Category: Queer Bible Series

LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Stories — Theme Seven : Breaking Gender, Social, Class Norms

This is part seven of a seven part series on

LGBTQ+ themes and the Bible

The seven themes are:

    1. The Closet/Coming Out
    2. Queer/Alternative Family
    3. Transition & Transitioning
    4. Allies
    5. Drag & Disguise
    6. Non-Procreative Sex Positive Stories
    7. Breaking Norms: Gender/Social/Class
While some queer Bible scholars have been on the hunt to unearth gay and lesbian Bible characters–a noble quest–I have been curious about people in the Bible who transgress and transcend gender and other norms. Since the writers of the Bible laid down so many clear rules and guidelines for social behavior, it is not too difficult to see when someone “misbehaves.”
I have created an entire performance lecture on the subject, Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible. There are so many examples of gender non-conforming Bible characters. People have enjoyed the ways I highlight gender differences in the story of Jacob, Esau, and Joseph.
One of my favorite is gender transgressors has to be Mary. No not Jesus’ mother or Mary Magdalene (who by the way is never portrayed as a sex worker in the Gospels.) I am fascinated by the character of Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Famously in Luke 10 Mary leaves off helping her sister Martha prepare the food for a gang of hungry disciples. Instead she sits as Jesus’ feet. Her sister, Martha protests:

“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

They she gets rebuked by Jesus, “‘Martha, Martha you are worried and upset about many things,  but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’

Male Protestant ministers love to praise Mary as they pit her against Martha. They ask, Are you a Martha or a Mary?  Are you running around doing things or simply sitting at the feet of Jesus and soaking it all in? Of course at least a quarter of the women in the church never hear the message because they are busy preparing coffee and taking care of the children for the rest of the congregation.

The reality is Mary is not a meek and mild figure here. She is being downright transgressive. She takes the role of a male disciple, learning at Jesus’ feet and is affirmed by Jesus for doing so. She takes the place reserved for males in her society and boldly presumes to be a disciple before the teacher.

The participants who attended the LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Hour provide more examples of Breaking Gender, Social, Class Norms

          • Woman at the well who spoke with Jesus
          • Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch
          • Woman anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfumed oils
          • Deborah in the Book of Judges–poet, prophet, judge, and warrior. Not typical role for housewives in the text.
          • Lydia in Acts who is a business woman caring for destitute widows and how those widows sent me to fetch the Apostle Peter to attend the funeral. (Acts 16)
          • Rehab, the sex worker who harbored spies in Jericho
          • The Man with the Pitcher of Water who leads disciples to upper room during Passover (both a class and gender transgressive act.)
          • Mary, the Mother of Jesus breaking social norms regarding her pregnancy

What about you? What stories from the Bible do you want to add to the list of Breaking gender, social, class norms? Leave you thoughts in the comments below.

Many thanks to Wild Goose and the folks who attended the workshop!

IF you want to hear more alternative readings to the Bible, check out the monthly podcast I co-host with Liam Hooper: The Bible Bash Podcast! available wherever you listen to podcasts.

Featured Photo by Crawford Jolly on Unsplash

 

LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Stories — Theme Six : Sex Positive Stories

This is part six of a seven part series on

LGBTQ+ themes and the Bible

The seven themes are:

    1. The Closet/Coming Out
    2. Queer/Alternative Family
    3. Transition & Transitioning
    4. Allies
    5. Drag & Disguise
    6. Non-Procreative Sex Positive Stories
    7. Breaking Norms: Gender/Social/Class

Photo by Fausto García on Unsplash

Many religious leaders have demonized the sex LGBTQ people enjoy. They have shamed us about our sexual desires and lovemaking and sexual pleasure. They have told us sex is only for procreation. They are wrong.

Sex has so many purposes in our lives. Straight elderly couples who can no longer procreate can still recreate, and they do! Sex gives pleasures, deepens intimacy, and releases endorphins that promote our mental and emotional health.

Sex and erotic play take many forms. It is not all about penetration and producing offspring. In looking at LGBTQ-friendly Bible stories, I choose to include stories about sex in the Bible–particularly non-procreative, non-penetrative sex.

The story of Delilah and Samson provides a steamy, erotic, and intimate glimpse into the romance and sex acts of two people in a taboo relationship. Their relationship is forbidden by their families and by their countries. 

In the telling of the story and in many subsequent sermons by Christian ministers, Delilah gets a bad rap, but I feel empathy for Delilah. Consider Judges 14 & the threats Samson’s first wife faced from her male leaders.

On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband to explain the riddle to us, or we will burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?”
Delilah has to answer to this same bunch of thugs, who think nothing of destroying her and her family if she doesn’t comply.
The writer portrays Delilah as a nagging wife. She wears Samson out. She’s judged as being more loyal to her country then to her partner. They present her as yet another difficult woman in the text, like the wives of Potiphar & Lot. But the extreme pressure she is under gets overlooked. 
In Judges 16 what unfolds is a series of play dates between Samson and Delilah. They are being monitored the entire time. The eyes of voyeurs are always on them. Like in a spy movie where the room is bugged and and the characters constantly watched on video, these two have to be careful about what they say and do.
” The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, ‘See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.'”
Delilah must find out the secret of Samson’s strength. We can only imagine what happens to her if she cannot produce this intel for her countrymen. Over the next several scenes, Samson and Delilah engage in a series of BDSM sex play.
Delilah says to Samson, ‘Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.”
The first night he says: If anyone ties me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man. He then goes to sleep, or pretends to sleep, and she ties him up.
With men hidden in the room, she calls to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snaps the bowstrings as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered. (verse 9)
The next time they are together he says, “If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” Again he “falls asleep,” she ties him up, and “Samson the Philistines are upon you!”
The next time he says, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric and tightened it with the pin.
Notice we are getting closer to the truth, and their play in the bedroom becomes even more intimate as she leans over him and  weaves his hair. Is it possible she whispers to him things the people spying on them cannot hear? But once again “The Philistines are upon you!” and we learn this is not the secret of his strength.
Delilah’s countrymen are likely losing patience. Maybe they are no longer offering a reward; instead they probably threatened her and her family with torture and death.
As an actor, I know you can say a line in multiple ways. The director may tell you to play Delilah as a nagging wife: “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.”
A good director though will look for tension in the text–say the line but have your voice, body, eyes say something else. “Samson, it’s no use. I can’t find a way out of this. I don’t want to betray you. We are trapped.”
 The writer of Judges inserts, “With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.” Sure but if he is so sick of her, why does he keep going back? What is he looking for? Why is he reneging on his responsibility to rule Israel and instead pursues this relationship with a Philistine woman? Besides the sex, what does he find in Delilah’s home and company that draws him?
Finally, “So he told her everything. ‘No razor has ever been used on my head,’ he said, ‘because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.'” He becomes vulnerable in her hands. He gives away his secret knowing that she will have no choice but to play her part and cut his hair.
I wonder how the intimacy of s&m leads to a deeper intimacy. Under constant surveillance & state pressure on Delilah, Samson reveals his secret knowing the consequences. Did their sex play lead to self-sacrifice?

The participants who attended the LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Hour provide more examples of Non-Procreative Sex Positive Stories

          • Ruth & Boaz
          • Mary & Joseph (Particularly in Roman Catholic traditions, the church teaches Joseph and Mary did not have procreative sex yet they remained a couple. What sort of physical intimacy did they share?)
          • David & Jonathan (One way to read this relationship is on of deep affection and physical intimacy. They spent time together, said vows to each other, and enjoyed each other physically.)
          • Song of Songs (An extraordinary celebration of erotic love.)
          • Jesus and the Sex Worker (In the text the disciples and people in the house are scandalized by Jesus allowing the sex worker to give him a foot massage–a highly erotic and intimate act.)

What about you? What stories from the Bible do you want to add to the list of Transition/Transitioning stories. Leave you thoughts in the comments below.

Many thanks to Wild Goose and the folks who attended the workshop!

IF you want to hear more alternative readings to the Bible, check out the monthly podcast I co-host with Liam Hooper: The Bible Bash Podcast! available wherever you listen to podcasts.

Featured Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Stories — Theme Five : Drag and Disguise

This is part five of a seven part series on

LGBTQ+ themes and the Bible.

The seven themes are:

  1. The Closet/Coming Out
  2. Queer/Alternative Family
  3. Transition & Transitioning
  4. Allies
  5. Drag & Disguise
  6. Non-Procreative Sex Positive Stories
  7. Breaking Norms: Gender/Social/Class

Photo by Bret Kavanaugh on Unsplash

Drag is most commonly the performance of gender, and it can be a pretty extreme presentation of gender. In Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, I get into hyper masculine Esau drag in order to tell the stories of gender non-conformists Joseph and his father, Jacob, Esau’s fraternal twin brother. I was inspired by the account in Genesis when Jacob himself dressed up in Esau drag replete with strap-on furry chest.

There are many examples of people in the Bible who take on another form. They do so for multiple reasons. Sometimes it is for their own protection. We can relate to that. How often have LGBTQ+ butched and femmed it up in order to pass? But there are other reasons people take on a disguise. In the case of Joseph and his brothers, he is in full Egyptian drag and conceals his true identity in order to teach his siblings a lesson.

The example at Wild Goose I gave of a story with drag and disguise is Tamar in Genesis chapter 38. Tamar is married to Jacob’s grandson, Judah’s son, Er. (A great name!) “But the Lord considered Er, Judah’s oldest son, to be wicked—so he put him to death.” As was the custom, Tamar could still have a child who would become the heir. “ So Judah instructed Onan, ‘You are to have sexual relations with your dead brother’s wife, performing the duty of a brother-in-law with her, and have offspring for your brother.'” Onan was naughty though.

“But Onan knew that the offspring wouldn’t be his own heir, so whenever he had sexual relations with his brother’s wife, he would spill his semen on the ground to avoid fathering offspring for his brother.  The Lord considered what Onan was doing to be evil, so he put him to death, too.” 

Performing gender normative behavior as Esau for the film version of Transfigurations.

(Side Note: Early church fathers called masturbation the Sin of Onan, but if you read the text, Onanism is really a form of birth control Onan imposed on Tamar thus depriving her of her rights and leaves her a destitute childless widow. He refuses to provide her with an heir and instead turns her into his personal sex toy.)

Judah has another son, Shelah, who Judah promises to Tamar once he is a little older. Tamar figures it out pretty quickly she is gonna wait the rest of her life in her father’s house waiting for Shelah to show up. She decides to take matters into her own hands. Her dressing up is both drag and disguise.

Look!” somebody reported to Tamar, “Your father-in-law is going to Timnah to shear his sheep.”  So she took off her mourning apparel, covered herself with a shawl, and concealed her outward appearance. Then she went out and sat at the entrance of Enaim, which is on the way to Timnah, because she knew that even though Shelah had grown up, she wasn’t being given to him as his wife.

 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, since she had concealed her face.  So on the way, he turned aside, approached her, and said, “Come on! Let’s have some sex!” But he didn’t realize that he was talking to his own daughter-in-law.

“What will you give me,” she asked, “in order to have sex with me?”

Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash

She brokers the deal and does the deed, and as a security deposit she keeps Judah’s signet ring and staff. The next day when Judah’s servant comes to settle accounts with the sex worker and reclaim the ring and staff, she is  no where to be found, and no one in the town knows who the servant was talking about it. A few months later Judah’s family is up in arms because Tamar is pregnant. Right before they burn her at the stake, she dramatically makes the big reveal:

While they were bringing her out, she sent this message to her father-in-law: “I am pregnant by the man to whom these things belong. Furthermore,” she added, “tell me to whom this signet ring, cord, and staff belongs.”

When Judah recognized them, he admitted, “She is more upright than I, because I never did give her my son Shelah.” And he never had sex with her again.

As if she wanted to have sex with him again.

Tamar has little agency to get the justice she deserves. Her disguise serves as an essential part of her plan.

The participants who attended the LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Hour provide more examples of Drag and Disguise

      • Adam & Eve dress up in fig leaves in a reverse striptease
      • Abram’s has three visitors–God and two angels in human drag form. (Genesis 18)
      • The writer of Hebrews reveals angels sometimes go around in disguise. Hebrews 13:2 “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
      • Rebecca dresses her son Jacob in Esau drag with hairy sheep’s cloth in order to steal Esau’s blessing (which was not a very nice way of using a disguise.)
      • Jesus is in disguise both before and after resurrection.

What about you? What stories from the Bible do you want to add to the list of Transition/Transitioning stories. Leave you thoughts in the comments below.

Many thanks to Wild Goose and the folks who attended the workshop!

IF you want to hear more alternative readings to the Bible, check out the monthly podcast I co-host with Liam Hooper: The Bible Bash Podcast! available wherever you listen to podcasts.

Featured Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Stories — Theme Four : Allies

This is part four of a seven part series on

LGBTQ+ themes and the Bible.

Photo by Jordan McDonald at Unsplah

The seven themes are:

  1. The Closet/Coming Out
  2. Queer/Alternative Family
  3. Transition & Transitioning
  4. Allies
  5. Drag & Disguise
  6. Non-Procreative Sex Positive Stories
  7. Breaking Norms: Gender/Social/Class

Today we will look at examples people who operate as Allies in the Bible.

From the Southern Illinois University website:

An “Ally” is “a person who is a member of the dominant or majority group who works to end oppression in his or her personal and professional life through support of, and as an advocate for, the oppressed population.” (Washington and Evans, Becoming and Ally) Allies to racial, religious and ethnic minorities have been remarkable effective in promoting positive change in the dominant culture, and only recently has their instrumental position been extended to the area of sexual orientation. The past few decades have witnessed the development of heterosexual Ally organizations which have attempted to make the culture of a campus or workplace more aware and accepting of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trangender, queer, questioning, and intersex individuals.

Photo by JW at Unsplash.com

The example of a Biblical eunuch I gave at the Wild Goose Festival Workshop is the story of the eunuch, Asphanez, helping Daniel and his friends in the Book of Daniel. Captured during war and dragged into exile in Babylon, young Daniel and his friends are traumatized. They are children who witnessed horrors. Now they live in the palace of the very tyrant who killed their families and destroyed their homes. The king wants these boys groomed for royal servant, perhaps even as eunuchs.

They are heartbroken and experience PTSD. Asphanez, a eunuch in the court is given the job to transform these broken boys into court official. The kind insists the boys eat the rich food from the royal table, but the boys have lost their appetite for life, let alone for food. They tell Asphanez they want the food they ate back home, rustic food compared to the king’s choice offerings. Although the king will kill Asphanezz if he hears the eunuch disobeyed an order, Asphanez, the eunuch wants to help the boys and give them comfort food. I go deeper into this story in the Bible Bash podcast I co-host with Liam Hooper.

The participants who attended the LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Hour provide more examples of Allies:

    • Jesus to oppressed margin of society (women, lepers, sex workers, the poor, and people with disabilities and mental illness.)
    • Ebed Melech helping the prophet Jeremiah — Jeremiah 38
    • Joseph of Aramathea –Matthew 27:57-60, Mark 15:42-46, Luke 23:50-55, John 19:38-42
    • Moses to the Hebrew people
    • Ruth to her mother-in-law Naomi
    • Rehab of Jericho to the Joshua and the Hebrew people–Joshua 2:1-7

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

What about you? What stories from the Bible do you want to add to the list of Transition/Transitioning stories. Leave you thoughts in the comments below.

Many thanks to Wild Goose and the folks who attended the workshop!

IF you want to hear more alternative readings to the Bible, check out the monthly podcast I co-host with Liam Hooper: The Bible Bash Podcast! available wherever you listen to podcasts.

Featured image by by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Stories — Theme Three : Transition/Transitioning

This is part three of a seven part series on

LGBTQ+ themes and the Bible.

The seven themes are:

  1. The Closet/Coming Out
  2. Queer/Alternative Family
  3. Transition & Transitioning
  4. Allies
  5. Drag & Disguise
  6. Non-Procreative Sex Positive Stories
  7. Breaking Norms: Gender/Social/Class

Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

Today we will look at examples of Transition and Transition.

The example I gave at the Wild Goose Festival Workshop is about the long-term transition the young shepherd boy, David, makes to become King David.

Photo by Mark Fletcher-Brown on Unsplash

When looking for the next king of Israel, God sends the prophet Samuel to the house of Jesse, a man with many sons. Jesse parades his strapping, manly sons before Samuel, but the prophet’s “Kingdar” does not ding once. They then reluctantly bring out the boy shepherd, David. The bells go off as Samuel declares, “Man sees on the outside, but God sees the heart.” This David has the heart of a king. The rest of the book is the transition process from rural shepherd boy to royal leader. I Samuel

The participants who attended the LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Hour provide more examples of Transition and Transitioning

  • Peter’s journey to include gentiles in the early church–Acts 10
  • Paul transitioning to Saul–Acts 9:1-31
  • Jesus’ transition to accept his death to the tomb to resurrection–Luke 22:43,44
  • Jacob to Israel–Genesis 35
  • Abram to Abraham/Sarai to Sarah–Genesis 17
  • Moses and the Israelites leaving Egypt and going to Promise Land–Exodus

Photo by Steinar Engeland on Unsplash

What about you? What stories from the Bible do you want to add to the list of Transition/Transitioning stories. Leave you thoughts in the comments below.

Many thanks to Wild Goose and the folks who attended the workshop!

IF you want to hear more alternative readings to the Bible, check out the monthly podcast I co-host with Liam Hooper: The Bible Bash Podcast! available wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

Featured image: Trans performer in Tablas Island, Philippines credit: P. Toscano

LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Stories — Theme Two: Queer/Alternative Families

This is part two of a seven part series on LGBTQ+ themes and the Bible. The first theme we explored was The Closet/Coming Out.

The seven themes are:

  1. The Closet/Coming Out
  2. Queer/Alternative Family
  3. Transition & Transitioning
  4. Allies
  5. Drag & Disguise
  6. Non-Procreative Sex Positive Stories
  7. Breaking Norms: Gender/Social/Class

Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

Today we will look at examples of Queer/Alternative Families.

Many LGBTQ+ people have found themselves in situations where their biological families are not accepting and affirming. This can happen at any stage in life, but it becomes all too common for LGBTQ+ youth and elders. It is a testimony to the resiliency of LGBTQ+ people that we model what it means to have chosen family. In this weird time of climate change when so many people are being displaced from their homes, LGBTQ+ people teach the rest of the world a lot about what it is like to live together with others who are not biologically related.

There are several stories in the Bible where queer/alternative families are formed. These non-traditional family units happen in times of great turmoil and change when people need to look after each other. .

The example I gave at the Wild Goose Festival is about the queer/alternative family that appears in the Book of Esther. A young Jewish girl, Hadassah, is born in exile in Persia.

Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah. Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died. Esther 2:5-7

Scholars speculate about this Mordecai. It is possible he was not related to Hadassah/Esther by blood. They also point out Mordecai has no wife or children. Later in the story we see Mordecai regularly hanging out with eunuchs in the place in the palace designated for them. It is possible Mordecai is a eunuch, and as such unable to have biological children.

Through Hegai, a eunuch in the Persian court, Hadassah comes to the palace, is renamed Esther, and goes into an intensive make-over program to prepare her to appear before the king. The king ultimately choses her as the next queen. Mordecai and Hegai serve as adoptive parents to Esther, someone who without their protection would likely experience many dangers and risks. They care for her, train her, prepare her for life. They form an unconventional alternative family.

The participants who attended the LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Hour provide more examples of queer/alternative families

  • Ruth & Naomi (and their kinsman, Boaz)–Book of Ruth
  • John, the beloved disciple and Mother Mary–John 19:26,27
  • Mary, Joseph, Jesus–Matthew 1:18-25
  • Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Jesus–John 11
  • Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ismael–Genesis 16 (This alternative family unit though fell apart under the strain caused by inheritance rights. Liam Hooper does a wonderful job talking about this story in the Bible Bash podcast episode about Ismael and Hagar.
  • Elijah and the widow–1 Kings 17:7-16
  • Paul, Silas, and young Timothy–Acts 16
  • David, Jonathan, Mephibosheth–2 Samuel 9

What about you? What stories from the Bible do you want to add to the list of Queer/Alternative family stories. Leave you thoughts in the comments below.

Many thanks to Wild Goose and the folks who attended the workshop!

IF you want to hear more alternative readings to the Bible, check out the monthly podcast I co-host with Liam Hooper: The Bible Bash Podcast! available wherever you listen to podcasts.

(featured Photo by Dimitar Belchev on Unsplash)

LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Stories — Theme One: The Closet and Coming Out

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

At the Wild Goose Festival, I led a workshop, The LGBTQ+ Friendly Bible Hour. Instead of a traditional presentation that defended queer folks from clobber passages or the more uplifting approach to unearth queer Bible characters, I opted to highlight seven themes that are familiar to some LGBTQ+ people.

The seven themes are:

  1. The Closet/Coming Out
  2. Queer/Alternative Family
  3. Transition & Transitioning
  4. Allies
  5. Drag & Disguise
  6. Non-Procreative Sex Positive Stories
  7. Breaking Norms: Gender/Social/Class

After listing these and providing an example for each, I then turned it over to the folks who showed up. Through a crowd-sourcing sharing session, people added Bible stories under queer theme categories. I promised the participants I would blog about the event and share their suggestions. There is a lot of info to share, so I will do so through a series of blog posts. Today’s post is:

The Closet/Coming Out

Not all LGBTQ+ have the experience of being “in the closet” or “coming out,” but it is fairly familiar to many of us. We stay in the closet for lots of reasons–fear of rejection, the possibility of losing or changing important relationships, and concerns for our careers, housing, and safety. When you are young and not on your own, it can be especially risky coming out in a community that is not prepared or willing to receive you.

The stories below feature individuals and groups who reveal something about their identity or their experience. It is a key to better understand who they are. In doing so they risk losing position, place, and people. In coming out though they often find liberation and new life.

Here is the example I gave:

Esther Comes Out Jewish — Esther 7

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

The Book of Esther is jammed packed with LGBTQ+ friendly themes. It also is downright creepy at times; the story sometimes toggles between the Handmaid’s Tale and Game of Thrones.

Esther grew up in Persia as a Jewish exile. We do not know what happened to her parents, but a “kinsman” by the name of Mordecai takes her under his wing (thus creating a queer/alternative family.)

The young Esther, with the help of palace eunuchs, finds herself in the women’s quarters  and in the running to become queen. She wins handily (again with help from the gender non-conforming eunuchs this time giving her inside information.) She is queen but does not have full freedom of mobility. Her position can easily be taken away (See what happened to her predecessor, Queen Vashti in Esther chapter one.)

Esther has a secret–she is Jewish–and only Mordecai knows. After an edict is passed that will kill all of the Jews, Esther (again with the help of eunuchs) confronts, Haman, the enemy of her people, and in front of the king reveals she is Jewish. She can lose everything by coming out, but she finds favor with the king who then lets her get her revenge on her enemies.

These are the people and stories workshop participants added to the closet/coming out stories.

  • The Exodus of the Jews out of Egypt: a collective coming out story — Genesis 12
  • The Transfiguration of Jesus: The Nazarene reveals his true divine colors — Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36, 2 Peter 1:16–18
  • Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

    Lazarus Come Out! The resurrection of Lazarus — John 11. He was out but not yet free. The disciples helped in his liberation by unwrapping the grave clothes and letting him go. I write about this story here.

  • The Secret Gospel of Mark: Sadly we did not have time to discuss all of these suggestions, but I am intrigued with the Secret Gospel of Mark being seen as a closet/coming out story. It does contain a story similar to the resurrection of Lazarus. While we do not have a complete version of this Gospel, it is referenced in a letter attributed to Clement of Alexandria.

“And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, “son of David, have mercy on me”. But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered , went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus thaught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.”

  • Apostle Peter’s comes out as someone who includes Gentiles among believers — Acts 10
  • Mary reveals to Joseph she is pregnant with God’s son — Matthew 1:18-25
  • Jesus comes out of the Tomb — Luke 24 Three days dead and buried, Jesus’ resurrection resonates with many of us who lived in there shadows and ultimately experienced liberation.
  • Jesus comes out to the disciples on the road to Emmaus — Luke 24:13-35 (This story also fits under the category of Drag/Disguise.

What about you? What stories from the Bible do you want to add to the list of Closet/Coming Out stories. Leave you thoughts in the comments below.

Many thanks to Wild Goose and the folks who attended the workshop!

IF you want to hear more alternative readings to the Bible, check out the monthly podcast I co-host with Liam Hooper: The Bible Bash Podcast! available wherever you listen to podcasts.

(featured Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash)