Tag Archives: Peterson Toscano

The end of 2012

March 2012_6138Well, if I thought that 2011 was a momentous year then 2012 has really eclipsed it!

The Mister started his new job in January 2012 and we have both had to get used to him doing shift work. He seems to be enjoying his job, although hopefully there will be more developments that stretch him and give him more opportunities to show off his skills. Work for me has just continued along as usual. It would seem that drug users are the same wherever you work although the drugs of choice are different on the island.

August 2012_7001August 2012_7003Being back in Guernsey has been wonderful. The opportunity to spend time with my family has been fab. My nephew, Barnabas, and niece, Eden, have continued to entertain us throughout the year and it has been particularly nice to see the relationship between them and The Mister develop. He is brilliant with them!

DelilahThe sad bit of the year was when we had to have our lovely cat Delilah put to sleep. She had been getting more and more poorly and had renal failure, but she ended up getting hit by a car and had substantial injuries which meant that we had to take the tough decision. I know that it was the right decision, but I still really miss her. I miss the fact that she used to sit on my lap when I was watching TV.

The last day.In June we went to Sark Folk Festival which was absolutely brilliant, apart from the camping was pretty basic! The music was amazing and the opportunity to spend some time on the beautiful island of Sark was pretty special. I would love to go back in 2013 but all the tickets have been sold and I decided the only way that I would go back next year would be if we could do it in a B&B. Sadly, there all the rooms were booked up before the end of the 2012 festival. Oh well, another year then!

We also had a little trip to the UK to go to my cousin Sam and Sally’s wedding. It was fab, but boy was it wet! Shame it was in a marquee and I required my wellies by the end of the day!!

August 2012_7341As usual in August we went camping with Tom and Anne and the kids, and pants and Alien. We stayed at a lovely campsite in Wales and then went to Greenbelt which was pretty much a giant mudbath. I have never seen so much mud at a festival and by the end of the weekend the centre part of the racecourse was pretty much impassable. Also I was so happy to catch up with Peterson Toscano again. So many things had changed for us both since we had last seen each other. After the festival we stayed a couple of nights in Bath before catching the boat home.

August 2012_6997We bought a house in September after a ridiculously prolonged buying process and have spent the time doing it up, massively helped out by my Mum and Dad who have been absolutely fantastic. They have put up with us living with them for 18 months and have just worked so hard to help us get the house ready. We are deeply indebted to them (in many ways if you ask Dad!)

Of course the biggest change to our lives, and something that has taken most of the year to prepare has been the arrival of The Little Mister. I’ve made no secret over the year that we required assistance to help us conceive and I am massively grateful to the doctors who treated us.

The best presentThe Little Mister arrived on 14 December 2012 and he is absolutely wonderful. Better than I could ever have hoped for and the wait has been well worth it. I feel deeply for those people who shared my journey and experiences of struggling to conceive and I hope and pray that they will be successful in the coming year. I remember only too well how hard it is to hear other people’s news about their pregnancies or births and being disappointed and devastated. I still think of them often.

I end 2012 extremely grateful for what I have. The Mister has continued to be amazing and seeing him with The Little Mister has made me love him even more. We are blessed beyond all measure and very, very grateful. Thankyou to everyone who has continued to read this blog over the year, I have appreciated your comments and hope that you will continue to share the story with us.

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2012 Project365 (Day 239)

FriendsMonday evening at Greenbelt was a fantastic line-up of performers including Seth Lakeman, The Imagined Village and Bellowhead who were truly fabulous.

We had more torrential rain in the afternoon which just contributed to the terrible mud conditions. I have to admit to being a bit grumpy in the afternoon because I was cold and wet but the evening cheered me up no end – dancing with the kids in the puddles whilst listening to Bellowhead.

I also got a bit of time with Peterson. I miss him so very much when he is back home in the States and the joy and pleasure at seeing him happy and content is massive.

2012 Project365 (Day 235)

Dinner and fake cocktailsToday The Mister and I packed up and left site by about lunchtime. We decided to take the more scenic route from South Wales and we had a nice drive through Abergavenny and Monmouth.

Tonight we are staying in a Premier Inn in Cheltenham and we had dinner at TGI Fridays and tomorrow we head to Greenbelt. I can’t wait! There are so many people I want to see this year, including Peterson who is performing twice over the weekend. I have missed him lots so it will be fabulous to catch up!

I just hope the weather isn’t too awful over the weekend!

On Being an Ally

Once again Peterson has written a particularly thoughtful blog post about being an ally to trans-folk. He mailed me and asked me to post a comment answering these two questions…

What have you learned from knowing transgender folks?
How has your life been enriched?

This was my response…

I am a straight woman.

I am an ally.

For me being an ally to trans-folk is no different to being an ally to gay men and women. Being an ally is a personal learning experience; one filled with pain and tears, but ultimately an experience that not to be missed. Being an ally has helped me change. My opinions and presumptions have shifted. My willingness to question what I believe to be true has increased and my belief in the goodness and the God in each person has become more and more important. A chance meeting with a gay man when I was 19 started this lifelong change, and more encounters with people who are different to me has continued this exciting journey. However, standing alongside those who are broken and weeping is hard, and standing as a shield to them when they are in the line of fire is even harder.

So, to answer the question, ‘What have you learned from knowing transgender folks?’ I probably need to change the question to ‘What have you learned from being ally?’ as it is more inclusive. The answer is simple. I have learnt to be myself. Their struggles have helped me find out who I am. Being an ally isn’t a selfish thing, but it has helped me to grow into the woman I believe God intended me to be.

To answer the second question ‘How has your life been enriched?’ – well that is easy! My life has been changed beyond recognition. Without meeting those people to whom I became an ally I would probably have married when I was 21 and be happily ensconced in a charismatic evangelical church with a quiver-full of children. My life has been enriched by the most wonderful people. Those who challenge my perception of what is right, or what justice looks like and ultimately what God looks like. Oh, and not to mention these wonderful people have the best parties and the most outrageous fun. Life would be distinctly duller without them!!!!

Being an ally is painful, but more than that it is a pleasure and privilege.

I wouldn’t change it.

I am not sure that being an ally is something you choose to do… it is much more organic than that. You meet gay/lesbian/bi/trans people and you defend them, support them and love them. It seems to me that being ally just means loving people enough to want to protect them, even if they don’t think they need protecting.

In my humble opinion being an ally means showing that you can love.

Losing Our Religion

My friend William Crawley directed me to a documentary he made about faith in Northern Ireland and this has changed over a period of time. The documentary is called Losing Our Religion and can still be viewed here and is well worth a look.

William’s own story follows through from conversion at a tent mission, to preaching at several churches on a Sunday, to becoming a questioner and ultimately an individual whose faith is based on questions rather than answers. I met William through Peterson Toscano and spent several hours chewing the fat with them both – it was fun and they both made me think a lot.

I was fascinated with this documentary though. Watching William go back to some of his own haunts, re-examine where he has been from and ponder what this might mean him at the moment was really interesting. I wonder where the next stop on this journey will be though.

Shaw’s Corner

Well, so far this weekend has been fun and rather busy. The Mister is here and so is Peterson.

So, yesterday we went to Shaw’s Corner, a National Trust property in Hertfordshire and the home of George Bernard Shaw.

It is a beautiful place and must less grand and less fussy than I expected. It was so cosy I could imagine living there myself and curling up in one of the chairs with a book and a cup of tea. The gardens were also beautiful, gorgeous spring flowers coming through.

Then we went over to the The Whipsnade Tree Cathedral. It was created after the second world war and has a varitey of trees planted out in the design of a full sized medieval cathedral. really what I wanted to see was lots of bluebells but I couldn’t find the place I wanted to get to!!

Anyway, it was a beautiful day to go to the tree cathedral. Only spoilt, as was lunch and a visit to Tesco’s by badly behaved screaming children. is it too much to ask for parents to encourage their children to behave in public and not either shriek back, or completely ignore them?

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Go on… you know you want to!

Last year’s Greenbelt was a slightly weird one for me. Not only were my best mate birdie and her family absent due to the birth of baby Ginger, but also my friend and fellow drinking companion Peterson was conspicuous by his absence.

I am really hoping that he will be invited back this year, maybe to perform his show Transfigurations which I had the privilege of seeing performed back in May last year. It is very different to Peterson’s previous works… much quieter, stiller and very thought-proviking. There are still some comedy moments in it, but they are somehow much more subtle.

Anyway, if you would like to see Peterson perform at Greenbelt this year then I suggest you send a little e-mail to Greenbelt asking them if he will be performing. It will make me happy anyway. Here is there e-mail address for your convenience… info@greenbelt.org.uk … go on… e-mail them… you know you want to!

(… the picture of me and Peterson was taken at Greenbelt in the Jesus Arms a couple of years ago. We were quite… erm…. relaxed by this point in the evening!)

The glorious mess of humanity

DSCN4319On 7 October 2008 an article appeared in The Times called ”The camp that ‘cures’ homosexuality”. The reporter Lucy Bannerman took a little trip to an Exodus International conference where she met some people who were intent on kicking their Same Sex Attraction (SSA).

The article is interesting, but it left me feeling sad, unbelievably sad, that beautiful people are still putting themselves through these sorts of programmes. I know of several people who have been involved with these sorts of organisations, all of whom have now accepted their sexuality as part of who they are. The damage that is caused when people try to change their true nature can be catastrophic, and I still believe that some people will never recover from the emotional trauma they are put through. Not only is damage done to those people who attend the programmes but the assertion that ”marriage is evidence of healing” also means that spouses, and children, are damaged too. The idea that getting married and living this fake life is evidence of healing scares me. Living an inauthentic life can never be evidence of true healing.

Instead I believe that individuals who truly find out who they really are, and who learn to celebrate their identity are those who truly find healing. I have been involved with Courage for many years and originally they were an ex-gay ministry… these days though they are gay-affirming and it feels like a very different place to be. Jeremy Marks who heads up Courage is mentioned in the article…

“One ex-gay leader who has come to the same conclusion is Jeremy Marks. A mild-mannered 56-year-old from Surrey, he pioneered one of the first ex-gay networks in the UK. But after ten years, the attempted suicide of a former resident led him to question the value of SSA therapy. He found that, rather than helping people, it led to depression and dysfunctional behaviour. “They stopped going to church, stopped going to work,” he recalls. “The only ones who appeared to be doing well were those who accepted that they were gay and got on with their lives.” Marks is now openly gay and runs Courage, a support group for gay Christians.”

To be honest I think he nails it with this quote…

“Really, what the ex-gay movement is all about is salving the conscience of the Christian leaders who don’t like to be accused of homophobia,” he says. “That way they can say ‘we don’t hate gays – look how we are welcoming them’.”

The article also mentions Peterson Toscano who is an ex-gay survivor and along with Christine Bakke set up an organisation called Beyond Ex-Gay They offer help and support for those who have been through ex-gay movements and allow them to share their stories, often stories that have been hidden for many years behind layers of guilt, shame and a sense of failure.

Whilst organisations such as Exodus exist the need for people like Peterson and Christine will continue. We need those who have gone before to share their stories and show that the pressure that is put on people to conform to a particular set of values, roles and identities is not necessarily the right way. We need people to show that there is light at at what might be a very dark tunnel for those who struggle with their sexuality and identity. We also need those people who are straight allies. Those who will share the pain, stories, tears and the hopes and fears with those who are trying to work things through. We need people to advocate in our churches, who will continue to suggest that ex-gay programmes do not work and in fact will be damaging for the beautiful LGBT people in our congregations.

Life would be so boring if we were all the same. Who wants to be surrounded by people who are identical clones? Let us share in the glorious mess of humanity, the wonderful different people we come across and celebrate the individuality we find around us every day.

Sufficiency

Finally Peterson has posted his his musings on the Feeding of the Five Thousand. It is something we talked about several times whilst we were in Guernsey and rather than paraphrase his comments I intend to take the lazy option and cut and paste!

“The disciples and the crowd are out in the countryside for three days. This is before the days of Subway Sandwich shops and Red Lobster restaurants or well-catered retreats. This is a people used to carrying food around when they travel. Jesus rightly discerns that some folks don’t have any food left and will need nourishment to get home. Wow, how thoughtful, how sweet, how unbelievably practical. I love this Jesus.

So he turns to his team, “What you got?” I love how even in the English you can hear the sarcasm and exasperation in the disciples’ response. But Jesus had a plan, a radical one that did not require any magic tricks, one that I believe serves as an even more impressive miracle.

Jesus sat everyone down. Then taking the scant offerings the disciples rustled up, he begins to serve the people. Now I don’t for a minute believe the disciples gave up all they had to Jesus. If they were like most of us, they probably squirreled away a secret stash for themselves for later in the day. In fact, in the John 6 version of the same or similar story, the disciples offer nothing of their own but instead take five loaves and two fish from a little boy (giving an entirely different meaning to “out of the mouth of babes.”)

Jesus provocatively begins to distribute the little he has to give. I imagine Jesus doing this very slowly, dramatically, taking his time with it. The disciples see the basket rapidly emptying. They dig into their hoards and pass some more food forward. The news spreads quickly and quietly through the crowd, first to those closest to the disciples then radiating out. A supply line forms as each one who has food passes it along through many hands to the disciples then to Jesus and then back to the people.

In the end EVERYONE eats, including those who had no longer had food as well as those who carried more than enough. The crowd had such vast resources of food among them that stacks of leftovers remain.

A “magic trick” Jesus is cool and convenient to have on hand. One that calls on me to contribute from my own stockpile so that another’s needs can be met, challenges me and the society in which I live.”

I absolutely love this revisiting of the story. The “magic-trick” Jesus definitely appealed to me when I was a child but it would seem that this compassionate Jesus is one that I want to identify with much more strongly.

The idea that Jesus calls us to bring our into the open our “secret stashes” and the things that we hide away and keep for ourselves is extremely appealing. The idea of sharing out our resources so that as a community we can be sustained, both physically, emotionally and spiritually, for me captures the true power of the Gospel as epitomised in the life of Jesus.

CoboI know I have plenty of resources, both in the things I own and in the emotional strength that I have. Somehow though it never seems to be enough. The world encourage us to acquire more and more and yet the Gospels clearly show that by giving away the things that we have then we will have sufficient for our needs. The idea of having sufficient, rather than excess, is one that I have been musing on for a while. A while ago I was talking to someone about the fact that they want to build an extension on their house. I don’t get it. Only two of them live there at the moment and they already have three bedrooms. Why do you need more when you have enough for your needs? Why add more to an already large mortgage when you don’t really need it? I fully acknowledge that I would like to have a slightly bigger house (with a garden – but that’s a dream!) with another bedroom so that I could more easily have people to stay. The reality though is that for most of the time I don’t really need it.

I am so fortunate. I have somewhere to call home, a job, a wonderful family and friends who sustain me through the good and bad things of life. Truly I have sufficient and yet the struggle to maintain some sort of balance in my life goes on. This version story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand encourages me to redress this balance. To give up my resources and share my wealth with those around me, whether that be in physical or less tangible terms.

The weeping woman

DSCN5008There was one other thing that was a little unexpected for me last night. As I sat and listened to Peterson’s presentation I was thinking I was home and dry – it wouldn’t affect me as I had heard it already….. or not, as the case may be.

I was listening to the end of one the extracts that Peterson was performing, talking about Lazarus coming out of the tomb and being carefully and gently unwrapped by the disciples. I found myself weeping at this story, recognising that for me part of the role I feel fulfill for my gay Christian friends is this unwrapping. Helping them to reveal their true self; the authentic, congruent, honest, genuine, open, gentle, beautiful self that God has truly created them to be.

This story has helped me to see more clearly that like the women who stood at the tomb and wept over Lazarus, the depth of sorrow that I feel for my friends who suffer in the tomb of their denial and fear is just as profound. So often I question my place to stand alongside people, knowing that I haven’t faced the struggles they go through, that I cannot possibly understand the complexities of emotions and their fears. Yet, I cannot deny that God has called me to such a place as this.

Helping to unwrap the grave clothes of an individual does not mean that we know what the person is going to look like underneath, but God doesn’t always tell us what to expect when we follow his instructions. For me, the call has been to stand alongside, to be supportive and often to painfully reflect back honesty and truth with love, compassion and integrity.

On the website Beyond Ex-Gay Peterson includes a poem he wrote called Grave Robbers. He concludes his play Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House with it and says “I end the performance by reciting this poem dedicating it to all the people who helped me to become me.”

Whilst these are Peterson’s words, they are also my story.

Grave Robbers

Lazarus came forth, gleaming white,
A pillar wrapped tight outside his tomb.
Jesus looked at us, “Take off the grave clothes,
And let him go.”

Panic twisted my gut like a wet washrag
Wringing out courage.

Who knows how to undress a mummy raised from the dead?
Does one start at the heart or close to the head?
We circled him as if he were a bomb to diffuse.
Then we began in earnest,
Unbinding, tearing, speaking comfort as we went.
The crowd pressed in hurling advice like stones.

Lazarus stood like marble, cold from his grave,
While we sweated in the cruel sun,
Unwrapping his trappings.
But suddenly, (or did it take years?)
It was complete.
Mary and Martha washed their brother in tears:
He was free — naked and in his right mind.