The hosts of Tranpantastic asked me how I decided to create Transfigurations, a performance lecture and film, about gender non-conforming Bible characters. I told them a story about a British gay Christian retreat I led back in 2005. We were doing bibiliodrama, an exploration of Bible stories through theater and roleplaying, and we focused on LGBTQ issues and possible characters.
During a break one of the participants pulled me aside and said, “I found another gay character in the Bible!” My queer Bible scholar ears perked up, “Yes?”
“The story of man with the pitcher of water. You know when Jesus and the disciples needed a room where they could have the Last Supper. Jesus said ‘find a man with a pitcher of water and he would lead them to the room.’ Well back then men didn’t carry water. It was women’s work. So he was gay!”
I understood the man’s enthusiasm. After being told in thousands of ways that gay men are not welcome, not normal, not natural, and not part of the kingdom of God, we can become desperate to find representations of people like us in history, literature, and especially in the sacred texts used to bash us.
“Or the person may have been transgender or gender non-conforming,” I suggested. This story reveals gender transgression. Even the conservative leaning NIV Study Bible notes for Mark 4:13, Luke 22:10 “It would have been unusual to see a man carrying a jar of water, since this was normally women’s work.” Transgression of gender led to Upper Room, Last Supper & Holy Communion today.
I said something like, “This is really interesting! There is something definitely queer in this story, but I think it is a stretch to say the person is gay. We can’t be stealing trans people’s stories.”
People confuse gender and orientation all the time. A guy is seen as fem, and people assume he is gay. They might be right. There is often a crossover. In my case I was called sissy before anyone called me gay or a fag. But the world is more complex than that–there are other possibilities to consider. Also, for cis gay guys like me, it is not all about us.
The exchange between the retreat participant got me thinking, are there other stories like this in the Bible, of people who break the rules around gender or rise above them? That got me on the path that led to the Transfigurations presentation.
I talk about this, plus a very holy placenta, and a lot more. You can hear the entire interview over at Tranpantastic. It’s on iTunes, Stitcher, or just listen from the site.
TPT#243 – You Can’t Be Stealing Trans People’s Stories (Performer, Scholar, and Activist, Peterson Toscano)
We’re blessed today to speak with our favorite “cissy”, Peterson Toscano. Through his one-person comedies and lively lectures, he has delighted audiences throughout North America, Europe, and Africa as he takes on social justice concerns. His plays and talks humorously explore the serious topics of LGBTQ issues, sexism, racism, privilege, gender, and climate change