Monday, January 27, 2014

Holocaust Remembrance: We all wear the triangle

For a new version of this article, click
Holocaust Remembrance: We all wear the triangle




A gay priest killed in the Holocaust appears in the icon
"Holy Priest Anonymous one of Sachsenhausen"

International Holocaust Remembrance Day honors the victims of the Nazi era, including the estimated 5,000 to 60,000 sent to concentration camps for homosexuality. The United Nations set the date as Jan. 27 -- the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

Established by the UN in 2005, International Holocaust Remembrance Day recalls the state-sponsored extermination of 6 million Jews and 11 million others deemed inferior by the Nazis, including 2.5 million Poles and other Slavic peoples, Soviet prisoners of war, Gypsies and others not of the "Aryan race," the mentally ill, the disabled, LGBT people, and religious dissidents such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Catholics. Holocaust Remembrance Day aims to help prevent future genocides.

The date chosen is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp, by Soviet troop on Jan. 27, 1945.

Approximcately 100,000 men were arrested from 1933 and 1945 under Paragraph 175, the German law against homosexuality. They were imprisoned or sent to concentration camps. Only about 4,000 survived.

Artists who address LGBT deaths in the holocaust (or “homocaust”) include Tony O’Connell, Mary Button, William Hart McNichols, Richard Grune, John Bittinger Klomp and those who designed the world's dozens of memorials to LGBT Holocaust victims. Their art is featured here today.

The defeat of the Nazis brought liberation for most prisoners in the concentration camps, but some of those accused of homosexuality were re-imprisoned in post-war Germany based on evidence found by the Nazis.

The world's first LGBT Holocaust memorial was the Homomonument, opened in 1987 in the Netherlands. Queer British artist Tony O’Connell made a photo and video record of his prayers and offerings at the Homomonument in Amsterdam on Christmas Day 2014 as part of his contemporary performance art series of LGBT pilgrimages.

Holocaust Memorial Pilgrimage to Homomonument in Amsterdam by Tony O'Connell

O'Connell visits historical sites such as to the Harvey Milk Metro station in San Francisco, New York City's Stonewall Inn, and the Alan Turing Memorial Bench in Manchester. Democratizing the idea of sacredness and reclaiming the holiness in ordinary life, especially in LGBT experience, are major themes in O'Connell's work. Based in Liverpool, O’Connell was raised in the Roman Catholic church, but has been a practicing Buddhist since 1995. For more info about O’Connell’s art, see my previous post Codebreaker Alan Turing honored in queer pilgrimage by artist Tony O’Connell.

Persecution of LGBT people during the Holocaust is juxtaposed with Jesus falling under the weight of his cross in the image at the top of this post: Station 3 from “Stations of the Cross: The Struggle For LGBT Equality” by Mary Button. The painting features headshots of men who were arrested for homosexuality under Paragraph 175 of the German criminal code and sent to concentration camps between 1933 and 1945.

Jesus falls the first time and Nazis ban homosexual groups in Station 3 from “Stations of the Cross: The Struggle For LGBT Equality” by Mary Button, courtesy of Believe Out Loud

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 LGBT Stations series, see my article LGBT Stations of the Cross shows struggle for equality.

Richard Grune, a Bauhuas-trained German artist sent to Nazi concentration camps for homosexuality, also saw a connection between Christ’s Passion and the suffering of people in the camps. After being imprisoned in Sachsenhausen and Flossenbürg, he created “Passion of the 20th Century,” a set of lithographs depicting the nightmare of life in the camps. Published in 1947, it is considered one of the most important visual records of the camps to appear in the immediate postwar years.

“Solidarity.” Richard Grune lithograph from a limited edition series “Passion des XX Jahrhunderts” (Passion of the 20th Century). Grune was prosecuted under Paragraph 175 and from 1937 until liberation in 1945 was incarcerated in concentration camps. In 1947 he produced a series of etchings detailing what he witnessed in the camps. Grune died in 1983. (Credit: Courtesy Schwules Museum, Berlin) (US Holocaust Museum)




Willem Ardondeus
A gay Dutch artist who died in the Holocaust was Willem Arondeus (Aug. 22, 1894 - July 1, 1943). He participated in the anti-Nazi resistance movement with openly lesbian cellist Frieda Belinfante and others. Arondeus was openly gay before World War II began and proudly asserted his queer identity in his last message before his execution: “Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards.”  His life and art are featured in a YouTube video.

The Nazis also denounced and attacked lesbians, but usually less severely and less systematically than they persecuted male homosexuals. Their history is told online in the article Lesbians and the Third Reich at the US Holocaust Museum. Some lesbians claim the black triangle as their symbol. The Nazis imposed the black triangle on people who were sent to concentration camps for being “anti-social.”

Identification pictures of Henny Schermann, a shop assistant in Frankfurt am Main. In 1940 police arrested Henny, who was Jewish and a lesbian, and deported her to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp for women. She was killed in 1942. Ravensbrueck, Germany, 1941. (US Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives)

Nazis used the pink triangle to identify male prisoners sent to concentration camps for homosexuality. Originally intended as a badge of shame, the pink triangle has become a symbol of pride for the LGBT rights movement.

A recent painting on the theme is “Pink Triangle” by John Bittinger Klomp, a gay artist based in Florida.

“Pink Triangle” by John Bittinger Klomp, 2012

“The Pink Triangle was part of the system of triangles used by the Nazis during World War II to denote various peoples they deemed undesirable, and included Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals,” Klomp said. The painting is part of his “Gay Dictionary Series” on words and symbols related to being gay.

The pink triangle appears in a variety of monuments that have been built around the world to commemorate LBGT victims of the Nazi regime. In January 2014 Israel's first memorial for LGBT victims of the Holocaust was unveiled in Tel Aviv. Since 1984, more than 20 gay Holocaust memorials have been established in places ranging from San Francisco to Sydney, from Germany to Uruguay. Some are in the actual concentration camp sites, such as the plaque for gay victims in Dachau pictured below.

Plaque for gay victims at Dachau concentration camp by nilexuk


To see powerful photos of all the queer Holocaust memorials and read the stories behind them, visit:
http://andrejkoymasky.com/mem/holocaust/ho08.html

The logo for the Jesus in Love Blog also shows the face of Jesus in a pink triangle. He joins queer people in transforming suffering into power.

The last surviving man to wear the pink triangle in the concentration camps was Rudolf Brazda, who died in 2011 at age 98. His story is told in his obituary at the New York Times.

Another of those who wore the pink triangle was an anonymous 60-year-old gay priest, brutally beaten to death because he refused to stop praying at the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen, Germany. Eyewitness Heinz Heger reported that the murder was so brutal that “I felt I was witnessing the crucifixion of Christ in modern guise.”

The priest is honored in the icon at the top of this post, “Holy Priest Anonymous One of Sachsenhausen.” It was painted by Father William Hart McNichols, a New Mexico artist and Catholic priest who was rebuked by church leaders for making LGBT-affirming icons of unapproved saints. His Anonymous Priest of Sachsenhausen icon appears in his book “The Bride: Images of the Church,” which he co-authored with peace activist Daniel Berrigan.

Here is the beginning of his tragic story, as told by Heger in his book The Men With the Pink Triangle.

Toward the end of February, 1940, a priest arrived in our block, a man some 60 years of age, tall and with distinguished features. We later discovered that he came from Sudetenland, from an aristocratic German family.

He found the torment of the arrival procedure especially trying, particularly the long wait naked and barefoot outside the block. When his tonsure was discovered after the shower, the SS corporal in charge took up a razor and said "I'll go to work on this one myself, and extend his tonsure a bit." And he saved the priest's head with the razor, taking little trouble to avoid cutting the scalp. quite the contrary.

The priest returned to the day-room of our lock with his head cut open and blood streaming down. His face was ashen and his eyes stared uncomprehendingly into the distance. He sat down on a bench, folded his hands in his lap and said softly, more to himself than to anyone else: "And yet man is good, he is a creature of God!"

The book goes on to recount in heartbreaking detail how the Nazis tortured the priest, hurling anti-gay slurs and beating him to death. More excerpts are available at the Queering the Church Blog in a post titled The Priest With the Pink Triangle.

The award-winning 1979 play “Bent” by Martin Sherman helped increase awareness of Nazi persecution of gays, leading to more historical research and education. A film version of “Bent” was made in 1997 with an all-star British cast including Clive Owen, Mick Jagger and Jude Law. Its title comes from the European slang word “bent” used as a slur for homosexuals.

The 2000 documentary film “Paragraph 175” tells the stories of several gay men and one lesbian who were persecuted by the Nazis, including interviews with some of the last survivors.

In recent years new memoirs of gay Holocaust survivors have been published and queer theory has brought new understanding of the Gay Holocaust as not just atrocities, but also a system of social control. Valuable books include:

I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual: A Memoir of Nazi Terror by Pierre Seel (2011)

Lost Intimacies: Rethinking Homosexuality under National Socialism by William J. Spurlin (2008)

An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin by Gad Beck (2000)

"The Hidden Holocaust?: Gay and Lesbian Persecution in Germany 1933-45” by Gunter Grau (1995)

The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals by Richard Plant (1988) -- first comprehensive book on the subject

Homosexuality d Male Bonding in Pre-Nazi Germany: The Youth Movement, the Gay Movement, and Male Bonding Before Hitler’s Rise” by Hubert Kennedy (1992)

Josef Jaeger by Jere' M Fishback (young adult novel based partly on the life of Jürgen Ohlsen, Nazi propaganda film star who turned out to be gay)


International Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed here with the prayer “We All Wear the Triangle” by Steve Carson. It appears in the book “Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations.” Carson was ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches and served congregations in New York, Boston and San Francisco.
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One: We are in many ways a culture without memory. The Holocaust, a series of events that occurred just over a generation ago, changed the world forever. Yet by some the Holocaust is forgotten, or seen as irrelevant, or even viewed as something that never happened.

All: As people of faith, we refuse to forget. We refuse to participate in the erasing of history. As a community of faith, we decide to remember, as we hear the historical record from Europe a generation ago and reflect upon events in our own time. We dare to listen to the voices of the past, even as they echo today.

One: In this moment, we are all Jews wearing the yellow Star of David.

All: We are all homosexuals wearing the pink triangle.

One: We are all political activists wearing the red triangle.

All: We are all criminals wearing the green triangle.

One: We are all antisocials wearing the black triangle.

All: We are all Jehovah’s Witnesses wearing the purple triangle.

One: We are all emigrants wearing the blue triangle.

All: We are all gypsies wearing the brown triangle.

One: We are all undesirable, all extendable by the state.

…Leader: To God of both memory and hope, we pledge ourselves to be a people of resistance to the powers of death wherever they may appear, to honor the living and the dead, and to make with them our promise: Never again!

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Related links:

Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-45 (US Holocaust Museum)

Lesbians and the Third Reich (US Holocaust Museum)

Pink Triangle at the Legacy Walk

Persecution of Homosexuals in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust (Wikipedia)

Holocaust Memorial Day: The Nazi Bid to Exterminate Gay People by Peter Tatchell (Huffington Post)

Sachsenhausen (Counterlight’s Peculiars).

The Holocaust's Forgotten Victims: The 5 Million Non-Jewish People Killed By The Nazis by Louise Ridley (Huffington Post)

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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.
Qspirit.net presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.




Sunday, January 26, 2014

David Kato: Ugandan LGBT rights activist and martyr

“David Kato” by Rod Byatt

David Kato, Ugandan LGBT rights activist, is considered a father of Uganda’s gay rights movement. He was beaten to death three years ago today (Jan. 26, 2011) in a case that some blame on anti-gay religious rhetoric.

David Kato
It is especially important to carry on Kato’s legacy now because the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill was passed by parliament last month on Dec. 20, 2013 with the penalty reduced from death to life in prison. Uganda’s president has refused to sign it into law, but the struggle continues.

Many have heard of the 45 Ugandan Martyrs who were killed for their Christian faith and canonized as saints. Kato can be seen as a new kind of Ugandan martyr, killed for the cause of LGBT equality.

American evangelicals helped stir up the hostility that led to Kato’s death because they promoted a law imposing the death penalty for homosexuality. The influence of the US evangelical movement in promoting the anti-homosexuality law is explored in the award-winning 2013 documentary “God Loves Uganda.” Watch the trailer below or on YouTube.



Shortly before his murder Kato won a lawsuit against a Ugandan magazine for identifying him as gay and calling for his execution. Kato’s murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison, but the anti-gay motive for the murder was covered up in the trial.

Australian artist Rod Byatt drew the portrait of David Kato above. The stark, unfinished quality of the portrait conveys the sense of a life cut short. Byatt posted it on his blog **gasp!** (Gay Artists’ Sketchbook Project) with a reflection that begins, “We grieve over the loss of David Kato. We know that being gay is anathema to Family, Church and State, and increasingly The Media...” Byatt is part of the Urban Sketching movement that seeks to link personal identity to broader social issues.

A documentary about Kato, “Call Me Kuchu,” premiered in 2012 at the Berlin Film Festival. Watch the trailer for the video below.  "Kuchu" is the term used in Uganda for LGBT people.


Call Me Kuchu - Trailer from Call Me Kuchu on Vimeo.

Below is a news video about Kato from “The Rachel Maddow Show.” It includes scenes from Kato’s funeral, where Ugandan clergy speak both for and against LGBT rights, and David’s own voice in an NPR interview about homosexuality in Uganda.

On the anniversary of his murder, may those who honor David Kato’s legacy continue to work for justice and equality for all. May he find peace with all the other LGBT martyrs and saints who have gone before.



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Related links:

Activists, Filmmakers Mark First Anniversary of David Kato Murder (Towelroad)

Portrait of David Kato by Random Salmon

They will say we are not here (New York Times, Jan. 25, 2012)

Ugandan Activists Commemorate Anniversary of David Kato's Death (Advocate)

In Uganda, a “Fearless Voice” for Gay Rights is Brutally Silenced (Wild Reed Blog)

David Kato: A new Ugandan martyr (Queer Saints and Martyrs - And Others)

Uganda Martyrs raise questions on homosexuality, religion and LGBT rights (Jesus in Love)

Martyrs of Uganda (Walking with Integrity Blog)

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts


Monday, January 20, 2014

Saint Sebastian: History’s first gay icon

“Self Portrait as Saint Sebastian” by Christopher Olwage

“Homage to Sebastian” by Tony De Carlo

Saint Sebastian has been called history’s first gay icon and the patron saint of homosexuals. His feast day is today (Jan. 20).

Sebastian was an early Christian martyr killed in 288 on orders from the Roman emperor Diocletian. He is the subject of countless artworks that show him being shot with arrows. Little is known about his love life, so his long-standing popularity with gay men is mostly based on the way he looks.

For a new version of this article, click this link to Qspirit.net:
Saint Sebastian: History’s first gay icon?

Starting in the Renaissance, Sebastian has been painted many times as a near-naked youth writing in a mixture of pleasure and pain. The homoeroticism is obvious.


“Saint Sebastian”by Il Sodoma, 1525 (Wikimedia Commons)

Two contemporary artists did new LGBT-affirming works based on Saint Sebastian in 2015. Gay New Zealand artist Christopher Olwage painted a self-portrait as Sebastian (at the top of this post) for his “Ecce Homo” exhibit inviting viewers to consider the possibility of a gay Jesus.

Queer British artist Tony O’Connell sculpted a life-size statue of Sebastian and filmed his dramatic interactions with the figure to make a strong statement against homophobic violence in a performance art piece for All Saints Day. It includes a “Litany of the Queer Saints” that calls upon Sebastian to pray for and protect the downtrodden:

Tony O'Connell prepares to kiss St Sebastian in his new film

“St. Sebastian, who strengthens the persecuted Pray for us…
St. Sebastian empowered to protect from plague and AIDS, Pray for us…
St Sebastian, loved and then abandoned by the Roman Emperor, Pray for us.
St. Sebastian, loved and increasingly abandoned by the Roman Church, Pray for us
St. Sebastian, Loved by our people, Pray for us…
Glorious Martyr and undefeated warrior,
we ask that you protect the persecuted
from tyrants and enemies.
Use your unstoppable energy
not to punish but only to humble
those who dedicate themselves to oppression and evil.”
For the whole litany and more info, see my previous post New art film highlights queer saints, Sebastian and homophobic violence for All Saints Day.

St Sebastian is martyred by arrows in O'Connell's film

Other blogs have already compiled the St. Sebastian masterpieces from art history, so the Jesus in Love Blog simply posts one example and refers readers to the best of many online collections of Sebastian art:
Saint Sebastian: The Homoerotic Patron of Gay Men (Artwork I Love Blog)

The historical Sebastian actually survived the arrow attack and was nursed back to health by Saint Irene of Rome, only to be “martyred twice” when the emperor executed him later.

In addition to his longstanding but unofficial status as patron saint of gay men, Sebastian is known as a protector against plague and a patron saint of soldiers, archers and athletes.

“Saint Sebastian” by Rick Herold

Saint Sebastian is a favorite subject of contemporary gay artist Tony De Carlo (1956-2014), whose work is at the top of this post. He began his ongoing Sebastian series in the 1980s in response to the AIDS crisis. It has grown to more than 40 pictures.

“I chose him because he was known as the Patron Protector Saint Against the Plague, as the Plague was sweeping Europe,” De Carlo said in an interview with the Jesus in Love Blog. “It wasn't until the year 2001 when I went into a Catholic store in New Mexico, picked up a pewter statue of Saint Sebastian, and saw a label on the bottom that said ‘Patron Saint of Homosexuals.’”

Sebastian is also referenced frequently in the gay literary world. For example playwright Tennessee Williams named his martyred gay character Sebastian in “Suddenly, Last Summer,” and Oscar Wilde used Sebastian as his own alias after his release from prison.

An important film biography for many gay men today is “Sebastiane,” directed by British independent filmmaker Derek Jarman. The Latin-language 1976 film was controversial for its homoeroticism and is considered a landmark of LGBT cinema. A YouTube clip shows its beautiful style.



The painting at the top of this post is by California gay artist Rick Herold. He places Saint Sebastian against a colorful, cartoon-like backdrop reminiscent of gay artist / activist Keith Haring. “I over the years as a painter have been interested in the idea of the spirit and the flesh as one -- began by Tantric art influences and then using my Catholic background,” he told the Jesus in Love Blog. He paints with enamel on the reverse side of clear plexiglas.

Herold has a bachelor of arts degree in art and theology from the Benedictine Monastic University of St. John in Minnesota and a master of fine arts degree from Otis Institute of Art in Los Angeles. His religious artwork included a Stations of the Cross commissioned by Bob Hope for a church in Ohio before a conflict over modern art with the Los Angeles cardinal led to disillusionment with the church. Herold came out as gay and turned to painting male nudes and homoerotica.

“Saint Sebastian and Matt Shepard Juxtaposed” by JR Leveroni

“Saint Sebastian and Matt Shepard Juxtaposed” by JR Leveroni compares Sebastian’s martyrdom with the killing of a contemporary gay martyr, Matthew Shepard (1976-1998). Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming when he was brutally beaten and left to die by two men who later claimed that they were driven temporarily insane by “gay panic.” His murder led to broadening the US hate-crimes law to cover violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Leveroni is an emerging visual artist living in South Florida. Painting in a Cubist style, he portrays the suffering gay martyrs in a subdued way with barely a trace of blood. A variety of male nudes and religious paintings can be seen on Leveroni’s website.
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Related links:

The Allure of St. Sebastian (Wild Reed)

Not Dead Yet: St Sebastian as Role Model (Queering the Church)

New art film by Tony O'Connell highlights queer saints, Sebastian and homophobic violence for All Saints Day (Jesus in Love)

The Martyrdom Of Saint Sebastian, In Ascending Order Of Sexiness And Descending Order Of Actual Martyring (The Toast)

James Fenton on the lure of Saint Sebastian (Guardian)

Yukio Mishima and St. Sebastian (Partially Examined Life)


Peter Hujar Dreaming” (St. Sebastian image by David Wojnarowicz - warning: sexually explicit)

St. Sebastian (LGBT Catholic Handbook)

San Sebastián: Historia de icono gay primero (Santos Queer)


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.
Qspirit.net presents the Jesus in Love Blog on LGBTQ spirituality.



Sunday, January 12, 2014

Aelred of Rievaulx: Gay saint of friendship

St. Aelred of Rievaulx
By Brother Robert Lentz, OFM, www.trinitystores.com

Aelred of Rievaulx (1109-1167) is considered one of the most lovable saints, the patron saint of friendship and also, some say, a gay saint. His feast day is today (Jan. 12).

Aelred was the abbot of the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx in England. His treatise “On Spiritual Friendship” is still one of the best theological statements on the connection between human love and spiritual love. “God is friendship… He who abides in friendship abides in God, and God in him,” he wrote, paraphrasing 1 John 4:16.

Aelred’s own deep friendships with men are described in Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality by Yale history professor John Boswell. “There can be little question that Aelred was gay and that his erotic attraction to men was a dominant force in his life,” Boswell wrote.

Boswell’s account inspired the members of the LGBT Episcopal group Integrity to name Aelred as their patron saint. Click here for the full story on how they won recognition for their gay saint.

Aelred certainly advocated chastity, but his passions are clear in his writing. He describes friendship with eloquence in this often-quoted passage from his treatise On Spiritual Friendship:

“It is no small consolation in this life to have someone who can unite with you in an intimate affection and the embrace of a holy love, someone in whom your spirit can rest, to whom you can pour out your soul, to whose pleasant exchanges, as to soothing songs, you can fly in sorrow... with whose spiritual kisses, as with remedial salves, you may draw out all the weariness of your restless anxieties. A man who can shed tears with you in your worries, be happy with you when things go well, search out with you the answers to your problems, whom with the ties of charity you can lead into the depths of your heart; . . . where the sweetness of the Spirit flows between you, where you so join yourself and cleave to him that soul mingles with soul and two become one.”

Aelred supported friendships between monks, comparing them to the love between Jesus and his beloved disciple, and between Jonathan and David in his treatise on spiritual friendship. Louis Crompton, professor of English at the University of Nebraska, reports in Homosexuality and Civilization that Aelred allowed the monks at his Yorkshire monastery to express affection by holding hands, a practice discouraged by other abbots.

The icon of Saint Aelred at the top of this post was painted by Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his innovative icons.  He faces controversy for his icons depicting same-sex couples. His Aelred image includes a banner with Aelred’s words, “Friend cleaving to friend in the spirit of Christ.”

Another portrait of Aelred was drawn during his own lifetime. Aelred perches on an illuminated alphabet in the medieval manuscript "De Speculo Caritatis" “Mirror of Charity.”

Portrait of Aelred of Rievaulx from “Mirror of Charity” medieval manuscript, circa 1140 (Wikimedia Commons)

Queer theologian Hugo Cordova Quero writes about Aelred in his scholarly article "Friendship with Benefits: A Queer Reading of Aelred of Rievaulx and His Theology of Friendship.” It is included in “The Sexual Theologian: Essays on Sex, God and Politics,” edited by Marcella Althaus-Reid and Lisa Isherwood.

Quero quotes and analyzes Aelred’s words from “Mirror of Charity” on the death of his first close friend, a fellow monk named Simon: “I grieve for my most beloved, for the one-in-heart with me…” He goes on to explore Aelred’s subsequent love for an unnamed monk, putting his attachments to men into historical context with queer perspective. Click here to view the article online.

Brother and Lover: Aelred of Rievaulx,” by Brian Patrick McGuire is a charming chronological account that traces the homoerotic impulse in Aelred’s life. McGuire, a history professor in Denmark, tells the story with a personal and informal writing style.

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Related links:

12th January: St Aelred of Rievaulx, Patron of Same Sex Intimacy (Queer Saints and Martyrs -- and Others)

A St. Aelred Catechism (Walking with Integrity Blog)

St. Aelred of Rievaulx (Pharsea’s World: Homosexuality and Tradition)

Worship resources for Saint Aelred (Integrity USA)

To read this post in Spanish / en español, go to Santos Queer:

San Elredo de Rievaulx: Santos gay de amistad

To read this post in Italian, go to Queerblog: Il magazine LGBT di Blogo:
Aelredo di Rievaulx, abate, santo e gay

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This post is part of the LGBT Saints series at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints and holy people of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts
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Icons of St. Aelred and many others are available on cards, plaques, T-shirts, mugs, candles, mugs, and more at Trinity Stores



Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts



Friday, January 10, 2014

Remembering Otis Charles, first mainstream bishop to come out as gay

Bishop Otis Charles listens in 1994 as Kittredge Cherry speaks at Hands Around the God-Box, a prayer demonstration to end homophobia in the church. Charles stands in the front row wearing a purple clergy shirt.

Gay Episcopal bishop Otis Charles, right, stands with MCC founder Troy Perry at Hands Around the God-Box in New York City, June 1994. (detail from photo above)

Episcopal bishop Otis Charles, the first mainstream Christian bishop to come out as gay, died on December 26 at age 87.

I actually met Bishop Charles in person in June 1994, the year after he retired and came out publicly as gay. We met when he attended Hands Around the God-Box, a prayer demonstration that I organized at the National Council of Churches’ headquarters in New York.

The photo above shows me speaking at Hands Around the God-Box to a crowd that includes Otis Charles standing in the front row next to Rev. Troy Perry, founder of Metropolitan Community Churches. It was part of Stonewall 25, a LGBT pride festival celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

At the time Bishop Charles struck me as being rather dazed and confused by the unfamiliar experience of a LGBT pride celebration and his new role as our public advocate.  It was unfamiliar territory. He had been a closeted Episcopal priest since his ordination in 1951. Then in 1993 he retired, came out publicly as gay, and divorced Elvira, his wife of 42 years. He seemed to be looking for guidance from Troy, who founded MCC as a LGBT-affirming denomination in 1968, even before Stonewall.

During his career Charles served as bishop of Utah for 15 years and then president of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Simply by coming out in 1993 Charles moved the public debate on LGBT rights forward. He went on to run Oasis/California, the Episcopal LGBT ministry in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Retaining his bishop's rank after retirement, he advocated for LGBT rights as a member of the Episcopal church’s House of Bishops. He was even arrested and led away in handcuffs at the 1999 Episcopal convention as part of a protest against the church’s mistreatment of LGBT people.

“I was ashamed of myself for remaining silent when the church was involved in an acrimonious debate about the whole question of gay people in the life of the church. I couldn't live with that any longer,” he said in a 2004 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle after a church wedding with his husband Felipe Sanchez-Paris, a retired professor and political organizer.

They married again in 2008 when same-sex marriage was legalized in California. The couple appears together in the film “Love Free or Die,” a 2012 documentary about another gay Episcopal bishop, Gene Robinson. Sanchez-Paris died only six months ago on July 30, 2013.

Bishop Otis Charles became a LGBT-rights trailblazer late in life and found love even later. May he join the LGBT saints who advocate for us on the heavenly side.

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Related links:

Bishop Otis Charles - gay rights advocate - dies (SFGate.com)

Requiescat in Pace: The Right Rev. Edgar Otis Charles (Walking with Integrity)

Bishop Otis Charles and the Bridge to Somewhere by Susan Russell (Huffington Post)

Profile of Right Rev. Otis Charles (LGBT Religious Archives Network)

THE BATTLE OVER SAME-SEX MARRIAGE / Gay bishop proves it's never too late to fall in love / With grandson in attendance, 78-year-old cleric marries same-sex partner (San Francisco Chronicle, April 29, 2004)

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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.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts


Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Jeanne Manford: PFLAG founder who loved her gay son

Jeanne Manford in 1993 with a photo of her gay son Morty

Jeanne Manford loved her gay son so much that she founded Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). She died one year ago today on Jan. 8, 2013, at age 92.

Her son, the late Morty Manford, was beaten during a gay rights protest in April 1972.  She responded by writing a letter to the New York Post stating, “I have a homosexual son, and I love him.” A couple months later she and her son marched in New York's Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade. These actions and the support she received led to the founding of PFLAG in 1973.

PFLAG has grown to 350 chapters with 200,000 members, and Jeanne Manford is an inspiration to many. President Obama talked about her in his 2009 speech to the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner in 2009.

Thank you, Jeanne, for your courage and your love! You are counted among the LGBT saints for the huge positive impact that you had on queer people and straight allies everywhere.

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Related links:

Jeanne Manford, 92, Who Stood Up for Her Gay Son, Inspiring Others, Dies (New York Times)

PFLAG Founder Jeanne Manford Dies at 92 (Advocate)

PFLAG.org

Patron saints for straight allies of LGBT people: Adele Starr of PFLAG and others (Jesus in Love)

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This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, 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.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts




Sunday, January 05, 2014

Epiphany: Three kings or three queens?

“Epiphany” by Janet McKenzie, copyright 2003.
www.janetmckenzie.com
Collection of Barbara Marian, Harvard, IL

Reimagining the three kings as queer or female gives fresh meaning to Epiphany, a holiday celebrating the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus. It is observed on Jan. 6.

The word “epiphany” also refers to a sudden, intuitive perception. By looking at the Bible and church history from a LGBT viewpoint, people can experience new insights -- their own personal “epiphanies” of understanding. New interpretations of the wise ones known as the Magi include:
  • Queer Magi. LGBT church leaders suggest that the Magi were eunuchs -- people who today would be called gay, queer or transgender.
  • Female Magi appear in a controversial painting by Janet McKenzie.
  • Queer gifts are presented to the Christ child in an icon by William Hart McNichols.
Queer Magi
The Magi played the shamanic role often filled by eunuchs, an ancient term for LGBT people, says Nancy Wilson in her book Outing the Bible: Queer Folks, God, Jesus, and the Christian Scriptures.” She writes:

“They were Zoroastrian priests, astrologers, magicians, ancient shamans from the courts of ancient Persia. They were the equivalent of Merlin of Britain. They were sorcerers, high-ranking officials, but not kings—definitely not kings. But quite possibly, they were queens. We’ve always pictured them with elaborate, exotic, unusual clothing—quite festive, highly decorated and accessorized! …Also, the wise eunuchs, shamans, holy men were the only ones who had the forethought to go shopping before they visited the baby Jesus!

They also have shamanistic dreams. They deceive evil King Herod and actually play the precise role that many other prominent eunuchs play in the Bible: they rescue the prophet, this time the Messiah of God, and foil the evil royal plot against God’s anointed.”

The concept of the queer Magi is amplified by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, author of Omnigender. “My guess is that they were people who today would be termed transwomen,” she writes in the brochure “Gender Identity and Our Faith Communities.”

Eunuchs and cross-dressers were surprisingly common in the Mediterranean world of the Bible and later. By happy coincidence, a cross-dressing saint happens to have a feast day on Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany. Apollinaria of Egypt, put on men’s clothing and presented herself as a eunuch named Dorotheos in order to live as a monk. For more info on Apollinaria and other cross-dressing saints in early Christian communities, visit Queering the Church.

Three stylish Magi wear fabulous outfits on a 1972 German Christmas stamp (Wikimedia Commons)

Female Magi
A multi-racial trio of female Magi visits the baby Jesus and his mother in “Epiphany” by Janet McKenzie. Instead of the traditional three kings or three wise men, the artist re-interprets the Magi as wise women from around the world.

The unconventional portrayal of the Magi makes good theological sense. Barbara Marian, who commissioned the painting, explains: “The story of the Magi in the Gospel of Matthew allowed the Jewish followers of Jesus to imagine the unthinkable -- God’s grace extending to the outsiders, the gentiles. Who are the outsiders in our world? Can we imagine the favor of God extending beyond the human boundaries of race, class, nationality, ethnicity, religious devotion, and gender?”

Marian commissioned “Epiphany” for the Nativity Project, which revisits and revitalizes the Gospel with new images of women. “It’s easy to get so caught up in regal images of Matthew’s night visitors that we miss the core message -- Christ for all people,” Marian says.

Conservative Christians protested against the inclusive “Epiphany” in 2007 when it appeared on the Christmas cards of the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth, Texas, sent a notice to clergy and 2007 convention delegates condemning Jefferts Schori for her choice of art. “Happy Multicultural Feminist Celebration Day,” sneered the headline of a traditional Anglican blog where nearly 100 comments were posted condemning the image as “stupid,” “faux-nouveau hipster theology” and worse. For more info, see my previous post Conservatives blast inclusive Christmas card.

McKenzie denies the accusations that she is trying to be divisive and rewrite scripture. “Of course this is as far from my thinking as possible,” she says. “I feel called to create sacred and secular art that includes and celebrates those systematically ignored, relegated and minimized, and for the most part that is women and people of color.”

The artist continues to be amazed that her loving images provoke so much anger. “Even this gentle image of a loving Holy Mother and Child, with no agenda except to include and honor us as the nurturing feminine beings we are, surrounded in community with other women, is still misunderstood -- even at this late date,” she says.

McKenzie has weathered even bigger storms before. Her androgynous African American “Jesus of the People” painting caused international controversy when Sister Wendy of PBS chose it to represent Christ in the new millennium.

Critics focus on the content of McKenzie’s art, but her outstanding artistic style is one reason that her work attracts attention. The Vermont artist uses drawing and line with oils to build images that glow. Her painting technique and pastel colors are reminiscent of American Impressionist Mary Cassatt, who is famous for painting intimate scenes of mothers and their children.

The controversy over McKenzie’s work is a reminder of the power of art, and the continuing need for progressive spiritual images. Opposition seems to fuel her passion to paint. “We all need to find ourselves included within the sacred journey of life, and afterlife,” McKenzie says. “I have been surprised to find archaic and out-dated hate still in place, still alive and well and fueled by fear, in response to some of my art. I have made the decision to respond to such hate not in the way it comes to me, but by creating ever more inclusive art that confronts prejudice and hate. The only path open to any of us is the one of love.”

McKenzie’s art is featured in my book “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More” and her book “Holiness and the Feminine Spirit.”

(Special thanks to Barbara Marian for permission to quote from her article “Recasting the Magi.”)


“The Epiphany: Wisemen Bring Gifts to the Child”
By William Hart McNichols © 1984, fatherbill.org

Queer gifts

Father William Hart McNichols paints another kind of queer Epiphany. McNichols is a New Mexico artist and Roman Catholic priest whose gay-positive icons have caused controversy. He worked at an AIDS hospice in New York City from 1983-90, when many in the gay community were dying of the disease. During that period he painted “The Epiphany: Wisemen Bring Gifts to the Child.”

St. Francis and St. Aloysius are the wise men visiting the baby Jesus in this icon.  Instead of the usual gold, frankincense and myrrh, the “gifts” they bring to the Christ child are people with AIDS, perhaps gay men. The baby Jesus reaches eagerly to receive these gifts. The child and his mother appear in a form popular in Mexico and other Latino cultures as Our Lady of Guadalupe and El Santo Niño de Atocha. The halo around them echoes the colors of the rainbow flag of the LGBT community. McNichols offers a prayer with this icon:

Dearest Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe,
Mother of the poor and the oppressed,
we watch full of reverence
and joy as St. Francis and
St. Aloysius bring the gifts of
these two people afflicted with AIDS
to the Holy Child in your arms,
who is so eager to receive them.
Teach us to find and embrace
your Son Jesus in all peoples,
but most especially those who
are in greatest need and
who suffer most.
Amen

In closing, the question arises: What gifts are queer people bringing today to Christ, the church and the world?
___
Related links:

LGBTQ Nativity 4: Queer Magi visit Mary, Josephine and Jesus

Magi: Followers of the Light (Jesus Loves Gays Blog)

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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 LGBT and queer people of faith and our allies.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

Saturday, January 04, 2014

RIP: Father Robert Nugent, co-founder of LGBT Catholic group New Ways Ministry


In memory of
Father Robert Nugent

Co-founder of New Ways Ministry, priest silenced for work with lesbian and gay Catholics

July 31, 1937 - Jan. 1, 2014


white candle Pictures, Images and Photos




I light a memorial candle for Father Robert Nugent, who died Jan. 1, 2014 at age 76.

Nugent was a Roman Catholic priest who was silenced for his work with lesbian and gay people. He co-founded New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBT people in church and society.

In 1971 Nugent met Sister Jeannine Gramick.  She was doing pastoral work with lesbian and gay Catholics who were rejected by the church for their sexual orientation. He joined her and in 1977 they co-founded New Ways Ministry as a national resource and advocacy center for lesbian and gay Catholics, pastoral leaders, and family members. For decades the pair traveled nationwide promoting a more inclusive church and facing disapproval from many church leaders.

New Ways Ministry executive director Francis DeBernardo described Nugent’s impact in the announcement of his death at the organization’s blog:

“When few priests would do more than whisper about homosexuality, Father Nugent was meeting with lesbian and gay people and encouraging them to claim their rightful place in the Catholic Church. During a time of intense homophobia in both church and society, he exhibited uncommon courage and foresight in welcoming and affirming the goodness of God’s lesbian and gay children.”

In 1999-2000 the Vatican condemned New Ways Ministry, ordered Nugent to stop pastoral ministry within the lesbian and gay community, and directed him to ceased speaking and writing about LGBT rights. He continued to express God’s love for queer people privately and in small groups until the end of his life.

Nugent is also the author or coeditor of several books including “A Challenge to Love: Gay and Lesbian Catholics in the Church” and “Building Bridges: Gay and Lesbian Reality and the Catholic Church.”

As far as I’m concerned, any Catholic priest who dared to advocate for lesbian and gay people way back in the early 1970s is already a saint -- especially if he was outspoken enough to be silenced by the Vatican.

Now the pioneering prophet known as Father Bob makes the transition from earthly life to eternal life, where he can become our newest advocate among the saints.

___
Related links:

Fr. Bob Nugent, silenced for his work with gay Catholics, dies at 76 (National Catholic Reporter)

Reflecting on the Life and Ministry of Father Robert Nugent (Bondings 2.0, blog of New Ways Ministry)

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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.
http://www.jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts