Friday, November 29, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from Jesus in Love Blog!

“Home to Thanksgiving” lithograph by Currier and Ives, 1867 (Wikimedia Commons)

Happy Thanksgiving from Kittredge Cherry
and the Jesus in Love Blog!

I am grateful for the many people who read and support my blog on LGBT spirituality with their time, talent and resources. Thank you!

“Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
          --1 Thessalonians 5:18

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Harvey Milk: Gay rights pioneer assassinated Nov. 27, 1978

“Harvey Milk of San Francisco” by Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. (

Jesus falls for the third time as gay politician Harvey Milk is assassinated in Station 9 from “Stations of the Cross: The Struggle For LGBT Equality” by Mary Button, courtesy of Believe Out Loud

Pioneering gay rights activist Harvey Milk was assassinated 35 years ago today on Nov. 27, 1978. Milk is the first* and most famous openly gay male elected official in California, and perhaps the world. He became the public face of the LGBT rights movement, and his reputation has continued to grow since his death. He has been called a martyr for LGBT rights -- and for all human rights.

For a new version of this article, click this link to
Harvey Milk: LGBTQ rights pioneer stood for equality

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

Milk (1930-1978) served only 11 months on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors before he was killed, but in that short time he fought for the rights of the elderly, small business owners, and the many ethnic communities in his district as well as for the growing LGBT community.

Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 after three unsuccessful election attempts. 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 LGBT rights are more alive than ever.

Milk has received much recognition for his visionary courage and commitment to equality.  In 2014 the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor, with the rainbow colors of the LGBT pride flag appear as a vertical strip in the top left corner. Other LGBT people have appeared on U.S. stamps, but this is the first to feature someone specifically for LGBT activism.

He is the only openly gay person in the United States to have an official state holiday in his name. Harvey Milk Day is celebrated in California on Milk’s birthday, May 22. The bill establishing Harvey Milk Day was signed in to law in fall 2009. State employees still have to work on Harvey Milk Day, but California public schools are encouraged to teach suitable commemorative lessons about the gay rights activist.

In 2009 Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and inducted into the California Hall of Fame. 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.”

Two Oscar-winning movies have been made about his life, the documentary “The Times of Harvey Milk” (1984) or the biographical drama “Milk” (2008), which stars Sean Penn as Milk in an performance that won an Academy Award for best actor. The movie tells how he rose to become one of America’s first openly gay elected leaders, only to be killed by an assassin’s bullet. Directed by Gus Van Sant, the film got eight Academy Award nominations.

The definitive book about his life include “The Mayor of Castro Street” by Randy Shilts.

Milk’s assassination is juxtaposed with Jesus falling under the weight of his cross in the image at the top of this post: Station 9 from “Stations of the Cross: The Struggle For LGBT Equality” by Mary Button. Using bold colors and collage, Button puts Jesus' suffering into a queer context by matching scenes from his journey to Golgotha with milestones from the last 100 years of LGBT history. For an overview of all 15 paintings in the series, see my article LGBT Stations of the Cross shows struggle for equality.

The Harvey Milk icon painted by Robert Lentz (also 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 sexual orientation. It is one of 40 icons featured in the book “Christ in the Margins” by Robert Lentz and Edwina Gateley. Lentz discusses the icon in a YouTube video.

The Harvey Milk icon 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.”

Such paintings have been criticized for portraying Milk, a secular Jew, in a style rooted in Christian tradition. Milk was critical of how religion was used to oppress LGBT people, stating, “The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, that my friends, that is true perversion!” And yet Milk has become a symbol of all martyrs who died in the struggle for LGBT rights.

[*Note: When Milk was elected, two gay/lesbian politicians were already in office: lesbian Massachusetts State Representative Elaine Noble and Minnesota State Senator Allan Spear, who came out after he won re-election.]

The Altar Cross of LGBTQ Martyrs from Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco features photos of Matthew Shepard, Harvey Milk, Gwen Araujo and others.

Related links:
Harvey Milk Day Quotes 2015: 11 Inspiring Sayings That Still Ring True Today (International Business Times)

Harvey Milk at the Legacy Project

SF City Hall Unveils Harvey Milk Tribute ( (Bronze bust by Daub Firmin Hendrickson sculpture group)

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

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.

Monday, November 25, 2013

My marriage-equality protest photo runs in national magazine Tikkun

Marriage equality protestor (photo by Kittredge Cherry)

My photo of a marriage-equality protestor appears in the current issue of Tikkun, a national magazine on politics, spirituality and culture.

Tikkun’s fall 2013 issue features my photo of an elderly woman in a wheelchair wearing a rainbow scarf and a shirt that proclaims, “Marriage is a human right, not a heterosexual privilege.” She was wheeled to the protest in a wheelchair by her daughter.

My photo illustrates the article “Our Issues Entwine: LGBTQ Aging and Economic Justice” in an issue devoted to “Identity Politics, Class Politics, and Spiritual Politics: How do we build world-transforming coalitions?”

The photo originally appeared in my article “Creative signs stop hate at protests” here on the Jesus in Love Blog. It presents photos from a 2008 “stop the hate” protest in Pasadena, California where people rallied against the state's newly passed Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage.

The photo was taken was almost exactly five years ago in November 2008. A lot has changed for the better since then. In 2013 the Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality and eight US states legalized same-sex marriage, bringing the total to 16 states.

Related link:
Queer spiritual art appears in national magazine Tikkun

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Transgender Day of Remembrance: Nov. 20, 2013

  Christ's crucifixion is linked to the murder of transgender woman Rita Hester in “Stations of the Cross: The Struggle For LGBT Equality” by Mary Button, courtesy of Believe Out Loud

Transgender Day of Remembrance (Nov. 20) commemorates those who were killed due to anti-transgender prejudice. The Jesus in Love Blog also honors transgender visions in art, theater, music, religion and spirituality today.

Religious violence against transgender people goes back at least as far as Biblical times and continued in the Middle Ages.  A few of the many examples are Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake for cross-dressing, and Saint Wilgefortis, who was crucified for being a bearded woman. The list of unlawfully killed transgender people is long and continues to grow.

Transgender Day of Remembrance serves the dual purpose of honoring the dead and raising public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people—that is, transsexuals, crossdressers, and other gender-variant people. It was founded in 1999 to honor Rita Hester, an African American transgender woman murdered in Massachusetts on Nov. 28, 1998. The outpouring of grief and anger over her death led to the "Remembering Our Dead" web project and a candlelight vigil in San Francisco. Since then it has grown into an international phenomenon observed around the world.

Hester’s murder is boldly identified with Jesus’ death in “Stations of the Cross: The Struggle for LGBT Equality” by Mary Button. The set of 15 paintings links the crucifixion of Christ with the history of LGBT people.

In the painting a banner carried by people at a Transgender Day of Remembrance march stretches over Jesus on the cross with a pointed question: “How many transgenders have to die before you get involved?” The text on the banner comes from an actual news photo.

Another high-profile murder case was transgender man Brandon Teena, whose 1993 murder is told in the popular movie “Boys Don’t Cry.” The ever-growing list of transgender victims calls to mind the words of Jesus: “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.”

Transgender teenager Gwen Araujo’s murder in 2002 also got national attention and led to the passage of the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act in California. The law restricts the use of the gay/trans panic defense by criminal defendants.

Araujo is commemorated in “The Transfigured Body: A Requiem in Celebration of Gwen Araujo” by New-Age composer Christopher A. Flores and gay lyricist/priest Adrian Ravarour.  They have joined forces on a variety of musical compositions on sacred LGBTQ themes. "The Transfigured Body" premiered in 2003 at Founders Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles.

Transgender Day of Remembrance by Mikhaela Reid

Political cartoonist Mikhaela Reid pictures some of the more prominent victims of anti-transgender violence in the illustration above. Let us remember them by lighting a memorial candle here for them and others like them.

white candle Pictures, Images and Photos
In memory of: Gwen Araujo, Rita Hester, Brandon Teena (subject of the movie “Boys Don’t Cry”), Leelah Alcorn, Chanelle Picket, Nakia Ladelle Baker, Debra Forte, Tyra Hunter, Joe Stevens, Logan Smith, Jessica Mercado, Terrianne Summers, Venus Xtravaganza, Chanel Chandler... and all others who died due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.  And the deaths continue. New additions after this was originally posted: Leelah Alcorn.

The Altar Cross of LGBTQ Martyrs from Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco features photos of transwoman Gwen Araujo, Matthew Shepard, Harvey Milk, and others.


Transgender Pride Flag
Other spiritual resources for Transgender Day of Remembrance are available at TransFaith Online, including this prayer by Rabbi Reuben Zellman, who became the first openly transgender person accepted to the Reform Jewish seminary Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati in 2003:

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.


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.

Ethiopian eunuch: A black gay man was the world’s first convert to Christianity

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.,

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.

 Transgressing gender in the Bible
Transfigurations: Transgressing Gender in the Bible” is an LGBT-positive play by Peterson Toscano.
Transvestite Jesus appears in photo project
A transvestite Jesus appears in a series of alternative Christ photos by Colorado artist Bill Burch


More transgender spiritual and religious resources include:

Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) Transgender Day of Remembrance Resource Page

A Kaddish Prayer for International Transgender Day of Remembrance by H. Adam Ackley (HuffPost)

Prayers To and For the Transgender Community (

An All Hallows' Eve Vigil to Begin Transgender Awareness Month by H. Adam Ackley (Huff Post)

Trans Martyrs (Queering the Church)

Book: Omnigender: A Trans-religious Approach by Virginia Mollenkott

Book: Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith (Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry) by Justin Tanis

Book: Transgendering Faith: Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality by Leanne Tigert (editor)

Call Me Malcolm (video)

Call me Malcolm Video and Training Guide (United Church of Christ)

Voices of Witness: Out of the Box (Episcopal film)
This post is part of the LGBT Calendar series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series celebrates religious and spiritual holidays, holy days, feast days, festivals, anniversaries, liturgical seasons and other occasions of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people of faith and our allies.

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

Icons of Joan of Arc, We’wha of Zuni and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cartoon: How do LGBT people know God loves us?

“Gays and Biblical Inspiration” by David Hayward

A new cartoon shows Jesus asking the question that I as a lesbian Christian would want him to ask: “So, Dad, how are gays in the 21st century going to know we love them?”

David Hayward, a Canadian artist who runs the blog “nakedpastor,” imagines the inner dialogue among the Holy Trinity back when the Bible was first being written in his cartoon “Gays and Biblical Inspiration.”

The Holy Spirit wraps ghostly arms around the Biblical writer, who is apparently Paul in prison. God appears as an old man who replies to his son’s desire to communicate love to future LGBT people by explaining: “When he uses words like ‘all,’ ‘world’ and ‘everything,’ wise and loving people will know.”

It’s a bittersweet answer. Yes, wise and loving people today can understand that LGBT people are included in scriptures such as “Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks.” (1 Timothy 4:4).

But sometimes it’s frustrating that the Bible’s anti-gay “clobber passages” seem so much more specific. Maybe the implication here is that God did not inspire those verses. Why not a clear message for the not-so-wise and less-than-loving people?  What about the LGBT people who believe the lie that God rejects them? 

Hayward uses the traditional image of God as an old man to critique the way that straight white men dominate Christianity. He started a blog called “nakedpastor” in 2006, offering a progressive look at religion through his art, cartoons and writings.

The artist behind “nakedpastor” literally was a church pastor. After growing up in various denominations, he was ordained a Presbyterian and pastured a Vineyard church. He has a master’s degree in theology from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a diploma in religious studies and ministry from McGill University in Montreal.

In 2010 Hayward quit the professional paid clergy because, as he puts it, “"the church and I were no longer compatible.” His art, cartoons, writings and book have found their way all around the world to entertain and challenge people. He and his wife Lisa live near Saint John, New Brunswick.

Hayward is the author of two books: “nakedpastor101: Cartoons by David Hayward” and “Without a Vision My People Prosper,” which calls the church back to the priority of fellowship over accomplishments.
Related links:

The Bible and Gays: Is it a sin to be gay? Did Jesus condemn homosexuality? by Durrell Watkins

nakedpastor on Facebook

Cartoon shows GLBT religious rights on the cross (Latuff)

Jesus and Freddie Mercury: Marriage Made in Heaven cartoon supports equality (Mr. Fish)

Cartoon shows Pope mad at nuns and Jesus for not condemning homosexuality

Cartoon: Jesus saves LGBT kids from jaws of clergy hat) (Mr. Fish)
This post is part of the Artists series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series profiles artists who use lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and queer spiritual and religious imagery.

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

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Same-sex kisses in church: Exhibit censored and vandalized in Italy

Two men kiss at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in “Si, Quiero” by Gonzalo Orquín

Two women kiss at San Carlo al Corso basilica in Rome in “Si, Quiero” by Gonzalo Orquín

An exhibit of photos showing same-sex kisses in churches faced censorship and vandalism in Italy recently.

Artist Gonzalo Orquin photographed gay and lesbian couples kissing in front of altars at some of the most important ancient basilicas in Rome.

The photo series is titled “Si, Quiero,” which is the Spanish phrase used by the bride and groom at a wedding -- like “I do” in English. Literally it means, “Yes, I want to.” But the Vatican said no.

Update: “Si, Quiero” will be on exhibit in New York from April 30 to June 24, 2014 at the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Click for their press release.

The Vicariate, which assists the Pope in carrying out his functions as the Bishop of Rome, threatened legal action to stop an exhibition of the photos at Galleria L’Opera in Rome. Italian law protects people’s religious sentiments and use of church buildings.

For security reasons the gallery complied and covered up the set of 16 photos in the “Si, Quiero” series before the opening on Sept. 25. They were hidden behind black cardboard while black crosses stood beneath it as a silent protest. Orquin also placed a photo on Facebook showing the covered artwork with a statement against the censorship.

“Si, Quiero” by Gonzalo Orquín was concealed behind black cardboard at the gallery during the exhibit

The covered-up photos went on display as planned as part of a three-man “Trialogo” exhibit. But a group of hooded men broke in on Oct. 16 and vandalized three paintings with red spray paint. Apparently they were angry about the images of same-sex kisses in churches, but could not find them under the black cardboard. Instead they sprayed red blotches onto a painting of a woman priest and two other artworks.

Orquin is Spanish, but he has lived in Rome for eight years. “I am a Catholic. I believe in God deeply,” he said in the New York Daily News. “I think if you look closely at my pictures no one can find blasphemy or sacrilege. A kiss is a gesture of love, of tenderness between human beings.”

The artist said that gay, lesbian and straight people offered to pose for the photos. Locations include St. Peter’s Basilica, where the Pope presides over services throughout the year.

His choice of churches as the setting for same-sex kisses grows out of his own spiritual journey. “When I was child I learned that God is love, and I learned it in a church! What kind of love? Who decides what love is OK and why? Pope Francis has said recently that he is not one to judge anyone and he also said that the Roman Church belongs to every one,” he told HuffPost United Kingdom.

Here is a selection of other images from “Si, Quiero” by Gonzalo Orquín

Special thanks to Scott Sella for the news tip, and to Gonzalo Orquin for permission to use his photos.
Related links:

The Photos The Vatican Didn't Want Italy To See (

Gonzalo Orquin’s exhibit and book at Gallery Mooi Man

Gonzalo Orquin's 'Si, Quiero' Features Gay Kiss Photo Series Condemned By The Vatican (Huffington Post)

Italian thugs vandalize gallery featuring photos of gay couples kissing inside churches (New York Daily News)

Vatican Threatens Gonzalo Orquin's Gay Kisses In Church Exhibition With Legal Action (HuffPost UK)

Photos of Kisses Banned from Rome Gallery Due to Vatican Intervention (New Ways Ministry)

Other censorship and attacks on LGBT Christian art:

Protests end gay Jesus exhibit in Spain (Fernando Bayona Gonzalez)

Smithsonian censors gay artist when conservatives attack (David Wojnarowicz)

Our Lady and Queer Saints art attacked as blasphemy (Alma Lopez)

Gay Jesus art sparks violence… and hope (Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin)

Gay Nativity scene in Columbia sparks outrage

Hate crime targets gay and lesbian Nativity scene at Claremont church (California)

"Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More" by Kittredge Cherry profiles contemporary artists whose queer Christian artwork has been censored or destroyed.
This post is part of the Artists series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series profiles artists who use lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and queer spiritual and religious imagery.

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

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Malachy of Armagh: Same-sex soulmate to Bernard of Clairvaux

“Malachy of Armagh” by Rowan Lewgalon

Malachy of Armagh is an 11th-century Irish saint who died in the arms of his more famous soulmate, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard showered Malachy with kisses during his lifetime and they are buried together, wearing each other’s clothes. Malachy’s feast day is today (Nov. 3).

Malachy is also the attributed author for the “Prophecy of the Popes,” which predicted that there would be 112 more popes before the Last Judgment. Most scholars dismiss the document as an elaborate 16th-century hoax. Still it’s sobering that the 112th and final pope in the prophecy is the current pontiff, Pope Francis. The prophecy remains popular with doomsday fanatics.

Malachy (1094 - Nov. 2, 1148) was born in Armagh in northern Ireland and rose to become archbishop.In Middle Irish his name is Máel Máedóc Ua Morgair. He became Ireland’s first native-born saint to be canonized.

He was primate of all Ireland when he first visited the French monastery at Clairvaux around 1139. The abbott in charge was Bernard (1090-1153), a mystical author, advisor to five Popes and a monastic reformer who built the Cistercian order of monks and nuns. Bernard is considered to be the last of the Church Fathers. They soon became devoted, passionate friends. Malachy even asked the Pope for permission to become a Cistercian, but the Pope refused.

Malachy traveled to see Bernard again in 1142. They were so close that Bernard covered him with kisses in a scene that is described well by Orthodox priest Richard Cleaver in “Know My Name: A Gay Liberation Theology”: “Bernard's account makes deeply romantic reading for a modern gay man. “Oscula rui,” Bernard says of their reunion: “I showered him with kisses.”

Their relationship had lasted almost a decade when Malachy reunited with Bernard for the third and final time. Malachy fell sick when he arrived in Clairvaux in 1148. He died in Bernard’s arms on All Soul’s Day, Nov. 2. Again Cleaver tells the details based on accounts by Geoffrey, Bernard’s secretary and traveling companion:

“Geoffrey of Auxerre tells us what happened later. Bernard put on the habit taken from Malachy's body as it was being prepared for burial at Clairvaux, and he wore it to celebrate the funeral mass. He chose to sing not a requiem mass but the mass of a confessor bishop: a personal canonization and, incidentally, an example of using liturgy to do theology. Bernard himself was later buried next to Malachy, in Malachy’s habit. For Bernard, as for us today, this kind of passionate love for another human being was an indispensable channel for experiencing the God of love.”

After Malachy’s death Bernard lived on for another five years. During this time he wrote “Life of Saint Malachy of Armagh,” which is his idealized tribute to the man he loved.

Bernard forbid sculptures and paintings at the monastery during his lifetime, but by the late 15th century the altarpiece at the Clairvaux Abbey had a painting of Christ’s baptism -- being jointly witnessed by Bernard and Malachy.

The Irish archbishop comes back to life in the striking contemporary portrait of Saint Malachy as a young man at the top of this post. It was created by Rowan Lewgalon, a spiritual artist based in Germany and a cleric in the Old Catholic Apostolic Church.

Malachy and Bernard were men of their time who supported church teachings on celibacy. People today might say that they had a homosexual orientation while abstaining from sexual contact. Medieval mystics created alternative forms of sexuality that defy contemporary categories, but might be encompassed by the term “queer.” They directed their sexuality toward God and experienced God’s love through deep friendship with another human being... such as the relationship between Malachy and Bernard.

A prayer written by Bernard’s secretary Geoffrey shows how the community at Clairvaux understood and celebrated the man-to-man love between Bernard and Malachy. He thanks God for these “two stars of such surpassing brightness” and “twofold treasure.”

Related links:
Saints Bernard of Clairvaux and Malachy: Honey-tongued abbot and the archbishop he loved

To read this post in Spanish / en español, go to Santos Queer:
San Malaquías de Armagh: El alma gemela de Bernardo de Claraval

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

Friday, November 01, 2013

All Saints Day 2013: Queer and LGBT saints and martyrs honored

Altar Cross of LGBTQ Martyrs from Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco

All Saints Day is celebrated today by adding seven new profiles to the LGBTQ Saints page at

“Saint Sebastian”
by Il Sodoma
The most popular new addition is Saint Sebastian, a third-century martyr who has been called history’s first gay icon and the patron saint of homosexuals.

Other newcomers on the list include traditional saints Bernard of Clairvaux and the Black Madonna of Czestochowa as well as modern figures such as the founders of PFLAG, the martyrs of the 1973 Upstairs Lounge fire and Vida Dutton Scudder, a lesbian teacher and Episcopal saint born in 1871.

Queer and LGBT saints are important because people are searching for alternative ways to lead loving lives. Churches have tried to control people by burying queer history. The LGBTQ saints show us not only their place in history, but also our own place -- because we are all saints who are meant to embody love. We can tap into the energy of our ancestors in faith. For some they become friends, helpers and miracle-workers. I created the LGBT Saints page to give people an easy way to find the spiritual resources that they seek. For more info, see my essay Why we need LGBT saints.

In addition five profiles of saints (or paired saints) received major rewrites, including some long-time favorites at the Jesus in Love Blog: martyrs Sergius and Bacchus and Biblical heroes David and Jonathan. Almost every profile on the page has been updated and expanded in minor ways this year.

Another breakthrough this year is bringing LGBT saints to Spanish readers. Profiles of traditional LGBT saints are translated into Spanish at the new Santos Queer Blog. Some even attracted more readers than the original English versions. Saint Sebastian was the most popular saint at Santos Queer.

LGBT Saints page
With these new saints, the LGBT Saints page has grown to 62 profiles. They include 34 traditional Christian and 28 alternative figures. Along with official saints, there are martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, humanitarians, deities and religious figures of special interest to LGBTQ people and our allies.

Here is a list of new saints who are welcomed to the LGBT Saints page today.

Traditional Christian

“Bernard of Clairvaux”
by Rowan Lewgalon

New additions:

Saints Bernard of Clairvaux and Malachy: Honey-tongued abbot and the archbishop he loved

Saint Sebastian: History’s first gay icon

Black Madonna becomes lesbian defender: Erzuli Dantor and Our Lady of Czestochowa

Major rewrites:

David and Jonathan: Love between men in the Bible

Francis of Assisi’s queer side revealed by new historical evidence

John the Evangelist: Beloved Disciple of Jesus

Saints Sergius and Bacchus: Male couple martyred in ancient Rome

Saint Wilgefortis: Bearded woman

19th to 21st century

Vida Dutton Scudder

New additions:

Jeanne Manford: PFLAG founder loved her gay son

Vida Dutton Scudder: Lesbian saint, teacher and reformer

Adele Starr and others: Patron saints for straight allies of LGBT people

UpStairs Lounge fire remembered 40 years later: 32 died in deadliest attack on LGBT people
This article is illustrated with the Altar Cross of LGBTQ Martyrs. It was constructed by a congregant at Metropolitan Community Church of San Franscico for All Saints Day (All Hallows) worship services there. The cross features newspaper photos of Matthew Shepard and Harvey Milk. In the center of the cross is the fence where Shepard was tortured and murdered in Laramie, Wyoming.  He died on 10/12/88.

Other LGBTQ martyr named on the cross are:
Brian Wilmes – Hate Crimes Slaying 09/08/99 in San Francisco
Lawrence King – Hate Crimes Murder 02/12/08 in Oxnard, Ca.
Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill – Murdered 12-04-95 in Medford, Oregon
Harvey Milk – Assassinated - 11/27/78
Tyra Hunter – Medical Care Denied – 08/07/95 in Washington D.C.
Gwen Araujo – Hate Crimes Murder – 10/03/02 in Newark, Calif.
Thank you to Lynn Jordan for the photo and information about the Altar Cross of LGBTQ Martyrs.

Let us be inspired by the LGBT saints who surround us as a “great cloud of witnesses.”  May we commit ourselves to our own queer spiritual journeys.
Related links:

Why we need LGBT saints by Kittredge Cherry

An All Hallows' Eve Vigil to Begin Transgender Awareness Month by H. Adam Ackley (Huff Post)

A queer theology of sainthood emerges (99 Brattle blog of Episcopal Divinity School)

Feminism leads to a queer theology of sainthood (Feminism and Religion Blog)

Who are the "Queer Saints and Martyrs"? by Terence Weldon (Queering the Church)

LGBT-friendly memorial for All Saints, All Souls and Day of the Dead

LGBT litany of the saints: Harvey Milk, pray for us; Joan of Arc, pray for us... by Rachel Waltz

Santos Queer (LGBT Saints by Kittredge Cherry in Spanish / en español) (innovative icons, including some LGBT saints)

A Litany of All the Saints by James Kiefer

Sanctity And Male Desire: A Gay Reading Of Saints by Donald Boisvert

Passionate Holiness: Marginalized Christian Devotions for Distinctive People by Dennis O’Neill

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