Posts Tagged ‘UK’

My graduation from Love in Action

I am one of the loudest critics of “ex-gay” groups like Exodus International. You see, like so many others, there was a time I turned to Exodus for help. Weighed down with fear and shame over being gay and a deep desire to please God as I understood God at the time, I heard the bold hopeful promise–Change is Possible! I wanted to be a faithful servant of Jesus, and I did not care about the personal cost if it only meant I could hear my Savior say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” But in the end I was wrong–seriously wrong.

I thought I would be more valuable to God, the church, my family, and society if I rid myself of my “unwanted same-sex desires.” Instead I learned that it was not necessary to change my orientation, nor was it possible. Exodus now agrees with this and publicly announces that they do not offer cures.

Art by Ex-Gay Survivor, Christine Bakke

What I did not count on was the terrible toll it would take trying to change and suppress my orientation and gender differences.  And when it comes to harm, I am not alone. Alan Chambers, head of Exodus since 2001, estimates that his programs have a 70% failure rate (and he is their most enthusiastic spokesperson.) What happens to the 70%+ folks who leave the ex-gay world?

Exodus does not know because virtually no Exodus member ministry or counselor have any sort of follow-up or aftercare. Once you stop attending  they have no clue what is going on in your life.

In an effort to help promoters & providers of ex-gay ministry and reparative therapy learn about our experiences, we began to blog, post narratives, artwork, and articles. We wanted to educate Exodus leaders about the negative consequences of their program (and in churches that insisted we must go to war against our gay side in order to get a seat at the table.)

In 2007 we even went to various program headquarters, individual programs, churches with our stories and framed collages revealing some of our experiences.

Any sort of successful business values any data they can collect on customer satisfaction–particularly from the disgruntled. If nothing else for the pragmatic purpose that they want to improve so they can do more business. How much more is this essential for a group of ministers who want to offer loving pastoral care? Do they care?

But we get no response. No serious consideration of our claims. Like lots of big corporations who dismiss whistle blowers, Exodus International staff and Alan Chambers avoid our claims of harm and invalidate them. They spend energy crying foul about their free speech being denied by Apple yet they block their ears to the vital messages we have to tell them.

Yesterday Alan Chambers embarked on a Twitter good will tour of sorts explaining to people that he is reasonable and willing to listen and take questions. I took him up on this (after tweeting for days about Exodus and raising questions of harm) Through my Twitter account I asked:

@AlanMChambers @ExodusIntl Are you willing to dialogue w/ critics? Former participants?

His replied?

AlanMChambers Alan Chambers
@p2son dialogue is a 2 way. You’ve been to my office, know me personally and yet continue to say things that are untrue & inflammatory.

What has likely inflamed Alan is that I recently pointed out in a blog post and on Twitter that Exodus is not only an anti-gay group. They are also exceedingly pro-straight.

They believe that heterosexual marriage is morally and spiritually superior to two men or two women marrying. They have acted on this politically to block marriage equality. They believe that a gay orientation is condemned by God while a heterosexual orientation is holy in God’s eyes. Alan Chambers believes gay Christians have fallen short yet once a former homosexual takes an anti-gay stance in his life  he is right with God. Exodus teaches and believes that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, and queer people are inferior. Therfore, I concluded that Exodus is a straight supremacist organization.

I can see why this might inflame Alan. But surely he can see some truth in what I am saying even if he doesn’t like the language I use.

The other point that I have been making (for years) is the one I stated above. Most of us went to Exodus to improve our lives and faith were HARMED. That may be hard for someone like Alan Chambers to hear, especially if someone genuinely meant to help. For our part, many have taken responsibility to get our lives back on track.

I have spent at least 10 years in therapy undoing the damage of the treatment I received by Exodus ministers and others in the church who insisted I had to suppress or change my gay side and gender-variant expression.

I was not forced to attend Exodus programs like some of the youth in 2005-2007 in the Love in Action Refuge program. I got myself into the mess, so I have been working to get myself out. BUT that does not mean Exodus is free of their responsibility to take our claims seriously, to take stock of what they do and how they do it, and to consider the consequences for the people they say they want so much to help.

Former Ex-Gay Leaders Apologize

Jeremy Marks was head of Exodus Europe and ran an ex-gay program in England. He stayed in touch with former clients and was shocked to learn that his group was not helping anyone. Considering what he heard, he decided that change was indeed possible for his organization and learned how to affirm gays instead of incur further damage as a result of shame and bad teaching. He has since  issued a public apology for the harm he inadvertently caused to his clients.
Exodus leaders claim they simply want to help people who come to them with unwanted same-sex attractions. What they don’t understand is that they are not qualified to do so. For the most part they are untrained and unlicensed. They have a decided prejudice against the desires, relationships, faith, and lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trangender and queer people.

Yet year after year they operate the same way and never ever consider the harm they cause and the ways they can address this harm. They change their language — “We are not ex-gay. We do not cure. We are not anti-gay.” –But they do not change their message or methods. They play the martyr and do not consider their victims.

If you are someone who has been harmed as a result of trying to change or suppress your orientation or gender differences, through a program, counselor, or on your own, we have begun to look at creative ways to recover from this harm. We also connect with each other on a community site as we learn to live new lives of clarity, health, and authenticity. Please join us.

Share your story too on Twitter. Use the hash tag #exgaysurvivor to let Exodus and others know what sort of harm you experienced, what it has taken to recover, and what your life is like today.

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Peterson and Zack are off to the movies, but there’s a podcast to record first! This week we’re joined by a special guest! Shane is here to talk about his year in as an Irish exchange student in the United States. He talks about how he was prepared to visit the US, what he observed about higher education during his year of study here, and how American higher education affected his coming out process. If you’re really interested in foreign perspectives on our educational system or you just really enjoy hearing a cute Irish boy’s accent, then Episode 11 is for you!

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to this week’s episode

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

» Towleroad: A-Team’s Rampage Jackson: I Do Not Hate Gay People

» Thinking about critical thinking from Zack’s favorite undergraduate class.

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This will be one of those “this and that” sorts of blogs. Lots of things to highlight.

NEW podcast available of Queer & Queerer. Men as Feminists, Political Outing, and Archie You may find the discussion about outing homophobic politicians of interest as well as the one about privilege.  Have a listen here and check out the comment section.

I was recently in the Pacific North West and spent a week at University of Puget Sound with a bunch of VERY cool people including Jane (hey Jane!) We staged my play Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, and I am pleased to learn that a discussion continues.  Seth Kirby, who attended a number of my presentations, wrote an article: Gays and Lesbians often forced to choose between Identity and Faith.

Coming out in my teens and transitioning to male in my early 20s left me without a faith community. Had I wanted to go to church in Olympia, I’m not sure I would have been able to identify where to go. Even churches that accepted gay and lesbian people were not necessary open to transgender people. By 21, I was sure that religion was not for me.

Unfortunately, there are many people in the LGBT community who have had to leave their faith community. I am also fortunate to have many LGBT and allied people of various faith backgrounds in my life.

In Ex-Gay News… In the midst of the upcoming British elections, Rising Tory star Philippa Stroud ran prayer sessions to ‘cure’ gay (and transgender) people. From Sunday’s Guardian:

A high-flying prospective Conservative MP, credited with shaping many of the party’s social policies, founded a church that tried to “cure” homosexuals by driving out their “demons” through prayer.


The CSJ reportedly claims to have formulated as many as 70 of the party’s policies. Stroud has spoken of how her Christian faith has motivated her to help the poor and of her time spent working with the destitute in Hong Kong. On her return to Britain, in 1989, she founded a church and night shelter in Bedford, the King’s Arms Project, that helped drug addicts and alcoholics. It also counseled gay, lesbian and transsexual people.

Abi, a teenage girl with transsexual issues, was sent to the church by her parents, who were evangelical Christians. “Convinced I was demonically possessed, my parents made the decision to move to Bedford, because of this woman [Stroud] who had come back from Hong Kong and had the power to set me free,” Abi told the Observer.

“She wanted me to know all my thinking was wrong, I was wrong and the so-called demons inside me were wrong. The session ended with her and others praying over me, calling out the demons. She really believed things like homosexuality, transsexualism and addiction could be fixed just by prayer, all in the name of Jesus.”

hat tip to my friend Tania Jane Taylor (or in Twitterland known as Sparklygrrl) in Manchester.

The ex-gay story has been in the UK press a lot this past year. In February Patrick Strudwick publish his investigative journalism piece in the Independent. He went undercover to reveal some of what is still going on in the UK. The ex-gay world there had been mostly underground, especially after Jeremy Marks in 2001 transformed his ex-gay program Courage into an LGBT affirming Christian organization. Jeremy also has a book out he published in 2008 after he issued a public apology for his role in promoting and providing ex-gay treatment in the UK. (Click here to order in the UK. For North Americans, you can get it at Amazon.)

DADT protest April 20, 2010 with Autumn Sandeen

Check out Autumn Sandeen‘s brilliant and moving letter: President Obama: A Transgender Veteran Is Not An ”Impersonator,” ”It,” Or ”Shim” Autumn was one of LGBTQ people who did military service and recently chained themselves to the White House fence in order to put pressure on President Obama to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. She writes about her arrest as a transgender woman, who self-identified as transgender, and the uninformed and abusive treatment she received from Park Police and once in confinement. Oh, and hear the Trans-Ponder podcast interview with Autumn.

Calling transgender people “it” is clearly a way of dehumanizing transgender people. “Shim” — a term relative to “she-male” — is also a dehumanizing term to identify transgender people.  President Obama, your U.S. Marshal calling me “it” and “the shim” is the equivalent to calling an African-American by the n-word, or calling a Gay-American by the antigay f-word, it is absolutely unacceptable.

I believe the behavior of your U.S. Marshal’s sent the message to the prisoners that your representatives wouldn’t protect me if these prisoners had sought to physically harm me — because I was a less than human, a “shim.”  At no time did any officer correct or dissuade any of the other officers from such offensive behaviors.  In fact, they seemed to feel comfortable in doing so around each other, even in front of other prisoners.

President Obama, you should be able to identify the U.S. Marshal who raised her fist and yelled “Go Navy” several times, and called me “it” and “shim” because there is a fixed camera facing the U.S. Marshal Station. I’ve asked Jeff Lynch of the DC Trans Coalition to help me file a Freedom Of Information Act request for that segment of video — because I too would like to see the video, and I’m sure too that many others would like to see it as well.

As for me, I am back in the Susquehanna Valley (Selinsgrove and Sunbury, PA) working on my memoir, moving into the new house and recording a new podcast with Zack Ford tomorrow where we will look at legal and illegal discrimination of LGBT folks, a shocking verbal revelation (thanks to Peter Leeson’s recent comments to us about Episode three. check out Peter’s Tweets and Blog Posts)

In New England? Make plans to attend TransformNH in Concord, NH July 23-24. I will be there!

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Homo Repair Shop in Winq

Last spring I met with journalist Adrian Tippetts in London, and we talked at length about my experiences in the ex-gay movement and since. He must have inspired a lot of trust because as I read the piece as it appears in Winq magazine (global queer culture), I find lots of revealing things about my wild sex life, the street work I did (as an missionary to the gay community in NYC–a different sort of sex worker), my marriage, my faith previous and current and much much more. Here is a sample from the three page spread in which we explore my time at Nyack College (a Christian and Missionary Alliance School) and my first forays into the gay & ex-gay worlds in NYC during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early 80’s)

And so began sessions of highly selective Bible study and prayer sessions. He was remarkably well accepted by his fellow students, who encouraged him in his struggle against his sexuality. In a sprawling, foreboding and lonely city, Peterson was glad to have a loving, supporting community at the College, who all knew about his ‘problem’ and admired his attempt to address it. Being a Christian college, Nyack College strongly encouraged its students to take part in outreach activities. He and his colleagues would witness every Saturday night in Greenwich Village, in order to save souls in the heart of New York’s gay district. During that time of fear, they were surprisingly welcomed by the community, as Peterson recalls: “Our Bible study meetings were full – dozens of people doing everything they can not to be gay. With Aids devastating the local community, we felt as if we had created our very own Noah’s Ark, collecting all the gays and saving them from having sex. It was meant with the very best intentions – and even now, there are out, happy gay people who believe that being part of this ministry actually saved their lives.” Peterson joined Life Ministries, who supported the Nyack mission to the gay community, which provided his first introduction to Exodus, the national ‘umbrella’ group of ministries that aimed to help people out of homosexuality. The group today claims over 230 ministries worldwide.

You can download the article ex-gay movement peterson toscano, ex-gay survivor, debunks the myths. Check out some of Adrian’s other pieces that cover queers in football, Iraq, in the military and more.

And if you want to hear me talk about ex-gay stuff in Spanish, check out the recent episode on the Don Francisco Presenta program. Dr. Alberto Dominquez was AMAZING on it, so I just sat and looked pretty, but I did get to talk about the almost always disastrous marriages between ex-gay men and straight women. I repeat more than once about the harm that can come from attempting to suppress or change one’s sexuality. I base this on the over 1500 people I have met personally who have outlined to me the harm they have experienced as a result of their time in ex-gay treatments and in a world that insists that you are worth more straight. Lies. You are a person of great worth and you can live in those riches when you are authentic and honest and live in reality.

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In my play Queer 101–Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs I perform a scene as two characters–Chad, a queer studies major who has to take over the introductory to quee theory class since Dr. Eugenes, the transgender professor is out that day, and Federico Garcia Lorca, the early 20th Century Spanish poet and playwright. (see scene below).
The audience learns pretty quickly in the play that Chad is not what they expect. Instead he reveals he is intelligent, deep thinking, insightful and willing to expose injustice. At first though they just see a fem guy and make all sorts of assumptions about him and about me for portraying him as a fem guy. 
Take a look at the scene and then I’ll tell you how I have been using it lately. 
Often I speak at various venues and then do a series of excerpts from my various plays. I almost always present the scene above as I did at the Lambeth Conference when I was invited to speak their last year.  The scene with Federico ends with Chad saying, "Federico wasn’t just another pretty face; he was someone of substance. And because of his political beliefs in the midst of a fascist dictatorship and because he was openly gay, they killed him."
After a pause I come out of character and address the audience and explain that many people hide parts of themselves. They expend a great deal of energy to cover the fact that  they are transgender, lesbian, bisexiual, gay. Often they do this because they fear death. In some cases and far too many places they fear actual death, violence perpetuated against them by people on the streets, from their governments or in some cases from their own family and friends. But there are other deaths that people face which keep them from being fully open and honest about themselves–
  • the death of vital relationships–parents, siblings, friends
  • the death of a career dream or a call to ministry
  • the death that comes from losing their place in a faith community that has meant so much to them
This fear of death can keep people silenced and on personal lock down for decades. They may slowly emerge in anonymous venues like on-line communities, but far too many live half in and half out of the closet, never fully present, never sure how they stand in the world, desperately needing to come out but desperately afraid of the consequences. 
I know what it is like to exist in this way and the extreme relief of finally coming out along with the losses that comming out can bring. In my presentation I then read this poem I wrote about the half in/half out living.


We speak riddles to ourselves,
in whispers,
“I am OK”

But strapped to our backs
We bear a wardrobe,
the opposite of that portal to Narnia,

a closet that dumps us into a smaller world,
a cramped, musty place of shadows.

“I don’t want to upset my mother.”
“My brother will never understand.”
“No need to flaunt it.”
“It’s only a tiny
part of me.”

A part muffled in a velvet-lined padded valise,
Jammed in the back of a wardrobe,
besides dusty boxes of dreams and desires,
A place where we speak riddles to ourselves.

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Last night Glen and I watched the 1968 movie classic Lion in Winter, based on the play of the same name which premiered on Broadway in 1966. So many memorable quotes from this grand drama of a royal dysfunctional family! Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine exudes  bitchiness and wisdom as she breezes through each scene with her dry drawl.

In one scene the three sons squabble, well this happens in most scenes. Phillip pulls a knife on his brother John. The dialogue bristles with snark and insight.

Prince John: A knife! He’s got a knife!

Eleanor: Of course he has a knife, he always has a knife, we all have knives! It’s 1183 and we’re barbarians!

How clear we make it. Oh, my piglets, we are the origins of war: not history’s forces, nor the times, nor justice, nor the lack of it, nor causes, nor religions, nor ideas, nor kinds of government, nor any other thing. We are the killers. We breed wars. We carry it like syphilis inside. Dead bodies rot in field and stream because the living ones are rotten. For the love of God, can’t we love one another just a little – that’s how peace begins. We have so much to love each other for. We have such possibilities, my children. We could change the world.

As a Quaker I adore Eleanor’s lines. The Religious Society of Friends has long maintained a Peace Testimony, yet we are not without our own attitude. As I often remark during my presentation,

We are Quaker. We don’t get violent, just passive aggressive.

I’ll share another quote below. But first, I have some pictures to share with Sheria from SA. (Soon I will have some for Cary in Ireland!).  I am sure Sheria won’t mind if you take a look too. My laptop is ill, so I had a ton of photos from the last half of my UK/Europe trip that I never posted. I recently bought an incredibly light and inexpensive Acer netbook and have just loaded up some pictures. So here goes:

Trevor's house & garden

Trevor's house & garden

Pretty & Pungent

Pretty & Pungent

Chestnut tree detail

Chestnut tree detail

Festive Tulips

Festive Tulips

Midsummer performance

Midsummer performance

Cotswold stone wall

Cotswold stone wall

Southampton Quaker's Garden

Southampton Quaker's Garden

Peak District stream

Peak District stream

Flower by Peak District stream

Flower by Peak District stream

Glen & Mark at Giants Causeway

Glen & Mark at Giants Causeway

Glen on Southern Welsh Coast

Glen on Southern Welsh Coast

And this photo of the dishy Glen Retief reminds me of a quote from Lion in Winter (a favorite I share with my Seattle friend Jane–Holding you in the Light today as you attend your conference!) Speaking of her wanderlust and love of travel, she remarks

Eleanor: I even made poor Louis take me on Crusade. How’s that for blasphemy. I dressed my maids as Amazons and rode bare-breasted halfway to Damascus. Louis had a seizure and I damn near died of windburn… but the troops were dazzled.

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Packed day ahead! Currently I am in Newcastle, Northern Ireland where I will give two presentations at a local state-run school first for 15-year-olds and then for 14-year-olds. We will talk about bullying, homophobia, and identity as we play various theater (and theatre) games. I imagine I will perform the Identity Monologue and a scene between Chad and Federico Garcia Lorca from Queer 101.

Sandwiched in between I will sit for a live interview with William Crawley of BBC Radio Ulster. He wants to talk about the Ex-Gay Movement and in particular the plight of survivors who have experienced harm because their attempts (and the attempts of others in their lives) to change and suppress their orientation and gender differences. The show will run during lunch time today (from around 12:15-1:15). Have a listen here.

In the evening I head to Queens University in Belfast to offer a talk for the university’s LGBTQ Soceity. The talk is entitled Homo No Mo?!? Orientation, Gender and the Ex-Gay Movement. The ex-gay movement and treatments to “de-gay” homosexuals became a very hot topic in Northern Ireland, when Iris Robinson, the wife of the First Minister, publically promoted reparative therapy. Earlier in the year Jeremy Marks, who once headed an ex-gay program that has since changed to become pro-LGBT spoke at Queens University. Opponents showed up and asked surreal questions like, “Do you believe in hell?”

In my experience much of the ex-gay movement and many churches’ teachings on gay issues get so soaked in fear and shame that people struggle to think clearly about it all. Many of us soaked in fears of not pleasing God, of messing up and getting a fatal disease, of ending up in an eternity of torment, then mixed in we marinated in shame especially when religious leaders blames us for not trying hard enough to alter our sexuality and questioned our sincerity. True concerns mixed with superstious fears kept many of us suspended in an irrational lifestyle where we defered to other people’s wills and plans for our lives. In all of the panic and shaming, we struggled to discover God’s will for our lives opting for the default setting traditional views foisted upon us.

I remember the day back in December 1998, when after 17 years of pursuing a variety of ex-gay treatments, I finally understood that “change” as it had been promised was not possible nor was it beneficial, in fact, it caused considerable harm. I had no clue at the time what would happen if I defied the orders of the religious leaders in my life, and it felt terrifying. What is going to happen now???! What happened shocked me–clarity, peace, a deeper relationship with God, sanity, health. In Christian language–The Fruit of the Holy Spirit.

I remember at an action we held in Memphis last year and two signs that ex-gay survivor Jacob Wilson held up at different parts of the day. Sign was Change at What Cost??? and the other, a positive reminder–Integrity Changes Lives.

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The other day I am awoken from a truly bizarre dream (it was a Western, but that wasn’t the weird part) to a phone call from the producer of Religion and Ethics programming for BBC radio. She wanted to book me into a studio for about two hours so that I can sit for multiple 10-minute interviews with virtually every BBC local station in the UK. The topic–transgender and gender-variant Bible characters.

Soooo, Saturday night after my show in Oxford, Glen (my partner who will be on tour with me for the next week as we go to Northern Ireland and Wales) will travel to London so that I can begin these interviews at 7:00  Sunday morning. I wish I could offer some sort of schedule, but I think it will be all over the place where I will pop up in several local religion and ethics type programs around the UK. I feel grateful to have this opportunity to share this material in such a personal setting. Having worked in radio, I know what an intimate and effective medium it can be.

Now I have to sort out what I will and will not say about my play, Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible. I don’t want to give away too many secrets, but I do want to communicate the wonder of some of these Bible stories as I help audiences understand that the interpretations are not at all far-fetched.

Probably they will also ask me about my ex-gay past and the many years I tried to change and suppress my gay orientation and gender differences. I will also look for ways to talk about faith and especially how helpful it has been to be among Quakers.

I imagine I will share the story in the video below. Any of you who have seen the play, please comment you think that I should or could say. Also for transgender people and allies, if you have any thoughts that you think would be useful to communicate to an audience that may know little about transgender issues, please leave a comment too.

Just received the schedule of where I will pop up on BBC and when

0720 STOKE
0730 TEES

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Recently I spoke at a well-known British university where I gave a talk about the Ex-Gay Movement and particularly about my own journey attempting to de-gay myself.  In the talk I spoke about what happens in many programs and treatments that attempt to alter someone’s orientation and gender expression. I went into the many reasons why someone might choose this course (you can see video of these reasons here) and shared what I found to be the outcome for well over a thousand people I have personally met (at least 100 in the UK) who found that such treatments caused considerable damage.

Interspersed with my talk I performed excerpts from my plays Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, Queer 101–Now I Know my gAy,B,Cs, and Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible. I ended as I often do with my Identity Monologue. We had plenty of time for discussion, and the very full audience asked insightful questions.

After the presentation I learned that some members of the university’s Student Christian Union attended the event. This thrilled me as these Christian Unions often adhere to traditional Evangelical lines that can promote and even at times provide treatment designed to alter a gay Christian’s sexuality. I felt pleased that they were present so that they could see how the ex-gay route is not appropriate pastoral care for gays and lesbians.

A few days later I heard through a friend at the university about the reaction of some of the Christian Union students:

It was all very interesting, but since he is not a Christian, we don’t have to listen to him.

Strange, I believe I mentioned more than once that I am a Christian and how much I value the Bible and my faith in Jesus. But then again I remember how I used to classify people during my own Conservative Evangelical days as TRUE Christian or FALSE Christian (with subcategories of worldly, fleshy, New Age and demonic). In the minds of these Christian Union members I am not a proper Christian, therefore irrelevant in a discussion about faith matters (or sexuality or creation or anything that might present an alternate view to their own).

Yeah, I used to do that too. It proved an effective means to shut out any contrary thought that might cause me to engage in critical thinking. What troubles me in regards to this particular presentation and the Christian Union students’ reaction is that I spoke out of my experience not my theology. I served as eye-witness to what I encountered during nearly two decades of ex-gay treatment. But since they judged me not Christian, they concluded that they could discount my testimony and thus avoid responsibility towards their own actions and beliefs regarding gays and lesbians.

(I can only wonder that certain celestial beings may find displeasure in mere mortals doing all this judgement work before the appointed time.)

This shutting out alternative voices through judging them unsound sources serves as a subtle yet powerful dehumanizing (and de-spiritualzing) method. Progressive Liberals do the same thing when we discount anything a Conservative says as wacko Right Wing ranting. We can reduce those different from us to a simple classification.

In fact, even in this post, my own brief description of the members of the Student Christian Union who attended my talk placed them in a certain box. For all I know only one out of a dozen members of this group made the statement about my Christian faith while most of the others considered what I said and have added it to the knowledge-base they have on the subject and will thoughtfully reflect on what they heard. Their personalities, the quirks, the interests, the diverse fields of study and experience they have get lost when I place people in categories.

Sure we find it helpful and necessary at times to understand in part the philosphy and world view of a certain person or group by assigning a name or category–Fundamentalist, Liberal, Vegan, Quaker, Fascist, Rebublican, Post-Modern, etc. But we can also filter out important information because of the the label we affix to a person.

Long ago in a little Pentecostal Holiness house church I attended in Yonkers, NY, one of the elders of the group pronounced,

Truth is truth, no matter who says it.

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Recently I attended a Friends Meeting (Quaker) in England where I am currently on tour and despaired when an odd message began to form in my head (or heart or spirit or wherever these messages form).

For those of you who don’t know about how many Quaker meetings work, we gather in silence.  Typically we don’t have a greeting or opening statements, we just sit and hopefully settle down to listen. Then we listen some more. In my case I sit and seek to pay attention to God. I stop the frenzied musings that clog my head, push to the side all of the pressing issues, concerns and interests that typically occupy me, and like lower case paul who reads this blog, I attempt to be still and know God.

If someone in the meeting feels they have something to share, they can stand up and give brief “vocal ministry” to the group. For my part I go through an intense process of trying to figure out if the thought in my head is simply meant for me to consider, for the group, or just drift wood landing on the shore of my consciousness. I also sit with with the message to see if I should give it right then and there or if it is something better left to a later time. Once I spent over six months with the same message sitting in the queue of my brain waiting and watching for the green light to share it. For me it is an intuitive process where I simply know that it is right and the right time. No doubt I get it wrong sometimes, and if the Quaker process works well, someone will “elder” me and suggest that perhaps my message did not rise to the level of vocal ministry (which is a nice way of saying yours was a rubbish message that interrupted what could have been a nice quiet meeting.)

At the Quaker meeting I recently attended there was a spate of messages on a variety of topics, and I confess I judged that most of them did not move or affect me (but then it is not all about me). At one point it got outright chaotic (well in Quaker terms) when one person rose to speak for the second time in the meeting (it is generally understood that a person typically will only give a message once during a meeting). During her second message the Friend shared how she has a particular mental illness and has been feeling much better lately.  Then she sat down. Another woman immediately got up and began to sermonize about how she didn’t believe there was such a thing as mental illness, but before she could go further, the woman who spoke up previously stood and pronounced, You silly girl, and then exited the meeting. This effectively silenced the “silly girl” who then sat down. True Quaker drama! (I confess that seeing the woman with the mental illness stand up and speak truth to foolishness inspired and pleased me.)

As these things often go, the meeting sorted itself out and as it continued on in silence and some less dramatic messages. In the midst of these proceedings words formed in my head, strange wacky words that I did not wish to share. That’s all these British Quakers needed after such a dramatic series of events to have the American Quaker stand up and give an odd-ball message. Since they scheduled me to speak to the meeting for an hour later in the day, I sat on my message, wrote it down then told it to my audience along with the rest of my presentation.

And what was the wacky message???

A Quaker, a warthog and a palm tree walk into a pub. Looking up from behind the counter, the bartender shouts, “Hey, we don’t serve your kind here!”

The three look at each other.

The Quaker thinks, “What a pity and shame the injustice these two face in the world. I must organize a committee,” and the Quaker immediately leaves the pub.

The warthog snorts, “I have been kicked out of better holes than this one!” and warthog stomps out the door.

The palm tree, which comes from a long line of palm trees that have weathered great storms, bending to withstand mighty winds, settles itself there in the pub. It takes in carbon dioxide and puts out oxygen. It cleanses the dingy air and flourishes.

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I write from Southampton where I have a performance tonight at the Uni, but tomorrow night, due to popular demand, I will return to London for a performance of Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible.

St. Saviour Pimlico
Parish Hall
Lupus Street
(across from Pimlico Station)
London UK SW1V 9AL
Phone: 07788594018
Trans Bible Characters??? You betcha!

In this one-person play, theatrical performance activist, Peterson Toscano, unearths transgender Bible characters–those people who do not fit in the gender binary, and who in transgressing and transcending gender, find themselves at the center of some the Bible’s most important stories. For more info, check out Transfigurations-Transgressing Gender in the Bible

Peterson will also do excerpts from his plays Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House and The Re-Education of George W. Bush

Free! All welcome

There is a Facebook event page set up.  Do tell your friends. Without actually seeing the play, one web report states,

Toscano is someone who has apparently trawled the Bible and attempted to find in it references to people who ‘do not fit the gender binary’.   This sort of argument is  not uncommon and anyone who had encountered it will know just how the desire to find such leads to a twisted and selective reading into the text of Scripture, yet sadly many who dismiss the plain teaching of Scripture seem enthralled by such perverse handling of the text.

Um, no. I have a feeling that most people who actually see the performance will see that I work well within accepted Bible interpretation. That said, even gay and lesbian Christians have confided that they initially came to the show with a high level of suspicion that they would see some over-the-top, wild interpretation. They confess that they experienced something quite different, a gentle unfolding of narrative that inspired them. 

Do tell your London friends. You can see my complete schedule here.

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Statue of St. Edmund

Statue of St. Edmund

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I will spare you several thousand and share these phtos from Bury St. Edmunds and Ge0rge Bernard Shaw’s home. Ruth Ann and Ken were my hosts in BSE and Auntie Doris hosted me in Hatfield and brought me around on Saturday to see the sites.

Statue of St. Edmund

Statue of St. Edmund

Abbey ruins at Bury St. Edmunds

Blossoms in Bury St. Edmonds

Blossoms in Bury St. Edmonds

George Bernard Shaw's rotating writing hut

George Bernard Shaw's rotating writing hut

Interior of George Bernard Shaw's writing hut

Interior of George Bernard Shaw's writing hut

Blossoms in Shaws' Garden

Blossoms in Shaws' Garden

Blue Bells in Shaw's garden

Blue Bells in Shaw's garden

Flowers in Shaw's garden

Flowers in Shaw's garden

Auntie Doris & the Mister

Auntie Doris & the Mister

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