Monday, November 16, 2015

To all those who hate Queen Jesus


A LETTER TO THOSE WHO CAME TO PROTEST AGAINST “THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN” BEING SHOWN IN THE OUTBURST QUEER ARTS FESTIVAL, BELFAST, ON 15 NOVEMBER 2015.
AND A LETTER TO FUNDAMENTALISTS EVERYWHERE…

My dears

The first thing is to say thank you. Thank you for taking an interest in my play.

One of the major ways our society suppresses dissident artists is by ignoring us. By acting as if we didn’t exist.

I know from bitter experience how hurtful this is. So your action in coming together to register your disgust and try to drown out the sound of my words tells me that maybe I am succeeding in saying something worthwhile.

So thank you.

I know that when I heard there was a chance you were coming to the venue I felt deeply frightened and upset. Just as I’m aware, as I write these words to you now, of the fearful pounding of my heart.

This comes from way in the past when I was still forced to live as a boy.

It was through acting that I first became able to make sense of the deep feelings of alienation and strangeness that had always afflicted me; and understood, inescapably, that I was not a boy and would be so much happier if I could live as a girl.

I was so afraid of this, and so ashamed of it. I knew if I kept on playing girls’ parts everyone would come to know this, and hate me for it.

And then I could no longer act.

That part of my creativity was blocked for forty years.

It’s important you hear this.

Jesus foresaw that many people would come after him to speak in his name. He knew it would be confusing. He advised us to take note of the results of people’s preaching. He said “By their fruits shall you know them”.

The fruits of your preaching are a stunting of human growth and the deepest unhappiness.

Please think about this.

I know your intentions are of the best. You stand for things. It’s admirable. Your banners spoke of “TRADITION. FAMILY. PROPERTY”.

And: “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. NO MORE BLASPHEMY”.

I wish I could have told you that I care about blasphemy too. It’s strange how much we have in common: we all go to church, we all try to live Christian lives. And we all care about Christianity.

I so want Christianity to stop being an instrument of repression and hatred; and become, instead, a source of love and human liberation.

Jesus tells us to love one another, and I found so much love in the venue. In the very beautiful generosity and warmth and understanding of the audience who came to see my work. In the amazing women from the Outburst Arts Festival who made it happen. In my beautiful colleagues and companions. In the people setting up the venue, and the front of house volunteers. In the courageous and gentle security guards who made me feel so safe.

Love is a difficult word. It stands for so many things. Part of it is people working with care and creativity and consideration. Just doing their jobs.

It made me so happy to be with them.

And you, poor loves, you all looked so miserable.

A transwoman in the audience told me how she’d been brought up Catholic, and it made her so unhappy; and how she then became an evangelical Christian to try to escape her unhappiness. And was standing outside Belfast City Hall demonstrating against LGBT rights when she caught the eye of a gay man demonstrating in favour of them.

That moment of simple human contact completely changed her life. She began the long journey towards self acceptance and love.

Hearing her beautiful voice made me so glad I’d stood on the street for a moment to look at you and try to catch your eyes.

Many of you recognised me and started to take my photograph. I hope now you’ve taken me home with you I am more than an object of hatred.

We tend to hate in others what we hate in ourselves. I think that’s why Jesus tells us to love our neighbour as ourselves.

And I’ve a funny feeling that the loudhailer and the bagpipes that you brought along to try to make it difficult for my words to be heard were also there to try to silence of the voice of your own hearts.

It makes me sad that you’re so full of self loathing and unhappiness.

Please believe me when I tell you that I wish you well.



JO CLIFFORD

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