Emily over at Questioning Transphobia has a post about a controversial calendar featuring depictions of Mary (the mother of Jesus, according to several Abrahamic religious traditions) as a transgender woman. I find this issue quite interesting. Lately, I've been more interested in Mary than ever before, especially Notre Dame D'Afrique. Even though I'm not Catholic, it's devotion to Mary is one of its features that draws me to it the most. The idea of an African woman producing a vessel of salvation for mankind is an intensely powerful idea. I love speaking to Notre Dame D'Afrique.
Sometimes, I deal with the feeling that I'm not really worthy of love. Is it any wonder given the sort of messages that society feeds to women every second of the day? It can be difficult for me to feel important enough for the Creator to really be interested in my problems. I think about that line from an old movie where the narrator says, "There's eight million stories in the naked city."
Sometimes, I think about the Bible's account of Jesus and his life on earth as a man. I wonder how his life would have differed if he had spent this time as a woman instead. It can be hard for me to relate to Jesus' experiences as a man, but Mary is different. Mary was a mother. Mary was a wife. Mary was a girl-child who lived her life in a male-dominated world. Mary lived the experience of being oppressed on the basis of gender. Mary experienced being unmarried and pregnant and dependent on others in order to stay alive. Mary experienced having a secret that could have killed her if others found out. Mary is my sister. She is my mother. She is my girl-child.
I know that Christianity teaches that the Creator can understand our feelings and worries and thoughts and I believe that's true. However, sometimes it can be hard to feel like it's the truth. The Creator is so often portrayed as some sort of male person, that it can be hard for me to see beyond that on some days. Mary helps me cross that barrier. Her presence is reassuring. I know there is a divine personage who has experienced what it's like to be me.
When I think of it that way, I can understand why Mary has been portrayed in so many different ways. If Mary is my sister, my mother, and my daughter, then how could she not be a woman of color? If I am to relate to her, how could I see her as someone completely foreign from how I see myself? My Mary is black. My Mary is a single mother-to-be. My Mary knows what it means to suffer physically. This is the Mary that looks after me with the care and compassion of a mother, a sister, an aunt.
The depiction of Mary as a transgender woman seems very natural to me. I really don't understand how it is any different than the myriad ways that Mary has already been depicted. I know that some people arrogantly think that they can own the divine. They don't want others to know that Mary belongs to everyone. She is the face that we see when we think about the feminine divinity. If Mary looks like us and the Creator deemed her worthy of recognition and respect and admiration, how could we worthless? In my opinion, depicting Mary as a transgender woman only magnifies her image and I think this is something that could be quite empowering for all women.