Saturday, April 30, 2016

New in May: LGBTQ Christian books "Stand By Me," "Speak Its Name" and "Joan of Arc"

Forgotten LGBT religious history, a queer love story at a British university and Joan of Arc's gender ambiguities are covered in new books this month.

They are “Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation” by Jim Downs, “Speak Its Name” by Kathleen Jowitt and “Joan of Arc: Her Trial Transcripts” by E. P. Sanguinetti.

Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation” by Jim Downs.

LGBT religious life is the "forgotten history" covered in the major new book “Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation” by Harvard history professor Jim Downs. “One of my goals in this book has been to shift the focus of discussion of gay culture from sex to religion, and from intimacy to community,” he writes. The second chapter is titled “The Gay Religious Movement” and tells about MCC, Dignity, Integrity, and many other groups in the 1970s and ‘80s, plus lesbian and gay clergy such as Troy Perry, John McNeill and Ellen Barrett. The first chapter is about “The Largest Massacre of Gay People in American History,” which was the fire at the UpStairs Lounge, a bar / gay church that embodied the mixed identities of the age. Religion is woven throughout the book, which also looks at the role of bookstores, newspapers, theaters, and prisons. Endorsed by such luminaries as historian John D’Emilio. Published by Basic Books.

Speak Its Nameby Kathleen Jowitt.

Faith, love and politics mix and explode as lesbian and bisexual students fall in love with each other on campus in this novel about being queer and Christian at a British university. This is one of the first novels about a young lesbian’s struggle to reconcile her sexuality with Christian faith since the classic “The Well of Loneliness.” Lydia, the main character, tries to balance her studies with her responsibilities as an officer for the Christian Fellowship while hiding her attraction to women. She discovers that there are more ways to be Christian – and to be herself – when she encounters out-and-proud bisexual Methodist Colette in an eccentric ecumenical household. Controversy erupts when a disgruntled member of the conservative Catholic Society raises questions. Male novelists have explored young gay men’s struggles with Christianity, but this breaks new ground with a female perspective. The author is a bisexual Christian in Cambridge, England. Self published.

Joan of Arc: Her Trial Transcripts” by Emilia Philomena Sanguinetti.

Extensive evidence that Joan of Arc was a lesbian or transgender person is presented in the epilogue of this groundbreaking book about the cross-dressing medieval saint. She explores how Joan shared her bed with another woman and insisted on wearing male clothing. The bulk of the book consists of her trial transcripts. They are translated into modern English by Sanguinetti with nothing edited out (as sometimes happened in the past) to support or refute various opinions about the sexuality and gender identity of Joan of Arc. The author is a theology student at the University of Notre Dame whose credentials include five years of French language study. Published by Little Flower Publishing.

Related links:

New in April 2016: LGBTQ Christian books "Justice Calls" and "Signs and Wonders"

New in March 2016: LGBTQ Christian books "The Firebrand and the First Lady" and "Space at the Table"

New in Feb 2016: LGBTQ Christian books “Brother-Making in Late Antiquity" and “Two Pews from Crazy”

Top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2015 named (Jesus in Love)

Top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2014 named (Jesus in Love)

Top 20 Gay Jesus books (from Jesus in Love)

Queer Theology book list (from Patrick Cheng)

Jesus in Love Bookstore (includes LGBT Christian classics)

15 LGBTQ Christian Valentine’s Day books, movies and gifts (Jesus in Love)

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

Friday, April 29, 2016

RIP: Bangladesh LGBT martyrs Xulhaz Mannan and Tanay Mojumdar

In memory of
Xulhaz Mannan and Tanay Mojumdar

LGBT activists in Bangladesh

Murdered April 25, 2016

white candle Pictures, Images and Photos

I light a memorial candle for Xulhaz Mannan and Tanay Mojumdar, who were hacked to death for being "pioneers of practicing and promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh" on April 25 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The militant Islamist militant group Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for murder in the south Asian nation, calling it a "blessed attack."

Xulhaz Mannan was editor of "Roopbaan," Bangladesh's first and only LGBT magazine, and also an employee of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Before that he worked for eight years as protocol specialist at the a U.S. Embassy. He tried to organize a Rainbow Rally for LGBT youths on April 14, the Bengali New Year, but was stopped by officials. His friend Tanay Mojumdar was a theater and TV actor who sometimes helped with publishing the magazine.

Roopban was launched in 2014 to promote greater acceptance of LGBT people in Bangladesh.

An Associated Press news report explained:

Mannan had written openly about the frustration of living "in the closet" as a gay man in Bangladesh, where homosexual relations are considered a crime. In a May 2014 blog, he said gays and lesbians in Bangladesh experience "A country where the predominant religions say you are a sinner, the law of the land says you are a criminal, the social norms say you are a pervert, the culture considers you as imported."

Mannon and his friend were killed a gang who got into his apartment by posing as messengers. Witnesses reported that the attackers yelled "Allahu Akbar" ("God is great") as they left.

The misuse of religion to condone murder adds to the tragedy of their deaths. All life, including LGBT lives, must be honored and protected as God intended.
Related links:

Al-Qaeda affiliate says it killed a gay rights activist and his friend in Bangladesh (Washington Post)

Related books:

Lotus Of Another Color: An Unfolding of the South Asian Gay and Lesbian Experience” by Rakesh Ratti (editor)

Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures” by Gayatri Gopinath

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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Christina Rossetti: Queer writer of Christmas carols and lesbian poetry

Cover illustration for Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market and Other Poems” (1862) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

Portrait of Christina Rossetti
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Christina Georgina Rossetti was a 19th-century English poet whose work ranged from Christmas carols to sensuous lesbian love poetry. A devout Christian who never married, she has been called a “queer virgin” and “gay mystic.” Her feast day is today (April 27) on the Episcopal and Church of England calendars.

For a new version of this article, click this link to
Christina Rossetti: Queer writer of Christmas carols and lesbian poetry

Many consider her to be one of Britain’s greatest Victorian poets. Rossetti’s best-known works are the Christmas carol “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “Goblin Market,” a surprisingly erotic poem about the redemptive love between two sisters who overcome temptation by goblins. The homoeroticism is unmistakable in verses such as these:

She cried, “...Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeez’d from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me…”

She clung about her sister,
Kiss’d and kiss’d and kiss’d her…
She kiss’d and kiss’d her with a hungry mouth.

Some of these verses were set to music in a choral piece commissioned by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir: “Heartland” by Matthew Hindson.

There is no direct evidence that Rossetti was sexually involved with another woman, but historian Rictor Norton reports that her brother destroyed her love poems addressed to women when he edited her poetry for publication. Rossetti is included in “Essential Gay Mystics” by Andrew Harvey.  A comprehensive chapter titled “Christina Rossetti: The Female Queer Virgin” appears in “Same Sex Desire in Victorian Religious Culture” by Frederick S. Roden. Rossetti is also important to feminist scholars who reclaimed her in the 1980s and 1990s as they sought women’s voices hidden in the church’s patriarchal past.

Rossetti (Dec. 5, 1830 - Dec. 29, 1894) was born in London as the youngest child in an artistic family. Her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti became a famous Pre-Raphaelite poet and artist. Encouraged by her family, she began writing and dating her poems starting at age 12.

When Rossetti was 14 she started experiencing bouts of illness and depression and became deeply involved in the Anglo-Catholic Movement of the Church of England. The rest of her life would be shaped by prolonged illness and passionate religious devotion. She broke off marriage engagements with two different men on religious grounds. She stayed single, living with her mother and aunt for most of her life.

Christina posed
for this Annunciation
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
During this period she served as the model for the Virgin Mary in a couple of her brother’s most famous paintings, including his 1850 vision of the Annunciation, “Ecce Ancilla Domini” (“Behold the Handmaid of God.”)

Starting in 1859, Rossetti worked for 10 years as a volunteer at the St. Mary Magdalene “house of charity” in Highgate, a shelter for unwed mothers and former prostitutes run by Anglican nuns. Some suggest that “Goblin Market” was inspired by and/or written for the “fallen women” she met there.

Goblin Market” was published in 1862, when Rossetti was 31. The poem is about Laura and Lizzie, two sisters who live alone together and share one bed. They sleep as a couple, in Rossetti’s vivid words:

Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Lock’d together in one nest.

But “goblin men” tempt them with luscious forbidden fruit and Laura succumbs. After one night of indulgence she can no longer find the goblins and begins wasting away. Desperate to help her sister, Lizzie tries to buy fruit from the goblins, but they refuse and try to make her eat the fruit. She resists even when they attack and try to force the fruit into her mouth. Lizzie, drenched in fruit juice and pulp, returns home and invites Laura to lick the juices from her in the verses quoted earlier. The juicy kisses revive Laura and the two sisters go on to lead long lives as wives and mothers.

“Goblin Market” can be read as an innocent childhood nursery rhyme, a warning about the dangers of sexuality, a feminist critique of marriage or a Christian allegory. Lizzie becomes a Christ figure who sacrifices to save her sister from sin and gives life with her Eucharistic invitation to “Eat me, drink me, love me…” The two sisters of “Goblin Market” are often interpreted as lesbian lovers, which means that Lizzie can justifiably be interpreted as a lesbian Christ.

In 1872 Rossetti was diagnosed with Graves Disease, an auto-immune thyroid disorder, which caused her to spend her last 15 years as a recluse in her home. She died of cancer on Dec. 29, 1894 at age 64.

She wrote the words to “In the Bleak Midwinter” in 1872 in response to a request from Scribner’s Magazine for a Christmas poem. It was published posthumously in 1904 and became a popular carol after composer Gustav Holst set it to music in 1906. Her poem “Love Came Down at Christmas” (1885) is also a well known carol.  “In the Bleak Midwinter” continues to be sung frequently in churches, by choirs, and on recordings by artists such as Julie Andrews (video below), Sarah McLaughlin, Loreena McKennitt and James Taylor. The haunting song includes these verses:

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ....

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk,
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air -
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

The Episcopal Church devotes a feast day to Christina Rossetti on April 27 with this official prayer:

O God, whom heaven cannot hold, you inspired Christina Rossetti to express the mystery of the Incarnation through her poems: Help us to follow her example in giving our hearts to Christ, who is love; and who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Rossetti herself may well have felt ambivalent about being honored by the church or outed as a queer. She shared her own thoughts for posterity in her poem “When I am dead, my dearest” (1862):

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

Related links:

The Many Weird and Wonderful Illustrations for Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market (Unpretentious Blabberings)

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.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Biblical same-sex love found in “David and Jonathan” art by Edward Hicks

Tantalizing symbols of Biblical same-sex love appear when scholar Mitch Gould analyzes the painting “David and Jonathan at the Stone Ezel” for the Jesus in Love Blog.

It was painted in 1847 by Edward Hicks, Quaker minister and American folk artist famous for painting many versions of the Peaceable Kingdom.

Their moment of embrace...
by Mitchell Santine Gould

Their moment of embrace is arrested in the morning mist, outside of the passage of time. David, nearly at the center of the painting, stands facing the viewer like a crude Attic kouros statue, with a spread stance and a vacant smile on his face. As Jonathan approaches at left, he curls his arm around David's neck, and Jonathan responds with an affectionate pat on the butt. (Or, perhaps, Edward "Peaceable Kingdom" Hicks intended for the identity of these two lovers to be the reverse? We'll never know.)

Detail from "David and Jonathan
at the Stone Ezel"
by Edward Hicks
Jonathan is dressed in a brick-red tunic, carelessly drafted; it might as well be a clunky gown. With his fishbelly-white complexion, rouged cheeks, fragile chinline, and flowing auburn tresses, he looks less like a swarthy, brawny, blood-thirsty Hebraic warrior, and more like the drag queens arrested in England's molly-houses only a few decades prior. David, with the same rouge and consumptive complexion, is wearing a cobalt-blue kilt sort of a thing, a bronze-studded belt, and what appears to be a fringed buckskin jacket suitable for Buffalo Bill. This is the moment in The Book of Samuel in which Jonathan finds David at their appointed meeting place, the stone ezel: "David got up from the south side of the stone Ezel, fell with his face to the ground, and bowed three times. Then he and Jonathan kissed each other and wept with each other, though David wept more."

Unfortunately, Hicks had never learned how to portray human action, much less human emotions, so the figures fail to follow the Mosaic script; indeed, they have no more life than the primitive Greek kouroi. He did not know exactly what an ezel was, either, although to be fair, neither do we today. But he painted it as merely a small boulder, as opposed to a a monument, or a masonry structure large enough to hide David from his enemy, Saul. Some dark and murky trees shelter the beleagured pair from the olive-tinged desert landscape, and the silly, fantastical spires of Saul's palace. The scene is painted with the opalescent atmosphere favored during Morning in America, for example, George Caleb Bingham's Jolly Boatmen. Edward Hicks, the painter of 62 "Peaceable Kingdom" images, was always a naive folk artist, but one gets the feeling that he was not much invested in the concept or execution of David and Jonathan at the Stone Ezel.

And then one notices that this is actually two paintings/stories in one. On the right, there is an even murkier, dimmer vignette, portraying the Good Samaritan from the Book Of Luke, anointing the breast of the injured traveler with oil and wine. Ironically, the victim was on his way to Jericho when he was mugged, considering that Jericho, New York, was the home of Elias Hicks. The skin of both figures is the opposite of the deathly-pale main characters; oddly enough, their flesh takes on the dark, drab colors of acceptable Quaker attire. The short, muscular victim is partially swathed in large cloth bandages, but his torso is exposed very nearly to the crotch. Given the miniature scale of these figures, the ezel is now shown to be a boulder larger than a man. The scene has its own background, a misty olive hillside crowned with trees, with a monochromatic sky, also done in olive. Dreamlike, the Samaritan's olive sky melds into a grassy strip of terrain between Jonathan and David and Saul's castle.

No, sorry, maybe this is three paintings in one. Because in the absolute dead center of the canvas, standing on the olive strip, is another small figure, his back turned to the viewer, rendered entirely in drab brown. He is grasping three arrows, which we know Jonathan used to send a secret message to David: the direction of his arrows revealed to David that Saul intended to kill him. “Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said, ‘Go, carry them back to town.’”

It's impossible at this late date to authoritatively decode these symbols, but they are tantalyzing. Scriptural figures done up in Quaker drab. Blatantly-gender-bending characters with a love that surpasses that of women. A top-secret meeting on the edge of town. Messages exchanged in indecipherable code, because Dad is ready to kill boyfriend. A muscular stranger getting a friendly oil-rub, after being clobbered by a villain. What does it all mean?

Quaker historians have neglected this rare, solitary outlier (which presumably dates to 1847) from Hicks's usual themes: the lion lying down with the lamb; Noah's ark; Penn's treaty with the Indians; and paintings which documented Quaker lands and livestock. If they ever took notice of it in the first place, they flew blind, with discombobulated gaydar. Hard though it may be for us to believe today, the feminine dress, hair, complexion, rouge, and pose has traditionally been easy enough to dismiss, given the reassuring stereotype that extreme sentimentality pervaded Victorian culture, especially religious culture. But following the rise of gay history in the 1970s, it became clear that earlier generations both encoded and ennobled same-sex love with references to Jonathan and David, Ruth and Naomi, Damon and Pythias, or Zeus and Ganymede. The simplest explanation is that Hicks undertook a commission to depict the love "that surpasses the love of women" for a gay client, almost certainly a Friend, though evidently without much enthusiasm. Let this stand as Exhibit A for the proposition that Brotherly Love had an eroticized variant.

In 1992, Mitchell Santine Gould experienced a mystical experience during the illness and death of his camerado Dan Sumner. Dan's love had inspired him to turn to Walt Whitman's poems, and Mitch soon discovered that scholars were unable to explain why Whitman had such a strong attraction to Quakers, since they were viewed to have a strict, ascetic morality. He has devoted decades of his life to untangling Walt Whitman's Quaker Paradox, and his results are being prepared for for his book Sailor - Lover - Quaker: the Litorral Truth in Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. He runs an Airbnb destination called PDXWheelhouse. His writing has appeared in such diverse venues as Popular Science, Men’s Fitness, Quaker History, and Friends Journal, and of course, at LeavesOfGrass.Org.

Related links:
David and Jonathan: Love between men in the Bible

Related books:

The Love of David and Jonathan: Ideology, Text, Reception” by James E. Harding (2014)

Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical Times” by Tom M. Horner (1978)

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. It also highlights great queer artists from history, with an emphasis on their spiritual lives.

Icons of Jonathan and David and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores

Friday, April 22, 2016

LGBT church history: Axios and MCC at National Council of Churches

LGBT protest at the National Council of Churches in 1992: John Taktikos, Nancy Wilson and Lorna Cramer (Photo by Kittredge Cherry)

Important events in LGBT church history came to mind this week when I got an announcement that Axios launched a new Facebook page.

I remembered how the fiery truth-telling of Axios President John Taktikos shook up the Orthodox leaders who were keeping pro-LGBT Metropolitan Community Churches out of the National Council of Churches.

Axios is an organization of Eastern and Near Eastern Orthodox, and Byzantine and Eastern-rite Catholic LGBT Christians.I met John Taktikos in 1992 through my work as MCC's international ecumenical director.

I arranged for John to advocate for LGBT rights with Orthodox church leaders at the 1992 National Council of Churches annual meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. He spoke passionately to the Orthodox leaders, who were the main opponents blocking MCC’s membership. LGBT representatives from many other NCC member churches joined us too.

We held protest signs and took over the microphones when the National Council of Churches denied observer status to MCC in Cleveland, Ohio, on Nov. 12, 1992. Nancy Wilson, pictured in the middle, seized the podium and said, “It’s easier to get into heaven than into the National Council of Churches!” She banged her fist on the podium so hard that it cracked. Nancy is retiring this summer after 10 years as moderator of MCC.

On that dreadful day I took the photo at the top of this post. Pictured are, from left, John Taktikos of Axios, Nancy Wilson of MCC, and Lorna Cramer of Unitarian Universalists for Lesbian/Gay Concerns.

Protest signs in the photo say, “Stonewall Rises Again!!!” and “Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual: We are Already in the Church. Let us be Open, Free.”

The AIDS crisis was raging and John died before he could attend the next NCC annual meeting. Axios vice president Alexi stepped in to fill his place.

Over the years I have kept and treasured the elegant envelope addressed to me at MCC headquarters in John’s own handwriting.  It is dated Oct. 17, 1992, when we were planning for the NCC meeting.

I scanned it this week when Axios launched a new Facebook page. This graceful calligraphy reflects a beautiful spirit who helped lay the foundation for LGBT people of faith today.

Related books:

Homosexuality in the Orthodox Church” by Justin R. Cannon

See more of my LGBT church history photos at these links:

Happy 44th birthday, MCC! Photos show LGBT church history

Happy birthday, MCC and Desmond Tutu!  (2011)

See LGBT history in photos (2010)

Happy 40th birthday, MCC! (2008)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sor Juana de la Cruz: Nun who loved a countess in 17th-century Mexico City

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz by Miguel Cabrera, 1750 (Wikimedia Commons)

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was a 17th-century Mexican nun whose critically acclaimed writings include lesbian love poetry. She is considered one of the greatest Latin American poets, an early advocate of women’s rights, and some say, North America's first lesbian feminist writer. Her feast day is today (April 17).

For a new version of this article, click this link to
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Nun who loved a countess in 17th-century Mexico City

Sor Juana (Nov. 12, 1648 - April 17, 1695) was born out of wedlock near Mexico City in what was then New Spain. She was a witty, intellectually gifted girl who loved learning. Girls of her time were rarely educated, but she learned to read in her grandfather’s book-filled house.

When she was 16, she asked for her parents’ permission to disguise herself as a male student in order to attend university, which did not accept women. They refused, and instead she entered the convent in 1667. In her world, the convent was the only place where a woman could pursue education.

Sor Juana’s convent cell became Mexico City’s intellectual hub. Instead of an ascetic room, Sor Juana had a suite that was like a modern apartment. Her library contained an estimated 4,000 books, the largest collection in Mexico. The portrait from 1750 shows her in her amazing library, surrounded by her many books.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
By Lewis Williams, SFO

She turned her nun’s quarters into a salon, visited by the city’s intellectual elite. Among them was Countess Maria Luisa de Paredes, vicereine of Mexico. The two women became passionate friends. It’s unclear whether they were lesbians by today’s definition, but Maria Luisa inspired Sor Juana to write amorous love poems, such as:

That you’re a woman far away
is no hindrance to my love:
for the soul, as you well know,
distance and sex don’t count.

Click here for more of Sor Juana’s lesbian poems in English and Spanish.

The romance between Sor Juana and Maria Luisa has long been an inspiration for authors and film makers. Poet and Chicano studies scholar Alicia Gaspar de Alba writes about it vividly in her novel “Sor Juana’s Second Dream.” The novel became the basis for the play “The Nun and the Countess” by Odalys Nanín.

Gaspar de Alba also writes about Sor Juana in her new book “[Un]framing the ‘Bad Woman’: Sor Juana, Malinche, Coyolxauhqui, and Other Rebels with a Cause.” It was published in 2014 by the University of Texas.

María Luisa Bemberg, one of Latin America’s foremost female directors, explored the love between the nun and the countess in “I, the Worst of All” (Spanish: Yo, la peor de todas). The 1990 film was Argentina’s Academy Award entry for Best Foreign Language Film that year. The DVD cover uses a quote from the Boston Globe to describe the film: “Lesbian passion seething behind convent walls.” It includes woman-to-woman eroticism without objectifying the women. The movie is based on “Sor Juana: Or, the Traps of Faith” by Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz of Mexico.

Production began in fall 2014 on a movie based on Gaspar de Alba's novel. Mexican actress Ana de La Reguera will play Sor Juana in "Juana de Asbaje," the film adaptation of Gaspar de Alba’s novel. She co-wrote the screenplay with the film's director, Rene Bueno.

Church authorities cracked down on Sor Juana, not because of her lesbian poetry, but for “La Respuesta,” her classic defense of women’s rights in response to opposition from the clergy. Threatened by the Inquisition, Sor Juana was silenced for the final three years of her life. At age 46, she died after taking care of her sisters in an outbreak of plague.

She is not recognized as a saint by the male-dominated church hierarchy that she criticized, but Sor Juana holds a place in the informal communion of saints honored by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith and our allies.  She is especially revered as a role model by Latina feminists.

The icon that appears with this post was painted by Colorado artist Lewis Williams of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO). Sor Juana sits between Mexico City’s two volcanoes, the male Popocatépetl and the female Iztaccíhuatl, symbolizing the conflict between men and women that she experienced in trying to get an education. She holds a book with a quote from her writings: “The most unforgivable crime is to place people’s stature in doubt.”

Related links:

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz at the Legacy Project

Sor Juana de la Cruz: La monja le encantó la Condesa en la Cidade do México en el siglo 17 (Santos Queer)

Related books:

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Feminist Reconstruction of Biography” (2014) by Theresa A. Yugar with a foreword by Rosemary Radford Ruether

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Selected Works” (2015), translated by Edith Grossman with an introduction by Julia Alvarez

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.

Icons of Sor Juana de la Cruz and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Day of Silence Prayer: Stop bullying God's LGBTQ youth

A prayer by Jesus in Love founder Kittredge Cherry is one of the few religious voices supporting Day of Silence, a national student-led protest of anti-LGBT bullying. It happens tomorrow on Friday, April 17.

Christianity has been used to justify the harassment that Day of Silence seeks to prevent. The conservative Christian group Focus on the Family even organized an annual event in opposition to Day of Silence. Day of Dialogue, which is happening today (April 14) encourages students to speak up about “God's design for sexuality.”

For a new version of this article, click this link to
Day of Silence Prayer: Stop bullying God's LGBTQ youth

Once again religious faith gets wrongly equated with discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression. The Rainbow Day of Silence prayer gives voice to the deeper truth that LGBTQ people are part of God’s good creation.

Day of Silence Prayer (Twitter version)
by Kittredge Cherry
Silence is memory
Remembering those
Driven to suicide by bullies

Silence is action
Calling attention to those who are silenced
When bigotry is disguised as humor

Silence is solidarity
Students, family, teachers, friends
Who stand with the queer and questioning

Silence is pride, LGBTQ pride
Ignoring bullies,
Claiming our right to be
Part of God’s rainbow.

Silence is prayer
When any child is bullied,
Christ is bullied.
Listen in the silence
For God.

Day of Silence Prayer (long version)
by Kittredge Cherry

Silence is memory....
Remembering those who died young,
Driven to suicide by bullying
Or killed
Because of who they loved
Because of the way God created them
Because they were called
Gay, lesbian, bi, trans, queer, sodomite…
Remembering Tyler Clementi, Leelah Alcorn, Brandon Teena, Matthew Shepard, Gwen Araujo, Haylee Fentress, Paige Moravetz, and many, many more.

Silence is action….
Calling attention to how people are silenced
When bigotry is disguised as humor,
When prejudice turns into threats
And even violence.

Silence is solidarity…
Students, family, teachers, friends
Who care enough
To share the stigma,
To stand with the queer and questioning
Stopping hate with compassion.

Silence is pride, LGBTQ pride…
Not letting the bullies win.
Claiming our right to be.
With dignity
Part of God’s rainbow.

Silence is prayer…
For Mary’s child.
Whenever any child is bullied,
Christ is bullied.
Whenever any child is called names,
Christ is called names.
Mary’s child said,
“Whatever you do to the least of these,
you do to me.”
With sighs too deep for words,
Listening in the silence
For the still small voice of God.

Founded in 1996, the Day of Silence is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). The first Day of Silence was organized at the University of Virginia in response to a class assignment on non-violent protest. More than 8,000 schools have participated in the event, which is held every year in April.

Related links:

Día del Silencio: Day of Silence Prayer in Spanish

Dia do Silêncio: Day of Silence Prayer in Portuguese (Temple de Antinoo Brasil) (official website) (official website)

This post is part of the LGBTQ Calendar series by Kittredge Cherry. The series celebrates religious and spiritual holidays, events in LGBTQ history, 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. presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

New in April: LGBTQ Christian books "Justice Calls" and "Signs and Wonders"

Fresh LGBTQ approaches to God and church are expressed in two new books this month: a sermon collection and a provocative theological work.

They are “Justice Calls: Sermons of Welcome and Affirmation,” a collection edited by Phil Snider, and “Signs and Wonders: Theology After Modernity” by Ellen T. Armour.

Justice Calls: Sermons of Welcome and Affirmation,” edited by Phil Snider.

This collection presents 26 LGBTQ-affirming sermons by a diverse speakers, mostly pastors and seminary professors. Four sections focus on equality, liberation, hospitality and transformation. Contributors includes Rita Nakashima Brock, Danny Cortez, Barbara Lundblad, Scott Haldemann, David Lose, Alton Pollard, Mona West, Irene Monroe and many more. As editor, Snider brings his perspective as senior minister of Brentwood Christian Church in Springfield, MO. Published by Cascade Books / Wipf and Stock.

Signs and Wonders: Theology After Modernity” by Ellen T. Armour. 

Consecration of openly gay bishop Gene Robinson, prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, the right-to-die case of Terri Schiavo, and Hurricane Katrina are examined as the author lays the groundwork for a post-modern theology. Armour, professor of theology at Vanderbilt Divinity School, takes an original approach by drawing on Foucault and queer theory while using photographs and visual culture theory to explore the power dynamics and public perceptions of these disruptive events. Published by Columbia University Press.

Related links:

New in March 2016: LGBTQ Christian books "The Firebrand and the First Lady" and "Space at the Table"

New in Feb 2016: LGBTQ Christian books “Brother-Making in Late Antiquity" and “Two Pews from Crazy”

Top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2015 named (Jesus in Love)

Top 25 LGBTQ Christian books of 2014 named (Jesus in Love)

Top 20 Gay Jesus books (from Jesus in Love)

Queer Theology book list (from Patrick Cheng)

Jesus in Love Bookstore (includes LGBT Christian classics)

15 LGBTQ Christian Valentine’s Day books, movies and gifts (Jesus in Love)

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

Friday, April 01, 2016

RIP Bill Rosendahl: Early supporter of LGBT Christians through TV “God Squad”

I light a memorial candle for Bill Rosendahl, an early supporter of LGBT Christianity and the first openly gay man on the Los Angeles City Council. He died March 30 at age 70.

Bill made a big impression on me personally when he invited me to be a guest on his cable TV talk show “The God Squad” in 1993.

He reached out to me because I was public relations associate for the Metropolitan Community Churches denomination, and he wanted to include the LGBT perspective in his program. On each show a diverse group of clergy discussed news events and social issues from a religious viewpoint.

MCC founder Troy Perry was enthusiastic as soon as he heard about my invitation to appear on “The God Squad.” He explained that Bill was a closeted gay man and a huge supporter of LGBT rights, including our religious rights.

I was a nervous young lesbian clergywoman when I arrived at the Century Cable studio for the show, but Bill immediately put me at ease with his warm welcome and fair-minded approach to controversial topics.

I felt a bit awed by Bill and some of the other panelists, including seasoned publicists for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese and the Islamic Center. I tried to rise to the occasion as he asked us to comment on topics of international importance such as NAFTA and the break-up of Yugoslavia. I must have done OK because Bill asked me back at least two more times in 1993.

Later Bill came out publicly as a gay man and in 2005 he was elected to the L.A. City Council.

I learned more about why Bill took the risk of including LGBT religious views on “The God Squad” from his obituary in the Los Angeles Times. It said he was the son of German Catholic immigrants who fled Europe during Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, adding:

For years, Rosendahl had been quietly visiting gay bars and introducing himself with a fake name. He said he was conflicted about his sexuality because of attitudes toward gays and lesbians in the Catholic Church.

Most other tributes to Bill Rosendahl rightly focus on his later accomplishments as City Councilman, but I will always remember him as the man who used his postion to ensure that queer voices were heard on “The God Squad.”

May Bill Rosendahl join the LGBTQ saints in the great “God Squad” in heaven!

Image credit: All images are from “The God Squad,” April 29, 1993
Related links:

Former Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl dies at 70 (

Bill Rosendahl, Public Affairs TV Producer, Former L.A. Councilman, Dead at 70 (

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