Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent: From a closet fertilized by hope

“Advent wreath, First Advent Sunday” by Micha L. Rieser

We celebrate the first Sunday of Advent with an excerpt from “Rite for Advent” by Chris Glaser, published in Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations:

One: The closet may be a fertile place:
creativity bursts out of a lonely hell,
and from a closet fertilized with hope,
the spirit leaps from a monastic cell.

Many: Those born in darkness
have seen life.

One: Out of dark soil sprouts new life,
from darkness springs embodied hope.
Both stretch for the illumination
of the cosmic landscape.

Many: Those born in darkness
have seen life.

One: Dear God,

Many: We seek your Word embodied
in life rooted in fertile darkness.
In life stretching for illumination,
we await your transforming Word.

Chris Glaser is a gay Christian author and activist. He currently pastors at Virginia Highland Church, a progressive Baptist and United Church of Christ congregation in Atlanta.

(A humorous note from Kittredge: I used a voice recognition program to do this post, reading the prayer aloud from the book and letting the computer convert it into text. It often makes funny mistakes, but this one really made me laugh. I read, “Creativity bursts out of a lonely hell.” The computer typed: “Creativity bursts out of a lonely cow.” LOL! I share this in the joyful spirit of the Advent season. Watch out for lonely cows.)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Gay rights pioneer: Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk of San Francisco
By Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. Copyright 1987
Courtesy of (800.699.4482)

Harvey Milk (1930-1978) is the first and most famous openly gay male elected official in California, and perhaps the world. He became the public face of the GLBT rights movement, and his reputation has continued to grow since his assassination on Nov. 27, 1978 (31 years ago today). He has been called a martyr for GLBT rights

“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country,” Milk said. Two bullets did enter his brain, and his vision of GLBT people living openly is also coming true.

Milk has received many honors for his visionary courage and commitment to equality. In 2009 he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the state of California designated his birthday (May 22) as Harvey Milk Day. He was included in the Time “100 Heroes and Icons of the 20th Century” for being “a symbol of what gays can accomplish and the dangers they face in doing so.”

He is the subject of two Oscar-winning movies, “Milk” (2008) and “The Times of Harvey Milk” (1984), as well as the book “The Mayor of Castro Street” by Randy Shilts.

Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 after three unsuccessful efforts to run for office. He served only 11 months before he was killed, but in that short time he was responsible for passing a tough gay-rights law.

Haunted by the sense that he would be killed for political reasons, Milk recorded tapes to be played in the event of his assassination. His message, recorded nine days before his death, included this powerful statement:

“I ask for the movement to continue, for the movement to grow, because last week I got a phone call from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and my election gave somebody else, one more person, hope. And after all, that's what this is all about. It's not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power — it's about giving those young people out there in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias, hope. You gotta give them hope.”

Shots fired by conservative fellow supervisor Dan White cut Milk’s life short. More than 30 years later, the hope and the movement for GLBT rights are more alive than ever.

The Harvey Milk icon painted by Robert Lentz (pictured above) was hailed as a “national gay treasure” by gay author/activist Toby Johnson. Milk holds a candle and wears an armband with a pink triangle, the Nazi symbol for gay men, expressing solidarity with all who were tortured or killed because of their sexuality.

It is one of 10 Lentz icons that sparked a major controversy in 2005. Critics accused Lentz of glorifying sin and creating propaganda for a progressive sociopolitical agenda, and he temporarily gave away the copyright for the controversial images to his distributor, Trinity Stores. All 10 are now displayed there as a collection titled “Images That Challenge.”
This post is part of the new GLBT Saints series at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints and holy people of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

We are GLBT pilgrims

Gay pilgrims by BetterOffGay
We celebrate Thanksgiving with an excerpt from “Thanksgiving Rite” by Zalmon Sherwood, published in Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations: Reader: With the rainbow we celebrate the vibrance and diversity of lesbian and gay pilgrims. We’re everywhere. Every day. And we are forever the pilgrims in this land. All: Blessed be, blessed be. We’ve always been here. We always will be. Pilgrims in this land. Reader: As gay and lesbian pilgrims, we believe it is a matter of faith to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. We believe in recognizing equally and loving all members of the human family, whatever their race, creed, color, gender, sexual orientation, or physical or mental capacity. We believe the Earth, its creatures, and the universe are good, beautiful, and sacred parts of creation that must be protected and cared for. We believe that we are born to accept responsibility, to take a stand on vital issues, and to work to secure freedom, justice, and love for all persons. All: We believe it is the divine power within us that gives us courage and stamina to face the truth and to live it, even to die for it. Let us go forth, continuing this celebration in the knowledge that we are pilgrims, that hope for a new world is in our hearts, that the struggle for justice is our calling. Let us greet each other with open arms, with heads held high. Grab hold of the future and change the world as pilgrims in this land. ________ Zalmon Sherwood is an Episcopal priest and author of “Kairos: Confessions of a Gay Priest.”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Transgender Day of Remembrance today

Transgender Day of Remembrance by Mikhaela Reid
Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we commemorate those who were killed due to anti-transgender hate or prejudice. The event was founded in 1999 to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on Nov. 28, 1998 sparked the “Remembering Our Dead” web project. Since then it has grown into an international phenomenon observed around the world. It serves the dual purpose of honoring the dead and raising public awareness of hate crimes against transgenders — that is, transsexuals, crossdressers, and other gender-variant people. Mikhaela Reid pictures some of the more prominent victims of anti-transgender violence in the cartoon above: Rita Hester, Brandon Teena (subject of the movie “Boys Don’t Cry”), Gwen Arujo, Chanelle Picket, Nakia Ladelle Baker, Debra Forte, and Tyra Hunter. Born in 1980, Reid is a political cartoonist whose many accomplishments include service as president of the Gay/Straight Alliance at her high school in Massachusetts. I am putting this post in the GLBT Saints series, even though the people honored on this date may not be “saints” in the usual sense. They were murdered for being transgender (or perceived as such). Thus they are martyrs to the cause of equality for all, regardless of gender identity. Spiritual resources for Transgender Day of Remembrance are available at TransFaith Online, including this prayer by Rabbi Reuben Zellman, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, San Francisco, CA:
God full of mercy, bless the souls of all who are in our hearts on this Transgender Day of Remembrance. We call to mind today young and old, of every race, faith, and gender experience, who have died by violence. We remember those who have died because they would not hide, or did not pass, or did pass, or stood too proud. Today we name them: the reluctant activist; the fiery hurler of heels; the warrior for quiet truth; the one whom no one really knew. As many as we can name, there are thousands more whom we cannot, and for whom no prayers may have been said. We mourn their senseless deaths, and give thanks for their lives, for their teaching, and for the brief glow of each holy flame. We pray for the strength to carry on their legacy of vision, bravery, and love. And as we remember them, we remember with them the thousands more who have taken their own lives. We pray for resolve to root out the injustice, ignorance, and cruelty that grow despair. And we pray, God, that all those who perpetrate hate and violence will speedily come to understand that Your creation has many faces, many genders, many holy expressions. Blessed are they, who have allowed their divine image to shine in the world. Blessed is God, in whom no light is extinguished.
The following links offer more info on Transgender Day of Remembrance: Original “Day of Remembrance” site: Up-to-date info: _________ This post is part of the new GLBT Saints series at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints and holy people of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We celebrate our 4th anniversary

Today we celebrate our fourth anniversary as an online resource for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) spirituality and the arts. “We take creative risks and present controversial material that most websites won’t touch,” says Kittredge Cherry, the lesbian author and minister who founded “We specialize in new GLBT Christian art that is too queer for religious institutions and too religious for GLBT organizations.” As a small, independent website, is able to make an impact far beyond its size. By serving the grassroots, it has built a loyal core community of people who comment, donate, contribute and subscribe. They come from many spiritual traditions, but most have moved beyond mainstream churches. “Christian rhetoric is often misused to justify hate and discrimination against GLBT people,” Cherry says. “I founded to present a positive spiritual vision for GLBT people and our allies.” It has expanded from a single website into an online network that includes this popular blog, videos, e-newsletter and image archive. The content has also grown beyond the original emphasis on gay Jesus art. This year a new series on GLBT saints is generating lots of buzz at the Jesus in Love Blog. The blog now showcases a wider range of work from diverse contributors. was launched on Nov. 17, 2005 with a news release titled “New Website Dares to Show Gay Jesus.” Since then it has reached thousands of people all over the world and co-sponsored the first National Festival of Progressive Spiritual Art. “We have won many honors -- and we also get a lot of hate mail from conservative Christians,” Cherry says. She reports that a typical comment is, “Gays are not wanted in the kingdom of Christ! They are cast into the lake of fire.” “Right-wing Christian bloggers labeled me ‘a hyper-homosexual revisionist’ and denounced my projects as ‘garbage,’ ‘insanity,’ and ‘a blatant act defamation and blasphemy,’” Cherry says. “The ongoing religious bigotry proves that is needed now as much as ever. Jesus loved everyone, including sexual outcasts.” Cherry was ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches and served as its national ecumenical officer. One of her main duties was promoting dialogue on homosexuality at the National Council of Churches (USA) and the World Council of Churches. Her books include “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More,” “Jesus in Love: A NovelEqual Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations.” The New York Times Book Review praised her “very graceful, erudite” writing style. The first news release from the original launch is available in the Jesus in Love media room, along with other major news releases from the past three years. _______ Photo credit: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

300 protest transsexual Jesus play

Jesus is a trans woman in the poster for “Jesus, Queen of Heaven”

More than 300 conservative Christian protesters picketed a play about a transsexual Jesus recently in Glasgow, Scotland.

Waving signs and singing hymns, they blocked traffic for two hours on opening night of “Jesus, Queen of Heaven” at the Tron Theatre last week. The play was written and performed by Jo Clifford (formerly John Clifford), whose stated goal was to create greater understanding of transgendered people like herself.

The play expresses a theme of love and tolerance in keeping with Jesus’ own teachings in the Bible. The poster shows Clifford posing as Christ in a white dress with a halo and crucifixion wounds.

Promotional materials sum up the play this way: “Jesus is a transsexual woman. And it is now she walks the earth. This is a play with music that presents her sayings, her miracles, and her testimony. And she does not condemn the gays or the queers or the trans women or the trans men, and no, not the straight women nor the straight men neither. Because she is the Daughter of God, most certainly, and almost as certainly the son also. And God’s child condemns nobody. She can only love...”

In contrast, protestors condemned the play with signs saying “God: My Son is Not a Pervert” and “Jesus, King of Kings, Not Queen of Heaven.”

Clifford said in a news interview that she was deeply offended by the protestors’ misunderstanding of her play and their prejudice against transgenders.

The production is part of the publicly funded “Glasgay!” festival, Scotland’s annual celebration of GLBT culture.

I believe that it’s important to envision a transgender Jesus because Christ represents God made flesh, and we are all created in God’s image, whatever our gender identity or sexual orientation. When we can imagine God as transgender, it is easier to recognize the divinity within the transgendered people around us. The transgender Christ is especially valuable to counteract the bigots who use Christian rhetoric to justify discrimination against GLBT people.

Similar protests were sparked by “Corpus Christi,” a play by Terrence McNally about a gay Christ figure. Bomb threats almost prevented its off-Broadway opening in 1998.

P.S. For an excerpt from the play and great comments, see our more recent post “New play: Transwoman Jesus tells Christmas story.”

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Noah’s gay wedding cruise pictured

Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise” by Paul Richmond, 2009
Oil on canvas, 24” x 30”

Happy gay and lesbian animal couples mingle with today’s GLBT celebrities in “Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise” by Ohio artist Paul Richmond.

His gay version of Noah’s ark even has drowning sinners -- opponents of gay rights such as Ann Coulter, Ken Starr, Pat Boone, Fred Phelps, and even Larry Craig with his toilet! Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie come out of the closet to watch from a porthole as a “God hates fags” sign sinks beneath the waves. Elsewhere on the cruise ship, human couples include Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, Elton John and David Furnish, and Rosie O’Donnell and Kelli Carpenter. Even the fictional cowboys of “Brokeback Mountain” get another chance at love.

“I chose to symbolize our inevitable victory in the fight for marriage equality by painting my own adaptation of the biblical flood,” Richmond says.

He was moved to create the work after California’s Proposition 8 banned same-sex marriage last fall. Demonstrations across the United States in support of marriage equality inspired Richmond to paint a wickedly funny satire on the classic Bible story.

In Genesis 6-9, God commands Noah to gather his family and heterosexual pairs of animals into a boat to rescue them from the global flood sent to destroy human evil and the violence of nature. After the flood, a rainbow appears as a symbol of God’s promise never again to destroy all life on earth.

How appropriate that the rainbow has become a symbol of GLBT pride! Richmond puts a fresh twist on the Biblical epic with his sweeping vision of a gay-positive new world. A rainbow flag flies high on the mast of Noah’s gay cruise ship. “As the clouds begin to part, a heavenly rainbow appears in the sky to remind hopeful voyagers that full legal recognition and acknowledgement of same-sex love is just over the horizon,” Richmond explains.

His vision is artistically beautiful, politically meaningful -- and packed with visual jokes and pop-culture references that are great fun to find.

One of my favorite scenes is Larry Craig clinging to a toilet for dear life (detail below). The former Idaho Senator voted against gay-rights laws… and then got arrested for soliciting gay sex in a men’s restroom.

“Larry Craig was the first part I painted because I just couldn’t wait to throw that toilet at him!” Richmond told me.

The painting also satisfies my longing for GLBT-positive images of animals. Richmond painted wonderful same-sex pairings of cuddling elephants, giraffes, penguins, chimps, and, of course, flamingos. (Another detail below.)

The painting was well received (except by religious conservatives) and was named “the gayest painting of our time” by

Richmond, now 29, came out as gay after graduating from Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio. “My work is an exploration of sexuality and identity through narrative painting,” he says. “I draw inspiration from my own experiences as a young gay man from a conservative environment to break down the social constructs that exist around sexual orientation and gender roles. Through colorful, illustrative, and sometimes humorous paintings, I expose the grey areas that become overshadowed by black and white moral codes.”

“Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise” is available as a limited-edition giclee print from the artist’s online shop at I bought one for our collection and am delighted with its quality, artistry and message.

P.S. “Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise” has been selected for inclusion in this year’s OUTAuction benefiting GLAAD and celebrating their Top 100 Artists of the Year on Nov. 15. The artist says, “I’m so excited to have been chosen, and especially to be able to contribute that particular painting. Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise is getting ready to set sail for it’s last voyage! :)”

Update on Sept. 16, 2011: BW16 of the Objective Queer Bible Scholar blog offers another queer interpretation of the Noah’s Arc story: “This classic Sunday school tale includes a number of LGBT motifs, my favorite being the command from God to Noah to ‘take two of every kind’ on the ark (6:20), presumably this would include couplings of heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, and pan-sexuals.” For more info, see BW16’s post “Two of Every Kind” Intercourse Texture in Noah’s Ark.

Larry Craig hangs on to his toilet while other homophobes drown.

Ellen and Portia lead the way as lesbian elephants and gay flamingos snuggle.

Brokeback cowboys, Rosie and Kelli and gay giraffes all have a chance at love under the rainbow flag.

Ann Coulter sinks with a “God hates fags” sign.

The following links may be used to place an order:

12” x 15” giclee prints of “Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise”:

16” x 20” giclee prints of “Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise”:

Sunday, November 01, 2009

All Saints Day invokes GLBT saints

From “Invocation for All Saints Day” by James Lancaster, published in Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations:

Our gay and gracious God, where shall we find your gay and lesbian saints? Have they all been lost to us? Bring us Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicitas, martyred women whose love and faith sustained generations of Christian hope. Bring us Saint Sergio and Saint Bacchus, whose fidelity and endurance inspired centuries of gay lovers. Bring us Saint Anselm, Saint Aelrod, Saint Paulinus, and the nuns of Tegernsee, who revealed lesbian and gay love and courage to the church and the world so long ago. Praise God for these valiant souls!

Jim Lancaster was one of three openly gay seminarians who gained national publicity in 1988 for challenging the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s policy against ordination of gay men and lesbians.

Meet the saints he names (and more!) in the new GLBT Saints series here at the Jesus in Love Blog.