Writer and performer Peterson Toscano will be on campus the week of Sept. 19 to give three performances and talk to campus and community members. The event is sponsored by the TTU Women’s Center and Center Stage.
“Last year, when the rash of young, gay suicides occurred, I realized that someone needs to start the discussion on this campus,” said Diana Lalani, secretary of the TTU Women’s Center, which is sponsoring Toscano’s visit. “Peterson’s presence and his comedies are a way to open that dialogue.”
In the fall of 2010, five young gay men killed themselves as a result of bullying. The most well-known incident was when 18-year-old Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate allegedly posted a video of him having sex with another man on the Internet.
Toscano is a gay Christian who spent nearly two decades trying to change his sexuality, including two years in a Memphis, Tenn., program that aims to do just that.
“I’ve lived most of my life as a born-again evangelical fundamentalist conservative Republican Christian,” Toscano said. “Then I came out in 1999 as gay and I had to question everything I knew and believed.”
On Sept. 19, he will present a show called “I can see Sarah Palin from my window! A comedy about cancer, misogyny, and hospitality!” that addresses U.S. political divisions. The show will begin at 7 p.m. in the Backdoor Playhouse in the Jere Whitson building on TTU’s campus.
He will talk about his experiences in the Memphis residential facility in one of his shows, “HomoNoMo?!? Orientation, Sexism, & the Ex-Gay Movement,” at 7 p.m. Sept. 20 in Derryberry Auditorium. The show is being cosponsored by the TTU Lambda Gay/Straight Alliance.
His third performance, on Sept. 22, “Transfigurations – Transgressing gender in the Bible,” is about characters from the Bible who, according to him, do not fit traditional gender roles. It will also be at 7 p.m. in the Backdoor Playhouse.
All shows are free and open to the public. The shows are controversial in nature.
While on campus, Toscano will also hold an open office hour from 10 to 11 a.m. everyday in the Women’s Center.
Toscano has appeared on the Tyra Banks Show, National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” and the Fox network. He recently helped produce a documentary about Love in Action, the Memphis program in which he was enrolled, called, “This is what Love in Action looks Like.”
“Toscano has been through the fire and emerged changed, insightful and compassionate,” Lalani said. “The Women’s Center hopes that his visit will deepen the ongoing discussion about identity, gender, equality and justice.”