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My contribution to the 2013 Queer Theology Synchroblog looks at the creation of queer theology, and how one of the best starting points is to see and name who is clearly queer in the text.

If you go to almighty Google and type in a search List of Men in the Bible, you will find loads of sites that give you an exhaustive outline of all the biblical men. Similarly a search for Women in the Bible will cough up hefty results. But try googling List of Eunuchs in the Bible. You will get web results, no doubt, but no simple listing of the names of the many biblical eunuchs and where they appear in the text. For that list you will have to do more digging and likely compile your own.

Consider virtually every sermon you have heard about the Book of Esther or any Purim celebration you attended, even in super queer-friendly churches and synagogues. Off the top of your head name the characters speakers highlight related to this story. Esther/Hadassah. Mordecai. Haman. These are the big three people can name from memory. Then there is some king, a deposed queen, oh, and a eunuch.

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The king, (known as Xerxes, Ahashuerus, or Khshayarshan depending on the Greek, Hebrew, or Persian form of the name) plays a key role in the story as the easily offended ruler waiting for things to happen. Vashti, the queen, who refuses to parade around in front of the king’s male guests, sometimes gets a shoutout for being a strong woman in a man’s world. Then there is the eunuch in charge of the royal harem.

Actually there are a dozen eunuchs in the Book of Esther each with a delicious name that fills the mouth. I like to read their names out loud.

Mehuman
Biztha
Harbona
Bigtha
Abagtha
Zethar
Carcas
Hegai
Shassshagaz
Teresh
Bigthana
Hathach

Eunuchs appear in every chapter of the Book of Esther and take on many different roles. Sure Hegai oversees the women’s quarters and puts Hadassah/Esther through a rigorous beauty and diet regime. Hegai even tells Esther what to bring into the bedroom chamber when it is time for her to perform for the king as part of the Persia’s Next Top Queen competition. But the eunuchs have much more latitude, roles, and responsibilities in the text than most retellings of the story reveal.

20130928-100408.jpg Eunuchs serve as messengers, advisors, guards, assassins, and soldiers. In fact, on the chess board of the Persian court, all non-eunuchs are mostly stuck in place. The king stays in his section of the palace, Esther in hers, and her kinsman, Mordecai, has to sit outside until escorted in. The only people who get to move freely from place to place, in and out of the palace and into every palatial space are the eunuchs.

In the ancient world a eunuch was a non-procreative male, usually castrated, and often castrated before puberty. This means they typically did not experience puberty with the rush of testosterone bringing about the lowering of the voice, the development of body hair, facial hair, muscles, and over time, a prominent brow. They looked and sounded different from the men and women around them. They would have stood out in Persia. In some places of the ancient world others considered them, and perhaps they considered themselves, another sex or a third gender. In the olden times there were men, women, and eunuchs, not a simple binary. In scripture eunuchs pop up throughout the Hebrew Bible and make brief but important appearances in the Christian Bible.

Most people in the ancient world likely did not willingly choose to become a eunuch, even if being one meant service in a royal court with access to powerful people and information. This is likely true for many of the eunuchs in Bible stories. Perhaps because of painful experiences in life, they empathize with “the other” alongside them in the text; they relate to the vulnerable. Jeremiah is rescued by Ebed Melech, an Ethiopian eunuch (Jeremiah 38.) Daniel, like Esther is parented and trained by a royal eunuch, Ashpenaz. Some scholars say there is evidence that Daniel and his friends serve as eunuchs in the Babylonian court. These are a handful of the dozens of eunuchs in the Bible.

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But back to Esther. I recently heard a sermon at an LGBTQ religious gathering where the minister spoke about Esther, who “for such a time as this” is made queen of Persia so that she can save her people against the evil plot of the very evil Haman. It is a good story, and we can make lots of modern applications for how we too can take a stand today and put our lives on the line for justice. It is also a story about a woman with power (even if it is limited power that comes with great risks) within ancient texts where women typically do not have much power. BUT (yes I have a big BUT) once again, in a queer-friendly sermon, the gender variant, sexual minorities in the text were completely overlooked, much like they are in our modern society and our LGBTQ-friendly religious spaces.

Yes, Esther saves the people by appearing before the king pleading her case, but without the eunuchs she would have been far from the court, an unknown orphaned Jewish young woman. Even in the palace she cannot speak directly with her kinsman, Mordecai, who urges her to act. She needs eunuchs to ferry messages back and forth, to set up the lunches for the king, to help her save her people.

In queering a text, one of the first steps may simply be to acknowledge those individuals already in that text who are presented as sexual minorities. It is not terribly radical actually, but it can go a long way to open up a discussion about otherness in the Bible and the essential roles that non-gender normative people play in it and in the world today. If you see yourself as an LGBTQ ally, the next time you talk give a sermon or perform a skit about the Book of Esther, go out of your way to include the eunuchs. Do not overlook the gender-variant, sexual minorities all over the page.

Special thanks to Janet Everhart and her excellent dissertation, The Hidden Eunuchs of the Hebrew Bible–Uncovering an Alternative Gender
and to Jane Brazell for her editorial help, inspiration, and feedback.

Check out the other synchroblog entries:
Queering Our Reading of the Bible by Chris Henrichsen

Queer Creation in art: Who says God didn’t create Adam and Steve? by Kittrdge Cherry

Of The Creation of Identity (Also the Creation of Religion) by Colin & Terri

God, the Garden, & Gays: Homosexuality in Genesis by Brian G. Murphy, for Queer Theology

Created Queerly–Living My Truth by Casey O’Leary

Creating Theology by Fr. Shannon Kearns

Initiation by Blessed Harlot

B’reishit: The Divine Act of Self-Creation by Emily

Queer Creation: Queering the Image of God by Alan Hooker

Queer Creation by Ric Stott

Eunuch-Inclusive Esther–Queer Theology 101 by Peterson Toscano

Valley of Dry Bones by Jane Brazelle

Queer Creation: Queer Angel by Tony Street

The Great Welcoming by Anna Spencer

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Over the last two months, I have made a drastic and dramatic decision. No, Glen and I are not adopting a human child; our cats, Wally & Emma, are more than we can handle at the moment. And, no, I am not coming out more, although there is always room for more coming out.

For those who do not know, I am a performance artist and queer Bible scholar who travels throughout North America presenting at universities, seminaries, conferences, theaters, and churches. I live in Central Pennsylvania, a gay Quaker in Amish Mennonite Country, and I communte to California and Tennessee and a bunch of other places to do my work. And within that context, I have made a drastic and dramatic decicion.

I have decided that for the next five years or more I will not travel by plane within North America. No more flights from Pennsylvania to San Francisco or Vancouver or Memphis or Mexico City for business or pleasure. Other than in the case of an emergency, I have officially grounded myself.

Why? Short answer: It’s because of Climate Change and the excessive individual role flying has in pumping CO2 and other Greenhouse forming gases into the atmosphere. I have already flown much more than the average earthling. My individual contribution to the climate change compared with most people is off the charts, even with over ten years of being a vegan and seven years living without a car. For me, I cannot ethically fly any longer.

I recognize that this choice in and of itself will not drastically change the world at large. Nations, lawmakers, institutions, and businesses will have the largest impact in addressing the current global climate crisis. I have little to no power over what they choose, but I exercise vast amounts of agency over my own choices.

And with a choice like this, well, the world becomes a different place for me. In fact, it opens up opportunities previous unknown to me. (More about that in a future post.)

Notice I stated I will no longer fly within North America. I said nothing about flights to Europe or the UK or South Africa. The grief at the thought of possibly never seeing some of the dearest people I know, people who happen to live in Sweden, Malta, Northern Ireland, Wales, England, South Africa, Spain, and Norway, seizes up my heart and brings a tight sob immediately to my throat. I do not know about that yet. I understand that longer flights oddly have less impact than multiple shorter ones (something to do with disproportionate amount of fuel needed in take off and landing.) I know that I could also look into purchasing carbon off-sets to help balance out the carbon I expend. Today I do not have to make those decisions.

Instead today I am looking into train schedules for trips to Greensboro, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Albuquerque, and I’m planning a bus ride to Nashville. The choice to ground myself limits me, and it opens doors.

I welcome your comments.

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Scholars long believed that there was once a Gospel attributed to Lebbaeus, “a friend” of the Apostle Thaddeus (aka Jude or Judas NOT Iscariot, or just “The Snarky One”) but scholars could never prove its existence. From the few First and Second Century references we have to this gospel, scholars have long assumed that Thaddeus himself wrote the text. Therefore, scholars dubbed it The Lost Gospel of Thaddeus.

Legend has it that St. Paul, after a major falling out with Thaddeus over a seating chart at the Pristine Council of Corinth, banned Thaddeus’ gospel and commanded that all copies be destroyed. While on a recent trip to Malta I met with a Roman Catholic dissident, (who goes by the code name Vashti,) and learned that deep in a Jesuit vault the Church has hidden a torn parchment of the lost gospel. Apparently St. Paul, shipwrecked on the island of Malta, had in his possession the only remaining copy. He ordered it destroyed, but his travel companion, Luke, also a gospel writer, asked their Maltese man servant to hide it away instead. For centuries the text has been well guarded, and with the help of Vashti (and a Vatican butler) I entered the vault and saw for myself this long lost gospel.

Sadly the parchment sustained much damage and whole sections are missing, but for the first time in nearly 2000 years, the Lost Gospel of Thaddeus has seen the light and is now available publicly. Special thanks to Bible interpreter, Jane Brazell, for all her contributions.

The Lost Gospel of Thaddeus

{Opening}
I, Lebbaeus, write to tell you about Thaddeus, a faithful companion and Apostle of Jesus, and to share Good News with those who have ears to hear. Truth be told Thaddeus could have done without some of the other Apostles especially…[missing fragment]

{Miracles & Encounters}
Early one day as they walked towards the market, a leper sat by the fig stall and called out to Jesus. But Thaddeus, heading towards the figs, protested, “Ugh, no Rabbi, just keep walking. He’s faking anyway.” Later that day Jesus stopped to help a man on the steps of the temple. Thaddeus groaned, “Not another leper…I mean, um, what a lovely tattered robe you have on.”

As they were deciding where to have their evening meal, a Roman centurion came to Jesus, and pleaded with the rabbi to heal his body servant. Thaddeus panicked, “Oh God, that’s the guy from the baths. Just act natural…”

One day as Jesus and the disciples went shopping for new tunics, they encountered a blind man begging alms. Jesus spat on the ground. Thaddeus protested, “Really teacher, I mean, I’m sure he’s faking like most of these other beggars, but you don’t have to be rude about it.” Jesus, ignoring Thaddeus, then bent down and made mud with his saliva and the dirt. He then smeared the muddy paste over the blind man’s eyes. “Ah, I see, giving him the holy spa treatment, are we?” Thaddeus remarked.

The next day Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs to do good works and to proclaim the message of the kingdom. That afternoon the disciples returned to Jesus having failed to help a demon possessed man. Jesus said unto them, “This kind only comes out with prayer AND fasting.” Thaddeus smiled, “Ahhh a holy and an effective weight loss plan. Very clever, Rabbi”

Then after this Jesus said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” Thaddeus bellowed, “ But it’s the off season.” As they crossed the lake Thaddeus hoped, “Perhaps today will be a quiet day.” Immediately Jesus stepped out of the boat and walked on the water and headed towards the shore. Thaddeus sighed, “I guess not.” In the middle of the night a terrible storm broke out and rocked their boat. Even the seasoned fishermen among them despaired. In the midst of the storm Jesus came to them, walking on the water. Over the wind and the waves Thaddeus shouted out to him, “Rabbi, did you remember to bring the hummus???” Thaddeus then turned to the others, “You know the pita is going to be soggy. But it’s ok; I’ve really been overdoing it on the carbs lately.”

In the morning they went to the other side of the lake and Jasper, the synagogue ruler fell at Jesus’ feet and cried out, “My daughter is dying! Come, I beg you.” A mob formed around Jesus, Jasper, and the disciples. In the throng Jesus felt something and stopped. Looking around he asked, “ Who touched me?” Thaddeus started, “Who touched you? Like inappropriately? ? Must have been Bartholomew.” Jesus turned and shouted [missing fragment]

… Jesus raised the girl from the dead and said to her parents, “Give her something to eat.” Thaddeus pondered these words concluding, “The food in the afterlife? Not so good.” Jesus turned to them, “Do not tell anyone what happened here.” Thaddeus responded, “Now you may get away with lepers and blind beggars, but raising little girls from the dead? There’s bound to be a leak.”

Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, after a sudden illness, died and had already been in the tomb for four days when Jesus arrived and saw the family mourning. Jesus wept. Thaddeus pulled out a linen handkerchief and whispered, “Rabbi, your nose is drippy. Here. It’s ok, you can just keep it. No really, keep it.” Jesus shouted, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man said, “But rabbi its’ been four days; by this time he stinketh.” Thaddeus snorted. They took away the stone, and in a loud voice Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, Come Out!” Thaddeus mumbled, “Or not.” Wrapped completely in grave clothes from head to toe Lazarus exited the tomb. Thaddeus threw up his hands, “First women, then lepers, and now zombies! What next?” Jesus instructed Simon Peter and the others, “Take off his grave clothes and let him go!” Thaddeus, despairing, sighed, “Shame, these clumsy fishermen are going to ruin that nice linen.”

The next day after they returned from the market, they found Jesus alone with a woman at the well. Thaddeus grumbled, “Humph! Quiet time praying, my foot! He’s a total player.” The disciples approached Jesus and the lone women. Thaddeus turned up his nose, “Good God, who designed her sandals, the Maccabees??”

As they entered the town a demon possessed man rushed down from the tombs towards Jesus. Thaddeus, startled, turned to Thomas and shrieked, “Yikes! Bad hair day ahead.” Jesus asked the man, “What is your name?” He replied, “Legion, for we are many.” Thaddeus, bored with this exchange, looked around for a food stall then noticed a herd of pigs grazing contently on a nearby hillside and cooed, “Awwwww, look Jesus, they got babies!” Immediately Jesus began commanding the demons out of the man. He told them to leave and instead go into the herd of pigs. Thaddeus despaired moaned, “Oh just great! Now they’’re gonna think he’s some kind of anti-pork Jewish sorcerer.” With a loud cry the demons left the man and entered pigs. Thaddeus wondered aloud, “Um, consent?” No longer possessed , the man begged to follow Jesus. Thaddeus blurted out. “Hell No! We already have a boat load of dysfunction here.”

{Some Teachings of Jesus}
Jesus sat on a big stone and the crowds gathered around him and he taught them while the disciples observed from the side and commented. Jesus said unto them, “Let the little children come unto me.” Thaddeus inserted, “Let them wash their dirty, sticky fingers first.”

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Thaddeus turned to James, the brother of John, “Wait, love others exactly as I love myself? Oh no, I wouldn’t inflict that torture on my worst enemy.”

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is like a widow searching for a coin….” Thaddeus interrupted, “Wait! Yesterday you said the Kingdom was like yeast. Before that you said it was like ten virgins. Now an old woman??”

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor…” Thaddeus whispered to John, “We might have to tweak that one a bit. Spiritualize it a little to take out the sting. How about, ‘Blessed are the poor in fashion, blah, blah, blah,’ He can fill in the rest.”

Jesus said, “You must be born again to enter the kingdom.” Thaddeus asked James, “Like physically? It’s got to be a metaphor, right? Oh God please!”

Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Thaddeus mused aloud, “Hmmm, I hope that one’s not a metaphor. Um, I mean, because I want to spread Good News, of course.”
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Thaddeus turned to Judas Iscariot, their treasurer, and asked “So then can we charge?”

Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” Thaddeus reasoned, “Yes, sounds great, but, then the poor will be imperfect.”

[missing fragment] (Jesus said) “…In that final day of Judgment I will say unto you depart from me, I never knew you!” Thaddeus replied, “But rabbi when did you ask for hummus and I ate it, and gave you day-old baba ganoush instead?” [missing fragment]

Later that evening they arrived at the home of Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. While Martha prepared the evening meal, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet with the disciples. Martha complained, “Rabbi, tell my sister to help me with the women’s work.” Jesus replied, “Leave Mary alone, she has chosen what is right for her.” Thaddeus said, “Rabbi, I’ll help Martha with the meal. I don’t mind.” As Thaddeus and Martha served the food, Thaddeus turned to Jesus, “Teacher, I know you let women come near and are all over the lepers, but I’ve been wondering about eunuchs. I mean some of my best friends are eunuchs, and some of the other disciples here are, well, not eunuch-friendly. You may just want to drop a word or two about eunuchs at some point. Simon, I mean, Peter, pass the tabouli.”

{The Last Days}
Jesus rode into town on a donkey. As the crowd cheered, Thaddeus fretted, “Weren’t we suppose to get a permit for all this?” The crowd shouted “Hosanna!” as Jesus glided by on the donkey. Thaddeus spotted someone he knew from Yeshiva, and standing behind Jesus, Thaddeus waved proudly making sure that he was seen, then immediately he stepped in fresh donkey droppings.

Later that night in the olive grove Jesus was transfigured before them and his face did shine as the sun. Thaddeus fell to the ground. “Stop! I look dreadful in holy light!”

As the Passover celebrations began, Jesus took the bread and broke it. Thaddeus, the Apostle, bit his tongue. “Sure, pure heart, but dirty hands.” Jesus said, “Take, eat this is my body broken for you.” Thaddeus wondered, “Now that one’s a metaphor, right?” Then Thaddeus interrupted, “Teacher, may I suggest, ‘Take, snack, this is my body, blah, blah, blah.’ Sounds friendlier.” Jesus rolled his eyes. At that very moment when Jesus and Judas Iscariot dipped their bread in wine together, Thaddeus looked down, “Seriously, Judas has some beautiful fingers. So delicate. Next to his, my fingers look so fat and dumpy.”
[missing fragment]

As they watched Jesus ride away on a camel toward Egypt, Peter, who was also called Simon, asked Thaddeus, “Hey, Judas, I noticed you’re calling yourself, Thaddeus these days, hey? Trying to distance yourself from the whole Judas Iscariot mess? Don’t worry, I predict you will be forgotten. Just saying.” Thaddeus approached Peter and slapped him on his right cheek, and said, “Simon, according to the teachings of our Rabbi Jesus, you are now supposed to let me slap your left cheek, and then you need to forgive me. Just saying.” Peter wept.

[End of Manuscript]

Want more? Listen to Zack Ford and Peterson Toscano read from and discuss the Lost Gospel of Thomas over at Queer and Queerer podcast. (Now available on Stitcher Radio as well as iTunes)

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The above satire, written by Peterson Toscano, is brought to you as part of the Queer Theology Synchroblog 2012
The theme for this year is “The Queer God”.

The Anarchist Reverend shares his thoughts on the Queer Christ over on the Camp Osiris blog.

Shirley-Anne McMillan writes about Mother Christ. (With Audio!)

Adam Rao shares why he is not participating in today’s synchroblog.

Kaya Oakes writes about God, the Father/Mother.

Brian Gerald Murphy talks about A God Bigger Than Boxes.

Clattering Bones writes about The Queer God.

Daniel Storrs-Kostakis writes writes about An Icon of God.

Jack Springald writes about Avalokitesvara and queering gender.

Amaryah Shaye Armstrong writes about Inclusion and the Rhetoric of Seduction.

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Recently I received an email from a student at a major divinity school asking the following question,

I would like to do a queer reading of the fourth gospel (John). As the foremost – that is, only – person I know of who works extensively with gender non-conformity in Biblical texts, I was wondering if there were any resources for this that you were aware of that I shouldn’t miss. Articles, books, etc.

I have to admit that John is my least favorite of the Gospels. I prefer the action and starkness of Mark’s gospel. Perhaps that is because I am an actor and have much more action to play with. John’s gospel is wordy, lots of teachings and lessons that appear no where else in the other gospels. Also, the resurrection gets so campy and divine compared to the chaos of Mark. I prefer chaos.

In my play, Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, I reference Thomas’ Gospel.
<Simon Peter said, 'Make Mary leave us because women are not worthy of life.' Jesus said, "Look I shall take Mary and make her male, so that she too may be a living spirit.

Simon Peter said, ‘Make Mary leave us because women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said, “Look I shall take Mary and make her male, so that she too may be a living spirit.

Now likely this closing statement was a tag on used as a swipe to women with too much power in the church, particularly the camp of Mary Magdalene. I instead use it as a transgender narrative saying perhaps that this Mary would feel more alive living as male. I then reference Luke and John’s Gospel, and the stories of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

I love how in Luke’s Gospel the character Mary takes the role of a male disciple, learning at Jesus’ feet and affirmed by Jesus for doing so. I think there is something there in that narrative and the resurrection of Lazarus in John (especially when looking at the Secret gospel of Mark) A Very queer family. Martha is the take charge head of the family not afraid to confront Jesus, standing up to the rabbi. Lazarus, the young man who Jesus loves enough to bring back to life. And Mary who perhaps would be happier as male. These are just a few of my thoughts about these characters. See John Henson’s book, The Gay Disciple for more.

Sadly there are not a lot of resources out there yet about gender transgressors in the Bible. It is a growing field. For too long It’s all been about gay defensive theology and somewhat dodgy speculative queer theology about who might be gay in the Bible. I like to look at stories where we have more to go on–gender transgression in particular.

If you look at the recent anthology, Gender Outlaws, The Next Generation (edited by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman) I have a piece called Transgressing Gender at Passover. It is a midras about the “man with the pitcher of water” who appears in Mark and Luke (and as a certain man in Matthew’s Gospel.) I also blend this narrative with that of a woman who transition from male but hadn’t seen her family for a long time and decided to come out to them as a woman at Thanksgiving dinner. She said she cleared that room. Men carrying water in gospel times was a rare gender (and class) transgressive act. Only women, children, and slaves carried water. The gospel account refers specifically to a man carrying a pitcher of water. We do not know why, but when they needed a room, they turned to a gender non-conformist for help. John’s gospel of course does not have this story. I see it more as propaganda ladden fan fiction than a proper gospel. (again I don’t like John lol)

No doubt, John is beautiful. The sweeping teachings and metaphors, but it is such a disembodied text. It is concerned with so many spiritual matters that it ends up ignoring the body. I like Gospel stories that get us right in the mess of human bodies. Example: Mark chapter five. I love that passage–so much human body action in it with Jesus being pulled and tugged by nameless people and their needs and desires.

Another great resource to consider is The Anarchist Reverend. He is a queer trans* theologian who writes about many of these issues.

Also, check out The Queer Bible Commentary edited by Deryn Guest and others. And if you are in Chicago on November 18, check out my presentation at the Society for Biblical Literature Conference when my scholarship will be peer reviewed (terrifying!) Here is my schedule with the details.

Good luck on your presentation!

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No, I am not going to be a bride tomorrow. The age old advice to brides about what to wear going down the aisle also applies to the big step I will take tomorrow. I embark on something new–speaking to a group of victims’ advocates about LGBT crime victims. In a way it is something old for me as I began my career years ago in New York City working in criminal justice at an alternative to incarceration for youth offenders. I first worked as a teacher and then the director of education. As a result, I spent time in the courts, and I got to learn about victims of crimes firsthand.

Throughout the United States (Canada and beyond too I imagine) on the local and state levels there are people who work directly with victims of crimes. They may do direct work almost immediately after a crime is committed, particularly physical or sexual assault, to assist the victim  navigate the medical, legal, personal morass as a result of a violent crime to an individual or a loved one. The work of the advocate becomes especially important when domestic violence is at the heart of the crime. On the state level, victims’ advocates help update victims as the perpetrator goes through the system, comes up for parole, or is ready to be released from incarceration.

Tomorrow I will spend time with a group of victims’ advocates, administrators, parole officers, and others involved in the welfare of victims,  and I will speak specifically about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer concerns. As LGBTIQ people we often face multiple complications when we are victims of crimes. Sometimes law enforcement officials exacerbate the trauma we face instead of lessening it. Sometime medical staff cause more harm than healing. Sometimes we face a direct bias that effects the help we need. Other times we suffer because of the ignorance or misunderstanding from a well meaning but ill informed professional who wants to help us.

I am going to borrow from my performance work and present my play Queer 101–Now I Know my gAy,B,Cs, which serves as a primer about many LGBTIQ issues, identities, and intersections of identities. This will give us a jumping off point to help talk about basics–proper terminology, differences between gender and sex, going beyond binaries, etc. Then we will go deeper.

No don’t things will get blue–no not in the x-rated sense or a delicious cobalt blue frock. Things may get blue meaning they might get sad because of the sad realities many LGBTIQ people have faced in addition to the crimes  perpetuated against them. Police, press, lawyers, family, medical personnel sadly  can deepen the nightmare many of us have fast when dealing with crimes against us.

I am pleased that this group wants to meet. I know they care about victims, and they want to do the best job possible. This encourages me. As I have done research the past few weeks, I have soaked in all kinds of stories. Still I would like to hear more  if you are willing and able to share.

Have you been a victim of a crime–not exclusively a hate crime–any crime? What was your experience as a victim of a crime when dealing with police, medical personnel, legal professionals, and others? What did you need? How did those who were supposed to help you actually end up failing you? What did someone do or say that was helpful to you? I would love to carry your story with me.

——————————————————————–

For further reading visit The National Center for the Victims of Crime and see their recent study: Why It Matters
Rethinking Victim Assistance for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Victims

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Are programs that tell people they need not be gay simply silly, misguided throwbacks? Surely the media has gotten a lot of mileage out of covering the “ex-gay” phenomenon.  It can be a sexy and entertaining story. But the portrayals of the people who run these programs run counter to the aims and ideology behind the treatments they offer. It’s time to see these “ex-gay” programs for what they are–Straight Supremacist groups.

Two leaders of the Ex-Gay Movement, Alan Chambers and Janet Boynes, recently received a sympathetic treatment on Lisa Ling’s Our America episode Pray Away the Gay? And some have asked, “Why not? It was not a ‘hard’ news story, rather a portrait of overlooked Americans on the fringe.” Hmmm, if it were that simple.

Another story getting buzz has to do with an Apple iphone app. A petition (with over 30,000 signatures) demands that Apple must remove an Apple approved app linking people to Exodus International, the world’s largest ex-gay group which for a long time has claimed people can find freedom from homosexuality through Jesus Christ. Alan Chambers, the man prominently featured in a positive light on the Lisa Ling program, has headed Exodus since 2001.

Why all the fuss? Why not let these folks have their freedom of speech even if what they have to say is wacky, antiquated, and panned by proper medical folks?

In the case of Exodus, here’s why we fuss. For one, we are NOT talking about a freedom of speech issue. Exodus is free to say whatever they want on their blogs and pulpits. No private company like Apple has to use their resources to promote Exodus’ message. Apple has the right to say, no.

Exodus spokespeople  paint themselves in the media as kindly folks who simply want to help those who are unhappy with being gay. They don’t force anyone to do anything against their will. They do not want to interrupt the lives of happy homosexuals who are content with their sexuality or identity. That’s what they say, but that’s not what they mean. They are being wise as serpents and gentle as doves. They are duplicitous.

Exodus is a Straight Supremacist group that believes that heterosexuality, straight marriage, and gender normative behavior are superior to anything lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) people have going on in their lives. At Exodus conferences, in their books, through their many local programs they state that LGBTQ people are inferior to heterosexuals. They say over and over that LGBTQ folks are morally, spiritually, developmentally damaged. Just last week Alan wrote that even celibate gays who still identify as gay “fall short of God’s best.” In fact, he makes it clear that God’s best is for people to be heterosexually partnered, even if they are not heterosexual. They do not seem to consider the needs of a straight person who may well suffersas a result of this union (which is often the case.)

Under Alan Chamber’s leadership of Exodus, the group has made aggressive moves to target young people–in the words anti-gay Christians have often used concerning gays–Exodus has attempted to recruit and convert queer youth to a straight lifestyle. Exodus came under fire in 2005 when their flagship program, Love in Action, began to take teenagers against their will into their youth program, Refuge. A young man by the name of Zack cried out to his friends for help before he was cut off from the world and forced to attend a straight camp.

Under Alan Chamber’s leadership Exodus has taken over the Love One Out conferences, a day long event that assures parents and church youth workers that their queer youth need not stay that way. They offer testimonies of people who claim they have changed, and project photographs of former homosexuals now heterosexually partnered surrounded by spouse and children. They provide false hope and leave out important information–namely that the vast majority of people who attend their programs (70% by Alan Chamber’s own reckoning) find that a straight (or straightish) life is not realistic or healthy to pursue. At Love Won Out they do not mention the psychological, emotional, and spiritual damage many of us experienced as a result of going to war against our sexuality and identity. They do not mention that ever major medical association has denounced reparative therapy and ex-gay treatments saying they do not work and may likely damage those who try them.

And what is Exodus’ big goal for 2011? To reach out to youth in middle school and high school with a message of hope! You don’t have to be bullied for being gay because you can chose the superior identity of being straight. They have a new iphone app in large part to reach out to the younger generation with their straight supremacist message. In essence they say, “The bullies are right. You are a worthless piece of shit, but we can bring value to your life. We can help you leave all that gayness behind and become holy and valuable to the world around you.”

Apple does not find the message of Exodus objectionable. Lisa Ling’s Our America also did not find fault with the message. Perhaps they do not know enough about it. Perhaps they have mostly heard from Exodus which has developed a slick public persona over the years while politically opposing pro-LGBTQ legislation, while trying to eradicate gayness in themselves and the world around them.

Over at Beyond Ex-Gay, the site created by ex-gay survivors, we state,

We believe that ex-gay experiences cause more harm than good. Certain people who currently identify as ex-gay say they are content as such. We don’t seek to invalidate their experience. For us such a lifestyle was not possible or healthy.

If someone like Alan Chambers wants to live a straight life and he is happy with that life, that’s fine. But that he insists that his lifestyle choice is superior to the lives and identities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer people is objectionable. Perhaps he has not yet allowed himself to meet happy, well-adjusted queer folks. Once we leave his programs and sort ourselves out, he wants nothing to do with us and his discounts our stories. But ultimately this is not about Alan Chambers or even Exodus, it is about a message that gets sent out by churches that make it clear that queer folks are not allowed at a seat at the table unless they conform to the heterosexual, gender-normative pattern of the world around us. In that light, perhaps some can see Alan Chambers as a victim of a system that in turn transforms him into a victimizer of others. And why would Lisa Ling or Apple want any part of that? Why not call it what it is and stop pretending or ignoring reality.

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And why do I care…

Peterson Toscano protesting Love Won Out

For me the Ex-Gay story is a personal one. I spent 17 years, and over $30,000 on three continents attempting to change and suppress my gay orientation and gender differences. I spent much of that time in Exodus programs including two years at the infamous Love in Action residential facility (gay rehab?) in Memphis, TN. Through the years I have met over 1,500 people who have been through these programs and heard first hand the damage their time in these programs has caused. In 2003 I began to tell my story through comedy in the one-person play, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, and in 2007 co-founded Beyond Ex-Gay with fellow ex-gay survivor, Christine Bakke. I’m currently writing a memoir about my experiences trying (and failing) to go straight and the many reasons I did it. 

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It’s Spirit Day! Zack and Peterson are here to have an important conversation about a challenging topic. What is heterosexual privilege? We throw around the terminology a lot, but what does it really mean? Today we try to help our audience understand exactly what it is and why we need our allies to be more aware of it. We know that 38 minutes is not enough to understand the nuances of this issue, so we hope you’ll join in the conversation on the blog posting or on Facebook! Also, don’t forget to submit your answers to The Heterosexual Questionnaire. Click below to access the questions. Enjoy!

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to this week’s episode

Download Right-click and save as to download.

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

» The Heterosexual Questionnaire. (Remember, this is for self-avowed heterosexuals only.)

» The list of heterosexual privileges we read from. Here’s another.

» Curious about cisgender privilege? Here’s a list. Here’s another.

» Peterson’s Post on “Straight Pride.”

» Shannon’s Post on engaging in action for Spirit Day.

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