Today has been a very interesting day. Lots of talks which have given me plenty to think about, but the highlight for me tonight was seeing Peterson Toscano perform his new play Transfigurations – Transgressing Gender in the Bible.
Peterson took us on a very interesting journey, exploring a variety of different characters in the bible who may have been transgender, or who sat outside of gender-normative behaviours. Amongst them we looked at Joseph and his princess dress, Deborah and her big sword, Queen Esther’s eunuch and the part he played in her fulfilling her role in history and the man who was seen carrying water at the Passover.
It was undoubtedly a difficult audience. A mixture of lesbian women, gay men, transgender folk and a couple of straight people thrown in for good measure. Many people did not speak English as a first language and yet I sat and watched people processing what they were seeing and hearing. It seems to me that we are becoming used to hearing gay and lesbian stories told by people who have a variety of different experiences, both positive and negative. However, the stories of transgender people seem to be more invisible. What Peterson managed to do tonight was to bring some of these out, flesh out the people of the bible and provide them with a real and valid voice. Where history seeks to dull the colours of the picture, Transfigurations made everything more vivid for me.
Whilst I had heard snippets of this play, or precursors to it, the whole thing sent shivers up my spine. It is very different to Peterson’s other works, the humour is more subtle although it is still there, but the pace of the story is totally different. It reminded me of the first time I heard him read out Low-Carb Jesus at a meeting. It made me stop in my tracks, made me think and it even made me weep.
This play was beautiful. Centered. Quiet. Honest. Thoughtful. Challenging. Hopeful.
If you get the chance to see it please do. You will undoubtedly leave a changed person.