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Posts Tagged ‘TransForm Arizona’

Job of the Week

After a few days rest from the wonders of Oslo, I head off this morning on Amtrak for the beginning of a three week jaunt that will take me to (in order) Hartford, CT, Philadelphia, PA, Boston, MA, Providence, RI, Seattle WA. That’s week one 🙂 Actually once I get to Washington State I settle for a week in Tacoma at University of Puget Sound as their Artist in Residence.

First I have some other presentations to do. On Saturday night I will give a speech at the Connecticut Outreach Society Banquet.

The Connecticut Outreach Society (COS) is a support group for transgendered individuals and their spouses or significant others. Membership in COS is open to all crossdressers, transsexual ( both MtF and FtM ) and gender variant individuals, spouses, and significant other of legal age regardless of gender, race, creed, or sexual orientation as well as to interested medical and mental health professionals. We provide a safe place where crossdressers and transgender individuals may meet and socialize. We meet twice monthly in the Hartford area with members from all over Connecticut as well as from southern Massachusetts.

I know a few people who will attend, so it will be a reunion of sorts for me since moving from Hartford in January. I get to see fellow blogger Diana in her little corner of the Nutmeg State. (She’s going to be my ride and let me know if I am wearing the appropriate ensemble) My topic: Why the LGB NEEDS the T.

We do not need any reason or motivation to do justice work other than someone is being mistreated. Period. We don’t have to relate to them or their story or their identity.  It should be enough that injustice is happening somewhere. But sadly in this capitalistic age  minorities compete for a place at the table and oppressions get recreated around the table based on class, race, gender, gender presentation and orientation (woe to the bisexuals at the table who never get passed the mashed potatoes.) As my friend Tania in the UK commented to me,

There are two obvious  reasons T should be part of LGB

  • we have the same enemies and adversaries who make no distinction between out sub-groups,
  • we are fighting for the same or similar rights and respect with marriage, healthcare, job security etc

In addition to those two, I will highlight others. Not that the trans folks present don’t already know this, but as part of justice work, I think it is important that I state it publicly (and will continue to state it over the next several months in other presentations and writing.)

On Sunday I will do a performance at Friends Central School of Queer 101–Now I Know My gAy,B,C’s. I will spend the whole of Monday at this Philadelphia Quaker school doing a variety of presentations. According to my agent’s schedule (he is so efficient!)

8:30 – 9:00 – Set up in Meeting Room with Josh (faculty light and sound man)

9:00 – 10:00 – Speak on faith journey as a Quaker in all-school assembly in Meeting Room

10:00 -10:40 – Meet with Al’s all-senior class on “Sex and Society” in the Meeting Room

11:00 -11:55 – Break and tour of campus with GSA core team

11:55- 12:30 – Lunch with Middle School Teachers in Room 10.

12:30 – 1:10 – Lunch with Gay-Straight Alliance and interested Quaker Young Leader Students in Dining Hall (I get TWO lunches! That’s my kinda school)

1:10 – 1:50 – Meet with Robyn’s “Quakerism” Classes back across the hall in the Meeting Room.  – 2 classes combined.

1:50 – 2:30 p.m – Meet with students in the Writing Workshop in Wood 22.

2:30 – 3:10 p.m . – Debrief with Robyn and Al in Wood 25.

I have already begun working on my faith journey as a Quaker talk, and feel especially pleased to present it to a group of high school students since it was Quaker high schoolers (the Young Friends) who helped me to salvage my faith after my catastrophic breakup with Evangelicalism.

Peterson about to Transfigure

The next morning I will do a presentation on bullying over at Abington Friends Middle School. Then I head back up the East coast to Boston. On Wednesday March 24th I will present Transfigurations Transgressing Gender in the Bible at Northeastern University. See details here. For those of you who do not know, this play explores the stories and lives of gender non-conformist in the Bible and the world today. I play multiple characters and multiple genders. While in Boston I will also get to worship at Cambridge Friends Meeting for their mid-week service AND I get to hang out with my friend Wendy, a grounded, thoughtful and wise Friend.

From Boston I shoot over (up? down?) to Providence to present Doin’ Time with Peterson Toscano at Brown University. In this show I get to do a bunch of excerpts from four different plays (including the newest I Can See Sarah Palin from my Window!) My Friend Elizabeth has been trying to get me to Brown for some time, so I am thrilled it is happening at last!

After Providence I fly to Seattle, WA where I will spend the weekend with a fellow Ex-Gay Survivor and his partner. He had been through many ex-gay experiences and has done a lot of work to reclaim his life and undo the damage. Ron and I always have deep conversation and great food. I always walk away feeling affirmed.

On March 28 I head to Tacoma where I will serve as Artist in Residence for University of Puget Sound. Similar to my time at Warren Wilson College in February, at UPS I will teach classes, perform and connect with students. On March 31 as part of Transgender Day of Awareness, I will perform Transfigurations, but inserted between each scene individuals from the trans community with share something from their lives. Included in the presenters will be David Weekley, a pastor from Portland who came out trans to his congregation last year, and a wonderful poet from Seattle named Cole. We did this in Seattle for TDOR and it deepened the performance considerably.

David Weekley

In addition to seeing David’s wife Deborah on the 31st, (and I think seeing Kriss from Portland) I ALSO have the added pleasure of hanging out all week with my friend Jane, who like me survived Pentecostal Holiness church experiences, and who has a wicked sense of humor. (We really need to have a camera in the car with us as we whirled around and spin off into all sorts of crazy characters and do improv as we get lost–I’m sure our former oppressors would see that as a metaphor 😛 ) She is the mastermind behind my visit and is the world’s best stage manager (at the Seattle TDOR she jumped in last minute to do my pre-show speech since I couldn’t do a voice over).

Thanks to the efforts of Laura, someone I know from Tacoma who contacted me via Facebook, I will also do a presentation at the Rainbow Center.

The Rainbow Center is a safe, accessible and welcoming community space for meetings, activities and events that strengthen the lives of people in our community. We support Greater Pierce County by providing a centralized source of information and referral for and about the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. We provide visibility to the history, culture and diversity of our communities.

Maybe I will do my new Rainbow Monologue that I premiered at TransFormAZ last spring. In it I express my grief after years of gender policing and oppression by religious leaders and organizations only to find similar patterns of oppression exercised and rigidly maintained by gay and lesbian people, spaces and organizations. In the monologue I share my shock and anger over this and join with the audience in committing to a community where “everyone has a place at the table. Everyone’s story is important, and we listen deeply to each other.” And when we see there is an injustice, we act.

You can see my whole performance schedule here. Feel free to send me notes via FB, comments or e-mails over the next two weeks. The road gets lonely at times and I get tired out easily. Even Joe Gee’s snarky remarks cheer me. 😛 And it will be good to be that much closer to Mila & Jayna (come up and see me ladies!)

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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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Here is just a teaser of the work that Jayna and Mila, of the amazing Trans-Ponder Podcast,  have begun on the Transfigurations graphic novel. Transfigurations is a one-person play I wrote and perform about transgender and gender variant Bible characters. Since I premiered it in November 2007, lots of different types of people have enthused about it–Christians, atheists, transgender people, little old ladies in Wales, I mean loads of people.

The play has spawned other projects including a musical that is in the works with the songs and lyrics by the amazing Steve Schalchlin (I know I have been working with him on a project for some time when I can spell his last name correctly the first shot.) A book and a DVD will also be in the works. But the project I am most excited about is the graphic novel.

Jayna and Mila are expert artists who not only display prowess with their drawings. They also tell stories graphically employing humor and movement to evoke tone. Check out their Full Drawn Studios site to get a sense of the tremendous work they do.

So here it is the world premiere of a scene from the Transfigurations graphic novel. This is still in draft form–color and text still will be added. If you have seen the play, see if you can name the character and the action. Oh adn if you beg and say all kinds of nice things, I may put up another page 🙂

DeborahTransfigure001aLowRezWater

If you want to see the play for yourself, then you need to get yourself to Phoenix for the TransForm Arizona Conference October 16,17,18. Rumors are swirling that my friend Marvin Bloom will be there (and may do a duet with Joe from Coyote Grace!) Mila and Jayna will also be there. They are so famous now, they may even sign your skin so that you can get a tatoo of it! Check out my full schedule here.

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Anyone who has ever been in any sort of ex-gay treatment designed to “de-gay” or “de-lesbian” them, will know that often the “therapies” extend beyond looking at sexuality and tend to dabble a lot with gender. We can joke about the football clinics for the guys and the Mary Kay makeovers for the gals, but beyond the ridiculous, the ex-gay movement is one that demands gender normative presentation and behavior. As a result, many gender-variant and transgender people of faith have ventured into ex-gay ministries and “therapist” offices for gender-normative treatments before they were able to accept and appreciate their gender identity and presentation.

Years of bullying on the playground, at the dinner table, in church youth groups, on the job,  and on the streets can weigh on a person who feels they do not fit into the rigid gender binary enforced by the culture. Without seeing representations of individuals with transgender histories or gender variance, they can feel unique and all alone in a struggle to find their place in the world. The pressure to conform to the only norms available (especially when these are reinforced through religion and the threat of violence in this world and the next) often causes a person to seek change.

I like to think of it as the Gender Melting Pot. One gets placed in the male or the female Gender Melting Pot and then under the intense heat they begin to misshapen and disintegrate into the gender normative muck the chefs envision. I would much prefer a Gender Stew where we all get to mix and mingle, influencing and seasoning (marrying flavors?) but we retain our individual taste and texture.

At Gender Odyssey (a delicious Gender hot and steamy cassarole) earlier this month I met Francie Milazzo, a male to female transgender woman who attended my workshop Homo No Mo?!? Gender and Orientation in the Ex-Gay Movement. Both in the workshop and afterward Francie shared how much her experience of struggling to understand and affirm herself as a male-bodied person with a growing awareness of a female identity brought her into contact with Christian groups that supported her in her many failed attempts to live life as a heterosexual male. She writes about her experience as a trans woman struggling as a Christian.

This was also my first time living away from home and a time of extreme loneliness.  Seeing no alternative, I tried to play the gender role expected of me and sought companionship with a woman, purging my female wardrobe and stopping the hormones for months or years at a time.  To conceal my complete ignorance on dating, I studied Christian books on the subject.   On two occasions I promised before an ordained minister to play the husband’s role dictated by Scripture, although I never revealed the hidden feelings that I mistakenly believed would be “cured” through my efforts.

Through the years this deception brought me to despair, robbed me of hope, joy and dignity and withdrew me ever farther from God and into myself and away from those I cherished. Although I never revealed my inner self in my first marriage, that was destroyed by the stress of my suppressed feelings and my lack of a male soul to play the part. Refusing to see my own fault, I married again after 5 years.  In that relationship, my children and I suffered physical and emotional abuse, breaking up the family and bringing me to desperation and two unsuccessful suicide attempts.

Fortunately for Francie, she found a way out of that despair and learned how to be authentic about herself leading to psychological, emotional and spiritual health. You can read more of her story here. Para Un Testimonio de una Cristiana Transgénera oprima para español.

At Beyond Ex-Gay, the organization for ex-gay survivors, we have featured narratives of transgender people as well as highlighting transgender concerns. While we recognize differences in regards to sexual orientation and gender, we also see lots of overlap and shared experiences. On our FAQ section, where we attempt to be entertaining as well as informative, we write:

What about trans and genderqueer people?

Male/Female sign(cricket, cricket)

In the ex-gay world not much is said or done about trans folks (sometimes neglect has its privileges). But many trans folks experience pressure to change and “act normal” by parents, faith communities, schools and neighborhoods.

A big part of our ex-gay experiences have had more to do with gender than actual sexual activity and desire. Act your gender! is the message we heard directly and indirectly.

But it’s not so simple. Sometimes the outside doesn’t match the inside, and in the case of intersex folks, one’s sex is not easily discerned.

The relentless push from society for trans and genderqueer folks to “change,” to conform or to just disappear remains, even among many gays and lesbians who express transphobia through words, action and inaction.

To read more about a gay man with a trans experience, read Alex’s Narrative.

Beyond Ex-Gay is very pleased to be one of the sponsors for the upcoming TransForm Arizona conference in Phoenix Oct 16, 17 and 18. In addition to performing my play Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, I will also offer my workshop on Gender and Orientation in the Ex-Gay Movement.

At our new Beyond Ex-Gay Community site we seek a diversity of peole with ex-gay experiences including transgender and gender-variant individuals. Although many people went into ex-gay/gender-norm treatment because of religiuos reasons, we are not a religious organization. For many moving beyond their religious backgrounds has been part of the recovery while others have found ways of rediscovering their former religious practice or found a new practice. We have atheists, Christians, agnostics, pagans, neo-Evangelicals, post-Christians, post-Toastie Christians and much more. What draws us together is our shared experience of trying to change something fundamental about ourselves only to discover that pursuing such a change caused much more harm than good.
Like at the upcoming TransForm Arizona event, at Beyond Ex-Gay we seek to unite the T with the LGB. Below is the ad (beautifully designed by Christine Bakke, bXg co-founder) that will appear in the program guide . BXGHalfPgHorzAd

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