Thursday, May 06, 2010
Transgressing gender in the Bible
“Transfigurations: Transgressing Gender in the Bible” is an LGBT-positive play that is now being made into a graphic novel.
“Transfigurations” was created by Peterson Toscano, a gay activist, actor and playwright who has performed in North America, Europe and Africa. His play wakes people up with transgender Bible characters who do not fit the gender binary. By transgressing and transcending gender, they find themselves at the center of some of the Bible’s most important stories. “Transfigurations” covers many Bible characters, including the Ethiopian eunuch who became the first non-Hebrew Christian.
Toscano drew inspiration for “Transfigurations” from his own life as well as interviews with transsexual, genderqueer and gender-variant individuals. He weaves their stories with the Hebrew and Christian scriptures..
Based in Pennsylvania, Toscano describes himself as “a queer quirky Quaker trying to make the world a better place.” He spent 17 years in ex-gay treatment as a conservative evangelical Christian trying to suppress his same-sex orientation and gender differences. Now Toscano sees ex-gay therapy as “a Biblically induced coma.”
Since coming out as a gay man in 1998, he has presented a GLBT-affirming message through talks, online projects and theater events such as “Transfigurations.” The one-person, multi-character play premiered in 2007 and has won praise from Bible scholars
Michael Willett Newheart, professor of New Testament language and literature at Howard University School of Divinity, states, “I attended a workshop with Peterson in which he announced that he was doing a show on the transgender people in the Bible. I thought to myself, Hey, I’m a biblical scholar, and I don’t know any transgender folks in the Bible! Now I know! I applaud Peterson for bringing to the fore in this play a new way of looking at the Bible! Bravo! No, bravissimo! I had to look at my own sexual stereotypes and how I bring them to biblical interpretation!”
Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, professor emeritus of English at William Paterson University of New Jersey, says, “His biblical exegesis is insightful and accurate, and you will glean a whole new perspective painlessly because of his charming performance.”
Full Draw Studios recently announced that it will turn “Transfigurations” into a graphic novel. “I am working with Jayna and Mila Pavlin, two amazing comic artists, podcasters and transgender activists,” Toscano says. “They are adapting my script for the page bringing it to life in a whole new way,” Toscano says.
In addition to the graphic novel portion of the project, the final book will include various scholars sharing insights from existing scholarship and their original research. Both scholars and public intellectuals in the fields of sacred text and in gender studies will contribute, resulting in a unique blend of art and academics.
Toscano is seeking scholars to contribute to the “Transgressions” book. Full Draw Studios issued this call for contributors:
“Peterson is currently connecting with scholars who are interested in taking part in the project. You may be an established published professor, just beginning your career, or a public intellectual engaging through speaking or on-line. Peterson will share sections of his script with you, share the scholarship he has done on the work and give you a chance to add to it. At this time we cannot offer financial compensation, but for each contributor, we will provide a full biography. And if we get a nice book contract, who knows? :-) If you are interested or simply wish to know more, please contact Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Toscano talks about “Transfigurations” and transgender characters in the Bible in the following video. It captures his lively and sensible approach to being queer and Christian. For more info, visit www.petersontoscano.com/transfigurations.