Peterson Toscano

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Peterson Toscano
Peterson Toscano.jpg
Born (1965-02-17) February 17, 1965 (age 52)
Stamford, Connecticut
Nationality United States
Alma mater City College of NY
Spouse Glen Retief[1]

Peterson Toscano (born February 17, 1965 in Stamford, Connecticut) is a playwright, actor, Bible scholar, blogger, podcaster, and gay activist. Toscano spent nearly two decades undergoing ex-gay treatment and conversion therapy[2] before accepting his sexual orientation and coming out as a gay man. He has since shared his experiences internationally through various media outlets, especially plays. His talks and performances use comedy and storytelling to explore LGBTQ issues, religion, and climate change.[3]

Ex-gay experiences[edit]

Due to his conservative Christian beliefs, Toscano spent seventeen years as part of the ex-gay movement attempting to alter his sexual orientation through conversion therapy and faith-based ex-gay programs.[2] In addition to receiving pastoral counseling, conversion therapy,[4] and discipleship training, he attended several ex-gay programs including Life Ministries in New York City (1983–1991)[5] and the residential ex-gay program Love in Action in Memphis, Tennessee (July 1996-October 1998).[6]

The conflict between his beliefs and his sexuality led him to consider suicide.[7] He has stated that his experiences in Love in Action "felt like ... a biblically induced coma".[7] He came out as a gay man in December 1998 and now presents his LGBT-affirming message through theatre and talks at universities, schools, conferences, churches, gay clubs, theaters and on-line through blogs and YouTube videos. In a 2009 interview Toscano explained, "I had an aversion to being gay because of the aversion I experienced in the world around me. Now I see that a gay orientation and gender diversity are normal phenomena in the natural world and throughout human history."[8]

Climate work[edit]

Beginning in September 2014,[9] Toscano has shifted his public focus to spreading awareness about climate change. Although not an environmentalist,[10] he was motivated to become a climate advocate because of his concerns about human rights and social justice.[9] He has also joked that his Italian-American heritage has played a role too: “On a warmer planet where there’s more drought, there will be more crop failure, including potentially, failures of wheat production, leading to shortages of pasta. I was like, wait, what?”[11] Though Toscano has been presenting about climate change since September 2014, his realization of needing to take action - also known as his “apastalypse”[11] - occurred in 2012.[9]

Toscan created five presentations address climate change: Everything Is Connected-A Collection Of Stories-Most Weird, Many True; Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat?; A Queer Response To Climate Change; Climate Change: What’s Faith Got To Do With It?; and There’s Something Funny About Climate Change.[12] In all of this work, Toscano takes controversial and current topics “and is able to present them in a way that is accessible. One of the best things his talks are able to do is focus on the intersections of people’s identities and social justice issues.”[13] He is known for his inspirational last words in performances: “During times of crisis, people do extraordinary things… extraordinary, kind, loving, caring things. You see how communities come together to look after each other. How can we come up with lasting change that’s not going to hurt communities, but actually foster a better world?”[13]

Since began addressing climate work starting in 2014,[9] he has performed at various colleges and venues around North America and Europe, including the Greenbelt Festival, Penn State University,[14] Susquehanna University,[15] and Villanova University.[16] Peterson has been featured in Yale Climate Connections,[11] The Daily Collegian,[14] and The Campus[13] for various higher education performances. He has also spoken at Citizens’ Climate Lobby conferences, including the Mid-Atlantic regional conference[17] in Philadelphia and the international conference[18] in Washington DC. He hosts the monthly podcast Citizens’ Climate Radio[19] where he “highlight[s] people’s stories, [celebrates CCL members’] successes, and together [shares] strategies for talking about climate change.”[20] After the election of Donald Trump, in addition to his comic performance work he began exploring Conservative responses to climate change.[21]

Toscano also is a volunteer lobbyist for Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) and the leader of the Susquehanna Valley CCL Chapter.

Performance work[edit]

Toscano performs original one-person comedies that often draw on his own experiences. In his plays he incorporates Biblical texts, historical events, interviews he has conducted, and poetry. Toscano's performance style incorporates character acting, comedy, storytelling, and drama.

In February 2003, Toscano premiered his one-man satire Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House[22] in Memphis, TN and from that time until he retired it in February 2008, he performed it and spoke about the potential dangers of conversion therapy at venues throughout North America, in Sweden,[23][24] Denmark, the UK, Cameroon, and South Africa. Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House is now available on DVD.[25]

Toscano's other works include Queer 101—Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs, How the Indians Discovered Columbus, Footprints—An Inspirational Comedy, The Re-Education of George W. Bush, and Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible. In 2014 he shifted his focus and began to produce web content and performances that consider queer responses to climate change.[26]

He has presented at universities in North America including American University, Rice University, Haverford College, Colgate University, McGill University, University of British Columbia, Earlham College, University of Illinois, Bard College and James Madison University. In the UK he has presented at several universities including University of Cambridge, University of York, University of Bradford, Bishop Grosseteste University College and University of Southampton. He has been featured at many conferences including Society of Biblical Literature, Lambeth Conference (2008), Gender Odyssey, Coalition of Essential Schools Conference, California Transgender Leadership Summit, True Colors Conference, Women's History Conference at Sarah Lawrence College, Lavender Language Conference, Friends General Conference, and International Conference on Language, Literature and Identity at University of Yaounde, Cameroon.

Activism[edit]

In June 2005 the Queer Action Coalition invited Toscano to join them for a series of protests outside the Love in Action facility in Memphis, Tennessee. Zach Stark, a 16-year-old boy, was placed against his will into Refuge, Love in Action's program for youth. Before he entered, he sent out a MySpace bulletin alerting his friends that he will be forced to receive conversion therapy. The state of Tennessee launched a series of investigations, and the protests received international news coverage.[27] In June 2007, Love in Action discontinued Refuge.

In April 2007, together with Christine Bakke, Toscano launched Beyond Ex-Gay, an on-line support group for people who are now ex-ex-gay.[28] Toscano also helped organize the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference held June 28 to July 1, 2007 in Irvine, California.[29] As part of the conference three former Exodus ex-gay leaders came forward to issue a public apology for their roles in promoting and providing conversion therapy.[30]

In response to a Memphis-area ex-gay conference organized by Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, in February 2008, Toscano along with Christine Bakke and other ex-ex-gays in the Mid-South and throughout the country organized a response called Deconstructing the Ex-Gay Myth—A Weekend of Art and Action. Toscano shared some of his story in the local media and presented two of his plays.[31] He also led workshops at an ex-gay survivor gathering.

Toscano helped organize an international conference held in Catalonia on May 30, 2008 at the University of Barcelona. The conference, Teràpies reparatives per l’homosexualitat—Perquè existeixen i quins perills impliquen (Gay to Straight Therapies—The reasons they exist and their potential harm) highlighted the potential dangers of conversion therapy and gave mental health professionals, scholars, clergy and concerned citizens the opportunity to hear from people directly affected by these therapies as well as experts in the field of psychology.[32]

As a grand marshal of the Mid-South Pride parade, Toscano returned to Memphis in June 2008, where he had been a resident of the Love in Action program 10 years earlier.[33] In July 2008 Toscano presented his plays The Re-Education of George W. Bush and Transfigurations-Transgressing Gender in the Bible in Malta where he also spoke out about conversion therapy.[34]

He has served as an outspoken critic of the ex-gay movement in the UK. In August 2006 at the Greenbelt Festival he presented a talk about his own ex-gay experiences and personal journey.[35] In July 2008 he offered two talks at the Lambeth Conference in Kent where he discussed being "gay and Christian"[36] and about the dangers of conversion therapy. In an article for the British newspaper The Times Toscano spoke of the ex-gay movement in Great Britain: "'It is a far more subtle seduction over here,' he says. Toscano claims that therapists in Britain – who he says tried to exorcise his gay demons in Kidderminster, in the West Midlands – nearly drove him to suicide."[37]

In December 2008 Toscano traveled to South Africa and highlighted the potential dangers in receiving conversion therapy.[38] He made his South African premiere on January 7, 2009 in Cape Town.

An active member of the Religious Society of Friends, Toscano states that his non-violent approach in his work seeks to expose injustice without attacking anti-gay activists. He believes that gay community needs to do more to accept LGBT people of faith, and by doing so will help to lessen the popularity of conversion therapy groups.[2] He told news website Salon.com, "If we took better care of our own, we would put these programs out of business."[2]

Media[edit]

Toscano was featured in the second season of the Be Real program on Logo TV, and has appeared on several TV and radio programs including the Tyra Banks Show, the Montel Williams Show, Faith Under Fire, PBS In the Life, PRI To the Point, Connecticut Public Radio Where We Live (PRNDI Award winning episode), BBC Radio Ulster Sunday Sequence and BBC World Service Reporting Religion.

In addition to print, television and radio, Toscano appears in various documentaries including the 2005 film Fish Can't Fly, which explores the conflict that many lesbians and gays have had with their Christian faith, and the 2008 Canadian documentary Cure for Love. He appears in and is associate producer for the 2011 film This is What Love in Action Looks Like.

Toscano was the co-host of the podcast Queer and Queerer with Zack Ford, LGBTQ editor at Think Progress. In 2014 Toscano premiered the Climate Stew podcast, which used comedy and storytelling to address climate change.

Personal[edit]

Peterson Toscano lives in Sunbury, Pennsylvania with his husband, South African writer Glen Retief.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Gay 'conversion' therapies give moral authority to bullies, says ex-missionary". The Guardian, April 13, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d "True confessions". Salon.com. 2005-07-21. p. 2. 
  3. ^ "Why on Earth is this Gay Guy Marching for Climate?". 
  4. ^ John Dicker: Two paths diverged: A long and winding road to God, Colorado Springs Independent, 29 January 2004
  5. ^ Michael Luo. "Some Tormented by Homosexuality Look to a controversial Therapy", The New York Times, 12 February 2007.
  6. ^ Christine Dinsmore: When a Dos Equis Is More Than a Beer, Out, July/August 2006, Stand: 10 July 2006, bei christinedinsmore.com
  7. ^ a b Benjamin, Mark (2005-07-18). "Turning off gays". Salon.com. p. 3. 
  8. ^ Hassan, Omar (2009-04-20). "Inteview [sic]: Peterson Toscano speaks about his experiences with ex-gay therapy". pinknews.co.uk. p. 1. 
  9. ^ a b c d Peterson, Toscano. “Why on Earth Is This Gay Guy Marching for Climate?” The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post. Web. 14 December 2016.
  10. ^ “Bio.” Peterson Toscano. Peterson Toscano. Web. 27 January 2017.
  11. ^ a b c Peach, Sara. “The end of pasta? Not funny!” Yale Climate Connections. The Yale Center for Environmental Communication, 30 September 2016. Web. 10 January 2017.
  12. ^ “Performances.” Peterson Toscano. Web. 15 January 2017.
  13. ^ a b c Wilby, Meaghan. “Sexuality, mindfulness, and climate change.” The Campus. Allegheny College. Web. 15 January 2017.
  14. ^ a b Jaramillo, Antonia. “Quirky, queer Quaker relates LGBTQA and religion issues to climate change.” The Daily Collegian. Penn State University, 20 September 2016. Web. 14 January 2017.
  15. ^ “Everything is Connected (Susquehanna University)” Peterson Toscano. Peterson Toscano. Web. 27 January 2017.
  16. ^ “Climate Change–What’s Faith Got to Do with It? (Villanova U)” Peterson Toscano. Peterson Toscano. Web. 27 January 2017.
  17. ^ Clark, Jon. “Mid Atlantic conference a bonding experience for CCL chapters.” CCL News. Citizens’ Climate Lobby, 16 March 2016. Web. 14 January 2017.
  18. ^ Citizens’ Climate Lobby. “CCL Conference Special Presentation: Peterson Toscano.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 24 June 2016. Web. 14 January 2017.
  19. ^ Citizens’ Climate Radio. Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Web. 22 January 2017.
  20. ^ Toscano, Peterson. “Citizens’ Climate Radio Episode One — Beginnings and Transformations.” Citizens’ Climate Radio. Citizens’ Climate Lobby, 27 June 2016. Web. 15 January 2017.
  21. ^ Toscano, Peterson. “Citizens Climate Radio Ep 7 A Conservative Approach to Climate.” Citizens’ Climate Radio. Citizens’ Climate Lobby, 26 December 2016. Web. 26 January 2017.
  22. ^ Steve Boese: A Visit to the Homo No Mo Halfway House, Ex-Gay-Watch, 16. October 2003
  23. ^ Av Lars Klint: „Jag är en stolt bög“, Expressen, 24. September 2006
  24. ^ Tor Billgren: Intervju med Peterson Toscano, Antigayretorik, 20. August 2007 - über ein Radiointerview im Schwedischen Nationalradio
  25. ^ Eugene Wagner: In Brief: New And Upcoming Releases, Ex-Gay-Watch, 12. April 2008
  26. ^ "Peterson Toscano Launches Website for Queer Climate Action". 
  27. ^ Griffin, Kelly (2005-10-30). "Brainwashed No More". Advocate.com. p. 3. 
  28. ^ Stephen Fried: „They tried to cure me of being gay“, Glamour, 4/2007
  29. ^ Eugene Wagner: Ex-Gay Survivor Site Beyondexgay.com Launches Today, Conference Set for June, Ex-Gay-Watch, 2. April 2007
  30. ^ Michelle Garcia: A sincere apology, The Advocate, 29. June 2007
  31. ^ Phillips, Bianca (2008-02-21). "It's Okay To Be Gay Gay activists form response to ex-gay conference". Memphis Flyer. p. 1. 
  32. ^ Cuatrecasas, Marta Cuatrecasas (Producer/Reporter) (2008-05-26). Los homosexuales denuncian las terapias para dejar de ser gay (Television). Barcelona, Catalonia: La Vanguardia. 
  33. ^ Melvin, Lindsey (2008-06-15). "Beyond Ex-Gay blogger leads parade". commericalappeal.com. p. 1. 
  34. ^ Massa, Ariadne (200-07-13). "A Musing". timesofmalta.com. p. 1.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  35. ^ Pat Ashworth and Brian Draer: Greenbelt: Heavenly, but hardly ordinary, Church Times, 2006
  36. ^ Staff Writers: Lambeth participants invited to take a walk on the gay side, Ekklesia, 17 July 2008
  37. ^ Bannerman, Lucy (2008-10-07). "The Camp that "Cures" Homosexuality". Timesonline.co.uk. p. 4. 
  38. ^ "Coping with being Gay". thetimes.co.za. 2008-12-15. p. 1. 

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