Saturday, December 12, 2009

New play: Transwoman Jesus tells Christmas story

Above: “Concert of cherubs in the clouds” by Wenceslas Hollar, Wikimedia commons
Below: Poster from “Jesus, Queen of Heaven”

Jesus’ angelic birth highlights the holiness of EVERY birth in the following scene from the controversial new play “Jesus, Queen of Heaven” by Jo Clifford formerly John Clifford). This scene reminds us that angels surround us all.

As a special Christmas gift, Jo agreed to let the Jesus in Love Blog post part an excerpt from her play, which was protested by 300 Christian conservatives last month at its premiere in Scotland. They were upset because Jo presents Jesus as a transsexual woman.

However, Jo’s aim was to express love just as Jesus does in the Bible. I believe that this scene conveys the true meaning of Christmas:

Go home rejoicing.
Just as the shepherds did in the story of our birth,
Do you remember them?
The ones who were tending their flocks by night,
and the angels saying:
“Fear not. I bring you tidings of great joy.
You shall find the babe lying in a manger.”
And that was you. And you. And you.
And me too. All of us. In our swaddling clothes.
Dear little things that we were.
And still are.
And don’t tell me
There were no shepherds. Or that there were no
Because they all went years ago when they built
the city by-pass.
Or that it wasn’t a manger. But a plastic box in a
run-down maternity ward. Without enough midwives.
Or there were no wise men,
Maybe just your dad, and him a bit pissed maybe,
being so nervous.
Think poetically.
Because what i tell you is true.
The whole truth and nothing but
Because, Beloved sisters and brothers and every
kind of sibling in Christ,
Because I am the truth.
And I am also the way and the life and a million
other things besides.
And the angels were there at your birth
And there was rejoicing and great gladness
And wise men did come with the most beautiful
And the angels just so delightfully framing the
Because there are Angels. Angels everywhere.

For more info on Jo Clifford, please visit For more on the controversy, see my previous post "300 protest transsexual Jesus play."


Yewtree said...

Yes! we are all incarnations of the Divine! Beautiful stuff.

Turtle Woman said...

According to today's science, we don't really know the true sex of Jesus. Another theory I have, is that if Jesus is fully male AND female, then when Jesus returns to earth, she will come to judge the living and the dead.

Or, I have another theory that many children of god were born, but the girls were killed. Thus, patriarchy killed many girl messiahs along the way. Think about it.

pennyjane said...

i really have difficulty reconciling this particular idea. as a transwoman myself, i understand my transsexualism to mean having been born with one brain gender and the opposite body gender. in seeing Jesus as beyond gender, it's difficult for me to see Him as trans.

God gave Him a male body, my guess is for the obvious reason...credibility among the patriarical culture of the day. but, truly, i believe Jesus to be all male and all female and neither gender at the same time.

so...suggesting there is an incongruence doesn't square with my conception. and so, since incongruence is the essence of what transsexualism is...the whole idea is flawed....beautiful and sincere...but flawed.

much love and hope. pj

Kittredge Cherry said...

Wow, you all are certainly taking this discussion in some interesting directions!

pennyjane, thank you for sharing your perspective as a transwoman. It’s really an oversimplification when I wrote that Jo Clifford “presents Jesus as a transsexual woman.” After my first post about the play, Jo gave me the honor of letting me read the whole script. It’s not so much saying that Jesus was a transwoman -- instead, it’s saying that EVERYONE bears Christ’s image, including transwomen. I expect that you would agree with that concept. Since Jo happens to be a transwoman, when she follows Christ and lives out his teachings, it becomes the story of a transwoman Jesus.

I picked this scene to quote on the blog because it expresses that idea. The “babe in the manger” isn’t just Jesus 2,000 years, ago -- it’s “you. And you. And you.”

Turtle Woman, I’m not sure what you mean when you say, “According to today's science, we don't really know the true sex of Jesus.” It’s an intriguing idea. Can you explain?

I have heard that if Jesus was conceived through a virgin birth, science says all his genes came from his mother. He must have appeared to be physically male, since his circumcision is recorded in the Bible and males with “deformed” genitalia were not allowed in the Temple, but the Bible says that Jesus went there often. I do agree with what pennyjane wrote about Jesus’ gender: “all male and all female and neither gender at the same time.”

I once read a moving short story by feminist Christian Reta Finger about how Jesus was born a girl in ancient Palestine and was killed soon after birth.

pennyjane said...

thank you kitt. with that concept i can't possibly argue...Christ does live in us all and we are all His image.

sometimes, i guess, i feel like i just fall way short of living up to His image. thank God there are plenty of brothers and sisters to pick up my slack.

the story of the murdered female Jesus really does hit home. i fear, sometimes, that modern science will discover a cause for transsexualism and offer a "solution" to pregant mothers...perhaps the option of a pill that would bring the mind and body into congruence while yet in the womb. what mother wouldn't accept that option? (poof) the end of us.

for some...perhaps would seem like me, it's more like genocide.

what would Jesus do?

much love and hope. pj

Kittredge Cherry said...

Thanks, pj, for continuing the conversation. I know the feeling of falling short of Christ’s image. Later in the play, Jo makes connections between the crucifixion of Jesus and today’s harassment of transgenders… like the “genocide” that you mentioned. I’m hoping that she will grant permission to post one of those excerpts around Eastertime.

Did you notice this interesting similarity between you (pj) and Jo Clifton? Standard English says to capitalize the word “I,” and almost everyone does it. But both pj and Jo use the lower-case “i.” This leads me to think you have a similar outlook on life.

While we’re pondering the gender of Jesus, I thought I would include a quote from my own novel about Him, “Jesus in Love.” Pennyjane, you might not approve of his mixing of genders, but I was trying to describe the indescribable… God. The basic concept is that his body is male, but his consciousness is male/female.

Here’s an excerpt. Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit: “Each of us was both Lover and Beloved as everything in me found in the Holy Spirit its complement, its reflection, its twin. We took turns switching roles and switching genders.”

Turtle Woman said...

What I meant by "we don't know the true gender of Jesus" according to modern science, is simply a recognition of intersex people that are in the news today. Like the athlete from South Africa who people insisted might not be female. I can't remember her name, but it was recently in the news.

I believe infanticide is widespread in patriarchal cultures that value boys, but hate girls. The one child policy in China, the use of amenocentisis in India to destroy girl children before they are born, and of course, ancient Israel where women were not even valued as much a livestock.

So Rita Finger's idea of the destruction of women messiahs is very real to me. I believe men kill women and girls, and that patriarchy tries in every way to destroy female spiritual leaders or even the birth of "the daughter of god." I want to welcome in the birth of the woman savior who will liberate women worldwide, and to see the world as women author their own sacred texts, and exhault the triumph of the lesbian spiritual leader. It's why it was so dynamic to see Mary Glasspool promoted as the very first lesbian bishop ever! To see her happy lesbian look, the direct gaze, the vast intelligence, the daughter of the priest who rises above even her own father's opposition to women priests is nothing short of my Christmas miracle this season.

Women are killed for their spiritual powers, they were burned at the stake by the church, and any woman who wanted to deviate from doormat status was bashed again and again by male supremacy, erased, bashed, and wiped out.

The war on women by patriarchy is nothing new. It's deeply rooted in the Bible, it's deeply rooted in erasing women and using a generic "he" and "man" for the human race. I noticed that even Barak Obama used "man" generic for humankind in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, for example.

So when god returns as fully human, Jesus will be woman triumphant!

pennyjane said...

hi kitt. in informal writing i always use lower case except in reference to God.

it's not a big deal, just a quick reminder to myself of who's world it actually is.

the idea of the failed messiah...the murdered female not new to me. there is a woman in my bible study class who often speaks of God's great plan being peppered with failures:
an abraham who didn't hear the angel on moriah; a moses who chickened out from lack of faith in aaron; a david who missed...etc.

all these things would take a it's not that odd a thought that God gave us first a female messiah, one joseph couldn't reconcile with mary's

who knows how long it really took for all these things to come together? and who knows how many of God's prophets and angels we have killed, either intentionally or just in the course of our everyday lives.

we're pretty lucky that God is most loving and benevolent...slow to anger. He stays with us...will we stay with Him?

much love and hope. pj

Jo Clifford said...

I've been so interested in the discussion provoked by my play.
I think something really crucial about it is the invitation to "Think poetically". So it's not about Jesus literally being a transwoman. It's more about...
When i was a child I was taught that Jesus was God's child. Who came down to earth and took on all our human experiences. Which must include my experience as a transwoman.
So what if that was true? What would change in what she said and did?
Or, to look at it another way:
I was also taught that we should try to imitate Jesus as best we can. So what if I did? What if I, a transwoman, became Jesus? What would I say? What would I do?
Maybe these re helpful ways to think about it.
What i do think is crucial though, is the play's message that we are all totally loved from the very moment we are conceived and come into this world.
As a transwoman I really need to hear this and be reminded of it.
I think and hope it's a really powerful idea.
Thanks again for all your interest and support
Jo Clifford

Kittredge Cherry said...

I’m delighted to see this discussion sprouting in all directions and blossoming. I’m especially honored that the playwright herself left a comment. Thanks, Jo!

I found Jo’s explanation especially helpful: 1) Jesus took on all our human experiences. 2) We’re all invited to imitate Christ.

Turtle Woman, thanks for explaining that Jesus might have been born intersex. That makes good sense. Whatever the physiology, he certainly had a consciousness way beyond the ordinary male of his time and place.

I do promote female Christ images on this blog… because I believe they are needed to balance the overwhelmingly male images of God in Christianity. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to want a female-only Jesus all the time. I don’t want to replace one tyranny with another, but to have a broader understanding of who Christ is.

Pj, I never thought of how MARY might have had a female child before Jesus. Interesting idea! I had heard that other good, holy women might have given birth to previous female Messiahs who were killed before they could be recognized.

Well, I must say I am surprised at how much passion some of you feel about infanticide/selective abortion of female and transgender infants. I’ve also heard that some scientists are looking for a “gay gene” in order to abort embryos that carry it.

All this is making me think that I should do a post on this theme on “Holy Innocents Day” -- Dec. 28 -- a feast day remembering King Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus by slaughtering all the baby boys in Bethlehem.

pennyjane said...

i think that's a great idea, kitt.

the genocide i spoke of is real, at least in my mind. i know that there are different people seeking the "cause" of transsexualism. i've seen certain reports about certain periods of time in the womb when "hormone spashes" occurr that might influence gender identity.

my fear is real. i fear that if these times are identified the next step would be to "correct" the results of the splashes, to bring the body and mind into congruence prior to birth conscienciousness. i don't see that as becoming anything but a routine, accepted medical practice in the not so distant future. that could, in the end of us...transsexuals.

the idea saddens me deeply. i wrote a story about the last transsexual once. i called it "last bus to trinidad." the "apocalypic" herolding of the post-transsexual period of earth history.

i don't want to do away with us...i think we're worth keeping.

much love and hope. pj