kept the others on their toes, as it were. With the new arrangement, the whole barrel of fish was in better shape than when they left their eastern seaboard roots.
It is so easy to surround ourselves with people who totally agree with us, to visit the blogs that speak our truth and avoid people and blogs that challenge our thinking.

And how many times have we been those carp? We may not even want to be the person stirring up trouble, but by the very nature of who we are--our queerness, our transness, our differentness, our "us-ness", we have kept our families, our churches, our schools, our society from growing stale and lifeless.

Our otherness can be a true gift to the worlds we inhabit.

Another Dodgy American Export--Ex-Gay Propaganda

Dodgy, a British term meaning evasive, tricky, not sound, good or reliable, questionable and suspicious. Yep, seems a member of NARTH, the "secular" ex-gay organization, recently testified about same-sex parenting in Yorkshire, UK. The PinkNews reports:
An employment tribunal in Yorkshire has heard evidence from an American academic who claims that placing children with same-sex couples damages them.
The tribunal heard evidence yesterday from Dean Byrd, who is a prominent promoter of so-called conversion therapy as a “cure” for homosexuality. Dr Byrd told the tribunal:
“The most reputable scientists would agree that the research on children raised by same-sex couples is in its infancy,” according to The Yorkshire Post. “However, in spite of the many flaws in the very limited pool of rigorous studies, there appears to be an emerging theme. Children raised by same-sex couples exhibit poor outcomes not so dissimilar to those raised by divorced heterosexual parents.”
Jim Burroway provides clear analysis on this move by an ex-gay group to deny the rights of LGBT folks by misconstruing research.
NARTH bills itself as an association of scientific and mental health professionals while distorting research to advance a political agenda. And despite this change in leadership, it appears that they will continue to use their cover as dispassionate professionals to the detriment of gays and lesbians — and to the detriment of children who need good homes.


This trip to Portland I have presented in some wonderful places, but the extremes between some of them surprise even me. A new Friend, Noël, pointed this out to me this evening after my show. She was the only person who witnessed me at both of my presentations today--and they couldn't have been different.

This morning I spoke and performed for the middle and high school Sunday School class at West Hills Friends Church. This is a Christ-centered Quaker church that is part of Northwest Yearly Meeting (NWYM).

I don't know that much about NWYM, but I think it is accurate to say that they are not yet open and affirming of LGBT folks. Like many Evangelical Christian groups, they have work to do. But there are always pockets of people who can see that the church has to catch up with God and that it is time to open the doors to LGBT folks.

So there I was talking about identity, starting discussions and doing some excerpts, (we were all very tired and sluggish--I had a show to a packed house at the Metropolitan Community Church the night before, and the kids were up messaging their friends and playing video games or doing whatever young teens do until 2 am).

One point that came out nice and clear is that the important thing is for people to be true to themselves. If you are straight, great, be straight and if a person of the same-sex asks you out, be flattered, but say, "no thanks I am not interested." If you are not sure of where your attractions lie, don't worry about it. It sometimes takes time to figure out who we are. The important thing is that we have quality relationships in our lives.

Then this evening I swung to the polar opposite extreme. I performed at Darcelle's, a famous drag club currently celebrating its 40th Anniversary. You must be 21 or older to get in the door. Think old-school drag (is there yet new school drag???) with crass humor, over the top wigs and a decor that screams 1960's lounge. And as I waited backstage and helped Ms. Darcelle herself by pulling up her girdle, I thought Peterson, you have a nutty and wonderful life.

Okay so at Darcelle's they serve drinks throughout the evening as people sit at little cocktail tables and talk back to the performers. Darcelle opened for me herself with jokes that even made me blush (and that is saying something). And then I presented Queer 101 which looks at homophobia, identity and activism through the words and lives of lesbian and gay poets. It is funny but also very serious touching on issues of racism, fem phobia, intersexuality, God and hate crimes.

And in the midst of it all at one point when Chad gets rejected by Tony (who is also gay but thinks that Chad is too fem for him), you could have heard a pin drop. And then Earthel brought it home with deep wisdom and warmth.

So this morning I was a Sunday School teacher and this evening I got to perform at a drag club, and in both I experienced God and some wonderful people, some of whom may very well needed to hear something different about LGBT issues. I feel very rich tonight, rich in experience and rich in people.

Through it all a bunch of people have been praying for me at my Quaker meeting and here in Portland. This kind of stuff can't happen on my own. I really need the support of my friends and Friends. Thanks all. (Now off to bed 'cause I still have one more show left to present!)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Seeds Within

Alex has gotten me to think about seeds this morning. In a beautifully written post entitled Serenity, (which I know Alex knows is more than a feeling, but also a spaceship filled with friends caring for each other even when they don't fully understand the journey they are on), Alex shares some of his faith journey and the many times he tried in vain to un-christian himself. Something kept bringing him back.

Some people are hardwired for God. Perhaps all of us all in some way but it shows itself in many different ways (even through Karaoke!)

I love that idea of the seed in us. The thing is, sounds like it has always been there for Alex.
After a submersion in cold water in the chapel besides the home of my childhood I stood in front of the parish and sang a song called "Jag har beslutat att följa Jesus"/"I have decided to follow Jesus". I remember how I asked what "beslutat"/decided meant. It is a word more like determine in swedish but means roughly the same. I remember how I felt that I didn't mean what I sang. I hadn't decided to follow Jesus. I had always been a Christian.
As we say in the Quaker world, "that of God is within you."

I've always felt moved by this passage of the Bible and more so today,
Ni har accepterat sanningen och därför kan ni nu ha en uppriktig kärlek till varandra. Ni har renats från själviskhet och hat genom er tro på att Kristus kan frälsa er. Se därför till att ni verkligen älskar varandra innerligt och helhjärtat.

Ni har ju blivit födda på nytt, inte till ett liv som era föräldrar skänkt er, utan till ett nytt och evigt liv. Och detta liv kommer från Kristus som är Guds levande ord som består.
(1 Petrusbrevet 1:22-23)

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:22-23)
The passage doesn't rail us about the bits between our legs and what we do with them. Rather it highlights obeying the truth which leads to a sincere love for each other (brothers AND sisters!) Lots of people might jump in, but it says it is through the Bible! Actually, the New Testament was not even "completed" at this point. I believe the writer of the scripture is speaking more of the word of God as it is gets revealed to those who sit and listen for it as well as the clues we can get from written texts.

George Fox spoke of the seed planted in us that can grow. Speaking of the seed, George Fox writes:
All dear Friends everywhere,
who have no helper but the Lord, who is your strength and your life,
let your cries and prayers be to him,
from whom all your help and strength comes;
who with his eternal power, has kept up your heads above all waves and storms.
Let none go out of their habitations in the stormy time of the night,
whose habitation is in the Lord;
let everyone keep his habitation,
and stand in his lot, the seed, Christ Jesus, to the end of the day.
There is the lot of your inheritance,
and in this seed you will see the bright and morning star appear,
which will expel the night of darkness that has been in your hearts;
by which morning star you will come to the everlasting day, which was before night was.
So every one feel this bright morning star in your hearts, there to expel the darkness."
What Fox articulated, the Igbo of what we now call Nigeria, also have believed. The seed and the star are connected, interchangeable. I first learned of this through the Stevie Wonder song, The Seed's a Star. Writer Chris Abani brings this out beautifully.

This is the kola nut. This seed is a star. This star is life. This star is us.

The Igbo hold the kola nut to be scared, offering it at every gathering and to every visitor, as a blessing, as refreshement, or to seal a covenant. The prayer that preceeds the breaking and sharing of the nut is: He who brings kola, brings life.

from Chris Abani’s Graceland.

Thank you Alex spädbarn for your post.


Tonight I am thinking of survivors. How many survivors read this blog? I wonder.
  • Survivors of sexual abuse.
  • Survivors of abusive relationships.
  • Survivors of addiction--their own or of people they love.
  • Survivors of marriages that died along with long cherished dreams.
  • Survivors of churches, spiritual homes that chucked you out, and in one violent rejection invalidated years of sharing, serving and love.
  • Survivors of the ex-gay movement, still believing somewhere in your brain that there might be something wrong with being queer because you have been told this so many times by so many people you respect and who stand in places of authority over you.
  • Survivors of the closet, a self-imposed society-enabled tomb. Those years of silence, of hiding, of fearful expectation that you will be exposed and denounced and rejected. Afraid to even admit to yourself who you are, afraid that if you did accept that one part of you, it would somehow overtake the rest of you and turn you into a stereotype or statistic.
  • Survivors of parents who never worked out their own issues, who maybe even loved their children the best they knew how but it was not nearly enough. Parents who are not willing to even admit the wrong and instead blame their children for the trauma they themselves caused.
  • Survivors of racism, institutional attacks because of color and personal attacks even from friends who when you tell them about your experiences, they immediately try to convince you that it is really not that bad. Then behind your back they talk about how angry and bitter you seem.
  • Survivors of transphobia and gender difference bashing, even from "friends" who won't yet come around to calling you by the name you have chosen for yourself, the only name that makes sense to you.
  • Survivors of deep losses who wonder where was God when I needed God the most?
So many survivors. So much wisdom learned and learning. So much pain you bear.

Thank you for pushing on, for not giving up, for making it through another day, even when you don't know why you press on and for whom. Thank you for the courage even though you mostly feel like a coward. You are alive still and by your own choice. And maybe most people in your life don't even realize what a miracle that is.

Perhaps, one day, you will hear someone say, Thank you for your life because knowing you has made all the difference.
And perhaps you will even be able to look in the mirror and say the same words to yourself and mean it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

GWB Portland Encore

They liked my Bush piece (I love saying that) so much that they asked me to perform it again here in Portland. I wish I had more time to blog. I had the most amazing in of body experience in a sensory deprivation flotation chamber early today.

But I am off to Salem, OR to do a talk about the ex-gay movement and my spiritual journey. The organizer sounded a little concerned that there might be protesters because of some of the phone calls she had been getting. I'll keep you posted. Below are the details for Monday's show.
Through a series of lively lessons, educator and theatrical performance activist, Peterson Toscano playfully instructs President Bush and his cabinet on history, the economy, privilege, environmentalism, the Bible and humanity. Bitingly funny and painfully insightful, Peterson takes no prisoners as he speaks to the George W. Bush in all of us.

The Re-Education of George W. Bush
Monday January 29, 2007 12:00-1:00 PM
Spiritual Life Center--Campus Ministry
Portland State University
Entrance off Broadway next to Annie's Cafe
1728 Broadway
Portland, OR

Rock Star Grandmas!

Today I got to hang out with two amazing grandmothers. Bonnie Tinker and her partner Sarah were lesbian moms over 25 years ago--trail blazers. For years Bonnie has worked as a queer activist fighting for marriage equality through her role at Love Makes a Family here in Oregon. A committed Quaker, she also protests the war in multiple ways and has done much to address issues of racism and skin privilege. Her partner, Sarah, may get arrested tomorrow for a direct non-violent action aimed at a recruiters office. They are movers and shakers.

Bonnie is the one who has organized most of my presentations here in Portland. Seems EVERYONE knows her. Today she and her co-worker, Cecil, sat down with me and taught me some of the non-violent techniques they use. She developed this cool and effective method they call LARA. The idea is to build connections and relationship with opponents.

L--Listen! Not just to the words, but listen with your ears and heart to hear the needs, the fears the concerns of your opponent. Find common ground. What are they really saying. Also, think that maybe there was a time that you could have said the same things.

A--Affirmation. Don't attack your opponent or react to their words rather let your opponent know in what ways you agree, in what ways you see their good intent.

R--Respond. Don't deny their concerns or questions. Respond to them thoughtfully.

A--Add. Share the information you want to share. They will need new words to clothe the new feelings they have after speaking with you.
The other grandmother I met is a woman who went to George Fox University over 60 years ago. The wife of a Quaker minister and professor, she and her husband came to the understanding some years ago that queer folks are treated badly by their conservative Quaker group.

This woman, 86 year old, now a widow, speaks clearly about the needs of LGBT folks and especially shares the message to other straight conservative Evangelicals that they need to change their ways.

She lives right next to the campus of George Fox, a very conservative Christian school and takes her role as a straight ally seriously, speaking with friends, members of her Quaker church and faculty and administration at the school.

She joked that at age 86 she feels that she can say pretty much whatever she likes. After serving the church for over 60 years, they know the depth of her faith and if they have a problem with her message, then it is their problem. Very healthy and active, I think she will be around for a long time.

These two grannies are ROCK STARS!

Oh and although he is not a grandma at all, I also met with Dan from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). He is one of maybe three staff members nationally who work in the LGBT Rights & Recognition division of AFSC.

One of his tasks/goals is to set up meetings between conservative Evangelical Christians who are not yet embracing of LGBT folks with other Christians who are embracing. We talked about various strategies. I told him to consider blogging in that through the process of blogging, visiting other blogs, leaving comments, and quoting other bloggers on our blogs, we build community and foster dialog, especially when we visit blogs of people who have a different view on the issues than we do.

So Dan may be lurking right now. Once he gets a blog going, I'll let you know.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Lots of Love in Portland

I feel live a roving correspondent these days. And in Portland this week...

Tonight I performed Queer 101--Now I Know My gAy,B,C's at Portland's Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center, or SMYRC (pronounced smurk). Okay, the place is beyond coolness. About ten years ago, two teens started the center. I think one was 14 and the other 19. They got a grant and have been going at it ever since. It is completely youth-run. They have adult volunteers (who must go through a training) and all speakers and events and rules must be decided on by the youth.

Being invited to perform there, I felt so honored. Many of the youth I met spoke so intelligently about gender issues, (issues that I find that many older gay men--like over the age of 25--struggle to understand. These young folks have such a healthy view of it from what I heard them share. Wise, funny, engaged and real. Great people. They also affirmed me and my work in a big way.

After speaking to a few groups this week, I have been asked (hat tip to Art) to post a blog entry about How to Speak to Conservative Evangelical Christians. I would have put something up today, but I have been away from the computer all day. Soon, very soon.

The Portland Mercury, a weekly paper, is currently running an interview of me. Lately I've been thinking about my conversion experience during my teens. It wasn't just spiritual. So much more happened.
At age 17, I became a born-again Christian. What happened immediately wasn't just a religious conversion, but a cultural conversion. Looking back, I see that my faith didn't just change, but my political beliefs, my style of dress, how I talked, my activities. So I became a very staunch Christian, which meant I had to be anti-gay, anti-abortion—particularly then, during the Reagan years with the Moral Majority. When Pat Robertson ran for president I was like, "Yes! We're going to have a man of God in the White House!" I was all for it. That became my identity, particularly because I saw in my own life what I thought were the dangers of sin and immorality, because of my own struggles with same-sex attraction.
The article is Ex-Ex-Gay--Peterson Toscano: A Survivor of the Ex-Gay Movement

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

World Premiere

Tonight after President Bush's State of the Union Address, I premiered The Re-Education of George W. Bush here in Portland, Oregon. The audience was comprised of some VERY serious peace activists, a generous sprinkling of gay men and a few college-age students.

No doubt I felt anxious, not about remembering my lines (or Vlad's killer dance moves--they actually wanted an encore). No, I felt anxious about the script itself and the issues that I raise. In addition to talking about war in Iraq and Afghanistan, I brought up a load of issues indirectly and directly.
  • Racism in America and white male power and privilege--particularly the privilege many of us have to live without seeing racism or knowing that it really still exists.
  • The Environment and the personal impact to make a difference. (Get rid of your car! Stop eating meat and dairy products!)
  • Sexism in the Bible and the world.
  • The slippery slope of anti-gay legislation in Nazi German and parallels to the US.
  • The ways we treat strangers, aliens and outsiders among us, and how America seems to pay much more attention to enemies than to friends.
  • Health care, dismal health care.
I actually left out a section about the economy because I didn't want it to get too long or wonky. People seemed to really connect with it though and with the guests I included. Marvin charmed them in spite of being so very contrary at times. In fact, he presented some of the deepest truths of the piece. How can we stand in the presence of God and a man is dying right in front of us and we don't even know it?

Overall, the piece seemed to have been a success. I was happy with the script and the characters and the energy. The flow worked well and I got to unearth some key issues for US citizens to consider. I also pushed myself to be more personal and present than in any other show.

AND I got to say and demonstrate that Change is Possible. Actually Marvin brought this up first about his conversion into a former homosexual, but I followed through and talked about how I changed from a Born-Again, Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Conservative Republican Christian whatever it is that I am becoming--hopefully more and more human.

Human--That is not a liberal or a conservative thing. We all can practice oppression, intolerance and violence regardless of our politics. I see violence on all sides and it is ugly all around (and often non-effectual). I guess it is about love and respect and listening. That reveals so much more to me about someone's morality than who they marry.

Now very tired and spent, I go to bed. Tomorrow, I present Queer 101--Now I know my gAy,B,Cs for the local queer youth/young adult group. (I hear they can be a tough crowd. But that is what I like about teens; they know crap and insincerity when they see it and are usually not afraid to say it.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Update on a Straight Spouse

Back in December, I posted the entry, Another Straight Spouse Speaks Out. The anonymous writer, a Christian woman and mother of young children, shared some about her experience finding out her husband is gay and the journey she has been one since with all of its trials and challenges.

She has since left a comment with an update of the situation that I thought I would repost here. I post the comment in full but with paragraph breaks I added. I feel amazed at her willingness to be real and honest about her trial while somehow also remaining hopeful. I know other woman who have gone (and are going) through similar difficulties read this blog. Your stories are moving and must be heard.
I am the "another spouse" who left that first message. Just to give you an update....

Things are not easy, by a long shot, but we are being civil. I commented to my ex-husband recently that it's as if I have a long-lost friend back. He has opened up to me much more since he came out than he ever did during the course of our marriage. Go figure!

I have had to let God do some serious work in me. And I know it's because of His grace that I can go forward. I do agree that many churches make it IMPOSSIBLE for someone who is struggling with sexual orientation to voice that and deal with it. Okay, the fact is that i(t) SCARES most churches and pastors. It used to scare me. I'm not scared of the subject any more, but I do know that I have to choose carefully who I speak with about it.

I understand now that my ex wasn't deliberately setting out to wreck my life. He thought he was doing the right thing. I just wish he would've TRUSTED me as a friend way back when we were dating, and let me know there were some issues there. I never would've deserted him as a friend. I'm not that kind of person. Sure, I would've put a halt to an engagement, but not to the friendship. I have always loved him, and I still do. But I love him now as a brother in Christ, and as a close friend.

People don't understand how we can do that. I just tell them that our #1 priority is seeing our children grow up healthy, happy, and feeling secure that both of us love them forever. And besides, unforgiveness is a destructive spirit that I don't care to possess. I am thankful for the good things we experienced together, and for what I learned from him. I'm thankful for how this is helping me to become a stronger and more confident woman. I have been hurt, but I have also been blessed. I am grateful.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Queers, Quakers and Kelp

I spent the weekend with the Anawim Community, a group of gay Christo-centric men who have met together regularly for meals, Bible reflection and silent prayer for over eight years. They also hold an annual retreat on the Oregon coast at a Methodist retreat center (one of the few religious run centers that is open and affirming to queer folks.)

As the retreat leader, I gave a talk about my own spiritual journey from a private and powerful encounter with God as a teen to my cultural conversion to Fundamentalism and Conservatism to my odyssey in the Ex-Gay Movement to my coming out of a biblically induced coma to the spiritual shift to an inward faith based on being still before God often without words. Sometimes words just get in the way. And this got me talking about my relationship with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

We also did a Bibliodrama, a form of Bible study through drama, where you don't simply study the passage, but you embody it. By walking through step by step, we saw so much that gets lost in just reading and talking. We looked at the story where a woman with a bleeding problem finds healing when she transgresses by touching Jesus (she was considered unclean.) The crazy thing is that Jesus didn't know who touched him, and the scene was so chaotic. Most people didn't even see the main action. The disciples were unsure and overly protective. The crowd mobbed Jesus pushing him this way and that while he sought to focus on the essentials.

During the weekend we had some great walks on the beach where I witnessed bull kelp for the first time ever. Crazy stuff like from another planet. On Saturday the sun was so bright after weeks of clouds and darkness, I had to squint the whole afternoon but loved the feeling of the warmth on my face.

Last night at the Multnomah Friend's house, I led a presentation called, A Non-Violent Response to the War of Terror. In a large part it had little to do with the war in Iraq and much more to do with how we can approach our opponents with vulnerability and hope. Although it seems counter-intuitive for many of us, it can open doors to actual dialog.

Now I prep for the premiere of my newest play, The Re-Education of George W. Bush, which I will perform right after the US President's State of the Union address. Tee hee.

Later today or this weekend I will write about my Travel Minute that just got passed at my local Quaker meeting. I love many Quaker practices and how structures have been long established to help people figure out their place in the world and then get the on-going support and tools to do that work.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Doin' Time in Portland, Oregon

Since my flight from Hartford, CT to Portland was scheduled to depart at 6:00 AM today and I had to leave my house by 3:30 AM to take a taxi downtown to get the city bus to the airport, I decided to stay up all night and sleep on the plane. I used my time last night writing and typing (on my Royal Quiet De Luxe Manual Typing) post-holiday letters to family and friends.

Now I am settled into Portland sitting in a cyber cafe. After a week of successful rehearsals, workshops and re-writes, I feel REALLY GOOD about my new play, The Re-Education of George W. Bush (because no president should be left behind).

The play is much less about Dubya and much more about exposing the Inner Bush lurking in heart of nearly every US citizen. In my re-writes, at the last minute, I wove in a whole thread about my mom, her patriotism, her wisdom, her life and death.

Like my other plays I layer the content with multiple themes, images and motifs. I also draw on the Bible to underscore some of the main points in an effort to reclaim Biblical texts in the midst of a political discussion where many assume there is one way to use the Bible to frame discussion.

One theme that comes up throughout the play is that not everything is what it appears. Lots of surprises and some very silly stuff too (including a scandalous Russian folk-pop interpretive dance).

The cast includes some favorites from other shows--Chad, Vlad, Tex, & Rev Dr. Meadows each provide a lesson for Bush and Marvin Bloom serves as the host for the show introducing each guest presenter (while liberally adding his own commentary). Unlike my other shows, keeping with performance art tradition, I appear as myself at least three times, addressing the audience directly (which is so much harder for me than doing it in character.)

This weekend I will be on the Pacific Coast with the Anawim Community where I will facilitate their annual retreat. This is a group of gay men who have met regularly for nearly 10 years focusing on prayer, contemplation and community building.

So often our anti-gay opponents malign us as living an irresponsible gay lifestyle and refuse to acknowledge that we each represent many different lifestyles, including deeply spiritual ones. Also some anti-religious gay folks can paint gay Christians as repressed and self-hating misfits projecting an oxymoronic identity. But many of us have labored to unpack our faith, rebuild it and express it in authentically.

My on-line time will be limited the next couple days, but I will post updates (and check in on your blogs) whenever I get a chance. Now I have to get to my delicious looking vegan soup & salad that just arrived.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Good News!

Although I was off-line most of the days in rehearsals and previews for my new show (which is going well), I received good news through the phone (thanks Dave!) that Alan Chambers and Exodus International have released some details (via Warren Throckmorton) about new guidelines for youth .

That's good news and a very good first step. From the brief look at the guidelines that I had, they need to be beefed up a bit especially compared with say the Boy Scouts.

And if you are up, have a listen to my live interview tonight at 9:00 EST on KBOO. I'll do some samples of plays and talk about silly and serious stuff. You can listen live and streaming.

Monday, January 15, 2007

KBOO Radio Interview on TUE Night

In preparation for my 10 days in the Portland, Oregon area, I will give an interview for the radio station KBOO, Tuesday, 16 January at 9:00 PM eastern standard time (Sorry Sweden & the UK). They stream live on the web, so anyone can listen (but you need download Microsoft Media Player to listen)

On the show we will discuss some of the issues facing youth in Exodus programs along with my interactions with Exodus over the past two years since I first heard about some of these issues from BBC reporter David Akinsanya directly after he spent several days filming Love in Action.

I'm excited about this Portland trip because I will be doing pretty much everything I can do in front of a group of people (except tap dance; I need to work that in somehow).

I'll present three different plays, including the WORLD PREMIERE of The Re-Education of George W. Bush. I will do talks for both liberal and conservative groups. I will lead a retreat for gay Christian men, meet with campus Quakers at Portland State University, perform in a gay church one night and a drag bar the next, and I will put together an event entitled Responding to the War of Terror from a Place of Non-Violence.

My play, The Re-Education of George W. Bush, has been slow in coming. I actually started working on it two years ago, but once my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I put it aside and spent that time and creative energy with her before she died in early September 2006. (and I am so glad I did). Throughout that time I thought, maybe I still need to learn something before I can do this play.

I will be off-line a lot (or should be) as I rehearse/rewrite and offer private workshop performances of the piece for wonderfully critical friends all this week in Hartford, CT.

For Portland event details, check out the performance schedule. (fabulous poster design by Christine)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Your Concern for Youth--Now What?

Thank you to those of you who have shown concern for the youth in Exodus programs. From your comments and your questions, e-mails and calls, I see that many of you really care about these kids and wanted to make sure that if any child is at risk, that all necessary and possible steps have being taken.

And they have, at least for the situations I alluded to in my last posts. Proper authorities (and parents) had been contacted, action had been taken. When faced with an immediate problem, Exodus dealt with it. That has never been the issue.

The problem is that in spite of the issues that I brought to Alan Chambers' attention, the conditions exist where interaction between youth and adult participants can still happen. Also Exodus does not have any publicly known guidelines that specify staff working with youth must undergo appropriate background checks. That means that youth are still at risk. Without any local or state oversight, the only authority over Exodus member ministries is their own and whatever Exodus President, Alan Chambers, and the Exodus board chooses to exercise.

So what will Exodus and Alan Chambers do so that these situations will never occur again? A first step would be to draft, publish, implement, and monitor guidelines that are designed to protect these youth from potential predators.

Alan has had ample time to do this and more than enough authority.

So now what? We are not powerless. Let's continue to put pressure on Alan and the Exodus Board to make the necessary changes to ensure the basic safety of youth. With the sort of damage that we know comes with ex-gay ministry, that is the least that they could do.

Friday, January 12, 2007

More on Exodus' New Guidelines for Youth

I am at a Quaker high school retreat in Chicago this weekend, so my Internet time is very limited, but I wanted to add a few more details because people are rightly concerned for the welfare of young people in Exodus programs.

Although clearly inappropriate, the incidents that I related to Alan Chambers last July did not include criminal acts. The incidents revolved around interactions between adult and youth participants in an Exodus member ministry. Even though the incidents did not require contacting authorities at that time, the situations and the conditions that existed, (and as far as I know still exist), at the Exodus member ministry where these situations occurred, were such that minors were at risk for potential harm.

In our conversation, Alan also expressed concern along with his intention to create guidelines that would ensure the safety of youth under Exodus member ministries' care.

At that time I told Alan that I believe it is inappropriate and harmful to do any sort of ex-gay therapy on youth and with youth, particularly against their will. Knowing that Exodus will continue to do so, it is necessary that they do everything in their power to protect these young people.

The non-violent work that I do involves attempting to connect with people to create a "win-win" situation if at all possible. Building relationships, shedding assumptions, believing the best in people are all part of my Christian testimony. Joe Brummer outlines some of these non-violent steps in his most recent post. I don't hate Alan or Exodus. I have used much restraint in hopes of seeing real change.

Some of us who feel we have been wounded by the ex-gay ministries and the anti-gay church may have sometimes wish to do them harm and to think the worse, to malign them the way that we feel they malign the LGBT community. For me Jesus' teachings is that I should seek to do good and speak out against injustice but not exact revenge.

Perhaps some people would love there to be a major Exodus scandal. I want to see one avoided.

Alan has the power to keep young people from being harmed under his watch. He shared that he will bring forth new guidelines that will protect youth. I believe these should minimally include:
  1. Complete separation of youth and adult participants at all Exodus member programs and Exodus sponsored events.
  2. Full background checks for all staff working with youth.
  3. No youth should be enrolled in a program against his or her will.
If nothing else it this just good business and lowers their liability, but much more importantly it shows a genuine love and respect for these young people.

Exodus' New Guidelines for Youth?

On June 26, 2006 I initially left voice messages for Alan Chambers of Exodus International and another national ex-gay leader about inappropriate incidents that affected youth at an Exodus member ministry. I will not go into the details at this time, but I shared three specific situations that happened within the previous year. The shocking details of the third situation compelled me to contact Alan and this other national leader. In my initial messages I said that I would rather discuss this privately, but if they did not wish to talk, then I would initiate a public discussion.

E-mails went back and forth including one in which the program director of the Exodus member ministry acknowledged the situation did occur, and since being alerted about it by Alan, shared some of the steps he took to address it. After multiple phone conversations with Alan's assistant and more e-mails, Alan finally agreed to speak with me on the phone. The other national leader declined to speak with me out of concern for possible legal liability issues.

On July 31st during a conference call with Alan and Exodus Youth Director, Scott Davis, I outlined in detail the situations that had been recounted to me by recent participants in the Exodus member ministry. Alan expressed his concern and assured me that Exodus cares about the safety and welfare of youth. He also informed me that Exodus was going to issue new guidelines for programs that work with youth.

We talked about some of the considerations when working with youth including ensuring that adult and youth participants do not attend sessions together or have any contact. I added that just like every major organization that works with youth, each Exodus youth worker should have a background check.

Alan said that the new requirements for Exodus member ministries will go into effect in at the beginning of 2007 and will be done in a public way. I pressed Alan to consider putting them into effect sooner, but he said that he had to meet with the board about it all first.

I agreed to send Alan a list of web links to other organizations who had very clear guidelines for working with youth including the Boys Scouts of America. I also agreed that I would not blog about the incidents or share the details publicly. I then waited for January 2007 to see these new guidelines.

On January 3rd I contacted Alan's assistant for a follow-up conversation about the guidelines. She e-mailed me back the next day,
After going over the schedule and speaking with Alan it looks like January will not work for the two of you to speak. If you can contact me back in February, I can see what can be scheduled at that time.
I called back on January 5th and told her that I only needed an answer about the guidelines and when they guidelines would go into effect. I expressed the concern that both Alan and I shared during our July 31st phone conversation and asked if she could get back to me by January 9th with some answer.

I since followed up with Alan and his assistant through an e-mail containing the draft of this blog entry. I have gotten no further response and as far as I know, and I have seen no evidence of new guidelines being published.

I publish this blog entry in hopes that Alan complete what he said he would do. I do not wish to go into the details of the situations that occurred at the Exodus member ministry; I imagine the ministry would prefer that as well. Even so, perhaps a public discussion is the only way to move things forward.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

2007 Survivors and Thrivers Tour

Okay the details are going up for the presentations in the month of January. Loads of great stuff going on in Portland at the end of the month (Thanks Bonnie, Doug, Wes and so many others!) Keep an eye on the performance schedule for updates and additions (Thanks Steve!)

I am now back in Hartford, CT (aka home) desperately trying to stay up past 10 PM so that I can adjust to the time change in preparation for a high school retreat this weekend in Chicago. It's great to be home even if it is only for two days.

After five weeks in Scotland I feel very centered and focused. I spent a lot of time in prayer, silent worship and in reading the Bible and inspirational books including Thomas R Kelly's A Testament of Devotion, C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce Audre Lorde's Zami: A New Spelling of My Name and some writings of William Penn.

Most helpful for me has been singing my reworking of John 15 sung to the tune of Abide With Me. After a long conversation with a reporter who met me at NYC's Penn Station, I can see how some things about my faith and my beliefs have fallen into place these past few months. I don't have much to share about that right now, but I have been asking, seeking and knocking and after some years feel I am getting some of the answers I need.

Okay, I am falling asleep as I type this. Off to bed!

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Friend Closer Than a Brother

My family has a strange habit of adopting brothers. My dad's closest friend since he was a small boy was Bobby. They played on the streets of the South Bronx together (when that part of NYC still had farms), they went to school together, they went to war together, and they grew old together. I only ever knew my dad's friend as Uncle Bobby and his children were always my cousins, closer than my real cousins.

Some of you know that 2006 was very difficult for me and my family. My grandmother died right as the year started soon after my mom was diagnosed again for lung cancer. After many months of struggling and hanging on, my mom died in September. Then right before Christmas my Uncle Bobby became ill. He went into the hospital with a clot in his leg only to find out his body was riddled with cancer. He died two days later.

My dad has suffered many deep losses this year. His mother, his partner of 50 years, and his best friend since childhood--a friend closer than a brother.

Elliot writes about a presentation he gave to his 12th grade English class on two Leslie Feinberg books he read. The teacher asked him to share what he hopes his classmates will walk away with from hearing his presentation. Elliot writes:
So I told them that I wanted them to think about how much they valued their friends, because sometimes friends can be more family than our own relatives are. I followed that by saying that, in both Stone Butch Blues and Drag King Dreams, the main characters find the place that they know they really belong with members of their Chosen Family, and, in my personal experience as a Transguy, the same has happened. The Transgender people I have encountered and become friends with have truly become my brothers and sisters, and I feel a connection with them that I have never felt with any of my biological family.
In another entry, Elliot lists some of those key friendships in his life, which reminds me of a practice I used to do every New Years. I would list all the significant people in my life. These were the people I would go out of my way to see, to pray for, to send cards to, to encourage.

Life gets crazy with school and work and chores. Elliot's post reminds me to put into priority what really matters--people. One of my favorite saying of Jesus is Greater love has no one than this, that one would lay down one's life for one's friends.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Identity Monologue

Did you ever wish you could change something about yourself? Your height? Your eyes? Your family? Your abilities? Your sexual orientation?

Considering the many years I tried to change myself, I created

The Identity Monologue

In which through eight characters in two minutes I tell my life story...

Family Embraces and Epiphanies

My brother, who lives in Madrid and often travels to the UK for work, arrived in Glasgow on Wednesday to hang out with me until Sunday.

Yesterday we went to Dunkeld to see the cathedral and walk along the river. Then we drove to see the Queen's View, where during a grand tour of Scotland, Queen Victoria declared the view there to be the best of all, (thus immediately turning it into a tourist attraction). Near the car park we saw a beautiful wood carved sculpture of a mother and child. Sadly no information about the artist was listed. After that we went to Pitlochry for a walk in town and then dinner at the Moulin Inn, where they make their own ale, and I gratefully drink it.

Like mom, my brother doesn't like photos taken of him. I have learned long ago to not even try. so no photos of my bro posted here today.

There is something so comforting about being with someone who has almost always been in my life, particularly with him being so accepting of me as a gay man. I know in my own experience of embracing myself, having family embrace me too has made a huge difference. I know for many of us we do not have this gift and have to create new families for ourselves.

Back in 2004 I wrote about The Gay Blessing. In the piece I conclude,
In our community, the queer community, we have the priviledge to bless one another, to undo curses that misguided and narrow parents may have heaped upon their children. We have the power to love each other back to life and give the blessing.
With the celebration of the Epiphany, I hope that we find the affirmation we need to fully live our lives and that we will not underestimate the power we contain to bless each other.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

One Death is One Death Too Many

On I found a well-presented and powerful shockwave video about Dr. King, the current US wars and non-violence (but not silent) protest.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Performance Schedule 2007!

I have not put up the 2007 winter/spring schedule yet, but it is looking hot, hot, hot! I see 2007 as the Year of the Survivor. I hope to see many people share their stories on blogs, stages, podcasts, and in conversation and art.

Therefore, in addition to my regular presentations, I will also lead several workshops and retreats designed to engage folks in exploring and sharing their stories. I've said it before, there is a mysterious power in telling our stories.

January will bring me to Chicago the weekend of January 12th for the Quake that Rocked the Mid-West, a Quaker high school retreat. (As of yet, I have nothing planned for the evening of Sunday, January 14. If you know of a group, gay church, etc who might be interested in having me do a talk or something that night in the Chicago area, let me know as it is still open.)

January 18-31 I will be in Portland area. The first weekend I will help lead a retreat for the Anawim Community, a gay male Christian group. Then I will do a series of talks, performances, and more throughout the week of January 21 including Quaker meetings, universities, gay churches, drag bars, and more in the works. The schedule is filling up fast. I will post the calendar once I know it.

Mid-February will bring me to Greensboro, NC for the Friends of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Queer Concerns' (FLGBTQC) annual mid-winter gathering. I will also perform at Guildford College. Also, on February 25th, I will present at Chelsea Church in NYC for their Sunday service.

March will enable me to perform closer to home in Hartford on the 10th and Syracuse University on the 1st. I will also be very active at the True Colors Conference in New Britain, CT March 23,24 (where you will also see Elliot lead a workshop--go Elliot!)

April brings me to Earlham College in Indiana from the 2nd through the 4th. I then head back to North Carolina--details TBA. Towards the end of the month, I will co-lead a Queer Quaker retreat at Woolman Hill in Western Massachusetts (27th-29th).

May will bring me back to Europe for a month of presentations in England, Scotland and Sweden. This trip is still pretty open, so if you have a group who might be interested in doing something, let me know as we pull it together.

There are lots more presentations in the works plus some exciting radio projects and more. Will keep you posted.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Eve Video

Week four of my Scottish adventure brought me to the wee village of Comrie for their famous ancient Flambeaux (torches) that they parade through the town to drive out the evil spirits.

With all the rain and wind nearly EVERY Hogmanay (Scottish New Year's Eve) event was canceled, but Comrie hung in there! Enjoy.

New Year's Day Ramble

I went on a 10 mile ramble in the hills and around the Cluney Forest. The sun broke out every now and then to surprise us. The highlight was when we walked back to the car in the gathering twilight, we saw an albino deer. It was magical springing along side of its tawny colored companion. If I were an ancient Greek, I would take that sight as a good omen.

As it is the New Year, I am in a reflective mood, looking at details as well as the big picture (as you might tell from my photos). Traditionally, in addition to a New Year's walk, I also spend time during the first few days writing goals for the new year. This helps to focus me. Often these goals rise out of some time in silence and time spent writing.

Tomorrow I head off to Edinburgh to hear Handel's Messiah, the uncut version. Then on Wednesday my brother arrives to spend a few days with me. He lives in Spain, so it is just a quick hop for him. Can't wait!