"It would be really easy for me to blast the ex-gay ministry hard, " says Peterson Toscano of his one-man show Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. "I mean, for seventeen years I was getting some sort of ex-gay reparative therapy, so I could blast them to the other side of the planet.
"But I wanted to tell my story and other people's stories in a non-threatening kind of way, to let people hear the story and make their decision. "
The 38-year-old Toscano brings his acclaimed show -- a comedy with serious and spiritual undertones -- to the Church of the Pilgrims this Saturday, at 7:30 p.m., sponsored by a coalition of gay-friendly and gay-oriented churches and faith-based groups.
Though Toscano is now fully out and is no longer affiliated with the ex-gay movement, he does have a soft-spot for the reparative therapy ministries.
"I really believe that the people I met in the ex-gay movement really did not mean harm, " he says. "They meant to do good, based on what they understood to be right and wrong. And I believe that many of them, if they saw the kind of damage they were doing -- if they could be convinced of that somehow -- would back off somewhat. "
He does point out, however, that "these programs would go out of business if no one signed up to go to them. And people are signing up to go to them because they have a need that is not being met in the gay community. "
In Homo No Mo, Toscano plays a variety of characters, including members of his family, who wholeheartedly supported him in his eventual coming-out process. "My parents were heartbroken that I was part of the ex-gay thing, but I didn't realize that until after I'd left the movement, " he says.
Recalling his life in the Memphis-based Love In Action ministry, he brings up the harsh regulations that participants were expected to comply with. "For instance, you could not exceed fifteen minutes behind a closed bathroom door per day, " he says. "They were very controlling about our time and where we could and could not go.
"As an ex-gay, when I had an evening free, " he continues, "I'd have to think hard about what places I should avoid, what kind of temptations I might encounter. I don't have to live like that anymore. I can just do what I want and not worry about it. "
Ultimately, he hopes the message audiences come away with from his show is that "there are no quick fixes in this life. Even when you step out of the closet, there are vestiges of your old life that you must remove. You need to embrace and develop a new life. And that takes time. "
Peterson Toscano performs Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House this Saturday, January 31, at 7:30 p.m., at the Church of the Pilgrims, 2201 P Street NW. Admission is free, though an offering will be taken for the performer. General seating. Call 202-462-5934. Visit www.homonomo.com.