God is unexpected, He is other, as the Bible reveals. Where else do otherness and the unexpected reveal themselves in our day and age if not in the strange figure of the drag queen ? Maxime Michelet points out the analogy between these two figures, that question our representations of what is human.
by Maxime Michelet
translation Louise Thunin
Those readers who are shocked will not have gone beyond the title.They will probably have thought that we want to replace an old man god with a white beard by a god in a sequin-ornamented dress with a blond wig and outlandishly long eyelashes. The title is provocative, for sometimes we have to provoke to get attention, but it intends no will to wound or shock and, all in all, just develops here a parable of our time.
When Jesus used agricultural parables, it wasn’t out of enthusiasm for harvests, but because he was speaking to a population saturated with rural references. In 2020, let’s dare new parables. And I don’t think this one is illegitimate : God is a drag queen.
Let’s take a swift glance at the definition of the word : a drag queen is a person who develops, through travesty, a female identity voluntarily based on the exaggeration of certain archetypes and certain physical or costume traits. Drag queens usually play in shows that include songs and humour.
Why would I dare claim that God is a drag queen ? First of all, is there anything more excessive and exagerated than God ? Is He not the Almighty, sovereign of whole universe ? His traditional representations, where gold rivals purple, do not go farther overboard than the flashy luxury of certain drag queens.
Drag queens are over-dressed and made-up, and – quite often –exceedingly funny. God, too, is excessive. Excessively omniscient, excessively pouwerful, excessively eternal. God and drag queens have this characteristic in comon : excessiveness.
And when we have the privilege of passing by a drag queen, those of us who don’t hang out with them every evening are disturbed. At the very least, we are surprised and a little upset. This is the natural consequence of the confrontation with such excessive otherness. Just as a mirror sends us back an image of our own identity. It is the same thing for God, Absolute Principle whose power and eternity return to us a picture of our human littleness, our fragility and – borrowing Pascal’s terminology –our misery.
For, beyond the apparent outlandishness that may bring them together, what, to me, seems to justify a comparison between God and drag queens is their otherness. A radical otherness that sends us off base. We Christians are used to meeting up with and confronting violent examples of otherness, but this we do usually for charity, which, after all, puts us in a place of domination. A migrant has an otherness that captivates us, yet we have a country. A homeless person has an otherness that strikes us, but we have a roof. The starving person has an otherness that seizes our heart, yet we shall dine tonight.
We expect no radical response to the radical otherness of the drag queen. The permanent joy, the exaggerated laughter and that concrete-hard je-ne-sais-quoi of self-confidence make no claims on good souls but simply call to the bortherhood of sincere love for one’s neighbor. We may not have a taste for the humour or the performances of drag queens, but that does not justify caricature or rejection.
Too often, that radical otherness that endangers us receives only rejection and caricature in reply. And this without ever going beyond appearances, without ever meeting and conversing in all humanity. And yet, isn’t this what Christ calls us to ? To confront other people, to go and meet them and to love them as we love ourselves ?
The paradox of the Bible message is to assign a fanciful and unknown otherness to our neighbor and then reject him or her, in the hope of consolidating our own threatened identity. When we do this, we sacrfice our neighbor on the the altar of ill-assured self-love.
God is a drag queen, for God – by dint of the principle of life, love and brotherhoood that reign in his Kingdom, cannot exist without otherness.
And each time we refuse an encounter, we refuse God. Each time we make fun of a neighbor so different from us, we make a caricature of God. Each time we transform our faiths into ethical codes, designed to engender neighbors exactly like us, we make a travesty of God.
And we do not change him into a drag queen but into a scarecrow. Into an unjust God who would reject some of his children. And if we so ardently wish that our Father would judge and condemn some of his other children, it is to insure that we hold the place of favored son or daughter and to reassure ourselves about the paternal love that is due us.
This world is peopled by thousands of identities, and the singularities worthy of the attention of Christians must not be reduced to singularities of suffering. Our charity must turn towards our brothers and sisters struggling with life, but our love must not reserve itself for them alone. And the Christian churches must dare open to all types of encounters and, rather than make narrow doors, build bridges. But not bridges built with planks between neighboring communities or nearly similar identities. Our bridges must be viaducts.
God is a drag queen because –without necessarily being homosexuals themselves – drag queens are the outstanding icons of the LGBT+ movement of the twenty-first century, this century when entire sections of the Church of Jesus Christ have lost themselves in their rejection of homosexuals, flag-bearers of church identities that build their hypocritical brotherhood on falsely charitable exclusion and not on a humble, sincere encounter. Is a welcome in sincere, Christian love of a homosexual person one with a view to bringing him back into the fold of heterosexuality ? Is it meeting up with her, or is it taking possession of this person’s identity in order to change it in spite of itself ?
In this merry month of May, the seventeenth is dedicated to an international struggle against homophobia, and while, during the coming month, the streets of our towns will be filled with Gay pride parades, it can be useful to remember that God is everywhere that life, joy and love reign. And thus he has his place in the middle of the LGBT+ community, and, should he manifest, he would no doubt choose the absolute, radical and overturning otherness of a drag queen.
God is always in the midst of those who, free to be themselves, found both their freedom and that of others on being themselves. God is in the midst of those who dare to cross all the invisible barriers that make our society a juxtaposition of communities closed in on themselves. The power of the Gospel message in our time is that we not shut ourselves in , with our identities and opinions, but that we take the risk of meeting other people. And of loving them with joy, sincerely. Christ, our only guide, broke through the barriers of his time to meet a Samaritan woman and drink with her on the edge of a well.
We find God when we meet those who are different from us, not in the comfort of meeting a twin brother. And where God never is, is in the midst of those who preach hatred and exclusion, in the midst of those who spout on about their individual freedom only to better crush and insult that of others.
Freedom and life are never upsets to divine order. They are its realization. Tomorrow, by abandoning prejudice and fear, by crossing the viaduct that perhaps separates us, by meeting our neighbor in the absolute radicality of his right to be him or herself, we meet God. On that day, God can have a thousand faces, and maybe he will be a drag queen.
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