Published on July 9th, 2014 | by Brook Ellen West


Sex, spirit, and stories, oh my!

At the intersection of identity and spirituality stands a microphone toward which six storytellers are fast approaching.

Their stories are ones rarely told, personal and true, about experiences that transformed their inner selves. Listen to their words at your own risk as side effects include the sensation of being moved, enlightened, troubled, and entertained. So goes the power of a story.

10369051_854758104538315_8749191446977892644_oThe microphone is in the basement at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, where the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts and Drunken Telegraph will present a cabaret-style atmosphere. These Tacoma-based organizations have combined forces in partnership with the Tacoma Pride Festival to examine the cohesion of identity and spirituality during a live storytelling event called Crossing the Threshold: LGBTQ Stories of Spirit.

“This isn’t sterile. This isn’t a religious figure telling us how great they are,” says Jane Brazell, a two-time Drunken Telegraph veteran and the one who instigated Crossing the Threshold’s conceptualization. “It’s time dedicated to interfaith queer and trans voices.”

The nuance of language is critical when describing spirituality, as this is not a Christian event or one belonging to any organized religion. It’s about those who are queer and transgender trying to reconcile the distance between their sexual identity and the connection to something greater than themselves, and telling the precise story of how it happened.

Crossing the Threshold refers to “the classic moment in a hero’s journey when a person leaves behind a familiar way of living to move into unknown territory, on a quest for something more.” says Megan Sukys, the event’s emcee. Megan also co-produces Drunken Telegraph, a live storytelling show featuring personally told, true-life stories. She continues, “[Crossing the threshold is] a frightening step because there is no way to know what is on the other side—or if there is anything at all. It’s a transition that requires faith that it’s worth the risk.”

Dorothy’s feet touch the yellow brick road, Marty McFly accelerates the DeLorean over 88 miles per hour, Neo swallows the red pill, Huck Finn and Jim start downriver on a raft—in all these moments, characters emerge a hero crossing the threshold.

Our stories celebrate that chance to travel beyond routine and enter a new world rife with conflict, choices, lessons to be learned, and like any good story, a transformation to be made.

The line-up of storytellers are members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities who will share the real-life experiences of faith, religion, and spirituality that transformed the way they live, love, and connect with the world.

The show begins at 7:30 pm on Friday July 11 at Immanuel Presbyterian.

“The word ‘faith’ is often associated with organized religion, but that’s not the only way people experience a connection to the sacred and mysterious facets of the universe,” Megan says. The stories shared during Crossing the Threshold  will “explore a wide spectrum of ways that the individual spirit…drives us to take risks and go in search of more meaningful lives.”

But every story needs two things to function properly: a teller and a listener.

“The audience is as much the star of the show as the storytellers,” says Tad Monroe, the other half of the two-person team behind Drunken Telegraph. “You will probably laugh, possibly cry, and most certainly be struck by both the beauty and simplicity of a well-told story.”

Mirror neurons in our brain make it possible for us to feel what other people are feeling, just by observing them. Humans are wired for empathy, and when we hear a story, we feel it as if it is happening to us. “That’s the surprising gift of stories,” says Tad, “listening to other people almost always ends up teaching you more about yourself.”

After the featured storytellers, audience members are invited to brave the microphone and share their own true, five-minute story in response.

“Listening is critical. We’re raising the veil on queer and trans questions of faith and saying you get to look in,” Jane explains. “A story of spirit means something different for everyone, but no one can tell queer and trans stories better than we can.”

Tickets for Crossing the Threshold are available through the Broadway Center box office and can be purchased online. The event will be ASL interpreted. Beer, wine, and snacks will be available for purchase.

“To quote Harvey Milk,” Jane offers, “‘Hope will not be silent.’ That’s what this event is—two hours of hope to the queer and trans people listening who will know they are not alone.”

Crossing the Threshold: Stories of Spirit. 7:30pm Friday, July 11, Immanuel Presbyterian Church 901 N. J St., Tacoma, WA, 98403.


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About the Author

Brook Ellen West received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry before turning her life around to become a writer. Her poem Is Anyone Normal? was read aloud during an elementary school assembly.

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