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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At 8:26 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

"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."

How are you peering into my life? Hidden cameras? Telepathy? Spies?

Tangent or not, some great thoughts on the damage that ex-gay theories can do to families.

At 12:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of the gentle consideration you encourage toward parents by teens is echoed in my thoughts about a queer parent coming out to teen offspring, especially when some flavor of conservative and/or fundamentalist Christianity is at play...

Good stuff, P...

At 7:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I almost wonder if I was too "um, whatever" with my son who came out to me. I know a lot of gay men would have liked to not have some explosive reaction from their moms, but my kid told me while we were out shopping for a shirt. "Ok, should we go to Fred Meyer's or Target?"

Can't win for losing. He may say "my mom was so cool about it that she just asked where I wanted to buy a shirt," or he could say "my mom is so SHALLOW that she just asked about shopping and didn't take me seriously."

My only words of wisdom to him was that which ever type of partner he chooses (he said he was bi, leaning towards gay), please be safe, honest, and true to himself.

Luckily, I am by no means homophobic. I can't imagine how hard it would be for kids and parents with that as a factor.

Glad its a beautiful day for you, Peterson! :)

At 8:28 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, now you're in Rochester - birthplace of Joe G.

And dear God, how many times are you going to do - for the last time - "No Mo Homo", my dearest Cher-on-her-final-really-this-is-final-tour.

Joe G.


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