“Trans Indian Jesus” was painted recently by an artist from India. It is posted at Q Spirit for International Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31).
Transgender Christian images are needed now because religious bigotry is one factor behind the rise in anti-transgender violence. Transgender women of color and transgender students are most impacted by the violence, so it is especially valuable to see Christ pictured as a trans person of color.
Artist Immanuel Paul Vivekanandh painted the transgender Indian vision of Christ during the Council of World Mission’s Global Painting Retreat in Tainan, Taiwan in 2016.
The image shows Christ with a rainbow halo and transgender symbol. This Jesus appears to be male on the left and female on the right. Christ’s Indian identity is suggested by a sacred bindi mark on the forehead and a nose ring.
The motif of a half-male, half-female deity split down the middle is not new in Indian religious art. Ardhanarisvara is a Hindu deity embodying the god Shiva on one side and his wife Parvati on the other. Artistic depictions of the “hermaphrodite” deity date back 2,000 years and new versions continue to be popular.
Vivekanandh is a communication secretary for the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India. Previously he worked there as coordinator for the Dalit and Adivasi concerns desk. He lives in Chennai (formerly known as Madras), capital of the state of Tamil Nadu in eastern India.
He has a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute and a Master of Arts degree in English literature from Jamal Mohammed College.
International Transgender Day of Visibility was founded in 2010 by Rachel Crandall, the head of Transgender Michigan. The goal is to celebrate the trans community. The better known Transgender Day of Remembrance (Nov. 20) is a day of mourning, but Transgender Day of Visibility focuses on empowerment.
Transgender Christian books
BESTSELLER AT JESUS IN LOVE / Q SPIRIT
“This Is My Body: Hearing the Theology of Transgender Christians” by Christina Beardsley and Michelle O’Brien (editors).
Transgender Christians speak for themselves in this collection. They give voice to faith and theology grounded in specific yet diverse experiences beyond the usual gender identity imposed by church tradition. The book brings hope, anger and grace, plus a review of the latest theological, cultural and scientific literature. Many contributors come from the Sibyls, a confidential spirituality group for transgender people and allies in the United Kingdom. Foreword by Susannah Cornwall. Beardsley is a Church of England priest, hospital chaplain and activist for trans inclusion in the church. Raised Anglican, O’Brien does advocacy, research, lecturing and writing on intersex and trans issues. Published by Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd.
BESTSELLER AT JESUS IN LOVE / Q SPIRIT
“Transgender, Intersex and Biblical Interpretation” by Teresa Hornsby and Deryn Guest.
Biblical affirmation for LGBTQI people is presented by two well-known Bible scholars. They show that in the Bible, gender identity and sexual orientation are always dynamic categories that do, and must, transition. The book examines familiar (e.g., Gen 1; Revelation) and less familiar (2 Sam 6; Jer 38) scriptures to reveal the bias that makes heterosexuality and a binary two-gender system seem divinely ordained. They critique how biblical texts are used in Christian positional statements on transsexuality and provide statistic on violence against trans persons. Teresa Hornsby is religious studies professor at Drury University, Springfield, Missouri. Deryn Guest is lecturer in Biblical hermeneutics at the University of Birmingham, England. Published by SBL Press (Society of Biblical Literature, founded 1880).
“The Bible and the Transgender Experience: How Scripture Supports Gender Variance” by Linda Tatro Herzer.
This clear, easy-to-read book shows how the Bible affirms transgender, queer and intersex people. Individual chapters examine eunuchs, Leviticus, cross-dressing, Jesus, creation, choice, gender-variant people in the Bible, and gifts that gender-variant people bring. It includes a helpful discussion guide and advice on “how to make your congregation or group trans friendly.” The author is an active ally who pastored a predominantly LGBTQI church where 10 percent of congregants identified as trans men, trans women, cross-dressers, or genderqueer. Published by Pilgrim Press.
“Retreating Forward: A Spiritual Practice with Transgender Persons” by David Elias Weekley.
A model for transformational retreats is presented in this educational resource for individuals, spiritual leaders, and faith communities that support transgender people. A queer theology of radical love is explained and put into practice. The author is a United Methodist pastor, transgender advocate and member of the transgender community. Foreword by British equality activist David Watters. Published by Wipf and Stock.
“Transgender Children of God” by Megan Rohrer.
Even a child can understand transgender identity with this heartwarming book aimed at kids ages 2 to 8. “Transgender children of God play with both dolls and trucks. No matter what you play with, God will love you,” it begins. The books goes on to proclaim God’s love regardless of what you wear, how you look or how you mix male and female. It also affirms transgender parents, although it can be read by any progressive family of faith. The author is pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco and the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran Church. Published by Wilgefortis/Lulu Press. Available in both paperback and e-book versions. For more info and a sample page, see First-ever LGBT religious children’s books published.
Book: Omnigender: A Trans-religious Approach by Virginia Mollenkott (2001)
Book: Transgendering Faith: Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality by Leanne Tigert (editor)
Links related to Transgender Day of Visibility
Transgender Day of Remembrance: Spiritual resources (Qspirit.net)
Click the headlines below for more about transgender spirituality. Not all of these people self-identified as transgender, but their stories of gender non-conformity are offered here as an inspiration for transgender people and their allies.
Jemima Wilkinson: Queer preacher reborn in 1776 as “Publick Universal Friend”
Jemima Wilkinson (1752-1819) was a Quaker preacher who woke from a near-death experience in 1776 believing she was neither male nor female. She changed her name to the “Publick Universal Friend,” fought for gender equality and founded an important religious community.
Pauli Murray: Queer saint / activist for civil rights and gender equality
Human rights champion Pauli Murray (1910-1985), a recent addition to the Episcopal books of saints, described herself as a man trapped in a woman’s body and took hormone treatments in her 20s and 30s.
Joan of Arc: Cross-dressing warrior-saint
Joan of Arc was a cross-dressing teenage warrior who led the medieval French army to victory when she was 17.
Image credit: Saint Joan of Arc by Brother Robert Lentz, OFM., www.trinitystores.com
We’wha of Zuni: Two-spirited Native American
We’wha was a two-spirit Native American Zuni who served as a cultural ambassador for her people, including a visit with a U.S. president in 1886.
Image credit: “We’wha” by Jim Ru
Artist paints history’s butch heroes: Ria Brodell interview
“Butch Heroes” of history are painted by genderqueer artist Ria Brodell. She uses the format of traditional Catholic holy cards to present butch lesbians, queer women and female-to-male transgender people from many different times, places, and backgrounds.
Image credit: “James How aka Mary East and Mrs. How” by Ria Brodell
Religious threats to LGBT people exposed in Jerusalem photos
Religion-based oppression of LGBT people is revealed in “Jerusalem,” a photo exhibit by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin. It includes “Tranny,” a portrait of a drag queen from Jerusalem. Biblical words against crossdressing are projected behind her.
Queer Lady of Guadalupe: Artists re-imagine an icon
Queer art based on Our Lady of Guadalupe includes a bearded drag queen version titled “Virginia Guadalupe” by Jim Ru.
St. Wilgefortis: Bearded woman saint
St. Wilgefortis prayed to avoid marriage to a pagan king — and her prayers were answered when she grew a beard!
300 protest transsexual Jesus play
More than 300 conservative Christian protesters picketed the Scottish opening of “Jesus, Queen of Heaven,” a play about a transsexual Jesus by Jo (formerly John) Clifford.
Top image credit:
“Trans Indian Jesus” by Immanuel Paul Vivekanandh
This post is part of the Queer Christ series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series gathers together visions of the queer Christ as presented by artists, writers, theologians and others
Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
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