Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jacob and the angel: Wrestling to reconcile body and spirit

“Jacob Wrestling with the Angel” by Leon Bonnat (1876) via Wikimedia Commons

When Jacob wrestled with the angel in the Bible, they embodied the struggle between sexuality and spirituality. Artists have created many homoerotic images of the scene over the centuries.

The story of Jacob wrestling (Genesis 32:24-31) is the Sunday lectionary reading for tomorrow (July 31).  It speaks to LGBT people and our allies.

Many have interpreted this story as a struggle between material and spiritual needs, but it is especially powerful for queer people who are trying to reconcile their sexuality and their faith. Jacob refused to give up the fight until he forced a blessing out of God. Like Jacob, LGBT people can also win God’s blessing by continuing to wrestle with our faith, regardless of those who condemn as sinners.

Jacob, ancestor and namesake of the Israelites, is alone one night when a mysterious stranger comes to him. Scripture refers to the stranger as a man, God, and an angel (Hosea 12:4). He wrestles with Jacob until dawn. Then the angel wants to leave, but Jacob insists, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”

The angel gives him a new name and identity as Israel, which can be translated as “one who has prevailed with God.” Jacob asks to know the angel’s name, but he just gives a blessing and leaves. Alone again, Jacob marvels, “I have seen God face to face and lived.”

Jacob is honored in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For Christians, some see the pre-incarnate Christ himself as the mysterious stranger who wrestled with Jacob.

The story raises intriguing questions. What was the nature of the “wrestling” that went on all night long? Whether or not there was an erotic interaction, the friendly conclusion affirms that God wants to relate to human beings as equals. God rewards those who challenge God.

“Jacob and the Angel” by Hendrik Andersen, lover of Henry James. For the uncropped version (warning: full frontal nudity), visit Wikimedia Commons.
Related links:

Wrestling with God” at the Queering the Church Blog is a queer reflection on Jacob and the angel.

Click here for a gallery of art showing “Jacob Wrestling with the Angel” at Wikimedia Commons.

This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, humanitarians, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Saints Boris and George: United in love and death

Saints Boris and George the Hungarian
By Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. © 2000
Collection of the Living Circle, Chicago, IL

The love between Saint Boris and George the Hungarian ended in tragedy in 1015 in medieval Russia. Their feast day is July 24 -- the same day that same-sex marriage became legal in New York this year.

Boris was a prince and gifted military commander who was popular with the Russian people. He was married, but he had enormous love for his servant George the Hungarian. Slavic professor Simon Karlinsky has highlighted their gay love story in his analysis of the medieval classic, “The Legend of Boris and Gleb” compiled from 1040 to 1118. Karlinsky writes:
Boris had a magnificent gold necklace made for George because he “was loved by Boris beyond reckoning.” When the four assailants stabbed Boris with their swords, George flung himself on the body of his prince, exclaiming: “I will not be left behind, my precious lord! Ere the beauty of thy body begins to wilt, let it be granted that my life may end.” The assailants tore Boris out of George’s embrace, stabbed George and flung him out of the tent, bleeding and dying. After Boris died, first having forgiven his assassins, his retinue was massacred… Not only was the author of this story clearly sympathetic to the mutual love of Boris and George but he also seemed to realize that “the gratuitous murder of George resulted from his open admission of the nature of this love.”

Karlinsky’s text above is quoted from “Passionate Holiness: Marginalized Christian Devotions for Distinctive People” and “Gay Roots: Twenty Years of Gay Sunshine.”

The man behind the murders was Boris’ half-brother Sviatopolk, who wanted to consolidate his power. He also had their brother Gleb killed at the same time. In 1071 Boris and his brother Gleb became the first saints canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church. They were named “Passion Bearers” because, while they were not killed for their faith, they faced death in a Christlike manner, forgiving their murderers.

Brothers Boris and Gleb are popular saints in Russia. They are often pictured together and many churches are named after them. Meanwhile the beloved George the Hungarian was never canonized and has mostly been ignored -- until recently.

The icon above was painted in 2000 by Brother Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his innovative icons. 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.

Here George is restored to his rightful place beside Boris, properly honoring this extraordinary couple and the way they loved each other.

Surely Boris and George are smiling down now on all the newlyweds in New York, where same-sex marriage became legal on their feast day.
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Icons of Boris and George and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at

Friday, July 22, 2011

The many faces of Mary Magdalene

“The Damsel of the Holy Grail” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1874), Wikimedia Commons

Mary Magdalene is one of the most fascinating people in Christianity. Facts are few, and speculations run wild. Is she the greatest apostle, the sexiest saint, a repentant prostitute, the wife of Jesus or something even queerer? Consider some of her many faces today in honor of her feast day (July 22).

LGBT Christians may be able to relate to Mary Magdalene as someone who had a close relationship with Jesus, but got an undeserved bad reputation in the church for sexual sins. The church labeled her as a prostitute for centuries, but the Bible does NOT say she was a prostitute. Feminist theologians are reclaiming her as a role model in the struggle for equality.

The Bible portrays Mary Magdalene as the most important woman disciple of Jesus. He cast seven demons out of her and she became one of the women contributed their own resources to support Jesus (Luke 8:3). She traveled with him on his last journey to Jerusalem, watched his crucifixion, and was the first witness to his resurrection. All this, and only this, is in the gospels.

Mary Magdalene is also the author of her own gnostic gospel, the Gospel of Mary Magadelene. It survives in two 3rd-century Greek fragments and a longer 5th-century Coptic translation. Like several other apocryphal manuscripts, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene records her conflict with Peter over leadership in the Jesus movement. Peter challenges her right to speak for Jesus by asking, “Did he then speak secretly with a woman, in preference to us, and not openly? Are we to turn back and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?”

Medieval legends say that Mary Magdalene traveled to France with the Holy Grail, the cup used by Jesus as the Last Supper. This vision of Mary Magdalene appears in “The Damsel of the Holy Grail” by 19th-century English painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He presents Mary Magdalene as a mystical Christ figure, holding the Eucharistic chalice in one hand and raising the other in a gesture of benediction. The white dove of the Holy Spirit holds a pot of burning incense over her.

Mary Magdalene is an inspiration for those who seek progressive role models for church leadership today. For example, the Nativity Project recently commissioned three new paintings of Mary Magdalene by Vermont artist Janet McKenzie. They illustrate “an alternative to Peter’s hierarchical way of being church--that of the companion disciple modeled by Mary Magdalene--the one who worked side by side with Jesus,” according to

McKenzie and Nativity Project founder Barbara Marion conceived of the paintings as part of the project’s mission to celebrate women in the New Testament. “The One Sent” (pictured below) shows two spiritual teachers seated side by side: Jesus, sent to live among us as the Word made flesh, and Mary Magdalene, the first one sent to proclaim the Resurrection.

“The One Sent: Mary Magdalene with Jesus, the Christ” (from the triptych The Succession of Mary Magdalene) by Janet McKenzie

Penitent Magdalene,
by Titian (1565)
Wikimedia Commons

Mary Magdalene has a reputation as a prostitute, and some people love her for being the archetypal “bad girl.” As far back as the third century, church tradition has identified her with the unnamed “sinful woman” who wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair and the woman whom Jesus saved from being stoned for adultery. Over the centuries many great artists painted her as a repentant prostitute. However, the Bible never says that Mary Magdalene was a sex worker. The Second Vatican Council officially removed the prostitute label in 1969.

Still, many people can relate to the idea of a sexually experienced disciple. If Mary Magdalene wasn’t a prostitute, perhaps she was the wife of Jesus. An unnamed “Beloved disciple” plays an important role in the Bible. A popular theory suggests that the Beloved Disciple was Mary Magdalene.

Some modern writers, notably Dan Brown in “The Da Vinci Code,” claim that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and fathered children with her. Thus Mary Magdalene herself becomes the metaphorical Holy Grail, the receptacle who carried on his bloodline by bearing one or more children with him.

Why stop there? Artist Peter Grahame has imagined the possibility of a bisexual Jesus in a love triangle with Mary Magdalene and John as the Beloved Disciple in his photo “Saying Goodbye to John and Mary.” (It can be viewed it in our previous post “Exploring Jesus the Bisexual.” Warning: nudity.) I also explore Jesus’ bisexual attractions in my “Jesus in Love” novels (although in my books Mary Magdalene does not return Jesus’ erotic interest).

Maybe Mary Magdalene herself was bisexual or lesbian. Painter Alex Donis imagines Mary Magdalene enjoying a woman-to-woman kiss in “Mary Magdalene and Virgen de Guadalupe.” (For more info, see our previous post Queer Lady of Guadalupe: Artists re-imagine an icon.)

“Mary Magdalene and Virgen de Guadalupe” (from “My Cathedral”) by Alex Donis

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene ends with Levi defending her against Peter: “If the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Savior knows her very well. That is why He loved her more than us.”

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Saint Wilgefortis: Bearded woman

Saint Wilgefortis statue in the Church of Saint Nicholas in Pas-de-Calais, near Wissant, France (Wikimedia Commons)

Santa Wilgefortis” from “Queer Santas” series by Alma Lopez

Saint Wilgefortis prayed to avoid marriage to a pagan king -- and her prayers were answered when she grew a beard! This gender-bending virgin martyr has natural appeal for LGBT people. Her feast day was July 20 (tomorrow) until she was removed from the Vatican calendar in 1969.

For a new version of this article, click this link to
Saint Wilgefortis: Holy bearded woman fascinates for centuries

Wilgefortis remains in standard Catholic reference works, and images of her as a bearded woman on a cross are plentiful across Europe and in Latin American folk retablos.

She probably originates more in popular imagination than in history, but Wilgefortis continues to be an object of devotion in folk religion, a favorite character in pop culture and an inspiration in queer art.

Contemporary readers have come up with many theories about Wilgefortis. She has been interpreted as the patron saint of intersex people, an asexual person, a transgender person, a person with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or a lesbian virgin.

Legend says that Wilgefortis was the teenage Christian daughter of a king in medieval Portugal. She had taken a vow of chastity, but her father ordered her to marry a pagan king. She resisted the unwelcome marriage by praying to be made repulsive to her fiancé. God answered her prayers when she grew a beard.

Unfortunately her father got so angry that he had her crucified and Wilgefortis joined the ranks of virgin martyrs. The church has promoted “virgin martyrs” as examples of chastity and faith, but lesbians and other queer people recognize them as kindred spirits who do not engage in heterosexual activity.

Saint Wilgefortis in the Museum of the Diocese Graz-Seckau in Graz, Austria, 18th century (Wikimedia Commons)

Her veneration began in 14th century Europe and grew until the 16th century, when her story was debunked as fiction. People continued to worship her despite frequent opposition by church officials. She was honored all across Europe, and in some places her popularity rivaled the Virgin Mary. Wilgefortis stayed on the official Vatican calendar until 1969. Scholars suggest that her legend arose to explain the Volto Santo of Lucca, a famous Italian sculpture of the crucified Christ in a long tunic that medieval viewers thought was a woman’s dress.

The history is explored in the book “The Female Crucifix: Images of St. Wilgefortis Since the Middle Ages” by Ilse E. Friesen., professor of art history at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. She traces the emergences of increasingly female crucifixes over the centuries, focusing on the he German-speaking regions of Bavaria and Tyrol, where the veneration of Wilgefortis reached its peak.

The name Wilgefortis may come from the Latin “virgo fortis” (strong virgin). In Spanish she is Librada -- meaning “liberated” -- from hardship and/or husbands. She also goes by a bewildering variety of other names. Her alternate English name Uncumber means escaper. In addition, she is known as Liberata, Livrade, Kummernis, Komina, Comera, Cumerana, Ulfe, Ontcommen, Dignefortis, Europia, and Reginfledis. In Barcelona (Spain), local people honor Múnia de Barcelona, a legendary saint who is similar to Wilgefortis. Her feast day day is Feb. 28.

The saint speaks for herself in singer-songwriter-pianist Rebecca Clamp's song, “St. Wilgefortis.” Clamp is originally from Cambridge, England, and moved to Helsinki, Finland. She engages in a sweetly quirky dialogue with the saint in a song and concludes:
I won’t marry a heathen
And I won’t marry a saint
I won’t marry at all
Just grow me a beard
And find me a cave
I’ll be a happy little hermit
And I’ll build a little shrine
To my dear St. Wilgefortis
Oh ridiculous
To my dear St. Wilgefortis
The patron saint of bearded ladies
To my dear St. Wilgefortis
So sublime, so sublime

The saint is presented in two incarnations -- as Wilgefortis and as Liberata -- in the “Queer Santas” series by Chicana artist Alma Lopez. The series grew out of the artist’s insight that female martyrs may have protected their virginity to the death not so much out of faith, but because they were lesbians. Lopez paints Wilgefortis/Liberata as masculine women in crucifixion poses. They look like butch lesbians, liberating themselves by rejecting feminine appearance and traditional gender roles.

Saint Liberata” from “Queer Santas” series by Alma Lopez

Wilgefortis also makes various appearances in modern literature. The critically acclaimed 1970 novel “Fifth Business” by Robertson Davies concerns a scholar researching Wilgefortis. Castle Waiting, a graphic novel by Linda Medley, features a nun from the order of St. Wilgefortis, an entire convent full of bearded women!

St. Wilgefortis in the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows at the Loreta Sanctuary in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo by Curious Expeditions.

Related links:

Uncumber or Wilgefortis (Queering the Church)

To read this post in Spanish / en español, go to Santos Queer:
Santa Librada (Wilgefortis): Una santa Barbuda

This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved. presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Saints Symeon and John: The holy fool and the hermit who loved each other

“Symeon and John” by Jim Ru

Sixth-century Syrian monks Symeon and John were joined in a same-sex union and lived together as desert-dwelling hermits for 29 years. After a tearful split-up, Symeon went on to become known as the Holy Fool of Emesa, the patron saint of all holy fools (and puppeteers.) Their feast day is today (July 21).

These Byzantine saints are important for LGBTQ people because of their loving same-sex bond and Symeon’s role as holy fool. In the tradition of “fools for Christ,” believers deliberately challenge social norms for spiritual purposes. LGBTQ Christians, who face insults from both sides for being queer AND Christian, may be able to relate to the motivations and experiences of the holy fools.

For a new version of this article, click this link to
Symeon of Emesa and John: Holy fool and hermit who loved each other

Symeon the Holy Fool (or Simeon Salus) of Emesa (c. 522 - c.588) and John of Edessa were close friends starting in childhood, although Symeon was six years older. Both came from wealthy families. When Symeon was 30, they made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On the journey home they were both filled with an irresistible desire to leave their families and join a monastery together.

They took vows in the monastery of Abba Gerasimus in Syria. The two men were tonsured by the abbot who blessed them together in an early monastic version of the adelphopoiia ceremony -- the “brother-making” ritual that historian John Boswell calls a “same-sex union.” They were referred to as the “pure bridegrooms (nymphoi) of Christ.”

Soon the two men went together to live as hermits in the desert near the Dead Sea, where they could practice spiritual exercises in solitude. There is no suggestion that their relationship was sexual, but they shared a life together in the wilderness with all the emotional intensity of a same-sex couple for 29 years.

At that point Symeon decided to leave his longtime companion and move to the city of Emesa in modern Lebanon.  He wanted to do charity work while mocking social norms as a “fool for Christ.” John begged him not to go. John’s passionate plea is recorded in “Symeon the Holy Fool” by Derek Krueger:

“Please, for the Lord’s sake, do not leave wretched me. For I have not yet reached this level, so that I can mock the world. Rather for the sake of Him who joined us, do not wish to be parted from your brother. You know that, after God, I have no one except you, my brother, but I renounced all and was bound to you, and now you wish to leave me in the desert, as in an open sea. Remember that day when we drew lots and went down to lord Nikon, that we agreed not to be separated from one another. Remember that fearful hour when we were clothed in the holy habit, and we two were as one soul, so that all were astonished at our love. Don't forget the words of the great monk….Please don’t lest I die and God demands an account of my soul from you.”

Even this heartfelt appeal did not change Symeon’s mind. Instead he invited John into a long, intimate prayer session as described by Krueger:

“After they had prayed for many hours and had kissed each other on the breast and drenched them with their tears, John let go of Symeon and traveled together with him a long distance, for his soul would not let him be separated from him, but whenever Abba Symeon said to him ‘Turn back, brother,’ he heard the word as if a knife separated him from his body, and again he asked if he could accompany him a little further. Therefore, when Abba Symeon forced him, he turned back to his cell drenching the earth with tears.”

Symeon went on to help the poor, heal the sick and do other good works in Emesa. In order to avoid public praise, he shocked people by deliberately acting crazy, making himself a “holy fool.”

Not long before his death, Symeon had a vision in which he saw his beloved John wearing a crown with the inscription, “For endurance in the desert.” 

Symeon and John were honored together as saints on July 21 in many ancient calendars. In the 16th century Caesar Baronius separated them and moved Symeon to July 1, but some traditions still celebrate them both on July 21.

Artist Jim Ru was inspired to paint the Symeon and John as a couple, with John’s fervent words to his beloved, “Please don’t leave lest I die and God demands an account of my soul from you.” The painting was displayed in his show “Transcendent Faith: Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Saints” in Bisbee, Arizona in the 1990s.

More resources:
Symeon the Holy Fool: Leontius’s Life and the Late Antique City” by Derek Krueger (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996).

Simeon the Holy Fool (Wikipedia)

To read this post in Spanish / en español, go to Santos Queer:
Simeón de Emesa y Juan: un “santo loco” y un ermitaño que amaban el uno al otro
This post is part of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Traditional and alternative saints, people in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and our allies are covered.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved. presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Artemisia Gentileschi paints strong Biblical women

“Judith and Her Maidservant” by Artemisia Gentileschi

Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi inspires many with her paintings of strong Biblical women -- created despite the discrimination and sexual violence that she faced as a woman in 17th-century Italy. She was born 418 years ago today (July 8, 1593).

For a new version of this article, click this link to
Artemisia Gentileschi paints strong Biblical women

On Gentileschi’s birthday, we honor her here at this blog devoted to LGBT spirituality and the arts. Gentileschi was apparently heterosexual, but lesbians have drawn energy from her life and art. Many queer people can relate to her battles against prejudice and sexual violence, documented in her rape trial in 1612. She could be considered the patron saint of women artists.

Gentileschi (1593–1652) was successful in her own day, but was mostly written out of art history until the 1970s, when feminist scholars rediscovered her work. Now she is celebrated in many books, films and plays, and her work is widely reproduced. Her greatest paintings include “Judith Beheading Holofernes” and “Susanna and the Elders.”

Lesbians who have created tributes to Gentileschi include painter Becki Jayne Harrelson and playwright Carolyn Gage. In the play “Artemisia and Hildegard,” Gage has two of history’s great women artists debate their contrasting survival strategies: Gentileschi battled to achieve in the male-dominated art world while Hildegard of Bingen found support for her art in the women-only community of a medieval German nunnery.

The daughter of a painter, Gentileschi was born in Rome and trained as a painter in her father’s workshop there. She was refused admission to the art academy because she was a woman, so her father arranged for her to have a private painting teacher -- who raped her when she was about 19. Gentileschi herself was tortured by thumbscrews during the seven-month rape trial, but she stuck to her testimony. The teacher was convicted, but received a suspended sentence.

“Judith Beheading Holofernes”
by Artemisia Gentileschi
Gentileschi used art to express her outrage. During the trial Artemisia began painting “Judith Beheading Holofernes” (left). Judith, a daring and beautiful Hebrew widow, saves Israel by cutting off the head of the invading general Holofernes. Judith and Holofernes became one of Gentileschi’s favorite subjects, and she painted several variations during her lifetime.

Her realistic style, influenced by the great artist Caravaggio, shows dramatic contrasts between light and dark. But Gentileschi usually created her own unique interpretations expressing a strong female viewpoint. The violence of Judith beheading the male general Holofernes speaks for itself. Another example is her painting (below left) of the Biblical story of the Hebrew wife Susanna and the lustful elders who spied on her while she was bathing. While her male contemporaries painted the scene as a voyeuristic fantasy, Gentileschi presents it as a violation of the vulnerable Susanna by the predatory elders.

“Susanna and the Elders”
by Artemisia Gentileschi
Soon after the rape trial Gentileschi married and moved to Florence, where she became the first woman accepted into the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (Academy of the Arts of Drawing). She had a full career, producing many paintings of powerful women from Christianity, history and mythology. She worked in various Italian cities and even spent a few years painting in London, England. It is believed that she died when she was about 60 years old in a plague that swept Naples in 1656.

Today Gentileschi’s life and work are admired by many, including artist Becki Jayne Harrelson. She is best known for her LGBT-affirming version of “The Crucifixion of the Christ” with the word “faggot” above Jesus on the cross, but Harrelson has also honored Gentileschi in her art and blog.

As we celebrate Gentileschi’s birthday, Harrelson offers this tribute: “Artemisia Gentileschi’s talent and mastery was equal to her male counterparts, yet because of sexism and misogyny, she was denied the recognition she deserved as a master painter until many centuries later. She also suffered sexual violence and was treated unjustly for standing up against it. Her art and life inspires me to persevere despite adversity and prejudice.”

Artemisia Gentileschi is included in the GLBT saints series at the Jesus in Love Blog because she has inspired so many of us with her paintings of women and her success despite gender barriers and sexual violence. She could be considered the patron saint of lesbian artists, women artists, and everyone who breaks gender rules.
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, heroes and holy people of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Artist shows sensuous gay saints: Ted Fusby

“Two Saints: Tete-a-tete” by Ted Fusby

Saints are “carnal, gay, and live worldly lives” in the paintings of Arizona artist Ted Fusby.
He specializes in male nudes, including saints and demons. His “Two Saints: Tete-a-tete” (above) is widely used on LGBT spirituality websites. It shows two male saints resting against each other, haloes joined in a moment of bliss.

“A visitor once asked me, after seeing halos on some figures, if I thought that gay people were saints,” Fusby says. “I told him no, but some saints may have been gay. I also believe that, being human, they were probably more carnal than many idealists would like to believe.”

Fusby enjoys teasing the viewer with the unexpected, including modern gay leathermen mixed in with traditional Christian iconography. “I like ambiguous subjects, such as martyrs who may or may not be saints, and S/M situations which may or may not be Christian,” he explains.

Much of Fusby’s art is too sexually explicit to be posted here, but it can be viewed on his website, As stated there, “This website celebrates the glories of the adult male nude, and to all those who enjoy male nudes, welcome!” The website includes 26 paintings in his “saints and demons” series, as well as male nudes in landscapes, locker room and other settings.

Born in 1943, Fusby is largely self-taught as an artist. His recent work is done in watercolor and colored pencil, sometimes with additions of metallic watercolor, gouache or ink.

Special thanks to Ted Fusby for permission to reproduce his art on the Jesus in Love Blog. “I will be curious to see if they get any reaction from your viewers,” he says.

“Two Saints” by Ted Fusby

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Queer artist's “I Love Lupe” video censored

Artist Alma Lopez documents the controversy about her queer “Our Lady” in the new video “I Love Lupe” -- but Facebook won’t let you see it.

A few minutes ago Facebook blocked me from posting a link to the Alma Lopez video. I got a message warning, “You are trying to post content on Facebook that has been marked as abusive.” (Update: Facebook allowed me to it!)

Originally I included the video in today’s post “Blasphemy update: Queer Our Lady artist thanks supporters,” but I separated out when it got blocked.

You can see the trailer above, on YouTube or at -- but not on Facebook. I will ask Facebook to lift the block, and I'll let you know what happens.

I suspect this is part of the censorship campaign waged against Lopez by conservatives who use Christianity as a weapon against LGBT people.

The 46-minute video features a round-table conversation with Chicana artists Ester Hernandez and Yolanda M. Lopez. For the first time, all three artists discuss their controversial Guadalupes. The video is included with the new book, “Our Lady of Controversy: Alma Lopez's Irreverent Apparition,” co-edited by Lopez and Alicia Gaspar de Alba.

Bookmark and Share

Blasphemy update: Queer Our Lady artist thanks supporters

Our Lady of Controversy
by Alma Lopez

After facing blasphemy charges for her queer “Our Lady” last month, artist Alma Lopez is back from Ireland and thanking her supporters. All the supportive emails, including five from friends of the Jesus in Love Blog, are now posted on her website.

Click here to see all the emails at She has posted letters of support the following friends of this blog: Trudie Barreras, Yvonne Aburrow, J.C. Fisher, Douglas Blanchard and myself (Kittredge Cherry).

Lopez thanks those who supported her in the face of a censorship campaign by conservative Catholics who attacked Ireland’s University College Cork for hosting “Our Lady and Other Queer Santas” (Saints), an art show and speech by Lopez. According to news reports, they compromised the university’s email system by bombarding it with thousands of negative messages and petitions.

The exhibit was part of a Chicano/a culture conference, which proceeded as planned despite pickets by right-wing Christians and a counter-demonstration by atheists. There were about 50 attendees, including scholars from Arizona, Germany, Mexico, England, Ireland and Spain. There are unconfirmed reports that the university may face government investigation under Ireland’s new blasphemy law.

Lopez offered thanks and an update in the following recent email to me:
Thank you for this email and all of your support during this event. We just returned from Ireland. We feel good about the exhibition, the conference, and the many Irish citizens who were very supportive. We also feel good about engaging in the Irish blasphemy laws. Hopefully, this incident will prompt them to act against those laws.

I will be posting your email as well as all the supportive emails sent via your site onto my site where I archive all the responses to this print.

The opposition has made an impact on her art. In a new version of “Our Lady,” Lopez has the Virgin of Guadalupe wearing boxing gloves, ready to defend herself in a powerful painting titled “Our Lady of Controversy.”

For more info, see our previous post
Our Lady and Queer Saints art attacked as blasphemy - Show support now!

Speaking of censorship… This post originally included a trailer for an Alma Lopez video on the controversy, but Facebook blocked it with a message saying, “You are trying to post content on Facebook that has been marked as abusive.” I moved the video to a separate post, and you can click here to see it. Later Facebook let me share the video.

Bookmark and Share