Spotlight on: Peterson Toscano

Together In Faith: Journey Into Inclusiveness

By Jason Michael

Peterson Toscano founded P2son Productions in 1999 and began performing his one-man play, "Footprints, An Inspirational Comedy." His performance work often blends creative arts with biblical inspiration. This includes leading drama workshops and Bibliodramas, as well as interactive educational theater pieces. Peterson wrote and premiered "Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House - How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement!" in Memphis, Tenn, in February 2003. The piece is gaining national attention for its skillful blending of comic arts and insightful, fearless storytelling. For more information on Toscano and his play, visit www.homonomo.com

Between The Lines: What is faith?

Peterson Toscano: Faith is a matter of choosing to believe in something or someone. It often comes out of our sense of self. My sense of self comes from the acceptance and love that I get from my family, which in turn affects my faith. I believe that God or Goddess is kind, affirming and empowering. If I had parents who were harsh taskmasters and sticklers for rules, I would probably have come out fundamentalist or very, very rebellious.

BTL: The subtitle of the conference is "Journey Into Inclusiveness." What does that phrase mean to you (or where does the journey begin)?

Toscano: Churches can be some of the least inclusive places in the world. Jesus called out to all, "Come unto me," but too often the church puts conditions on the invitation. I have been rejected and ejected with many of my dealings with churches, religious organizations and Christian schools. That hurts. In fact, many folks in the Queer community walk around with loads of church hurt that has been piled on them through the years. As a result, the hurt gets in the way of their own personal faith journey. It is easy to conclude that since the church failed someone that means that any faith community or experience will be similar. Inclusiveness in the church extends beyond LGBT folks though, it includes multiple cultures and ways of thinking. Without embracing the broader community, the church will fade away and be an empty institution.

What is the message that you hope to bring to the Together In Faith conference?

I am a comic artist, so people will hear many different things in what I share at the conference. That's what I love about the work I do; it is not traditional information sharing. I offer an experience, filled with laughter and surprising moments of intimacy that touch people deeply. My unique life story has brought me through many difficult and insane places, yet somehow I emerged with hope and peace. That is somewhat of a mystery to me, but in sharing my story, I hope to uncover truths for all of us who live with loss, hurt and confusion. I am a Quaker, (a very Queer and Quirky Quaker to be sure) and as such, I no longer have enemies. The light of the divine is in all living things.

That means that fundamentalist, anti-gay ministers are my brothers too; I need to find the humanity and light in their lives. Whenever I do, I become more human; I become real.

Between The Lines is proud to be a sponsor of the American Friends Service Committee's Together In Faith conference. Scheduled for May 22, 2004, the conference is for people of all religions and spiritualities and aimed at creating LGBT-affirming communities. For more information, visit www.togetherinfaith.com

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