Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Heading Out to England

I leave tomorrow night for London and will not have time to blog until sometime next week. Some updates:
  • I performed Queer 101—Now I Know My gAy,B,C's at a high school outside of Boston today. The first session had about 350 students and the second session had at least 500. They listened deeply and asked excellent questions. Tomorrow morning I perform the same play at Manchester Community College.
  • Beyond Ex-Gay will co-host two conferences in Barcelona at the end of May. I have some info up at our site, but it is in Catalan. I hope to have info in English soon. I will give a keynote address (in Castilian). I mean I can do dinner and directional Spanish, but this is going to be a stretch. I love a challenge.
  • On May 5 Beyond Ex-Gay will be featured in LOGO TV's Be Real Program. (Tom D left me a snarkily sweet text message saying he saw me in the trailer for the program) They interviewed Christine and me as well as my dad, and ex-gay survivors John Holm and Scott Tucker. I think the program runs in rotation throughout the week. (We are also featured in a gay national magazine towards the end of May. I will give you details when I know them.
  • I received 100 DVDs of Homo No Mo to take with me to Europe. Don't forget if you got one of last year's dodgey version, hit me up for a free upgrade. US copies will be ready by mid-June if not sooner.
  • I will be in the UK and Europe the next five weeks with stops in St. Albans, London, Cardiff (Wales), Oxford, Leeds, Belfast (Northern Ireland), Barcelona and Madrid. Check out the performance schedule for details.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Marvin's BIG Announcement

Since our trip to Sweden, Marvin has not quite been the same. I was unaware of all the big changes going on in his life until about two weeks ago when we met up for lunch. Turns out he burst forth some good news to share with me, but he made me promise to be quiet about it until he was ready to say it in his own words. As so often happens with Marvin, good news becomes, well, not bad, but not quite good either.

See for yourself and give Marvin some comments to help him on his journey.

Oh, and I retired Homo No Mo just in time! Now you can see, Straight to Heaven, an ex-gay parody in musical form that was presented at the GCN--Gay Christian Network Conference 2007. Hilarious!

hat tip to Ex-Gay Watch

Oh, and it gets better. Here is a clever little video of a Jewish gay guy coming out straight to his mother. She doesn't take it very well.

Hat tip to Good As You

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Doin' Time in my Hometown

Although I was born in Stamford, CT, our family moved to the Sullivan County Catskills when I was in first grade. I attended Narrowsburg Central Rural School, which educated about 300 students at a time from grades K-12. I graduated in 1983 with one of the LARGEST classes in Narrowsburg history with a whopping 36 people. I can't tell you how special it felt (and at times constraining) to have virtually all of the same classmates throughout primary, middle and high school.

Last night I performed Homo No Mo to a very interesting audience of mostly straight people with the average age about 60. Not my typical demographic. Although they did not laugh as loud or often as most of my audiences, I could tell they listened deeply. Some of you who perform may understand how you can sense how an audience responds even when they remain quiet. I knew I did not have to rush, and indeed when I got to the scene where Chad has his breakdown over the loss of his brother, I heard sobbing in the theater.

Tonight we expect a packed house! The title The Re-Education of George W. Bush—No President Left Behind! sells the show and has brought me a whole new range of audience members who I have not previously seen at my "gay" shows.

A reporter from the local weekly paper, The Sullivan County Democrat interviewed me a few weeks ago at the Narrowsburg Roasters cafe. He took some photos including some of my dad reading and one of me talking (not a rare shot :-p). Ted Waddell's piece should come out next week.

One of the other local weeklies, The River Reporter, did a short piece about me and my two plays. One man, one stage and a bevy of personalities. The interview felt like one of those public TV face to face with the artist sort of affair where they try to unearth the artist's earliest roots.
“Growing up in Lake Huntington, the bus ride to school was at least 40 minutes each way. In order to entertain myself and my fellow riders, I created ‘The Peter Pumpkin Show,’ a variety show of sorts with multiple characters all played by me,” Toscano said of his first calling as a performer. “Here I was, a fourth grader captivating a high school audience. What power! What fun!”
The reporter also asked why I use comedy and how I became a character actor.
“Employing humor, as well as shape shifting to fit into different crowds, became a strategy to keep others from targeting me with insults or worse,” Toscano recalls. “Many oppressed minorities learn to take on multiple roles and characters in order to survive. Some of the finest one-person shows were created by people from oppressed groups, shows by Whoopi Goldberg, Lily Tomlin and John Leguizamo.”
For those of you who have seen Homo No Mo can only imagine how much fun it felt last night to perform the part of my dad with a room full of people who know and love him well, including my younger sister Maria, who saw the play for the first time last night. The charater of my dad proved to be the real crowd pleaser of the night. During the Q&A my dad even did his own stand up routine as he talked about his trip to the Homo No Mo Halfway House.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Religious Bigots Gussied Up in Secular Scientific Clothing

The National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (with its sinister sounding acronym NARTH), purports to provide a secular and scientific approach to their work. They offer reparative therapy--those pesky treatment plans with high hopes and false claims to straighten out the gays (which never seem to work all that well and most often cause more harm than good.)

More and more we see people like Joseph Nicolosi, who had been long-time president of NARTH, and also Warren Throckmorton, who has criticized NARTH in order to make way for his own version of reparative therapy by another name, trying to influence credible scientific organizations like the American Psychiatric Association into acknowledging some form of the degaying process.

But under the psycho-babble we see all the same ole religiously fueled anti-LGBT rhetoric.
In a recent Christianity Today article, Warren Throckmorton waded into the gender waters by discounting the transgender experience. Where did he look for his authority? Not science, but the word of God (or at least select portions while overlooking whole Biblical accounts that actually affirm trans folks).
Throckmorton, past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, says he has advised transgendered people who are in absolute agony over their state.
Typically, such individuals are desperately in search of hope and acceptance, he says. It may be uncomfortable to tell transgendered individuals that their desires don't align with the Bible, Throckmorton says, but pastors must do so. "Even if science does determine differentiation in the brain at birth," Throckmorton says, "even if there are prenatal influences, we can't set aside teachings of the Bible because of research findings."
Warren Throckmorton has suggested that his words were misrepresented by CT, but he didn't do too much to correct the flawed logic by referring to another article where he sought to give a straight answer to the trans question,

While transgender children can only be assessed on a case-by-case basis, Throckmorton recommends seeking not only medical or psychological specialists, but also theological ones. And even if it may seem impossible to draw one resolution when bringing all three opinions together, Throckmorton advises parents to try to find some common ground.

"What an evangelical Christian basically wants to do is order his entire life around his faith," he said. "You can't make decisions unless ... the circumstance you're in is evaluated from a theological point of view."
Hmm, looks like he may need to adjust his gender lenses before he reads the good book. I mean from a theological point of view, the transgender folks turn out to be some of the most vital players in the most important Bible stories. (See Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible)

The other day after my presentation at the University of Rochester, a student gave me an anti-gay book someone at his Greek Orthodox Church passed onto him in order to help him with "his issues". Father Thomas Hopko's Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction covers the same ground that many of us have heard reheated over and over in ex-gay ministries throughout the years, but it also comes with a glowing endorsement from NARTH's own Joseph Nicolosi, PhD, then president of NARTH International and a regular with the Exodus International Speakers Bureau.
Fr. Hopko explains why 'gay' can never be 'who a person is' in the deepest sense. Human nature was created good. Sexual union is meant to be complementary, unitive, life-creating, and life-enhancing. The corruption of this fallen world, however, causes us to misdirect our sexual energies into channels the Creator never intended. Same-sex eroticism is one of many expressions of our deformed humanity.

This book is full of sage advice to Christians struggling with homosexuality, advising men and women to seek wise counsel from a same-sex mentor, and--against almost all the advice of today's popular culture--inspiring them to a holy asceticism for the sake of virtue."
Misdirect our sexual energies? Deformed humanity? Corruption of this fallen world? Feels like aclassic religious bitch-slap to me with a little pseudo-science gut punch chaser.

So much religion and so little truth.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Day of Truth? Or Misleading Anti-Puff Fluff?

In his latest video, replete with an appropriate cuckoo clock sound effect, Daniel Gonzales took on the anti-gay, pro-ex-gay campaign, inaccurately titled, The Day of Truth. By the end of Daniel's video, I think you will agree that "Day of Truth" misleads and misinforms on the facts about people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The Day of Truth people can't even come up with 30 seconds of truth. How do they think they will actually fill up a whole day of truth?

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Those Cool Quaker Youths


Sunday, April 20, 2008

"Homo No Mo'" No Mo'!

Today I did something I've never done before. I watched my play Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House—How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement! I have had video, DVD and audio versions of the play since as early as 2003, but the most I ever watched or listened was about 10 minutes. I always had an image in my head of what the play looked like on stage and worried that if I saw what it really looks like than it would mess something up for me in subsequent performances.

Yesterday I arrived in Memphis, TN (one of my favorite places on the planet). Today I met with Morgan Jon Fox, that fine filmmaker, to look at his edits of my Homo No Mo play which he and his crew filmed back in February. I had to watch the entire film version and give Morgan feedback about the edits and the artistic touches he added.

The crew did an amazing job with the taping of the show, and even though I knew every line, I still found myself laughing out loud at least twice. Towards the end, when the character Chad speaks about his brother's death, I found myself tearing up a bit. (I know, I know, Joe G is going to accuse me of artistic masturbation or something).

I will have DVDs available for me to take to the UK and Europe during my May trip. If you got one of last year's DVDs (with the really crap sound quality) let me know, and I will give you a replacement.

Friday I will go back to where I grew up and where my dad still lives so that I can perform my final performance of Homo No Mo in Narrowsburg, NY where I went to school. My agent, Sarah B. Miller, asked me some questions then worked on a blrub for the program.
25 years ago Peterson Toscano graduated from Narrowsburg Central School. He then spent nearly two decades struggling with his faith and his gay orientation, but by 1999 he finally came out as gay. In 2003 he premiered his one-person play, Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House—How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement! a comedy about his experiences in various "change" ministries including two years at the Love in Action ex-gay program where he submitted himself to a de-gayification process.

In the past five years Peterson has become an international sensation performing in over 30 US states, throughout Canada and regularly in Europe and the UK. Praised for both his skills as a playwright and a character actor, he performs at universities, theaters, conferences and progressive faith communities. The two pieces he presents at the Tusten Theatre this weekend are his most personal.

With his comedy Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House—How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement! in addition to morphing into several zany and endearing characters, he also plays his own father, Pete Toscano. In The Re-Education of George W. Bush—No President Left Behind! Peterson shares the wisdom and wit of his mother, Anita Toscano. The Toscanos owned and ran Pete's Pub (now Our Place on the Lake) in Lake Huntington for over 30 years.

Peterson recently announced that he will retire his Homo No Mo play. In fact, the performance at the Tusten Theatre this weekend will be his the final presentation of it. He will continue to tour with The Re-Education of George W. Bush—No President Left Behind! along with two of his other original works, Queer 101—Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs and Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible, a performance piece about transgender Bible characters. Next week he heads out for a month to offer a series of presentations in England, Northern Ireland and Spain.

Peterson Toscano appeared in the documentary film, Fish Can't Fly and with his his father, Pete, is featured in the new documentary film Chasing the Devil, Inside the Ex-Gay Movement which recently premiered at the Birmingham Gay and Lesbian film festival. Peterson also appears in the documentary Cure for Love which aired earlier this month on Canadian national TV.

Peterson is an executive producer of a soon to be released feature length documentary film about the ex-gay movement called This is What Love in Action Looks Like. Peterson has appeared on several TV programs including the Tyra Banks Show, Montel Williams and the Morning Show with Mike and Juliet, on the pages of People Magazine, the New York Times and Glamour Magazine, and on national public radio programs in the US, Sweden and Austria. He along with Christine Bakke co-founded the organization Beyond Ex-Gay (www.beyondexgay.com), a support network for people who survived the de-gayification process.

Peterson lives in Hartford, CT and has a little cottage in Lake Huntington, NY. His web site is www.petersontoscano.com

He dedicates this weekend's performances to his parents, Pete and Anita Toscano and in recognition of Narrowsburg Central School. He also gives a special shout out to his sister, Maria Forlenza, her two sons Gregory and Geoffrey, and Maria's husband, Pat Forlenza!
Thanks Christine for the crazy photo!

So in celebration of five fun and meaningful years of Homo No Mo, for those of you who have seen the show, I would love for you to write in the comments about your favorite character or moment from the play. For me right now my favorite part to perform is Marvin Bloom's scene (he's the newest character and he casts demons out of his computer just like I used to do!)

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Doin' Time in Rochester

I landed in Rochester, NY after performing at College of Wooster near Cleveland, Ohio. I had a blast on the Wooster campus with a Quaker Friend, Emily who I met when she was a teen in the New England Yearly Meeting high school program (Young Friends).

After the performance in Wooster, one student shared with me a letter his mother wrote him when she suspected that he might be gay (Mom always knows first). The letter broke my heart. In it I read so much fear and concern and love and misinformation all jumbled up together. Apparently the mother spoke with someone from a church who pointed her towards Exodus saying that change is possible--help is at hand.

My own mother warned me not to judge parents too harshly, especially when they first find out their kid is queer. Parents grew up in a different time when the idea of a happy well-adjusted safe LGBT person did not exist (at least in the popular culture and in the mainstream). Parents need to get some new information, and sadly Exodus testimonies do not provide these. They simply reinforce stereotypes and speak to a particular unhealthy experience that does not come close to cover the range of people who are queer.

If the parent refuses to consult other sources (PFLAG is an excellent place to go), they may create a hostile atmosphere or a "don't ask don't tell" policy that ensures their child will grow more distant and private about their lives.

The adult child (and teen child) can do some things to help assuage a parent's fears and concerns. Let your folks know that you live a responsible life. Have them meet your friends to see the sort of people who fill your life. Talk about your "lifestyle" including that yoga class you like so much, the hiking trip you took with friends, the concerns you have for the planet or the poor or for your split ends (We're not all Joan of Arc.)

Speaking with family, especially parents, can be dicey. Lots of tension and false starts happen. Sometimes slowing it down with handwritten notes, (better than e-mail), can help, especially if we seek to be open, loving and trusting (even when we feel defensive, frightened and suspicious). We can appeal to the better part of our family's nature. It won't always go well. You may have to leave them to consider your words, but over time, as you live without shame about who you are and how you live, they may not like it, but they may very well grow to respect your honesty and comfort with yourself. The more comfortable we are about who we are, the more others will learn acceptance from us.

Not sure how I got on that riff, I was just really going to write about being back in the Eco House here in Rochester with a bunch of students who seriously want to change the world and do something positive about the environment, climate change and sustainability. (Speaking of which, has anyone seen the bizarre environmental TV ad starring the Reverends Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson? As they age, these two begins to look like a puppet of themselves. The two sit on a couch on the beach. No magic or chemistry between them at all. But hey, it is a good cause)

Last night, with a clear warm sky, we rode bikes downtown to hang out with friends at a neighborhood gay bar--sort of like a gay Cheers. Riding a big ole white low rider bike with handle bars about the same shape and width as the horns on a Texas Long Horn steer, I cruised through the streets of Rochester thinking to myself, "I must have the greatest job on the planet!")

Tonight will likely be my very last performance of Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House—How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement! Well, I guess my penultimate performance. I have one in Narrowsburg, NY where I went to primary school and high school. I have been on a retirement tour of the piece since February, but I have committed to lay it down this spring (although my agent keeps asking, "But what if you got a request to do it say at the Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts or something like that? You would dust it off for that right?" Yeah right. She dreams for me)

I spoke with Morgan Fox and looks like we will have an initial run of 100 DVDs ready for my upcoming trip to Europe (England, N. Ireland and Spain!). Then we will do a larger run for the USA (but we must attend to the Old World first.)

Well, the day is lovely and in the words of my wise father, It would be a sin to be inside on a day like today. I'm going to break out that bike!

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

When Your Husband is Gay

One of the number one key word searches that bring people to both my English and Spanish blogs has to do with questions from women who want/need to know what to do when they find out their husbands are gay. That or simply the question, How do I know if my husband is gay? Is my husband a homosexual?

I have a blog entry, My Gay Husband—A Spouse Speaks Out, (and a similar one in Spanish) which is my most visited entry. Women have added their own stories and questions in the comments section. Yesterday I received another comment that I want to share. Wives with similar experiences, feel free to offer whatever support you can over at the original thread. I feel at a loss as to what to say, but I have seen you comfort and support each other in marvelous ways.
Thank goodness I found this site. I have been married 38 years and I have asked my husband if he is gay or bi but he always said no. Two days ago I found out that he is and it explains so much. Of course I feel betrayed, that our marriage is a fraud and a sham. My sons are young adults now and I worry what they will think. At least I know the reason he always came to bed later and avoided any kind of affection and sex became non existent no matter how hard I tried. It seems that my whole adult life has crumbled into nothing. He was my first and only love..he promised to grow old with me, he gave me sons, the one person that I always trusted and thought never lied to me.

If you are currently living a lie like this with a woman, please, stop it now before you crush her completely. Do not let your selfishness hurt so many lives.

Just found out and words can't express how devastated and alone I feel. There is no one that I can talk to as I do not want to tell our sons (he should do that) or his family, I do not want to hurt him by telling friends or coworkers. It is like a tsunami has come through my life without warning and destroyed my entire world.
One excellent resource is the Straight Spouse Network. I know some people have had problems getting a response from them, but I was told that they have since changed their protocol and say that they will respond to every e-mail they receive.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

A Glowing Endorsement

I felt terrified when I performed my play Transfigurations in front of Virgina Ramey Mollenkott and her partner Suzannah. I mean Dr. Mellenkott is like the foremost scholar on gender in the Bible. She spoke earlier in the day. Earlier in the day I sat mesmerized by the depth of knowledge and the impeccable delivery.

She said she genuinely liked my play and agreed to send me a little blurb for me to put on my site. This is what she had to say,
Bible-lovers, gender-transgressors of all sorts, people who love justice! Make haste to see Peterson Toscano's play Transfigurations as soon as possible! His biblical exegesis is insightful and accurate, and you will glean a whole new perspective painlessly because of his charming performance.

--Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, author of Omnigender, co-author of Transgender Journeys.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why Ex-Gay Survivors?

Over at the Gay Christian Network I received a thoughtful private message with a series of questions that I have heard before (but not quite so eloquently presented.
Why are so many former ex-gay participants still so very focused on the ex-gay movement? What is it, specifically, regarding this program that causes this retro-focus? Is the “brainwashing” so thorough that it is difficult to counteract? Forgive me, but is this focus motivated by some sort of anger or indignation (which, just for the record, would be completely legitimate feelings based on what little I know regarding the ex-gay movement)?

How is it truly possible to move on from the ex-gay movement if, as a former participant, the ex-gay movement is still such a clear focus? Is it possible to be focused on the ex-gay movement and fully move past the negative influences of that program?

If someone has participated in the ex-gay movement and has decided that it doesn’t work, why is it necessary to focus on the movement once it has been left behind? Is the focus directed at keeping other gay people from joining the movement? Is the focus on exposing the ex-gay movement in general? What are the direct/desired results of former ex-gays focusing on the problems of the ex-gay movement?

I don’t intend offense with these questions; I’m just trying to develop a deeper understanding of the ex-gay movement and it’s effects.
Since I am on the road, my answer is shorter than my normal rambling (and perhaps at times confusing) responses when I am at home with a pot of sweet brown rice cooking away.
As we state over at bXg, Some of us received positive help through our ex-gay experiences. We grew to understand our sexuality better and in some cases even overcame life-controlling problems.

But for most of us, these experiences brought us inner turmoil, confusion, and shame. We are still in a process of recovery from the damage. Through sharing our stories with each other, we find wholeness and healing.

Part of the reason we blog and write and talk about our experiences is so that we can unpack them to understand what we did to ourselves (and let others do to us), and so that we can undo the damage as we reclaim our lives. Some folks who have gone through ex-gay experiences, once they come out, they shove their ex-gay pasts in the closets and never process what happened to them. Many of these can get stuck and stay stuck in their personal development.

We also tell our stories as a witness and a warning to others so that they will reconsider doing the same to themselves or a loved-one.

Most of us once we tell our stories and process them, we are ready to move beyond our ex-gay experiences. Others stay a little longer to help others in their own process.
What about other folks with ex-gay experiences? What do you think? How might you answer some of the questions above?

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ex-Gay Survivors Featured in Canadian Documentary

Tonight on Canada's Global Television Cure for Love, a documentary about the Ex-Gay Movement will air.
Cure For Love is a new documentary about the "ex-gay" movement - a religious network whose goal is to help their members renounce homosexuality. The ex-gay movement now encompasses 120 ministries in the US and Canada and is active in 56 countries world wide.

The film follows two men who have experienced the ex-gay movement in different ways. One gets married, though he admits he is still attracted to men, and another struggles to embrace his homosexuality. The film premieres on Global Television, at 7pm Saturday April 12.

With startling honesty, the men tell their stories of struggle to reconcile their sexual orientation with their Christian values.
At least one ex-gay survivor I met through Beyond Ex-Gay and this blog will be featured in the film. The Canadian crew also attended the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in Irvine, CA this past summer. The picture above shows Christina Willings in front of the Chalk Talk I facilitated at the conference.

More and more in these documentaries and in press coverage we are beginning to see the human stories behind the ex-gay movement. In the case of survivors, this helps people to understand why someone might have elected to go through a de-gayification process and the unexpected and at times harmful outcomes they experienced.

I sat with Christina and her crew for an interview during the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference and found her to be genuine, sensitive and well informed. I saw her moved to tears during the Chalk Talk (along with many others both survivors and allies). If anyone gets to see her film, please share your thoughts about it here in the comments.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Special Orders

Anyone remember Burger King's big ad campaign a few years back?
Hold the pickle.
Hold the lettuce.
Special orders don't upset us.
In their attempts to position themselves in the fast food market, BK encouraged customers to "have it your way."

Being a vegan, I am the queen of special orders. Restaurants in the US, Canada, Europe and the UK have accommodated me with my non-animal product-based diet, sometimes begrudgingly and with attitude.

When I attended the Love in Action residential ex-gay program in Memphis, TN, I needed to suspend my vegetarian lifestyle. Each participant took turns cooking the evening meal. With a budget of sometimes less than $20 for 14 people, participants served lots of casseroles filled with greasy ground beef. Although no one ever challenged the inappropriateness of it, at least twice a month someone served up corn dogs (which looked strangely like a dick on a stick).

I stayed away from the beef and hot dog products, and for my turn most always prepared a vegetarian dish (my baked ziti was a house favorite). If someone wanted a special diet, they had to finance it themselves. With monthly fees of $950 per month (which was A LOT of money in Memphis 10 years ago) no one had extra cash on hand. And if we did somehow make it happen, no doubt someone in the house would challenge us and the special diets for being, well, special.

The unwillingness to accommodate participants extended to other issues beyond the kitchen. One young man came to the program from a Christian faith tradition that worshiped on Saturdays (technically the Sabbath). He felt morally and spiritually convicted to find a similar church in Memphis. The staff forbade it. One could not go to a church of one's own choosing until at least the fourth phase of the program (which back then could take up to two years to attain).

The staff demanded all participants to attend Central Church, an Evangelical mega church with its own fitness center and congressman. No matter if you were Catholic, Adventist or Methodist, the program required each participant to assimilate into the white Evangelical Church semi-Charismatic tradition. We dressed in business casual attire to blend in with the gender norms of the church. We joined the righteous band of Promise Keepers with our straight male mentors in tow to show us the way.

Not that the church was necessarily a safe place for an ex-gay. One Sunday morning a Love in Action participant got cruised by a teen (of legal age but just barely) in one of the many restrooms in the big church. Over the next few weeks he routinely met up with the young man for sexual trysts. (Subsequently the participant, weighed down by the guilt and shame of failing in his program, attempted suicide and barely survived. The young cruiser's parents eventually shipped their son off for ex-gay treatment at Love in Action. Um, after how they witnessed the program in action, did they really think that was the best place for their kid???)

Conform. Assimilate. No special orders. No regard or respect for a participant's convictions. In order to get freed, they placed us in straight jackets. In order to get saved, we had to lose much of ourselves.

The closet holds much more than just our orientation. Whole parts of our personalities, preferences and expression get stuffed in there next to our dreams and desires. That we emerge and reclaim our lives is nothing short of miraculous. That I choose to be part of a faith community today after having one imposed on me so aggressively, I find hard to believe. But I have emerged and integrated my life after years of living a fractured existence. You see, change is possible. And special orders are welcome.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Feeling weepy after reading Dan Savage's column about his mom who died the other day, and then I saw a beautiful and heart wrenching movie called Yesterday.
Yesterday (Leleti Khumalo) lives in Rooihoek, a remote village in South Africa's Zululand. Her everyday life is not easy—there's little money, no modern conveniences, and her husband is away in Johannesburg working as a miner—but she possesses a sunny nature, and takes great joy in her seven-year-old daughter, Beauty (Lihle Mvelase).

The precarious balance of Yesterday's life is suddenly threatened when she is diagnosed with AIDS and must journey afar to understand and confront her illness. Yesterday's primary driving force is Beauty, who is a year away from starting school. Yesterday never had the chance to go to school and she sets her sights on a single goal: to be with Beauty on her first day of class, along with all the other proud mothers...
I am at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and just happened upon the theater that happen to be showing the film for free to medical students and the general public. And now I am all weepy.

My mom was only nine when her mother died. She often said in her joking way, "You'll only ever have one mother, so you're going to have to put up with me." It's odd and wonderful how we carry the people we love with us. After my mother's death in September 2006, I felt so much strength flow into me making me fearless. I miss her more than I can express, but I also feel close to her everyday.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

On the Road Again

Last night I arrived in time for a 12 hour layover in Hartford. Enough to do laundry and spend quality time with my plant. Now I travel by bus to the airport to pick up a car to drive to Williamstown, MASS to present tonight. In the morning I drop off the car and fly out to Minneapolis for a few days.

On one flight yesterday I sat next to a couple who are Quakers from Ohio. Either I recognized them from a national gather or they just had that Quaker look. I don't suppose I have developed that look yet.

Having gone to West Hills Friends Meeting on Sunday as well as spending time with Doug and his husband in Portland (and John and company in Urbana before that) gave me lots of opportunties for spiritual renewal. Also my dear Friend Esther in the UK gave me her small book of Advices & Queries last year which I reflected upon on my final flight home. I am wired for spiritual things--prayer, devotional reading, existential questions. I have been deeply influenced by Quakers resulting in a loving peaceful approach to those around me (even Joe G!)

Soon I will be in the UK with a wonderful bunch of fun and deeply spiritual folks in London, Oxford, Leeds and Belfast (and hopefully Cambridge & Cardiff). I feel like a prince!

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Transforming Faith Update

I have spent the weekend in Portland, OR at the Transforming Faith, Divining Gender Conference where in addition to performing and co-presenting with Allyson Robinson, I sat in on the most amazing and mind expanding talks.

In particular I sat in awe as I heard Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott speak about Transgender Behavior and Imagery in the Bible. Dr. Mollenkott does not only provide brilliant, thoughtful and moving content, she speaks like a poet. She never wastes a word. I am not one to sit and listen to a talk much, but I could have sat there all day soaking in her words and the ways she expressed them. Scholarly performance art at its finest.

She outlined seven points that she then explored in detail.
  1. The Scriptures are trans friendly
  2. Transgender individuals and issues help to transcend stereotypes.
  3. The presence of transgender people in the Bible (and faith communities) are reminders of diversity.
  4. Transgender people have historically built the bridges between the seen and the unseen world.
  5. Transgender people become specialists in gender, sexuality and spirituality.
  6. Transgender issues and people help bring people to the often forgotten middle ground. In doing so they help to challenge the religious addiction to certainty.
  7. Transgender people demonstrate that all genders and sexualities are sacred revealing a holy, divine continuum.
Another talk that opened my eyes and gave me new information was one by Faisal Alam, the founder of Al-Fatiha, a US-based organizaton dedicated to supporting and empowering LGBTIQ Muslims. He led us in tradition Muslim prayer and then gave a talk entitled, Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims.

Did you know that the second highest percentage of Gender Reassignment Surgery in the world is in Iran (the first being in Thailand)? Faisal shared the history behind that and how by looking at science and listening to stories clerics came to the place where they said it was acceptable for someone to have such surgeries. As one cleric put it, it sia way to align one's organs with one's soul in order to reveal what is hidden.

Faisal also spoke about the Islamic Reformation that took place before the Crusades and how progressive Islam was back then. Sadly many of the writings of that time were destroyed by Crusaders or are housed in the Vatican with very limited access. As a result, the faith in many places has been co-opted by extreme views that oppress women and stifle discussion.

My show was well received. One trans woman gave me the highest possible praise when she said that by the end of the show as she wondered about me as I morphed into various genders. She suddenly grew confused and didn't know if I was a bio gay male or a female to male trans person or if I was pre-op male to female trans. Music to a gender-shifting actors ears.

Today Christine Bakke and I will meet with a group of mental health professionals and trauma experts to discuss the harm of gay reparative therapy and ex-gay ministry in hopes to develop some treatment plans. I have to say though that during the conference and my presentations, I felt relieved that I did not have to discuss ex-gay issues. Most people there knew nothing of my Ex-Gay Survivor work or my Homo No Mo play. Talking about that stuff drains me in a way that I do not realize until I do something different.

Gotta fly to West Hills Friends Church to hang out with some of my Quaker folks.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Heaven on Earth

I arrived in Portland, Oregon yesterday (with my bag containing my costumes trailing behind me but eventually showing up). I adore being in Portland, and it is not just the coffee. I arrived at the airport and Jim, from the Anawim community picked me up. This is a group of gay Christian men who have met together every Thursday night for years so that they can share a meal, discuss the scripture and then spend time in silent prayer holding up each others concerns and joys.

I made it just in time for their once every month gathering where all three of the Anawim groups that normally meet separately around the city get together for a big meal, prayer and communion. They even provided me vegan fare!

What I appreciate about this group is seeing the genuine love in action among them. One of the brothers, after three years of sobriety, slipped back into a drug habit. After an intervention, the brother elected to go into treatment. In the meantime he had lost his job and is in about to get evicted from his home. One of the men in the group explained the situation and that they needed to find a place to store the brother's things and needed a group to help move all his stuff. Hands shot up immediately. The moving party will gather first thing Saturday morning. Then they went into prayer for the brother and his recovery. Such a solid loving community that does the work.

Whenever I stay in Portland my hosts are Doug and Bruce, a delightful gay couple who take it upon themselves to "release me for ministry" as we sometimes say in Quaker circles. They make it so that when I am here, I do not have to worry about anything. They give me bus passes, access to the Internet, and all my favorite foods. A big pot of sweet brown rice with all the fixings for my favorite sauce stood waiting to greet me. They even get me vegan junk food!

Today I head off to the Transforming Faith conference where I will meet loads of awesome people and learn tons of stuff. I wish I could blog more, but I have to dash. So far this spring tour has been so much fun and an opportunity to meet some amazing people and reconnect with friends (and Friends). I am still glowing from my recent trips to James Madison University and the University of IL in Champaign Urbana. (a special hello to my stealth blog reader who is mixing up a potion in the lab even as we speak :-)

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Zapped by NARTH Vader

Last night after my show at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, a student approached me to tell me that for his 20th birthday his parents gave him a very special gift--one session with an ex-gay therapist from NARTH (the National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality). Thanks Mom and Dad!

Surprisingly the NARTH sexpert informed his young patient that the therapy is not sanctioned by the APA or any other legitimate medical or mental health association--a rare admission. Needless to say the therapy did not take and sadly relations with folks remain strained.

Below Christine Bakke has created a scene including Homo No Mo's Chad getting ministered to by NARTH head Joseph Nicolosi

If the father drops the kid and the kid gets brain damage, at least he’ll be straight. Small price to pay, ” laughs Nicolosi. The audience chuckles at the thought of a straight baby with brain damage.
source Ex-Gay Watch

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Happy Birthday bXg!!

On April 2, 2007 we launched Beyond Ex-Gay and announced the 2007 Ex-Gay Survivor Conference.

We're taking a few minutes to share the BXG love and look at all that's been accomplished:

June 20, 2007: Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and Soulforce invite Exodus leaders to dinner.

June 27, 2007: Former Exodus leaders issue a public apology for their roles in the ex-gay world.

June 29, 2007: Dinner with three Exodus leaders.

June 29-July 1, 2007: Ex-Gay Survivor Conference; Reflections from survivors who attended.

July 2 - August 3, 2007: The Ex-Gay Survivor Initiative
Ex-Gay Survivors told their stories in front of places that promote and provide ex-gay therapy/ministry.

August 17, 2007: Three former ex-gay leaders in Australia add their names to the apology from June 27.

Fall 2008: Dozens of ex-gay survivors come forward to tell their stories through bXg, blogs, video and in the press.

February 22-24, 2008: Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Action and Art, Memphis, TN.

Upcoming April 6, 2008: bXg meeting with therapists to discuss treatment plans for ex-gay survivors.

Upcoming October 23, 2008: Ex-Gay Survivor Regional Gathering in Nashville, TN (part of God and Gays Conference).

Upcoming, date and location TBD: 2009 Ex-Gay Survivor Conference.

Stats: 125+ pages of content on bXg, 65,000+ unique hits, hundreds of contacts and emails, many lives influenced.

What's Next for us?

Beyond Ex-Gay has been a labor of love. We have accepted (with much gratitude) donations and have at times been able to partner with other organizations, but we need to pursue non-profit status to continue this important work.

It costs money to become a non-profit organization as well as to fund our upcoming projects. Any donatation would be appreciated (although please note, it is not tax-deductible at this time). We invite you to be an active part of the ex-gay survivor movement. Donate using any major credit card or e-check through paypal. If you would like send a check or a money order, please contact us and we will give you further contact information. Thank you for your generosity.

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Half In / Half Out

Over the weekend I got to thinking about some people I know who are partially out as LGBT. They have a few on-line friends who know they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and maybe one or two non-net friends who know. Many of the most significant people in their lives do not know. Perhaps that is the best way for them right now, but I have found that living too long like that can drain us of life.

As I prayed about that I wrote the following poem.
We speak riddles to ourselves,
in whispers,
"I am OK"

But strapped to our backs
We bear a wardrobe,
the opposite of that portal to Narnia,

a closet that dumps us into a smaller world,
a cramped, musty place of shadows.

"I don't want to upset my mother."
"My brother will never understand."
"No need to flaunt it."
"It's only a tiny
part of me."

A part muffled in a velvet-lined padded valise,
Jammed in the back of a wardrobe,
besides dusty boxes of dreams and desires,
A place where we speak riddles to ourselves.

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