20 September 2012

‘My faith helped me to accept that I was gay’

Dramatist had reparative therapy for 17 years

An American dramatist who had almost two decades of gay reparative therapy has spoken about the strength of his religious faith despite the ordeal.

Peterson Toscano’s failed attempts at “de-gaying” himself left him with a sense of overriding desperation. “I thought I had so much to lose – from heaven to friends and family – if I didn’t sort it out.”

But as he gradually discovered his true self, he also clung to his faith. “When I first came out as gay, I thought I couldn’t be a Christian anymore because that’s what I was told. So I tried to be an atheist for a while. But I was rubbish at it.”

Mr Toscano also urged gay people in similar situations not to turn away from spirituality.

“Many gay people understandably turn away from religion. But don’t throw the baby Jesus out with the fundamentalist bathwater.”

Mr Toscano was speaking in an interview ahead of this weekend’s performance of his provocatively titled play Jesus Had Two Daddies.

The play draws on Mr Toscano’s Christian faith, with the deconstruction of Biblical tracts intermeshed with moments from the dramatist’s closeted past.

Organisers have already received word that members of the gay conversion group River of Life may try to sabotage Saturday’s performance, although River of Life pastor Gordon Manché said when contacted that he did not know of any members planning to attend.

Mr Toscano’s 17 years of reparative therapy amounted to little but psychological scarring, and his verdict on such procedures was damning.

“I experienced sexual abuse at the hands of these people.

“They didn’t physically touch me, but they stood in a position of power over me and imposed their ideas of sexuality on me.”

Years later, Mr Toscano said he still sometimes found himself facing the demons of his past.

He eventually found solace in the Religious Society of Friends, becoming a Quaker. “Religion has been the source of much good in human history,” Mr Toscano said.

Describing his most recent play as the work of “a Christian speaking from the Christian tradition”, he said it sought to inspire critical thinking, empathy and dialogue.

Mr Toscano will perform Jesus Had Two Daddies at St James Cavalier, Valletta, tomorrow and Saturday at 8pm. The performance will be followed by a Q&A session. Tickets cost €15.

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