Friday, April 17, 2015

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

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
By Lewis Williams, SFO trinitystores.com

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).

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 following portrait from 1750 shows her in her amazing library, surrounded by her many books.

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

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 continues to be an inspiration for contemporary writers 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.

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.

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.

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 at the top 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.”

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Related links:

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (Qualia Encyclopedia of Gay Folklife)

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

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


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





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Thursday, April 16, 2015

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


A new 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.

Another LGBT-affirming spiritual resource is “For Mary’s Child,” a Facebook page calling on faith communities to support Day of Silence.

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 16) encourages students to speak up about “God's design for sexuality.”

Once again religious faith gets equated with discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression. I wrote the Rainbow Day of Silence prayer to give 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 & 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.
Amen.

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.

(Credit: The image at the top of this post comes from For Mary's Child: A Way of Hope)
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Related links:

Dayofsilence.org (official website)

DayofdDialogue.com (official website)

Day of Silence Prayer by Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer (ucc.org, 2007)

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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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 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people of faith and our allies.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Kuan Yin: A queer Buddhist Christ figure

“Avalokitishvara” by Tony O’Connell

“Kwan Yin is Coming” by Stephen Mead

Kuan Yin, the androgynous spirit of compassion in Buddhism, is sometimes thought of as a queer Christ figure or LGBT role model. Buddhists celebrate the birth of Kuan Yin today (April 7 this year).

Christians honor Christ as savior, and Kuan Yin is a type of Buddhist savior figure called a bodhisattva -- an enlightened person who is able to reach nirvana (heaven) but delays doing so out of compassion in order to save others from suffering.

Artists often show Kuan Yin with eyes in her/his hands and feed. They are like the wounds of Christ, but Kuan Yin can see with them.

Kuan Yin is sometimes known as the goddess of mercy and goes by different names in different places, including Avalokiteshvara in India, Tara (female) or Chenrezig (male) in Tibet, and Kannon in Japan.

Writers and scholars who have explored the queer side of Kuan Yin include Patrick S. Cheng, theology professor at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge; Hsiao-Lan Hu, religious studies professor at the University of Detroit Mercy; and Toby Johnson, a former Catholic monk turned author and comparative religion scholar.

In the introduction to his 2003 essay “Kuan Yin: Mirror of the Queer Asian Christ,” Cheng explains:

"Kuan Yin, the Asian goddess of compassion, can serve as a mirror of the queer experience. Specifically, Kuan Yin affirms three aspects in the life of queer people that are often missing from traditional images of the divine: (1) queer compassion; (2) queer sexuality; and (3) gender fluidity. In other words, Kuan Yin can be an important means by which gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people can see ourselves as being made in the image of God."

Cheng writes clearly about the connection between Kuan Yin and Christ in the section where he describes his personal search for queer Asian Christ figures:

Olga’s Kuan Yin
By William Hart McNichols ©
www.fatherbill.org
"I have been intrigued by the possibility of Kuan Yin serving as a christological figure for queer Asian people. For me, it has been difficult to envision the Jesus Christ of the gospels and the Western Christian tradition as being both queer and Asian (although I do recognize that queer theologians and Asian theologians have tried to do so in their respective areas). It is my thesis that Kuan Yin might serve as a symbol of salvation and wholeness for queer Asian people of faith...."

Click for the whole essay “Kuan Yin: Mirror of the Queer Asian Christ” in English or in Spanish.

Cheng's latest book Rainbow Theology: Bridging Race, Sexuality, and Spirit was published in 2013. He is also the author of “From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ”, “Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology.” His series on “Rethinking Sin and Grace for LGBT People Today” was one of the most popular stories of 2010 at the Jesus in Love Blog.

Hsiao-Lan Hu presented a paper on “Queering Avalokiteśvara” at the 2012 American Academy of Religion annual meeting. She noted that the Lotus Sutra says that Avalokitesvara will appear to teach different beings in different forms, based on what they can accept.

In the summary of her paper, Hu writes, “Of the 33 forms listed in the Lotus Sutra, 7 are explicitly female, indicating that the Bodhisattva of Compassion transcends gender identity…. What is the theoretical ground in the Buddhadharma (Buddha’s teaching) that justify or even propel such conceptualization? How does that theoretical ground compare to modern-day queer theory?”

She summed up her paper in the 2013 Women’s and Gender Studies Newsletter from the University of Detroit Mercy: “Avalokiteśvara's multi-morphic manifestation affirms different beings in their specific identities, while his/her transformability points to the possibility of moving beyond the confinement of any particular identity. For people of minority identities, the Bodhisattva thus can be both a source of comfort and a model for coping with reality in which they often need to perform different roles.”

Hu is the author of This-Worldly Nibbana: A Buddhist-Feminist Social Ethic for Peacemaking in the Global Community.

Another LGBT perspective on Kuan Yin is provided by Toby Johnson in Kuan Yin: Androgynous spirit of compassion, which he wrote for the Jesus in Love Blog. Johnson begins by retelling the traditional story of Kuan Yin. Then he explains that it is “a nice myth for gay people” because:

"It says we’re really all One, all reflections of one another, that the distinction between male and female is illusory and needs to be transcended and that transcending gender is part and parcel with experiencing heaven now."

A student of Joseph Campbell, Johnson has written 10 books, including the classic Gay Spirituality and Two Spirits. He is production manager of Lethe Press and former editor of White Crane Journal. Johnson discusses Kuan Yin as an androgynous figure who embodies compassion in his articles “Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara” and “Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.”

Queer theologian Robert Shore-Goss applies the bodhisattva concept to queer Christian life in “Bodhisattva Christianity: A Case of Multiple Religious Belonging” in the 2013 book “Queering Christianity: Finding a Place at the Table for LGBTQI Christians.” Goss is pastoring Metropolitan Community Church in the Valley (North Hollywood, CA) after serving as chair of the religious studies department at Webster University in St. Louis.

Images of Kuan Yin posted here were created by Tony O’Connell, Stephen Mead, Ralfka Gonzalez and William Hart McNichols. Mead is a gay artist and poet based in New York whose work has appeared internationally in cyberspace, books, and galleries. McNichols is a New Mexico artist and Catholic priest who has been criticized by church leaders for making LGBT-friendly icons of saints not approved by the church. His icons have been commissioned by churches, celebrities and national publications.

O’Connell is a gay artist based in Liverpool. Raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, he has been a practicing Buddhist since 1995. He creates an artwork celebrating Avalokitishvara / Kuan Yin every year on his/her birthday. Viewers who look closely at his painting here will see an eye in the palm of the Compassionate One's hand.

“There is an amazing statue of Avalokiteshvara in a Liverpool museum with a text that explains how the mustache was painted over to alter his gender as the people who met the monks on the spice routes from India struggled with the idea of a manifestation of compassion being male and wanted to see him as female. It occurs to me that there are subtle ranges of the same personality between Avalokitishvara, Kuan Yin and Tara as one gender ambiguous enlightened mind,” O’Connell said.

He explains that Tara came into being in compassionate response to samsara, the cycle of birth and death: “There is a beautiful scripture that talks about how even with all his enlightened abilities to benefit living beings, Avalokiteshvara saw the suffering of samsara was almost beyond measure. His heart broke for living beings and he wept tears of compassion. When the first tear hit the ground a lotus flower grew up and blossomed to reveal Tara. Her first words as a Buddha were, 'Do not weep- I will help you.'”

For more about Tony O’Connell and his art, see my previous posts Reclaiming sainthood: Gay artist Tony O’Connell finds holiness in LGBT people and places and Olympics: Spiritual art supports Russia’s LGBT rights struggle.

Guadalupe as Chenrezig by Ralfka Gonzalez

Outsider artist Ralfka Gonzalez links Kuan Yin not with Christ, but with his mother by painting Chenrezig as Our Lady of Guadalupe. In the Gonzalez image, he/she is wrapped in Juan Diego's cloak.

His interpretation fits with the practices of Japan’s “hidden Christians,” who created statues of Mary disguised as Kuan Yin (Maria Kannon) when Christianity was outlawed from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Pictured here is the first of many “Buddha Lupe” images painted by Gonzalez. He is a self-taught Chicano artist and gay Latino activist who divides his time between Oaxaca, Mexico and San Francisco. He often paints Mexican and/or gay themes in a colorful folk-art style.

An in-depth discussion of this post happened on my Facebook page with various people adding valuable background info on Kuan Yin and his/her many incarnations:




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Related links:

Korean Christ” icon by Robert Lentz

Christ Sophia” by Br. Michael Reyes, OFM (Christ with Chinese characters and lotus blossom)

Art by He Qi

Kuan Yin: Espejo del Cristo queer asiático by Patrick Cheng

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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.



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Monday, April 06, 2015

Gay Jesus: Live video interview Thurssday with Kittredge Cherry



Kittredge Cherry did a live webcam interview about "The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision" on HuffPost Live!

The gay Passion interview is near the end, starting after 22 minutes. They also set up a new link where each interview is separated. Click the following link and scroll down to see "New Book Explores the 'Gay Vision' of Jesus Christ" at:

QueerView April 10: A Look Back At The Week In LGBT News Stories
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/10/queerview-april-10_n_7041290.html

They invited me to speak on HuffPost Live because my article Gay Passion of Christ Envisioned and Attacked got 10,000 views and caused a big controversty at HuffPost.

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Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Easter from Jesus In Love and Kittredge Cherry -- with murals of Los Angeles


I found Jesus painted on the walls of the Los Angeles neighborhood near my home. Folk-art religious murals are a wonderful part of the Latino street culture here.

These colorful murals express the Easter spirit of Jesus vibrantly alive among the common people. When I visited the Jesus murals, I dressed for the occasion by wearing my rainbow-flag T-shirt that proclaims, “God loves me just as I am.”


Jesus raises a wounded hand in blessing on the side of the Highland Theater at 5604 North Figueroa Street in Los Angeles. Artist John Zender Estrada merges urban Chicano and Catholic sensibilities in his religious street art.


"I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land." -- Psalm 143:6


I touched the most sacred heart of Jesus!



Jesus stretches his arms wide to welcome me at Guerrero’s Produce Market on the corner of York Boulevard and N. Avenue 56 in the Highland Park art of Los Angeles.


“I will hold you always in the palm of my hand.” -- Isaiah 41:13


All photos by Audrey Lockwood.


I am collecting an Easter offering to support my work at Jesus in Love for LGBT spirituality and the arts. Please give now at my donate page.

For the whole Easter story, check out The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision with art by Douglas Blanchard and expanded commentary by Kittredge Cherry.

Thank you to everyone for the many ways you show support.  Christ is risen indeed!  Happy Easter!
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