A Brief History of My Leading & My Next Steps

As a Quaker, I have benefited from both Clearness Committees and a Support Committee as I experienced them at Hartford Friends Meeting where I was a member from 2001 until 2010. I cannot calculate the many ways these Quaker processes helped me to find clarity and stay on track over the past 10 years of solo performance activism.

Back in October 2002 I sat in my tiny apartment in Hartford, CT considering a play I had in mind which would reveal to the world the 17 years I spent receiving gay conversion therapy and especially the two horrible years I endured the notorious Love in Action ex-gay residential program in Memphis, TN.

I did not feel I had to speak out, but that it was an option if I wanted. I also sensed that I was looking at a five year commitment. As I sat in my room, I said yes, I would produce the play and walk down that path. Almost immediately and over the next six months, ideas came to me about how to create the work, how to present it, how to pitch it, how to promote it. It was like a vast file was downloaded into my mental hard drive.

image Peterson officially comes out of the closet in January 1999[/caption]

In February 2003 in Memphis, TN I premiered, Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, then spent the next five years traveling through North America, Europe, and Africa telling my story and connecting with others to learn about their experiences. With the help of my friend, Christine Bakke, a fellow ex-gay survivor, we launched the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement

Then in 2008 five years was up. We had accomplished so much in that time, and I felt released from the work while also sensing a leading to new work, particularly a need to address the oppression against trans* people at the hands of gays and lesbians and by churches. This led to the creation of Transfigurations--Transgressing Gender in the Bible, a blend of performance and scholarship that looks at non-conforming gender outlaws in the Bible.

Art by Mila and Jayna Ponder[/caption]

Again I felt like I knew what steps to take to let the public know about the work. I understood I needed to get to seminaries and places of worship--Christian, Jewish, and Muslim--to share some good news about gender non-conformists in the Bible who stand as the most important characters in some of the Bible's most important stories. For the past six years I have been doing this work, and I expect I will carry on doing it. This summer I will finally film the play and then have it available for distribution.

But something new started up for me a little over a year ago. After reading, listening, and having some long teary conversations with my husband, Glen Retief, I became alarmed about the reality of Climate Change and what it means for us as a civilization. I understood that I wanted and needed to respond to the growing crisis in the only way I knew how--with art.

I have spent the last year researching climate change and how to communicate effectively about it. I am creating a new play, Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat? A Comedy about Broken Bodies..., which will premiere in the early fall (Details TBA).

Decked out in Eco-Drag, wonders, "What Would Walt Whitman Do?" Decked out in Eco-Drag, wonders, "What Would Walt Whitman Do?"[/caption]

As I ask questions like, What is a Queer Response to Climate Change? What role will you take on a new planet? How will churches and other places of worship refashion themselves to be relevant in a new climate? I also have gained insights into how to get this work out to the wider world.

So I have pulled together a dream team, a different sort of support committee but one that functions similarly to the one I had in Hartford, who have partnered with me to advise, contribute, reach out, and create with me. As I go further into this new leading, or I guess it is an extension of the leading I have had, I have been seeking the spiritual support that I found essential to my work while I still lived in Hartford. The meeting I now attend in Central Pennsylvania is lovely in many ways, but it is very small and stretched. I envision a new type of support committee with members from multiple meetings and from FLGBTQC who know me and my work well.

Yesterday I launched my new and improve website replete with new presentations as well as tried and true performances. A podcast is in the work and lots of social media. My hope is to create a hub where we can talk about climate change as a queer issues, a pastoral care issue, a human rights issue, and as a community issue. There is so much we can do and so much we will do to face this crisis with creativity, wisdom, and love.

Welcome to the new site. It's good to be back!
(Original art by Kevin Miller)

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