If I had to pick one glaring, gaping, horrifically, horrendously obnoxious hole in the vast majority of conversations about being gay or lesbian or ex-gay or Christian or Wiccan or DollyPartonian or what-the-flip-ever, it would be this:
What the heck happened to our collective sense of humor?
When did the world get so all-fired serious that we forgot how to laugh at ourselves?
Saturday night I rediscovered my tickle button. Let loose a guffaw. (Or 43, give or take a dozen.)
I ventured a couple hours from home into Hartford (first time planting my feet on fine Connecticut soil) to experience a one-man show:
Doin’ Time in The Homo No Mo Halfway House
How I survived the Ex-gay Movement
Peterson Toscano shares his experience surviving the Homo No Mo Halfway House.
A vignette from Toscano’s bio tells part of his story:
As a gay man, his journey out of the closet has been long and complicated. After years of submitting to reparative therapy through counseling, ex-gay support groups, and even a stint with a Jamaican exorcist, Peterson enrolled in the ex-gay residential program, Love in Action. He graduated successfully from the program nearly two years later, but in January of 1999 he finally came OUT and fully accepted himself as a gay man.
Even more significantly in my mind, though, is that Toscano emerged from his ex-gay life with his sense of humor intact.
Looking for self-pity? Victimhood? Shrieks of blame? A ruined psyche in agonizingly slow recovery? You’ll have to look elsewhere.
As Toscano describes it, his ex-gay experience wasn’t always easy or pleasant, but he has adapted to the the fact that it was the path he was destined to take, learning volumes from it along the way. As a young adult he discovered he was hard-wired to seek out faith-based experience, shaking up his parents more by becoming a born-again Christian than later when he came out. There was a natural, organic feel to the rules and structure of conservative Christianity for him, particularly if it could deliver on the promise of freeing him from attractions to guys.
When he chose — freely, consciously, uncoerced — to enroll in the ex-gay residential program, the answers he needed were still eluding him. A couple of light-bulb-style aHAH! moments in that phase finally allowed him to let loose of old hurts and begin clearing his head.
He describes the some of the work he did in his upcoming book:
I filled my head with rules. I even made up some of my own. I rewarded myself for any success and bitterly punished myself for the many lapses I made. I pointed out to my brothers their own faults, and soon became the self righteous, Challenge Queen. I arrived in the house feeling like a total loser, but I realized their was a way I could claw myself out of my corruption and maybe even stand up in front of the group and proclaim, “I have nothing to confess this week. Gurl, I didn’t even mastabate!”
Graduating from the program and pursuing his ex-gay life brought the peace of knowing he had done everything he could possibly do, fixed everything that could be fixed, followed every rule that was supposed to produce a contented, spiritually grounded life.
Except for one thing.
Seventeen years of ex-gay life had not made him straight.
The thing that sets this story apart is the characters that he uses to tell it. Chad, a high energy young guy with spiky blonde hair, conducts most of the house tour enthusiastically. Married family man Tex drawls his way through tales from his 700+ days in the house. Read about all of the characters (and watch video clips!) here. Each of them lays out their experiences (rules, rules, and more rules) without devolve into airing of dirty laundry. Each of them is based on (or a composite of) folks that Toscano cared deeply for, and it shows.
While exploring their world, the audience is left to draw its own conclusions about the program. As tempting as it was to get busy blaming and judging, I couldn’t help but connect some of the madcap events from the house with the flavors of insanity that weave their way through my own life.
The play doesn’t preach and doesn’t judge. It demonstrates one guy’s approach for surviving the Ex-gay movement without generalizing about what other folks could or should do:
- Humor: I use humor like a pot holder to handle issues and memories that are too hot to handle with my bare hands…
- Acceptance: Since I rejected myself for so many years, I experienced healing when others accepted me unconditionally exactly as I am…
- Dealing with Childhood Sexual Abuse: Once I separated my gayness from the horror of abuse, I began to accept myself and find relief from the inner pain I carried.
Take the tour of HomoNoMo.com, as well as p2son.com productions. This poem marked one of the highlights of the play for me. Performances are scheduled in NY state and Michigan, and I hear that the show has legs if you want to lure Peterson into your neck of the woods.