Wednesday, June 29, 2005
A conversation with . . .
Former "ex-gay" Peterson Toscano
now out and pioneering with show
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Writer and actor Peterson Toscano spent 17 years and $30,000 trying to stop being gay, eventually ending up in a sort of Christian rehabilitation camp.
Finally, though, enough was enough, and Toscano was able to accept his homosexuality. He has since become, among other accomplishments, the first openly gay person to perform in
Can you tell me about how you ended up in the halfway house?
Peterson Toscano: I started my little odyssey on the ex-gay underground railroad when I was 17. And I became a born-again Christian living up in
That’s a pretty good comment on the current state of our society.
P.T.: It’s all about the American dream and who has it and who doesn’t. And if you’re not a straight white male, you don’t get as much of the dream as you would like. The biggest number of clients in these programs are white males. And I think it had a lot to do with white male privilege, but that’s usually a topic that’s too confusing for most people to wrap their brains around.
Is this program part of a larger national or international organization?
P.T.: There’s this large Christian organization called "Exodus." Basically we’re like the slaves of
For kids who seem to be exhibiting characteristics like they’re going to be gay, or you think they are gay, you can send them off and have it taken care of.
P.T.: A little reprogramming, straighten the kid out for his own good. … I can actually understand for some parents … who might just be thinking, "Oh my gosh, I want to save my kid from this horrible lifestyle that I’ve been hearing about from my preacher every Sunday morning." I think some of the parents are really sincere in that. And they’re sincerely wrong.
What were you doing with your career before you got into the program?
P.T.: I was living in
So how did you begin writing about your experiences?
P.T.: I lived in a Biblically-induced coma. … I came to my senses in ’99 and I said, "This does not work, you’re lying to yourself and everybody else." … I came out and really had to negotiate my faith and my same-sex attraction and began to write for theater. The first piece I wrote was called "Footprints: An Inspirational Comedy," a comic meditation on the inspirational poem "Footprints in the Sand." … The queer thing didn’t come up, it was just good theater that was funny and had a good message to it, so people liked it. … "Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House" is now a six-character, one-person satire on the ex-gay movement. It’s very funny. My goal is to make people laugh until they are about to do injury to themselves. And then when they’re in that very open state, I bring that very powerful poignant moment that really humanizes the queer experience and also exposes the pain of someone trying desperately to be something other than themselves.
Peterson Toscano will perform Tuesday as part of "Let Love Choose: A Quaker Witness for Marriage Equality," on Henderson Lawn in Blacksburg at 2 p.m. Toscano will perform "Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House: How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement" July 7 in the Squires Student Center at Virginia Tech. For