WHAT IS THE QUEER BIBLE?
The Bible is a religious document, a cultural touchstone, an allegory, a metaphor, a testament. No matter your faith background, the Bible is an influential work of literature and has a remarkable place in the history of human thought, action, and awareness, even up to the present day.
The Queer Bible is my reclamation, through translation, of the queer mythic potential of Biblical stories. I want to make an inclusive, celebratory space within the text that undoes the implicit sexism, misogyny, heterosexism, hierarchical oppression, slut-shaming, etc. and reconstitutes the feminine, the queer, the outcast, the strange.
I believe the Bible is a remarkable text. I admire the faiths founded on it. This project is in no way an argument against one religion or another. I am not working in theology, not attempting a queer evangelicalism-- instead, I am working in the poetry, the language, the narrative technique, the myth, and the mystery of the Bible to determine how it can work in the context of queer theory, progressive politics, and contemporary poetry aesthetic. I am making a radical translation that is radically inclusive. And I want you to join me.
Unfortunately, the Bible has been misused by religious, political, or cultural leaders and institutions to negatively influence the lives of queer people. Recently in the US, a county clerk in Kentucky started a national conversation when she refused marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Biblical grounds. In Omaha, NE, religious affiliation and Biblical teachings are being used as arguments to keep young people from receiving comprehensive sexual education that includes information on gender identity and sexual orientation. A religious university in Portland, OR, wants to ban transgender students from their campus and is using the Bible to back it up.
That's only in America, and only the stories being reported today. Ours is a country that has long seen the policing of queer bodies and sexualities as a cultural and moral imperative, a perspective often informed and supported by a conservative, Biblically-oriented cause of "religious liberty." There are many churches still preaching hatred of LBGTQ people from the pulpit, or including discriminatory practices against LGBTQ families in their belief systems. There are still religiously-affiliated campaigns to keep municipalities from protecting LGBTQ people in housing or workplace discrimination.
HOW WILL THE QUEER BIBLE CHANGE ANYTHING?
The Bible is much more than the book religion makes it out to be.
The Bible stands as a record of human history. Because we change, the Biblical text changes with us. It has been revised to catch up to (and, often, inform) the psychology, morality, behaviors, and intellect of the times. It has been translated into vernaculars, altering the shape and sound of the text. Whole books have been excised from the Bible for political or religious reasons. Books have been added, stories have been moved around, gaps and inconsistencies have been filled in. This is a book that has, since its inception, been in flux.
What's more, one must consider the hundreds of years of tribal myths, oral stories, pagan and mystic legends, and ancient political dramas that predate the Bible and are undoubtedly through-lines to the stories we read today. The Bible was not written in a vacuum; like any other myth cycle, it was written as part of the (often pagan, tribal, or cultural, and frequently queer) traditions that came before it-- incorporating some, rejecting others, but responsive, ever-changing.
Embedded within the history of the text is the possibility of change. As I work through the language in my translations and expository essays, I will be changing the literary and mythic content. I will make shifts to pronouns, word choice, and rhetoric that will allow for queer representation. I will revise metaphor, allegory, and narrative in order to undo the problems of male gaze, redistribute attention to marginalized characters, and scrub heterosexist ideology from the stories. My intent is not to change meaning-- that is, what I see as the fundamental truths of the text-- but rather to show meaning in a queer way.
I see the radical act of this project as having the potential to assert the power of queerness against the brutal conservative, literalist reading of this religious text. I see this project as telling my own story and the story of countless queers who have been told they are wrong because it is written in the Bible. I see this project as using Biblical idiom as the material for representation of a queer mythic and psychological existence. It is a project of queer liberation, queer representation, and queer celebration.
"For the myth is the foundation of life; it is the timeless schema, the pious formula into which life flows when it reproduces its traits out of the unconscious."-- Thomas Mann
WHO AM I?
I am a poet and a translator. I am not religious, though I was raised Catholic, raised to believe in the Bible as an infallible religious guide. But when I began to understand myself as a queer person, I began to understand that the Bible was, in fact, fallible-- it was failing me. The Bible did not represent me, the Bible condemned me, so how could I be a part of that system of belief?
Turning this skepticism into curiosity, I began to question the "aura of impenetrability" surrounding the Bible. Religious doctrine holds that the Bible is a self-contained, self-completing, divinely-inspired text. And as such, the text is sacrosanct-- it is derived from God, directly. I want to peel back that literalist approach to the Bible and start to look at it as a cultural and literary act. I believe that undoing the authority of the Bible is to undo its restrictive hold on the imagination, and to liberate a space for queerness to exist as an essential part of creation.
I was fortunate enough to receive a residency from the Vermont Studio Center this Spring, where I will be working on The Queer Bible, both making translations and conducting research. Much of the support I receive from this Kickstarter will go directly to fund that residency, where I will be sharing new translations, essays, artworks, and ideas about The Queer Bible every day. I am also using this Kickstarter as an opportunity to reach out, to make connections, and to enlist the enthusiasm of a larger community of smart, queer, curious people. I hope as you make a donation you will also consider sending me some personal stories and insights, links to a formative essay or image this project makes you think of, ideas about the Bible, or just some words of encouragement!
You are also welcome to visit my website to post your reactions, ask questions, and engage with the translations and essays I post. My goal is to post a new translation every day I'm in my residency, so keep an eye out to watch your support working in real time!
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Here's to a Bible that moves with us, not against us.
Risks and challenges
The Queer Bible is a labor of love. I work on it when I can, but it is by no means my only work. I have a full-time job, family and friends, and the other dailinesses of a life that compete with my attention and energy. While I am fortunate to have the support of the Vermont Studio Center to complete a portion of the work required on this project, it will by no means cover everything. This will be a long and arduous process, which is why I am enlisting your help right at the start! I thrive on the input of others, and I hope you will invest in this project not just with your money, but with your interest, your engagement, and your insight. Having a dedicated group that I can pose questions to, run issues by, or share developments with will make this a far more enjoyable and far more successful work. It will be tough, but I believe that I can get much further much quicker with your help and support.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)