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