By Queerly Christian contributor, Jakob Hero
To celebrate Holy Week, I gathered with a small group of friends and an excessive amount of nail polish for a “We aren’t supposed to paint our fingernails” party. The idea came from a conversation with a transmasculine, genderqueer friend about the harsh reality of gender policing.
As a post-transition female to male transsexual, I am often “helpfully” informed by others that because I am now male, various things that might potentially link back to my female birth sex are off limits. So a small group of queer folks, most of us male or masculine identified, got together the night before Easter and painted our fingernails. Christ is risen! Alleluia!
So here I sit at my keyboard, with fingernails that just happen to shine with an iridescent purple and green (with a top coat of glitter), and I tell you shamelessly and with no uncertainty: there is such a thing as resurrection. Christ really did die on that cross. And he truly came back from the dead.
Why do so many of us on the liberal side of the Christian spectrum get squeamish at the mention of miracles, particularly this big one at Easter? Christians of a particular stripe can become terribly complacent about the radical and bizarre foundations of our faith. Why is it so hard to believe that Christ’s death and resurrection actually happened?
Christ conquered death! That is incredibly queer! I don’t know of an embodied act that is more peculiar, strange, or odd than Christ coming back from the dead. It isn’t just the oddity of this that makes it queer. This is a story about love. Christ died and came back, and he did this for his beloveds.
We must not let this incredibly queer story be co-opted by fear-based and exclusionary theologies. Please do not let the misuse of the Cross take away from its queer power. Yes, this story has been used to frighten many of us into submission and conformity. Yes, too many have been told, “Christ suffered for your sins; believe in that or burn in hell.” Yes, this story has been used to justify hatred of the Other, and particularly to fuel Christian anti-Semitism. Yes, it has been used to create the “us versus them” rhetoric, and yes, that has led to a tragic rejection of many from the very table where Christ’s death and resurrection is commemorated.
No wonder so many prefer images of bunnies and brightly colored eggs for Easter! Look, the whole idea of a rabbit laying an egg (not to mention the cross-species copulation that would require!) is totally queer. But much more than that is this: Christ’s death and resurrection is the craziest and queerest love story ever told!
Jesus came back, not to utopia but to the people who betrayed him. These are the ones who couldn’t even stay awake long enough to pretend that they were in solidarity with him. But he came back to them, to the ones who had turned away in fear and deserted him in his hour of need. Even then, the ones who loved him most greeted this return with doubt, fear, and incomprehension.
Jesus did not cross over from death to life to give us a morality lesson. He crossed over for love, with love, and to give love. It was a transformative love, as the gospel writers so clearly portray.
Those of us who live queerly transformed lives know exactly what this means. Those of us who have experienced transformation in our own bodies are especially able to testify to the power of this queer calling to love. This blessing will not be silenced, shamed, or hidden.
Far too often trans-people are left out of gay and lesbian advocacy movements for fear of “diluting” the message. Progress requires instead a more “respectable” presentation of queerness. I remember clearly when this point was raised at a gathering of lobbyists and how the wonderful trans-activist, Kate Bornstein, declared: “I did not have my peepee cut off so I could dress and act respectably!” Now there’s a declaration everyone could cling to in our journey toward queerly Christian transformation.
As a man who used to be a girl, I have wasted way too much time worrying about the expectations of my own embodiment. You want to talk about queer performativity? Great – let’s read the Gospels.
Jesus broke the rules of life and death! Right there is the queerly good news for progressive, liberal Christians who may have shifted uncomfortably in their pews on Easter morning. You don’t have to feel awkward. You don’t need to feel obliged to explain away the resurrection of Jesus as allegory or fantasy or legend. Your faith doesn’t need respectable packaging.
Resurrection is not about conformity or respectability. Resurrection is our call for radical change, fearless acceptance, and queer love. It’s a call for TRANSformation!
Let us proclaim the Easter announcement with a queer sense of joy, now and always: Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed!
And don’t forget the “alleluia!”