Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

Zack has never heard Peterson’s “From Soup to Nuts” expression, but it apparently defines our tenth episode well! After several mono-topical episodes, we dramatically over-compensate by limiting discussion on any topic to three minutes. We have a big pile of topics in a hat. Some were submitted by listeners, but we each contributed some of our without the other knowing what they are. We don’t get to them all, but we do address a total of 19 topics! Tune in to hear about Muslims, Catholics, Country Music, Goth, Glee, pansexuality, hats, and more! Special thanks to Gavin, Christopher, Peter, Scott, and everyone else who submitted topic ideas this week!

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to episode 10

Here’s some more information about what we talked about this week:

» Study shows gay men are thinner and lesbians are more obese.

» Zack’s Recent Post: Why Celebrate a Conservative Gay Catholic?

» Documentary on coming out older: Latecomers.

» Towleroad: The Fate of I Love You Phillip Morris

» Learn more about Poe’s Law.

» Watch the Glee season finale on hulu!

» Just Fucking Google It.

Last week Zack and I recorded Episode 9 but I took to the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference before I could post it. So here it is!

Fetishes, Kinks, and Masturbation, Oh My! This week, Zack and Peterson delve into the topic of the sexually taboo! Why are kinks and fetishes taboo? What role does religion play in sexual repression and how can one’s faith intersect with the exploration of one’s sexuality? In what ways is the progress of the queer community impacted (for better or worse) by the kink, leather, and BDSM communities? The goal of today’s episode is not to be a tell-all about kink, but to open the door to having conversations about the taboo and showing support for the safe and consensual exploration of sexuality. (And it makes perfect sense to talk about sex when all the school buses are going by!)

Also, we need your help for next week’s episode. It’s going to be our “Topics out of a hat” episode, and we need you to suggest topics! They can be deep, shallow, serious, silly, political, social, or whatever. We’ll pick ten and talk for 3 minutes about each! Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter (@zackford and @p2son)!

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to episode 9

Here’s some more information about what we talked about this week:

» Looking to connect with the kink community? Check out FetLife.com! (NSFW)

» Tyler McCormick wins the 32nd Annual International Mr. Leather.

» Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference (June 3-5)

» Extra reading: Greta Christina explores how Lady Gaga implements porn and kink into her artistry.

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We made you wait a FULL week, but Peterson and Zack are back with a British episode of Queer and Queerer! Zack has been watching Doctor Who and Torchwood, but that’s not why we’re doing a British episode. There have been a lot of stories coming out of the UK about Bed & Breakfasts discrimination, employment discrimination, and freedom of speech in regards to religion, so we tackle it all! Also, prompted by a comment from a listener, we address the word “lame” and the fact that it has creeped into our vernacular despite being an offensive term. And yes, Torchwood is hot.

The Queer and Queerer Podcast! The British Episode

Listen to this week’s episode:

// If you like or don’t like what you hear, leave your comments on the post! We welcome all feedback!

Here’s some more information about what we talked about this week:

» BBC: Grayling suggests B&Bs should be able to bar gay guests

» Religion Clause: British Appeals Court Rejects Plea For Special Panel To Adjudicate Religious Rights Cases

» Telegraph: Christian preacher arrested for saying homosexuality is a sin

» Zack’s post on the May Day Repentance Rally

» Peter Leeson’s Blog

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I spent Saturday night in the office mulling over a dead-end case. I must have dozed off when first thing Sunday morning before even God woke up I heard a rapping on my door. So this dame came in, a real doll face, talking all crazy,

He’s gone I tell ya! The others say his body was stolen. Some prank or worse. But I saw him myself. You gotta believe me. He’s risen I tell ya.

Intrigued, I immediately took the case, although I didn’t let her know it.  I doubted I’d get any pay for my troubles. More like trouble for my pay. I’m a sucker for these smokin’ charity cases.

I asked her the standard questions. Seemed she got mixed up with a crazy scene, and they ticked off the wrong people. I could tell I was walking onto sinking sand. Nothing made much sense, and being hung over didn’t help me either. All I knew was there was a stone rolled away and someone still hadn’t filed a missing savior report down at the station. They wanted to keep the authorities out of it for now, which suited me just fine.

Then that full jar of wine dabbed her eyes and strutted right out my door. She agreed to meet me later at the scene of the crime. There was something fishy about her story. Resurrection. Right. I called  Bigsby down at the precinct. He owed me a favor. So I asked him his take on the whole deal. He told me, It happens to be against two laws. God’s and man’s. I’d book her on the second. Yeah, just like I thought.

Trixi my part-time secretary/part-time something else came in just then. I caught her up. I concluded that our mysterious visitor was just a tramp. Trixi, a good kid and always up for a sob story piped in,

Trixi: She was a human being. And let me remind you that even the most unworthy of us has a right to life and the pursuit of happiness.

Me: From what I hear, she pursued it in all directions.

Suddenly another broad walked into the office. I was getting more action that morning than Madge’s brothel did on a good night. All dressed in Black saying she was the mother, Mary something. I could tell she was shaken up by the whole thing. She told me what she knew. After we went over it three more times she sighed,

Mother Mary: Personally, I’m convinced that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young.
Me: That’s a helluva thing to say. You’re a bitter little lady.
Mother Mary: It’s a bitter little world.

Trying to distract her, I told her, “I came to Jerusalem for the waters.”

Mother Mary: But we’re in the middle of the desert.
Me: I was misinformed.

She liked me. I could feel that. The way you feel when the cards are falling right for you, with a nice little pile of blue and yellow chips in the middle of the table. Only what I didn’t know then was that I wasn’t playing her. She was playing me, with a deck of marked cards and the stakes weren’t any blue and yellow chips. They were dynamite (and I didn’t even know what dynamite was.) I had to be straight with her though. Told her how these missing persons claims always end with a dead body stuck in a dune. It’s trouble I tell you. Walk away or if you can’t then only talk to God about it.

She said, I don’t pray. Kneeling bags my nylons.

I got rough with my words, You can’t expect to dodge reality indefinitely, Mother Mary! I softened up a little, handed her my hankerchief.  Hey, wouldn’t it be smarter to go to the Sanhedrin and the even Romans and get this thing out in the open? But she shot back: Just about as smart as cutting my throat to get some fresh air.

I knew I was over my head. That someone was going to end up in a “camel accident” somewhere on the road to Emmaus, but I was hooked. I should have listened to my instincts. Little did I know on that Sunday moring that this would turn out to be my last case, and would almost get me stoned, and I don’t’ mean with reefer.

To be continued?

Story adapted from the Gospels. Dialogue adapted  (in order) from Hallow Triumph, The Big Combo, Strangers on a Train, Mildrid Pierce, Casablanca, Double Indemnity, Ace in the Hole and Crack Up. This is your film noir primer for the day. Enjoy and read the lines aloud with a flat affect, pronouncing the words hard at the front of your mouth for the optimal effect. Check out Derek the Director’s Film Noir quotes

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In my spare time I have created a new play that I think you might like 😀

I Can See Sarah Palin from my Window!

Lessons before the 2nd Coming

Peterson Toscano

So that no American gets left behind, comic actor Peterson Toscano presents a zany,thought-provoking and surprising play.

(Think Dreams from my Mother meets Going Maverick with a Russian folk-pop interpretive dance too!)

Everything you need to know before Palin becomes president, Jesus returns or Obama destroys us all!

Some of you may remember my play The Re-Education of George W. Bush–No President Left Behind! Drawing on some that same material and adding new I have developed this new piece.  Do not let the title fool you–it is not a partisan piece or a Palin bashing. No, I take on issues that transcend party politics, issues that really matter.
Figure out how to become the worlds’ Sexist American in five simple steps! Well if sexy means being aware, informed and engaged about sexism, racism, homophobia, immigration, the environmentalism, war and our sordid past.

What I am most excited about is how this piece can play well on college campuses, particularly how it can be used to bring in people who may never have attended an LGBTQ-themed program before. Just like with my Bush play, there is no way of knowing from the outset that it contains lots of messages about LGBTQ issues as you can see from this wonderful poster that Christine Bakke designed (and she is designing the art for the new play too!)

So before it gets too late, consider booking this new show for your campus in the fall or next winter. Booking contact here.

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Tarald Stein from Oslo

Next Tuesday my partner Glen Retief and I will both present at an LGBTQ conference in Oslo, Norway–Homo og trans–Meningsløse kategorier?. The theme of the conference is gender and sexuality in a trans-cultural perspective. This event is sponsored by LLH (the National organisation for LGBT rights) Skeiv ungdom (Queer Youth) and Skeivt forum (a forum for Queers within Academia) The conference itself will be funded by the Norwegian ministry of foreign affairs.

As a white South African involved with the Queer Liberation and anti-Apartheid movements, Glen will read an excerpt from his upcoming memoir, The Jack Bank, and recount some of the activism he witnessed and in which he took a part. In addition to doing excerpts from my plays Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and Queer 101–Now I Know my gAy,B,Cs, I will present a paper entitled The US-Based Ex-Gay Movement: Aggressively Dangerous at Home and Abroad.

I am an ex-gay survivor. I spent 17 years and over 30,000 USD on three continents attempting to suppress and change my orientation and gender-variance through a variety of programs, Christian ministries and therapies. I took part in what is known as the Ex-Gay Movement or Reparative Therapy. Not only did the process prove ineffective—it did not in any way make me any less gay and only temporarily altered my gender presentation—it also proved destructive. In speaking with over 1,500 fellow ex-gay survivors we have outlined nine areas of harm that come from reparative therapy within the context of homophobic and heterosexist societies. Many of us began these potentially harmful treatments through a religious context, but we have since unearthed many non-religious factors that motivated us. Although primarily a product of the USA targeting adults, the modern Ex-Gay Movement has steadily expanded its influence at home and abroad. In the past 20 years they have shifted their focus to include queer and questioning youth in the United States while also exporting their treatments and theories abroad with projects in parts of Asia, Africa, South America and Europe.

In addition to my presentations at the conference, I will perform in Oslo on Monday night at Blitz presenting Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano. It will serve as a premiere of some new material I have been working on for my newest play I Can See Sarah Palin form my Window! Lessons Before the 2nd Coming.

In an effort to ensure that no American is left behind, comic actor Peterson Toscano presents a zany, thought-provoking and surprising play. Dreams from my Mother meets Going Maverick with a Russian folk-pop interpretive dance thrown in. One actor, five characters & and everything you need to know before Jesus Returns, Palin becomes president or Obama destroys us all!

Next Friday I also present my play Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, a piece that looks at the many gender non-conforming people in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Turns out some of the most important people in the most important Bible stories were gender variant or gender non-conforming. While I do not believe we should base our laws on the Bible, I have found that discovering and spending time with these Bible characters as well as spending time with transgender people and transsexuals has deepened my faith and my commitment to justice.

Here’s a video where I talk about transgender rights and the reality of gender non-conformists in the Bible.

Before Oslo we spend a day in NYC where I will catch up with my nephew (who is so cool he a room at the New Yorker hotel for his college dorm room) and hopefully get to grab a coffee with fellow performance artist Scott Turner Schofield. Glen and I will also pop into the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) for an exhibition of William Kentridge works, an artist from South Africa, as well as the highly popular Tim Burton exhibit.

Victor Mukasa

From New York we spend the weekend in Paris before heading off to Oslo. I am especially looking forward to worshiping a the Paris Friends Meeting (Quaker) which I have heard about from other Friends who have been there. I wonder what French silence is like… I see lots of good bread and wine in my immediate future. But even with all of the charm and allure of Paris, I am most looking forward to Oslo. I have discovered that when I travel I am most interested in people and food, in that order or better yet together. At the conference I will get to hang out with a new buddy, Tarald Stein, the Norwegian poet and queer/trans activist. 

I’ll also get to meet up with a bunch of other people engaged in justice work including Victor Mukasa who will present on The U.S. Christian Right attack on lesbian, gays, bisexuals and trans persons in Africa: Introduction of the “Anti-homosexuality Bill” in Uganda. Victor spoke in December at the UN about human rights violations against LGBTI people on the continent of Africa. Here is video of that address.

As often happens at conferences like this one, I expect to learn a lot, particularly as one of the primary focuses will be centered on transgender issues and concerns. My first role as an ally is to listen then to listen some more.

And in honor of my French and Norwegian excursion, my Jesus Loves You! tweets will be in French and Norwegian 🙂

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You may have noticed my missionSHIFT tweets of late over on my Twitter feed. Five weeks ago as I prepared to spend time in Asheville, NC as Warren Wilson’s activist in residence, I learned about the MissionSHIFT conference that will be held at the Ridgecrest Conference Center very close to the Wilson campus.The purpose of the conference  is to bring together missiologists, theologians, and practitioners to think deeply about the mission of God and how we might become missional.

On the conference site they provide a cool tech feature where tweets appear in “The Conversation” section of the bottom of each page. You tweet with #missionSHIFT as 13 of your 140 characters and your message pops up on the site. A few of us began tweeting about the lack of diversity represented among the speakers and the framers of the Missional Manifesto. It was exclusively a white, male, American group of pastors and church planters. Two weeks later conference organizers added  Linda Bergquist, a female church worker from the Bay Area doing a lab (not a keynote) and Eric Mason, a Black man (with a cap I envy) featured not as a speaker but one of the framers (with no bio or links provided–just his photo.)

This week David Fitch, a reflective and thoughtful. emerging church Evangelical pastor from the Chicago area launched a synchroblog where speakers and organizers and interested parties of the MissionSHIFT conference all asked the same question about missional in order to open up a community dialogue.

So for the sake of conversation today, leave a comment about with your own 1-sentence definition of “missional.” And, in the weeks to come, we will be addressing certain points or issues in the missional conversation that need consideration and perhaps clarity.

After a month of trying to get a twitter discussion started (most of the folks so far have only posted PR sort of tweets about the conference) I thought I’d jump in with my concerns. Below is a transcripts of comments between me and  Ed Stetzer, the lead organizer of the event and staff member at Lifeway (publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention). Check out the sort of missional exchange share.

By peterson toscano on March 2, 2010 9:07 AM

As I have posted elsewhere, we need to commit to hearing multiple voices, not just in on-line forums, but from the stage of the missionSHIFT conference. Demonstrate and validate your value to diversity of voices by giving those voices a place on the program and not just in blog comments.

The primary apparent flaw with the missionSHIFT missional manifesto conference is the grossly over-representation of white, male, middle-class, American clergy of the church planting variety. So many voices are not represented. Women, non-Americans, the poor, sexual minorities, other types of ministers (hospital & prison chaplains, people who work with children, the homeless, in hospice, college ministries.) The result is destined to be much of the same unless we open up the table to the full body of Christ.

Look at the early churc–one of the first converts to Christianity was a surgically altered, gender-variant, rich civil servant from Africa (the Ethiopian Eunuch) who went home w/ Good News and to this day a church traces its roots to that person. Radical inclusion. New Wine in New Wine Skins.

By Ed StetzerAuthor Profile Page on March 2, 2010 1:58 PM


You have left this almost identical quote on several blogs. Let me address it here.

We agree that there needs to be more diversity– I’ve already indicated that and we are continuing to invite more voices. I think if you will follow my blog you will see that I often seek to introduce new voices. Thanks for taking a look at the different types of people that are coming. But, we also think that God uses pastors in the church and are glad to have many of them represented as they serve churches filled with all kinds of people.

Now, in regards to you gender and sexuality comments. We believe that the mission of God is described and explained in the Word of God. Thus, we cannot call something missional that does not follow the teaching of scripture.

I know your desire is for all Christians to affirm the practices of gay, lesbian, and transgendered persons. And, I have read of your hurt in ex-gay programs. I am sorry that you were hurt, because so many others have found great freedom through those very ministries.

But, we won’t be debating homosexuality here because we think that is is settled in the scriptures. We want to be welcoming of all people, but we cannot affirm what scripture teaches is wrong. Thus, we want to be on mission to all peoples– and we know that all of us have sins with which we struggle. But, we cannot proclaim a focus on the mission of God and then ignore the teachings of the Word of God.

I invite you to reconsider your view, look to the scriptures, get in a community that will encourage you to biblical fidelity and faithfulness, and, yes, change your view of homosexuality.

We are all broken– but the answer is not to call “right” what God calls wrong.

As I said, we won’t be debating that here… but since you commented, I’m glad to reply in what I hope is a respectful way.

God bless,


By peterson toscano on March 2, 2010 4:57 PM
Ed, having attended Nyack College and served as an Evangelical Christian missionary, I am fully aware that you are not interested in a discussion about the faith experiences of gay and lesbian Christians. I never intended to bring up that topic and would prefer we not get bogged down with a fruitless and distracting conversation.

Sexual minorities were only one of several groups I mentioned (and sexual minorities I mentioned were not gay or lesbian people but intersex and transgender individuals who rarely find welcome in either the church or gay and lesbian spaces.)

I hear you say you wish to reserve your platforms for pastors, and I imagine that means mostly male pastors, but the church and the mission field is made up of a vast array of ministers, male and female, in a diversity of ministries. These servants have vital information to share with church planters and pastors.

As I mentioned above these include–hospital & prison chaplains, people who work with children, the homeless, in hospice, college ministries etc. Also, having served in both South America and Africa, I can see the challenges and pitfalls of a predominately white US-led discussion of missions and missional living that does not include voices from outside of the US.

We may not agree on one issue, but I have a heart for missions and for the fulfillment of a scene that always moves me deeply:

I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

I believe we may share this hope in common.


Back to my blog here today: So there is the exchange above, but something brought Ed’s comments to me and particularly his hope that the response he gave was respectful.  I sat with it, spent some time in prayer, got discernment and feedback from folks I respect. I didn’t want to create a major thread drift over at his blog post, and I didn’t want to respond immediately, so instead I post my response to Ed here in my blog. I am not looking for a debate on the gay issue. I am not looking for an invite to their conference (that ain’t gonna happen I know). I actually don’t exactly know why I am responding (leading of the Spirit or unresolved angst from my sordid Evangelical past?) but here goes. He who has ears to hear…

Ed, I could not find your e-mail address where I can send the following, so I will have to hsare it here. You and others may find my comments relevant to our discussion about missional.

Above you write,

I invite you to reconsider your view, look to the scriptures, get in a community that will encourage you to biblical fidelity and faithfulness, and, yes, change your view of homosexuality.


As I said, we won’t be debating that here… but since you commented, I’m glad to reply in what I hope is a respectful way.

Ed, Actually I find your words to be disrespectful condescending, reactive and dismissive–the antithesis of missional. Dis-missional?

You may not respect me because I am gay, and you have determined that my faith and my relationship to God are inferior to yours, but in doing so you highlight the very problem I point out in my original statement above–your view of missional is elitist, allowing only a select few to speak out. This is not a gay debate. This is about allowing even those you are in fellowship with a chance to speak at your conference.

You may not like to hear this message from me, someone you consider broken, but as a wise elder from an Evangelical church I attended in Yonkers, NY would say, truth is truth no matter who says it.

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Warren Wilson pedestrian bridge

I successfully completed my third and final week at Warren Wilson College as their first ever Activist in Residence. (Read about Week One and Week Two.) It served as a week to windup a few things and even included a blowout birthday party for me replete with vegan cookies, cupcakes and a giant vegan chocolate layer cake from Rosetta’s Kitchen in Asheville. YUM! Leah McCullough did an AMAZING job of creating spaces for me to do my work and connect with students. I loved checking in with her daily and spending time with her in her office debriefing. I also enjoyed hanging out at the RISE office getting to know the folks there and the head of the RISE Project, Kelly Kelbel, who gave me a handmade notebook with envelopes. I’m using it as a travel journal for the next year. =)

In addition to gaining some weight from vegan treats during my time at WWC, I also gained some new insights and new ideas. The week began with a follow-up meeting to talk about the intersection and complications of sexuality and spirituality. I met with the Emmaus Christian group the week before where we walked through a few exercises to explore the topic, so we needed to debrief and discuss these further. We did this through a Chalk Talk, a wonderful protocol where we have a prompt on a white board or paper on the wall and everyone has a chance to write a word, phrase or draw an image in response. As people add their thoughts others can respond to these, connect ideas, ask and answer questions. The activity is done without speaking and gives participants a chance to see ideas and have them remain in the room. So often in traditional discussions ideas get lsot as the conversation builds, and often only a few share. We then discussed the Chalk Talk together as a group.

From there I dashed over to another building to prep for my show that evening, Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano, a variety, cabaret, performance art piece of sorts where I do excerpts from most of my plays along with some stories, poems, and other performances. Since the Wilson students are engaged in politics and environmental issues , I did four scenes from my retired play The Re-Education of George W. Bush–No President Left Behind! a political farce. I forgot how much fun it feels to perform this piece and how biting the satire and commentary can be. Looking at the current political landscape, I have begun to conclude that it is time to rework the play with a new title and some new themes then reissue it (like how Disney releases movies from their vault.) I have been toying with titles. Tell me which you like best (or propose one of your own.) The play operates as a series of lessons mostly aimed at progressive liberals (I’m trying to lure that crowd in with a provocative title where they think they will get something they won’t really get but instead get something more necessary) In a way it is a primer for how to be a good American and world citizen taking issues of sexism, racism, skin privilege, oppression of LGBT folks, environmentalist tied into diet, foreign policy and more. Some possible titles

  • Bridge to No Where & Beyond
  • Everything You Should Know before Jesus Returns (or Palin Becomes President)
  • I Can See Sarah Palin from my Window
  • How to Become the World’s Sexiest American in 5 Easy Steps
  • I Can See Sarah Palin from my Window–What You Should Know before Jesus Returns

You get the idea.

The next evening I got to take part in the Queer Circle (a project of the EMPOWER Crew) and led an activity that allowed us to explore and express our multiple identities. Each person got a bunch of post-it notes. On each one they wrote one of their identities (gay, son, vegan, Quaker, New Yorker, etc) They then put the post-its on the wall grouping as they went next to other post-its that they felt where similar to their own (Quaker, Catholic, Wiccan, Jewish.) We carry so many identities that often get lost in LGBTQ circles or church circles or family circles. Later in the week I did this same activity with a Sociology class. The fancy name for the activist is Affinity Protocol.

The next day I joined in for a class that looked at the impact of society on the family. I spoke about homophobia, heterosexism and the Ex-Gay Movement and how all if these affect the family in huge ways. Some of the material I drew from my articles

The negative effects of homophobia and heterosexism on the family are tremendous and tragic. If we want stronger families in our communities, we need to have full liberation and acceptance of LGBTQ people. This way parents do not have to keep secrets, grow distant or worse yet coerce loved ones into dangerous treatments.

I was supposed to leave on the Thursday, but they presented the Vagina Monologues that night and so many people I had gotten to know were it in, I just had to stay an extra day. Have you seen the Vagina Monologues yet? What an amazing and insightful show. I think every guy in America (and beyond) should see it. As a male-bodied, male-identified person, I miss so much of what happens in the lives of women. This play gives a few short sketches of the challenges, the humor, the dangers that come from being women in a world that perpetuates so much violence and oppression against women.

Before the Vagina Monologues though I got to hear Clarissa Sligh speak and share some slides of her amazing work as a photographer and visual artist. Her latest book is entitled Wrongly Bodied: Documenting Transition from Female to Male. As a female-bodied, female-identified person, the lives of transgender and transsexual individuals was foreign to Sligh. I love how she modeled the journey to become an informed ally of trans people.

That same day (full day I know) I led a group of students on a field trip to area Christian bookstores. I think there were five members of the Peace and Justice and the Religious Life crews who joined me as we browsed Christian bookstores first to simply see what they offered. For progressive liberals the Evangelical conservative person becomes objectified and dehumanized in our Tweets and comedy and rants. I thought it would be helpful to explore the bookstores and get a sense of what sort of books and topics are represented. They also had an assignment. When a staff members asks, Can I help you find something? the student replies, Yes, what sort of resources do you have for gay Christians? (or lesbian or transgender or bisexual.)

As I expected nothing outrageous occurred during this exchange. Also as I expected the stores had no LGBTQ-affirming resources. What I did not expect was that they also did not have any overtly anti-gay or ex-gay literature either. This is the FIRST time that has happened. Hmmm, perhaps change is coming. Both of the stores are major national franchises. Some of the students had never been in a Christian bookstore before and were surprised at the affinity they had with some of the topics and merchandise. I nearly bought The Little Princess Devotional Bible (with a genuine plastic pear necklace for a handle!) I did buy a DVD of Veggie Tales: Esther, The Girl Who Became Queen, which I found disappointing and below the standard of most of the Veggie Tales. No surprise but the eunuchs (the hero/sheros of the story) get practically erased and show up in the form of some peas. I couldn’t finish it and left it behind in a hotel room in Chattanooga the next week.

I left campus on the Friday after leading the Affinity Protocol activity on identity for Sociology 101 and headed with my host Roger to Asheville to perform at Jubilee Community, a funky congregation in downtown Asheville. Roger was a wonderful host (we went hiking along the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway the next day and ate sinfully delicious vegan chocolates) and did a great deal to get the word out about the play, but sadly the turnout was poor and nearly no one from Jubilee attended. I didn’t feel personally hurt by this but offended that this progressive community did not turn out for a transgender-themed event. I attended the early service on Sunday (they have two) and saw well over 250 people there and lots of lesbian couples and some gay men. Someone told me that he heard a few people say they didn’t think they needed to come because the church is so welcoming. Ah, welcoming is not the the same as informed and affirming. I venture to guess that most of the congregants know very little about the lives of transgender people. I realize this issue is not on the radar of most LGB people and LGB-affirming people, but unlike most other issues, it needs to be, especially if we tag on a “T” to the LGB. This is a matter of integrity and justice. That and the non-trans LGB people and LGBT-affirming institutions impoverish themselves by remaining ignorant and unengaged regarding transgender issues and lives. I especially felt for Roger, a non-trans gay man in the congregation who put his heart and soul into putting together an event for his community but did not get proper community support in the end. He got the building, he got permission, he got two or three helpers, but no community. We need to change that.

Scene from Transfigurations

After a weekend in Asheville, I headed with a friend to Cookeville where I spent time with some of the coolest people on the earth at the Hidden Springs Farm and Nursery. Oh the popcorn they serve! From there I went to Chattanooga and did a performance of Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible for the Spectrum group and folks from the area. The room was a big challenge–a large old lecture hall that was climatically challenged (This room is too hot. Now it’s too cold. Funny it is never just right,) but it revealed to me once again that theater can and should happened anywhere. The audience grew so still and hushed by the last quarter of the play. It felt sacred.

My last stop was Baltimore where I did a day-long training for the Soulforce Equality Rides. This is a group of college-age folks who are going to Christian colleges to engage in thoughtful discussion around queer, transgender, bisexual, lesbian, gay issues. I spoke about the Ex-Gay Movement and helped them try to unearth the many reasons someone might opt for this choice. So many of the reasons have nothing to do with Jesus or faith. Mixed in with noble intentions can be lots of ignoble things like fear, the desire to fit in and be “normal” and well cowardice. It’s odd because I think it takes someone who is both courageous and a coward to be ex-gay along with a willingness to question reality and attempt to create a new reality. I admire many ex-gays, having been one myself, for the determination to change while also recognizing the complexity that desperation so often brings to the process. I also led a workshop called Slow Dancing with the Enemy–Effective Strategies for Engaging you Opponent. Very much inspired by the groundbreaking work and philosophy of Bonnie Tinker, a lesbian Quaker anti-war, marriage equality activist from Portland (sadly she died this past summer, and I miss her very much.)

Bonnie Tinker

I also performed Transfigurations for the Equality Riders. This group practices radical inclusion in a way that many LGBTQ groups do not. Of the 20+ riders, at least four are trans identified, and they have a nice mix of ethnicity, orientation, background. They serve as a helpful model for other groups that struggle to be diverse in more than name.

Now I am home at last in Central PA with my partner Glen and our two cats Wally and Emma (named after the famous  anarchist Emma Goldman whose important essay on anarchism I got in zine form at Warren Wilson College from a deliciously gender-queer boi bear wonder.) Glen and I just celebrated our 85 birthday (he turns 40 on March 8th and I turned 45 on Feb 17) with friends at a nearby Japanese restaurant. Ah, how rich we are with friends here! What a diverse and eclectic group too! Poet Karla Kelsey was there and religion scholar Carol White and radical rabbi Nina Mandel along with our travel partner to South Africa Jenna Fredricks and her soon to be husband Dave Antoniewicz and other dear folks who celebrated us with kind words and lovely gifts (although we insisted no gifts but hey gifts are fun and Nina’s vegan chocolate was AMAZING–the third vegan cake in this year’s Birthday season.)

Glen and I head out on Friday to present at Homo og trans–Meningsløse kategorier? a conference in Oslo (and where I will do some performances) but first we have a 2.5 day layover in Paris meaning Glen will be in Paris AND Oslo on the same day for his birthday! Hm, I wonder if I can brush up on my French AND learn Norwegian by the weekend 😛

Lots of venues coming up in March and April in Hartford, Providence, Boston, Tacoma and beyond. You can see the full schedule here.

I so valued my time at Warren Wilson but especially time with students, so many who mean a great deal to me–Erin and Zoe and Jamila and Morgan and Renee and Liz and Rey and Leah and Hannan and Michael and Lacey and Ilinca and Sabrina and Laura and Meghen and Robin and Katherine and Brandon and Hillary and Shane and well MANY.

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On a snowy day (one of many since I arrived in Asheville over two weeks ago) as I was about to slip into the campus swimming pool to do my laps, one of the lifeguards say, “Hey, you’re the radical in residence!” Actually my official and quite pretentious title is Activist in Residence.  My most radical achievement that cold and blizzard day was stripping down to my bathing suit and getting into the pool at all.

The Homo No Mo Halfway House

My second week at Warren Wilson College was PACKED (you can read about week one here. ) It included a Religion class discussion about integrity and honesty, particularly in relation to honesty about oneself and one’s identity. I mentioned that as a matter of integrity I still identify as a Christian. It would be dishonest to deny that reality as my faith and practice have been so deeply influenced by the teachings and life of Jesus (as we have it recorded) and my time in various Christian communities. Integrity is an important feature of Quakerism where we have a Testimony of Integrity that has greatly shaped our history and actions.

Advice/Query 37 of Britain Yearly Meetings Faith and Practice (see the whole list here) raises questions and provides guidance for Quakers:

Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do? Do you maintain strict integrity in business transactions and in your dealings with individuals and organisations? Do you use money and information entrusted to you with discretion and responsibility? Taking oaths implies a double standard of truth; in choosing to affirm instead, be aware of the claim to integrity that you are making.

I also took part in a creative non-fiction class where we discussed my piece Lazarus and his Grave Clothes. In addition to provided quotes from John Henson’s delicious version of the New Testament, I weave in the story of Lazarus’s liberation from his grave with my own coming out narrative. I also get to make zombie references! In the class we discussed how we can use existing stories as metaphors for our own experience. Cathy Reid, the professor of the class, explained a super exercise to do this. She said write out a brief narrative of your life. Then write up the details of another story from literature (or I guess history too) that serves as a metaphor for your narrative. Then physically cut up the two narratives and paste them together. Weave the two stories together to construct a personal essay.

I then led the class in a theater game that proved successful last year in a workshop I co-led with Allyson Robinson. I instructed the class to close their eyes and let their minds travel to a character either in their own lives or in literature. Once they settled on one, I then guided then through a process of imagining being that person physically. I had them morph their own bodies to conform to the body of that other person, to explore the character’s physical being. Then I had them stand, walk, talk and eventually interact with others as that character. When it was done we discussed what we discovered about the characters we inhabited and about ourselves.

Last week I also got to share some of the memoir I am writing, including much of a chapter I had never read publicly before called In the Lion’s Den with Only a Tuba. I felt particularly nervous and vulnerable as my voice in memoir is very different from any other voice I use when I tell my story on-line or in my play. I seek to strip away several layers of self. Although humorous in part, I do not seek to make people laugh. The humor comes off more as shocking and revealing creating a deadly serious tone. The 20 or so people assembled seemed to enjoy what I shared, that or they were just being polite.

During the week I also did some BRAND NEW presentations that I hope to share again elsewhere. One was a workshop which I then also did as a lecture later in the week at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. The topic? Sex & Spirit–a lively look at the intersection of faith and sexuality. In addition to sharing how I developed a personal sexual ethic, I also talked about the Bible, (FUN FACT: Did you know that there is no verse in the Bible that condemns sex before marriage? Also some of the most important Bible characters got rewarded for having multiple sex partners) the proven need to physical intimacy and a probing expose of the sin of Sodom.Grrr.

Another presentation that was well-attended and received covered how to use technology and new media with our work for Social Justice. In Wired for Activism I provided ideas and case studies for how to effectively use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, on-line comments and podcasts for ways to get new allies, inform and engage existing allies, and  organize actions. We also looked at ways we can counter arguments while inserting new language in the public discourse. To make the presentation even that much sweeter, Cale, one of the young activists responsible for organizing a creative and highly effective action in the summer of 2005 in Memphis, was present to talk about the work they around the Love in Action Refuge program and the teens forced to attend this “straight camp” against their will. You can check out this amazing video to see how they used technology to effect real change. (FYI, the young man, Zach, who first alerted his friends of the Refuge program I hear is doing very well in his life today)

I met with a group of male-identified people to discuss porn. Sadly some guys didn’t want to come after they heard the topic. I fear they expected a judgmental, shaming atmosphere. Shame because I wanted to have an open non-judgmental chat about our own personal histories with porn. (When was the first time you viewed porn?) and the purpose(s) it has served or seemed to have served in our lives. (Why do you or have you looked at porn?) For the few men who gathered, we had a thoughtful and fun discussion that got beyond opinion into personal reflection. Always a good place to start.

During the week I also offered a few public presentations that included lots of performance. I offered my lively lecture about ex-gay treatment and reparative therapy. In it I also talked about the nature of abuse, how if we are abused as children it can brand us, mark us with our abusers own shame and shameful behavior resulting in a complicated relationship we maintain with our own bodies and sexuality. In addition, I talked about trauma, and how those of us who have experienced it (be it at the Homo No Mo Halfway House, in our own harms or wherever) that we need to tell our stories with self-care in mind knowing that if we are not careful, we can re-traumatize ourselves. I also traveled off-campus to the UNC Asheville campus to do a variety show of sorts. They laughed, they cried, and it evening got very tender and personal. In this presentation I had some ideas of what I wanted to present, but through audience questions, I allowed myself to be flexible and present scenes that I had not intended to perform.

For the Religious Life and the Peace and Justice crews I led a workshop called, Slow Dancing with the Enemy–Effective Strategies for Engaging Your Opponent. One point I stressed is that when we engage with an “opponent” someone who stands on the other side of a particular issue who we hope to engage in thoughtful discussion leading to deeper understanding of the issues, we need to remember a key point. They will most likely not remember much of what we tell them, but they will also remember how they felt in our presence and how we treated them. If we allow our part of the exchange to be vulnerable, respectful, thoughtful–human–that may do more to influence people than any brilliant talking point we present (not that we should be shoddy in our presentation and facts.)

Peterson Toscano

As I mentioned above, I did go to Greensboro to present at Guilford College, but because of the snow nearly did not make it! On Friday I organized an escape from Witch Mountain, well the Wilson campus, where once the snow started to settled the roads got downright treacherous. I spent the night with friends closer to the bus station, only to find that there were NO buses going out on  Saturday morning. Disregarding the advice from my mother to my child self, I got into a stranger’s car and hitched a ride to Greensboro. It almost seemed as I stepped into a joke after we got to talking about our diverse faith backgrounds–A Conservative Roman Catholic, a Canadian-Egyptian Coptic Christian and a Queer Quaker get into a van together…  I sensed that the two folks in the front of the car viewed LGBTQ issues differently than I did. I actually even felt a pang of panic that once they heard my story and of my identity as a gay man doing a play about transgender Bible characters (which resulting in lively conversation) that they would dump me off at the side of the road. But hospitality trumped attitudes and beliefs that may have arisen from the greater culture wars swirling around us like the snow in the air. I believe we all learned something during that 3 hour+ journey and grew deeper in our understandings of “the other.”

I am certain I have left something out of the many activities of the week, but it is lunch time and Cow Pie Cafe will be serving up some amazing vegan wonder that I must not miss!

Perhaps the best parts of the past week included those one-on-one discussions with folks from Belfast to Birmingham (Alabama that is).  Although I am introverted in many ways (I lose energy and get off-balanced around a lot of people and need to be alone to find myself and my center again) I value and grow enriched by the personal exchanges I am privileged to have with the many people I meet on the road. Each day I learn something new, get challenged in my thinking and my living and see so much beauty and courage in the people around me. All that and vegan treats! I am one happy princess 😀

To get a listing of some of my talk, check out my talks and lively lectures page.
TONIGHT at 8 pm in Canon on the Wilson campus, I will perform Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano, a variety show with a bunch of excerpts and never before seen material. I may even do a Russian Folk-Pop Interpretive dance!

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The RISE Crew at Warren Wilson College, which looks at creative ways of decreasing sexual violence, currently is working on producing a zine that addresses domestic violence. I immediately thought of the church and religion which can practice its own brand of domestic violence. Below is a piece I wrote for the zine.

A Gospel song by The Gaithers begins, “I’m so glad to be part of the family of God…” then goes on to extol the many spiritual benefits family members enjoy. The song does not address the dysfunctional working so often in this religious family on earth—the Church. (This is the only song I have ever heard that successfully rhymes the words God and Sod and is not even trying to be ironic. See the lyrics and hear the melody here. )

While some find welcome, refuge & support in their local churches & faith communities, others face hostility, rejection & violence.  The institution of the Church, like marriage, regularly creates & maintains an oppressive system of power & privilege where some (often a very few) have the most say & control.   Abuse & domestic violence happen in these systems aided & encouraged by the imbalance of power.

I’ve seen women (and men)  in churches silenced, chastised & shunned because they suffer clinical depression. “Sister, you just need the faith of a mustard seed, not some pill.” Youth ministers tell queer teens that they need to repent of their “same-sex attractions” in order to enter God’s Kingdom & gain access to weekly youth group events.  Even when the sexually wayward youth “repents,” leaders treat the teen as suspect & deny access to youth leadership roles.

Religious abuse happens behind a loving smile—we only want what’s best for you—& carries the full weight of Biblical authority.

As a guy who likes guys who also happens to be Christian, I often get e-mails from fellow Christians admonishing me to conform to theirs’ (& what they believe to be God’s) beliefs & wishes for my body, relationships & sexuality.  I inform them that they are practicing abuse.  I write them,

You take a position of power over me using God as your elevated platform as you insist that your religion & sexuality are superior to mine. You disregard & disrespect my personal faith journey & my understanding of my own orientation, then you impose your sexuality & religion on me. This is abuse & I refuse to be part of an abusive relationship.

They often accuse me of being angry while insisting that they are not hateful. As a former Conservative Evangelical myself, I know they feel they act in love.  That’s what makes religious abuse so complicated & difficult to identify at the time.  As a result, some members of the church go Sunday after Sunday, year after year submitting to the abuse, denying themselves a voice or agency.  They may even practice the same sort of abuse on others.

Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, a college student who was beaten for being gay and died a few days later as a result of his injuries, has stated that,

Church hurt is the worst kind of hurt.

She goes on to explain that it hurts so much because the Church represents God, the highest authority and a heavenly parent—a cosmic betrayal.  The religiously abused—the battered Bride of Christ—can flee the scene of the crime, but the effect of the abuse may linger and harass for years. Others stay stuck in the system, singing along all the while blaming themselves for their misery,  always forgiving those who sin against them, soldiering on in the faith.  In the midst of all the abuse & pain one can despair of ever being part of a healthy, respectful, thoughtful faith community. One can shut the door inwardly to the possibility of spiritual life, divine encounters, mystical wonder be it in a sanctuary, a forest or the bedroom. (Some are better off outside of a system of faith that has not only failed them but reeked havoc on their health & wellbeing.) Like many who survive all manners of abuse, no longer victims, the religiously abused can experience the pain that comes from being branded by an abuser even years afterwards & feeling the sharp sting of violation whenever they encounter religious symbols, language & people.

In my case I needed 10 years of therapy to help sort through the tangled mess of church-based abuse with all its resulting shame. In the words of CP Cavafy, the queer Greek poet, in his poem Growing in Spirit written over 100 years ago, I have needed to “violate both law and custom, and go beyond the established norm”

He who hopes to grow in spirit
will have to transcend obedience and respect.
He will hold to some laws
but he will mostly violate
both law and custom, and go beyond
the established, inadequate norm.
Sensual pleasures will have much to teach him.
He will not be afraid of the destructive act:
half the house will have to come down.
This way he will grow virtuously into wisdom.

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Firstly a thousand pardons for my utter neglect of my blog. After taking a break over the holidays (and soaking up the Oaxaca sun) I moved to Selinsgrove, PA (Susquehanna University). Amazing how much energy and concentration goes into relocating. Besides all of the work to settle (unpack, set up an office space, make new friends, connect with friends I met over the past year here) I also took up in earnest once again to work on my memoir after a break during the fall tour. After two hours a day of writing, I felt I had nothing left for a blog.

Well, here I am back at the blog and ready to embark on the 2010 Winter/Spring Tour. I used to title my tours. Back in 2005 it was the Burning Bush Tour. What shall 2010 be I wonder. Will have to think about that.

I begin in North Carolina, Warren Wilson College exactly right outside of lovely and weird (they like being weird) Asheville, NC. From Feb 1-18 I will be their Activist in Residence doing a variety of performances, workshops, classes and community activism. Here is my schedule (Public events in bold–See Facebook page for more details) Leah McCullough, the school’s Spiritual Life Director, has organized most of these events in order to deepen various dialogues on campus and beyond. I am VERY excited about my time at the school.

Warren Wilson College Activist-in-Residence: February 1-18, 2010

Monday, February 1

  • arrives in Asheville –  – Go to lunch
  • 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Emmaus Group – Bibliodrama (Luke 7 story about the “bad woman giving Jesus a sexy foot massage)

Tuesday, February 2

  • 11:00 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. – Class: Feminist Thought (Laura Vance)
  • – Theater – Technical Run-through –

Wednesday, February 3

  • 11:00 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. – Class: Gender and Social Change (Laura Vance) – Where we will discuss essential and constructed gender

    Scene from Transfigurations

Thursday, February 4

  • 6:30 p.m. – Quaker meeting –

Friday, Februay 5

  • Spartanburg Regional Medical Center for diversity training/Queer issues with staff

Monday, February 8

  • 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Emmaus Group – Integrating Faith with Sexuality

Tuesday, February 9

Wednesday, February 10

  • 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. – Work Crew Training (Peace and Justice, Spiritual Life, Empower, RISE, Queer Resource Center) – Slow Dancing with the Enemy: Effective Strategies for Engaging Your Opponent – Upper Fellowship
  • 7:30- 8:40 – Class: Religion, Work and Service – Topic this night is “Honesty” – living into true self – integrated life – being who you are meant to be – finding your passion  – Jeanne Sommer –

Thursday, February 11

  • 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. – Presentation – “This is What Love in Action Looks Like” or New Media or Storytelling as Activism – Not a set program yet

Friday, February 12

  • 1:00 – 2:20 p.m. – Class: Creative Non-Fiction (Catherine Reid) – Jensen 206

Monday, February 15

  • 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. – Emmaus – Integrating Faith and Sexuality (continuing the conversation) –

Tuesday, February 16

  • 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. – Queer Circle –

Wednesday, February 17 (Ash Wednesday)

  • Goodbye Party

My bags are nearly all packed with a variety of scarves and wigs and Audre Lorde books and face creams. If you live in the Asheville area or know of folks who do, please spread the word!

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Rarely does a narrative capture so many of my passions as the one I read yesterday and wish to share with you today. Having spent 17 years as an ex-gay and then over 10 recovering, then moving into the arena of exploring gender, transgender issues and the Bible all the while dating a dishy South Africa writer, I was so pleased to read a South African, Christina Engela her piece about her own transition along with a reflection of the US-based ex-gay movements affects on South Africa.

Over the past few months a war of words has been raging over the activities of “ex-gay” groups in the USA and around the world wherever they have set up affiliates or branches of their own – including in my own country, South Africa. The ex-gay” movement operates on a purely religious basis and claims solely out of a misinterpretation of religious dogma, that gay (or trans) people can and should either deny their nature – or “change“. They claim all sorts of “studies” and “proof” exist to support their theories, but the truth is that no such evidence exists – and that every reputable medical, scientific and psychological institute, authority or body asserts that “conversion therapy” – IE attempts to change sexual orientation by “ex-gay” industry, is dangerous, risky and harmful to those it affects.

Christina Engela Age 27

All this has prompted me to look back – and inwards, to a time when I was struggling for self-acceptance, and to find my own identity.

The very first thought I can remember which indicated to me that there was something “different” or “abnormal” about me (those are increasingly dangerous and stigmatized words these days) was when I was three years old and sitting on a potty, looking at my genitalia and thinking “that shouldn’t be there”. I am sure it is no coincidence that many of my best ideas since then have also come to me under similar circumstances. *Grin*

I had a t-shirt which was a bit large for me that I used to parade around in at home, that was my “dress”, when I tramped around the flat in – or rather on – my moms shoes. And later I had a pair of pink shorts I loved so much I wore them out in record time!

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This just in from the deliciously reliable “news” source–The Onion:

LOUISVILLE, KY—At first glance, high school senior Lucas Faber, 18, seems like any ordinary gay teen. He’s a member of his school’s swing choir, enjoys shopping at the mall, and has sex with other males his age. But lately, a growing worry has begun to plague this young gay man. A gnawing feeling that, deep down, he may be a fundamentalist, right-wing Christian.

“I don’t know what’s happening to me,” Faber admitted to reporters Monday. “It’s like I get these weird urges sometimes, and suddenly I’m tempted to go behind my friends’ backs and attend a megachurch service, or censor books in the school library in some way. Even just the thought of organizing a CD-burning turns me on.”

Added Faber, “I feel so confused.”

The openly gay teen, who came out to his parents at age 14 and has had a steady boyfriend for the past seven months, said he first began to suspect he might be different last year, when he started feeling an odd stirring within himself every time he passed a church. The more conservative the church, Faber claimed, the stronger his desire was to enter it.

Read more here. hat tip to Mister Tumnus

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