Gender issues are challenged in The Gospel According to Jesus Queen of Heaven.
Belfast is witness to a play which depicts Jesus as a transwoman. Jo Clifford has recreated the Biblical story with which she describes as a “different slant.” The play is named The Gospel According to Jesus Queen of Heaven and is a component of Outburst Queer Arts Festival.
According to Clifford, her play imagines a scenario where a transgender Jesus returns to the modern world. She pitches her sermon and then narrates a few familiar gospel tales. The character does communion, partakes wine and bread with the assembled audience – a sign of solidarity in the face of death. The performer also gives her blessing. Clifford has termed it as an intimate show.
I was so touched by @JoCliffordPlays's The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven. Shining a light on the love at the heart of faith.
— Honour Bayes (@HonourBayes) August 29, 2015
Clifford told the assembled media that her sermon will remind everyone that Jesus did not utter any single word to condemn transpeople. She added that her show will remind the audience that transgenders have existed throughout history. Many cultures have not only accepted but also celebrated their existence.
Clifford predictably has her detractors. The show was the recipient of backlash at the time of its debut in the 2009 Glasgay! Arts festival. The theater was picketed by many incensed Christian protesters who held signs which denounced the play. Staffs of the box office received death threats. The problem amplified to such an extent that a police officer in plain clothes attended the live performance. The law enforcement authorities did this to ensure Clifford's safety.
Clifford cited a number of reasons for first writing and then performing this show. She admits that being a transgender woman, it is a matter of concern to her that religious people attack transgenders under the cloak of Christianity. The words of Christ are used to justify the prejudices against them. She told the media that she wanted to examine if it is possible to move away from such perceptions and make people think for themselves again.
The performer has taken a number of tours with her show and also seen in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Many opposed the play through the years and termed her play blasphemous. Clifford, however, has a word for them. She says those who criticize her has never seen her play and assumed that the performing art will automatically be offensive to church. She, however, assured the interviewer that she herself is a practicing Christian and has no interest in attacking any church.