Actors final performance of signature Homo No Mo
Narrowsburg alumnus takes a turn at Tusten Theater
By FRITZ MAYER
NARROWSBURG, NY Peterson Toscano, who was raised in Lake Huntington and graduated from the former Narrowsburg Central School in 1983, performed for the last time a piece that has brought him a good degree of fame and much critical acclaim across the country.
The title is Doin Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House: How I Survived the Ex-gay Movement, and he performed it on April 26, at the Tusten Theater. The one-man show examines the authors attempts to transform himself from a gay man into a straight one. Its based on Toscanos real-life experiences with various ex-gay ministries. Toscano, who is deeply religious, spent 17 years and $30,000 in the attempt to change his sexuality orientation. He gave up in 1999. He then wrote the one-person, seven-character play and ultimately reinvented himself spiritually.
Critics have called the play funny and hysterical, but they have also remarked that Toscano does not bash the members of the organization that tried to help him change his ways. Instead, he treats them with a degree of affection. Responding to a question about this, Toscano said, On the one hand, Im being highly critical of them, but I do it with a great deal of passion and understanding because that was my world for many years. I know what its like to be a born-again, evangelical, conservative, Republican Christian. And when I was in that world, I really believed I was making the right choices, often out of deep compassion and moral conviction.
Toscano was so convinced that he could conquer his sexuality that he married a woman he met in New York City. The union lasted five years. He said it ended in disaster, as do most such marriages involving men who are ex-gay. He said, however, that while he was married, he was treated with more respect than before he was married, because people assumed he was straight. He said, I was more respected, accepted at church, on jobs, everything. Theres some real straight privilege in this country, and you earn some of that when you get married.
When Toscano ultimately rejected the notion that he could become ex-gay, he also rejected religion, at least for a time. Because, he said, I was taught over and over that you cant be gay and Christian. He heard that message from the church and, often, from the gay community as well.
For a time, he said, I aspired to be an atheist and failed miserably because Im just far too wired for God. That caused me to go on another journey to try to figure out what I believe. And how I integrate my spirituality, my sexuality and my personality altogether.
Ultimately, he said, his answer was the Quaker community, where he is now active at local, national and international levels. For someone whos been oppressed by the church, and bullied and told what to do so often, its very validating to go in a place where they basically say, youre coming with something valuable and youre welcome to share it here, he said. Also, they are very concerned about the environment and peace and social justice and equality, and those are things that are all very meaningful to me.
Toscano, who performed his new show, The Re-education of George W. Bush, on Saturday evening, said he is retiring Homo No Mo because after five years he got his message out and now has other things to say. Also, when he started telling my story about ex-gay harm, I was the only person doing it. Now many others are communicating in various ways about the issue.
Toscano dedicated his performances to his parents, Pete and the late Anita Toscano, long-time proprietors of the former Petes Pub in Lake Huntington, and in recognition of Narrowsburg Central School. He also gave a special shout out to his sister, Maria Forlenza, her two sons, Gregory and Geoffrey, and Marias husband, Pat Forlenza.
Go to www.homonomo.com for more information on Toscano and his work.