Even with all these stirring topics, my chosen topic is about a Tacoma play I attended in late March at the University of Puget Sound.
The play is “Transfigurations — Transgender Bible Stories,” written and performed by Peterson Toscano, self-described theatrical performance activist.
Toscano’s performance creates a venue in which people can explore humanity and identity. The play depicts important Biblical characters who transgressed gender norms and explores varying levels of societal acceptance and the impacts on these individuals and the people close to them. I found that Toscano’s messages transcended religion and faith, because the play is about everyday people with whom we can all relate.
While the play is really not about religion at all, since seeing it, I’ve reflected on my own faith experience as a person in the LGBT community. I attended a number of evangelical churches growing up. I read the Bible and diligently studied for confirmation. But even as a preteen, I felt that very little in the Bible represented my experiences.
Coming out in my teens and transitioning to male in my early 20s left me without a faith community. Had I wanted to go to church in Olympia, I’m not sure I would have been able to identify where to go. Even churches that accepted gay and lesbian people were not necessary open to transgender people. By 21, I was sure that religion was not for me.
Unfortunately, there are many people in the LGBT community who have had to leave their faith community. I am also fortunate to have many LGBT and allied people of various faith backgrounds in my life.
Toscano’s performance was the first time many audience participants saw LGBT issues depicted in these timeless stories. From the vivid story of Joseph to depictions of eunuchs, Toscano skillfully wove these stories into what for me was a humorous, touching and thoughtful exploration of people and self. Toscano elegantly navigated the realities of being an LGBT person of faith.
LGBT people of faith are often forced to choose between their identity and their faith. While LGBT people may pass the blame to faith communities, Toscano urged the audience to consider the ways in which the LGBT community has also isolated LGBT people of faith, whether they be Jewish, Muslim or Christian. Why should someone have to give up one’s beliefs just because he or she is gay or lesbian?
A number of South Sound congregations welcome LGBT people. Regardless of whether you attended the play, please consider your role in the discussion about how we accept and include LGBT people of all faiths and nonfaiths in our communities.
Learn more about Toscano and his exciting work at www.peterson toscano.com. The play will be released as a graphic novel in 2011.
Seth Kirby of Olympia is a proud member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community. He is a member of The Olympian’s Diversity Panel and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.