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Posts Tagged ‘Transfigurations’

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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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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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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What a whirlwind! A week ago Tuesday I flew to Vancouver, BC for seven PACKED days connecting with ex-gay survivors, dear friends and the main event–Evolve, a United Church of Canada weekend conference for young people grade 7 to md-30’s. The event went without a hitch with lots of fascinating and stimulating programming. I can’t believe how many cool people there are in the world that I get to meet weekly!

From Vancouver to “took the train” to Seattle, WA. Actually I took an Amtrak bus since the tracks got blocked by a landslide. Yikes. In Seattle I took part in the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Like last year at Seattles TDoR I presented my play Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, but this time I performed it in five segments. In between each scene someone from the transgender community shared briefly. David Weekley, a United Methodist minister from Portland who recently came out to his congregation and the world as a  transgender man, spoke and read a poem he wrote during his early days of transition over two decades ago. Cole Arden Peake performed spoken word (and rocked the house). My friend Jane introduced my play (and we got to hang out too!)

After the Seattle event, that same night I rode down to Portland with David Weekley and his wife Deborah. Ah, what a lovely chat we had on that three hour+ journey! In Portland I got to crash at Doug and Bruce’s place, the home of this amazing gay couple who always stock up on my favorite foods. I feel so loved and affirmed there.

Yesterday I mostly rested and prepped, but I also had lunch with Sarah, the partner of Bonnie Tinker, a dear Quaker friend and fellow activist who was killed in a bike accident this summer at the Friends General Conference of North American Quakers. Bonnie and Sarah were part of the Really Pissed Off Grannies and did so much amazing activism. I miss Bonnie so much.

In the evening I performed at the church where David and Deborah pastor. It was a packed house with folks from all over the Portland area–a very diverse audience of trans, non-trans, queer, non-trans and all ages. My uber cool friend Tommy Corn showed up too. This amazing queer straight guy who is a vegan and a recovering fundamentalist always supports my presentations in Portland (and brings me vegan treats). Got to see Deanna, Kriss, Gregg, Wes, Rebecca Nay and even Barbara, a woman my dad met in Italy earlier in the month.

Now I am in NYC waiting for my flight to Boston so that I can take part in the Transcending Boundaries Conference–my last performance of 2009. Like my luggage that gets cramped and stowed and has to be reclaimed on a dingy carousel, my soul is in transit, lagging slightly behind my body. It’s part of the territory. This morning I reflect on the Quaker query,

Bring the whole of your life under the ordering of the spirit of Christ. Are you open to the healing power of God’s love? Cherish that of God within you, so that this love may grow in you and guide you. Let your worship and your daily life enrich each other. Treasure your experience of God however it comes to you. Remember that Christianity is not a notion but a way.

 

 

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Later this month Beyond Ex-Gay, the organization I co-founded with Christine Bakke will take part in a the Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Pal Beach, FL. Along with Soulforce, Box Turtle Bulletin, Truth Wins Out, The National Black Justice Coalition and Equality Florida, we will explore the role of heterosexism in society and in particular as a force that compels individuals to “de-gay” themselves through ex-gay ministries and reparative therapy. (Nov 20-22). On Friday the 20th Beyond Ex-Gay will host a day-long Ex-Gay Survivor gathering for survivors and allies.

People will come together from North America, Europe and Australia to meet for a series of workshops and events led by an array of skilled and informed leaders in the work of equality and understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues. My friend Angel and Marc from Barcelona will be there after the successful conference we held in Catalonia in May of 2008. They have an exciting announcement to make about the work that has gone on since that historic gathering.

As people finalize their travel plans and work on the finishing touches to their presentations, I head off to the Pacific North West then to Boston. I will not be at the Anti-Heterosexism Conference. I fully support the gathering and the role that Beyond Ex-Gay has in it. I will not attend because in my own work and recovery from ex-gay treatment, I have moved beyond to the place where other concerns and passions fill my life.

Back in 2008 I retired my play, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House because after five years of presenting it, I felt the play held me back in my artistic and personal growth. To tell the same story night after night caused me to relive those events over and over. I felt a drain. I put the play on DVD and focused on my newer performances, including Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, a play that explores the stories and lives of transgender and gender-variant Bible characters. How refreshing it felt to tell a different story, a new story!

In the past year my work with the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement has included working directly with survivors who contact us through the Beyond Ex-Gay website as well as meeting people on the road as I travel with my performances and a lively lecture I conduct about the Ex-Gay Movement, Gender and Orientation. At various conferences and universities I have presented this talk to help educate people about the ex-gay experience, the many reasons why someone may chose to “de-gay” themselves and how these reasons are directly connected to issues of power and privilege around gender, class, and race.

My role has also shifted to more of a consultant to other activists who have organized actions in the North America as well as in the UK and Eastern Europe. In dealing with the press I have sought to broaden the types of stories that the media covers regarding the Ex-Gay Movement (including the way it affects women–lesbians, wives and mothers.) I have also connected reporters with ex-gay survivors who had not yet publicly shared their experiences.

When I was invited to take part in the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, I experienced a mixture of feelings–enthusiastic along with a flat sort of feeling that I could not immediately identify. In sitting with the feeling during Quaker worship (we sit in silence for up to an hour giving me loads of time to sift through emotions and decisions) I recognized that my passion had moved towards the lives, needs and rights of transgender and gender queer individuals. I also learned that during the same weekend when ex-gay survivors were going to gather in Florida,  a group of transgender, bisexual, queer folks were going to meet for the Transcending Boundaries Conference in Massachusetts.  I knew that although many of my friends planned to attend the event West Palm Beach, dear friends who I see too rarely, I understood that “my leading” as we say in Quaker circles was to attend Transcending Boundaries.

As soon as I made that decision, I understood that by not attending the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, I opened space for other leaders and potential leaders in the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement to step forward and fill the many spots that I have inhabited during previous gatherings. Christine Bakke has been a brilliant speaker and organizer, so I knew she would do a wonderful job at heading up the ex-gay survivor gathering. With Christine,  Dr. Jallen Rix, an ex-gay survivor with a new book coming out in March, will help facilitate the many activities that we have planned for the event. Daniel Gonzales will be on hand to share some of his experience and expertise.  Jacob Wilson will also be there to help with the press conference and other aspects of the gathering. Author and ex-gay survivor Anthony Venn-Brown will come from Australia along with former ex-gay leader Darlene Bogle from California. A new leader from Toronto will attend  as will a scholar from Virgina who has done extensive research into the ex-gay and ex-gay survivor movements. In other words, the gathering is in good hands.

So I head off to Vancouver today where I will be with youth this weekend from the United Church of Canada. (and I get to celebrate my friend Doris’ 40th birthday!) On November 18 I will take part in the Transgender Day of Remembrance in Seattle, then I head to Portland, OR to perform Transfigurations on November 19 at a United Methodist Church pastored by David Weeklely, who recently publicly announced that he is transgender. I also get to enjoy a long car ride with David and his lovely partner Deborah. The evening of the 19th I take the red-eye flight to Boston in order to get to the East Coast in time for Transcending Boundaries.

Click here to read more about my leading to work on transgender issues and concerns.

Click here to read more about what happens in Quaker meetings.

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Some of you know about Marvin Bloom from this very blog. Marvin has a long and complicated story. He is a Long Island Jew for Jesus and for some time had lived as an ex-gay, trying desperately to de-gay himself. After many trials and tribulations (including a stint in the Homo No Mo Halfway House) Marvin has been “re-gayed” and is now open about being gay, being Christian and well, being Marvin.  He recently has begun dating a transgender man named Tristian (who is not a Christian) and has shared lots of his experiences on the Trans-Ponder Podcast through his Moments with Marvin. Jayna and Mila, the show’s  hostesses are also brilliant artist and currently are drawing the Transfigurations graphic novel. You can see a sample here.

Last weekend Marvin made a surprise appearance at the TransForm Arizona event in Phoenix. In the following video Marvin gets introduced by his nemesis Elizabeth Jeremiah (of the Elizabeth Jeremiah Global Worldwide Ministries in Jesus) who claims, “Marvin goes around shoving the gay agenda down people’s throats; it always gets my gag reflex!”

Marvin teams up with Joe Stevens, the smoking hot and blistering cool singer from the duo Coyote Grace to sing about that ever elusive BLANK that so many of us desire. I conspired with my Rabbi friend Nina Mandel to come up with the words for Marvin and Joe. Enjoy!

YouTube link here.

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In this last month I have bopped around the US landing in PA, GA, NC, TN, MD,DC, IL (for a brief layover) and AZ! My body has finally landed home. I expect that like errant luggage, my soul will show up in a day or two just in time for my trip to Indiana starting Friday 🙂

Scene from Transfigurations

Scene from Transfigurations

At the Gay Spirit Visions conference (a spiritual event for male-identified people love men w/out excluding bisexuals) at the opening ceremony we were asked that  since it was the 20th anniversary of the gathering,  each person should think of a word that would describe them 20 years ago and one that describes them today. (22 year old Ryan suggested something like “toddler” for 20 year ago word.) For me words came immediately and stuck while we went from person to person sharing their words. As the talking stick came my way–a delicious phallic number replete with feathers–I said,

20 years ago? Delusional! Today? Mischief. 😛

Yeah, 20 years ago–1989 I was thinking about getting married to a woman. I lived as an ex-gay in New York City trusting God on a daily basis to keep me on the straight and narrow path only to find it to be a slippery slope of confusion, depression and despair.  De-gay myself seemed a noble course at the time and my only option. I deluded myself (society and in particular church leaders colluded with me or I with them) to believe that change from gay to straight was possible and most necessary or else all hell would break loose in my life. Over 10 years later I came to my senses and began to embrace reality and subsequently mental,  emotional and spiritual health.

To recover from years of church-sanctioned psychological torture, I came face to face with various taboos. I remember the first time I took Holy Communion with a group of gay Christians at the Integrity day long retreat in Memphis, TN. I felt certain I sat at the devil’s table and was about to further seal my fate of a life apart from God. I also remember another taboo,  when I intentionally had sex with a guy, my boyfriend at the time, so different from the deluded forays into cruisy parks as an ex-gay when I told myself and others, “Oh, I am just going for a walk in the woodland trails to enjoy the outdoors.” (yeah a regular squirrel searching for nuts!)

In my post-closet life I proclaimed in word and deeds that I rejoiced in the touch of a man and in sharing intimate sexuality with him. I rediscovered my faith and integrated it with the rest of me including my sexual orientation.  I also struggled with finding my way, of developing a moral code of conduct when for so many years my keepers insisted to me  over and over that gays could never live moral, self-controlled, responsible lives. I have had to undo lots of damage.

I came out and out day by day but not just gay. I came out as me–an artist, someone passionate about so many things in the world like veganism, feminism, anti-racist work, mystical spirituality in the tradition of the Quakers and the perfect Massaman curry. I came out artist and activist and ally and much more.  And I still come out. Most recently I encountered the sissy boy I had once been that for too long languished bound and gagged in the closet that once held so many of the parts of me that I have since liberated.

This past month has felt like a leg on what one may call The Magical Mischievous Tour. The stage serves as a faery venue where we enter alternate worlds, transform and dive deep into archetypes and in doing so face parts of ourselves suddenly revealed larger than life and tender as baby skin.

Tonight on my long trip across the country I received a message via Facebook from a man who attended the TransForm Arizona event and attended my performance of Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible. (See the GREAT photo above taken by Lori!) In his message he admits that he approached my work with caution,

To be honest, I really mostly avoid the Bible at this point in my life. Partly because of years of conservative Christian cultural influence on my life, and because of my personal history around not fitting into the boxes presented to me. So, it took a lot for me to sit through the beginning of the performance, however I was hopeful.

I imagine many folks, both transgender and cisgender (non-trans) approach my work with similar trepidation and doubts. When it comes to issues of sexuality, gender identity, variance and expression, not only have Christian church folks most often gotten it wrong, they aggressively attack sexual minorities and gender outlaws (as Kate Bornstein calls gender “transgressors”). In many ways I set myself up for derision and rejectionj–a non-transgender person doing a play about transgender Bible stories? Yeah, way to offend EVERYONE!

Instead I perceive I live and move in a magical theatrical space. Together my audience and I create a space where we drink deep from an ancient hidden well. The water is sweet and fresh. With the audience’s permission and participation, we create a magical moment. The man who attended Saturday’s performance wrote,

It was silent, but beyond silence. It was magic, but beyond that. It was a sacred and profound moment.

Magic. But mischievous too–this magic serves to undermine, subvert, and  challenge binaries and the religious-inspired war against all that some people declare perverted and wrong.  As performer and engaged audience we expose the perversion and wrongness of that misguided and costly war. With a few scarves I do mischief, well and with a lot of help from my friends both in the audience and the many transgender people who inform the emotional narrative of my piece. Strange how little opposition I get from some of these anti-queer religious folks who spew so much confusion and ugliness. Perhaps they see a gay guy flitting about on stage slathered with make-up, telling jokes, and they assume they have nothing to worry about.Little do they understand the insurrectionary nature of stories.

After a month of Mischief and Magic, I need to dwell in a more mundane place of laundry, bill paying and dust mites. After absorbing so many stories profound, tragic and triumphant, I need to find myself again, and for a time let the magical mischievous sprite rest a bit too.

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