The Bible doesn’t say Jesus was transgender, but this playwright has decided to tell it that way anyway.
Jo Clifford stars in a one-woman show called “The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven” that depicts Jesus as a transgender woman. The show toys with many other biblical parables, and a screening of a past performance will be shown on November 15 at the Outburst Queer Arts Festival in Ireland.
“There’s a little sermon that reminds the audience that Jesus never had a single word of condemnation for transpeople,” Clifford told The Huffington Post. “The show is a reminder that we have existed throughout this world and many cultures have accepted and celebrated our existence.”
But not everyone agrees with her. The show received some serious backlash when it debuted at the Glasgay! arts festival in 2009. Droves of angry Christian protesters picketed the theater, holding signs that read “God: My Son Is Not A Pervert.” Box office staffers received death threats, and a plain-clothed police officer was in attendance at the live performance to make sure Clifford didn’t get attacked.
“I was very upset and very traumatized,” she told HuffPost. “It brought back distress from early emotional abuse that I suffered.”
Clifford identifies as a trans woman, but the 65-year-old spent years suppressing her authentic self. Writing and performing theater pieces allowed her to explore her feelings and realize she was happier identifying and presenting as a woman.
“Being an artist helped me enormously because I would always make female characters the central characters of the play and I could live out in my imagination the female identity in my life,” she said.
Clifford is also a practicing Christian, but was estranged from her faith for many years.
“It was very clear to me that the only way I could belong to the church was through being in the closet and living a lie,” she said. Now, she credits her renewed Christian devotion to a particularly LGBTI-friendly church she attends in Edinburgh.
“Gospel According to Jesus Queen of Heaven” has received far less negative responses since that first show. In fact, Clifford has performed in churches and theaters across the country, and has even garnered interest from international theaters.
“It’s been moving and exciting to see how many Christian people are supporting me now, as well as non-believers,” she said. “It seems to speak to them in a way that I find really beautiful.”
For more information about the play, head here.
Also on HuffPost:
— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.