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'Josephine': Reconciling My Queer Faith (VIDEO)

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As a queer person, it took me a long time to be able to talk about religion and LGBTQ identities in one sentence. Many of us have seen religion be very destructive in the ways that our rights are often attacked by using scripture or religious practices even within the political sphere. As an organizer, I have found that avoiding the religion talk meant that many potential allies felt stunted and many LGBTQ folks needing an affirming religious space felt ignored. A few years ago I was introduced to the concept of queer theology, a branch of scripture study that affirms LGBTQ people in religious text. Thanks to my slam team this summer, I was inspired to share some of what I've learned from one of my favorite queer theologians, Peterson Toscano, in poem form. What follows is both the video and text of this poem, "Josephine."


She asks if she can talk to me about Jesus at 3 a.m. on the C train
because something about my queer face means
clearly I'm on a path straight to Hell
I've come to expect this type of reaction
from strangers
at least once a week
since the first time I was exorcised at 16
But today
I've grown tired
and I've decided it is my turn to proselytize
So before you do any of that
I want to know from you
Have you heard the good word about
Joseph of Genesis?
Jo of Genesis
favorite child of Jacob
Aka Israel
when asked
what you wanted
you desired one thing:
a kethoneth passim
Pastor called this a royal coat
I had never read the Bible before
found you and kept reading
I got to 2nd Samuel
and realized your coat of many colors
was a princess dress
your father must have really loved you
Because he got it for you
and you wore it with pride
when your brothers saw you
in your flowing dress
in your glory
they became enraged
I am sorry for the beating you received
Sorry they destroyed your dress
and smeared it with the red paint of your swollen veins
did you know they told your father you were dead
so he'd never come looking for you
Never knew your brothers
sold you as a slave into Egypt
and once you were stolen from your home fields
the earth dried up
the very ground on which you walked
mourned the loss of its genderqueer child
and all the plants died
and the animals no longer had the will to live
your family nearly starved
Saw the formation of ribs
where once grew flesh
and belly fat
And they
hungry and desperate
traveled into Egypt
And what must they have seen, Jo?
See, in Egypt people discovered you
not as fag
not as tranny
They saw you in totality
You went from slave
to leader over lands
there you were Josephine
You looked magnificent
As you
Your family couldn't even recognize you through the glare of divinity
But you saw them shivering in fear
waiting to hear what this regal leader might say
Wondering if your spirit might see fit
to grant them the grain needed to survive
and Joseph
love broke through
the darkness of resentment
And for the first time
your family saw you
as you
as Magnificent
for it was your word
that saved them from starvation
Dear Joseph of Genesis
aka Josephine
aka Jo
I am claiming your story
for every queer kid told
they are unholy
for every queer told
in order to love
we must let our faith die
I am going to put it in a pocket
over my heart
next to Ruth & Naomi
next to David & Jonathan
next to Hegai & Deborah
and seat them at the last Passover
with Jesus and Lazarus
I am taking Jesus with me too
Dear pastor
To you who claim your words are from God
but whose book is pledged to King James
know what allegiances you keep
You've been lying about my people for too long

Interested in learning more about queer theology? A brand new group called Queer Theology is hosting a synchroblog that went live Oct. 1; there you can read a wide array of viewpoints within the framework of queer theology. The group's theme for this year is "Queer Creation." Prepare to have your mind blown!