The Gay Body - Incarnating Christianity
by Mario Gerada

Malta, 5 August 2008

Dear readers of The Epistle,

I am glad to be able to communicate again with you through ‘The Epistle’. A dear friend of mine, a Dominican friar Joao Xerri suggested to ‘transform’ my style of writing. I liked his suggestions and am adopting this ‘new’ way of communicating – writing letters. It does feel more intimate and I do like it more. Today I wish to share with you the following thoughts…

Thanks to Fra Joao I recently read two inspiring books The Struggle is One; Voices and Visions of Liberation and The Book of Mev. Reading these two books helped me familiarize myself with liberation theology especially in relation to women and their issues such as control and the way a woman’s body is often used and abused, dominated and oppressed.

These stories about the body of women reminded me of our own stories, stories of LGBT people whose body is often abused, ridiculed and mocked. It reminded me that our bodies too have experiences of violence.

Whilst thinking about violence committed on the bodies of women and/or the bodies of LGBT people I moved to dwell upon the fact that our Christian faith is not only a philosophy or an ideal to focus on but is a faith that is incarnated in the human person. God is Trinitarian - God was revealed to us in the person of Jesus, God dwells in our neighbour’s heart/body and God dwells in our heart/body.

How beautiful Our Lady of all Nations reminder is [in her 40th message] when she says: ‘…you people, no matter who or what you are, support and help one another. In the first and greatest commandment you will find everything you need.’

Reflecting on the physical body of lesbian women, gay men, bi-sexual people and transgendered persons through the eyes of fate helped me understand better how much violence has been committed against our body, how much abuse and how much hate has been projected on this body of ours, how much sin, violence and hostility has been committed. God has nothing to do with all this.

At this stage I would like to tell you one of my stories, one story about violence and death. A couple of years ago when I was living in Sliema the following happened. It was around two o’clock in the morning and I was walking back home. On that evening I was at the Naasha pub in San Gwann with some friends. On that particular night a lift was not available however I was not too far from where I lived so I decided to walk. Whilst walking in Rudolph Street suddenly a white car with four young men drove and stopped close to me and started yelling insulting words and calling me all sorts of names. You do not need a lot of imagination to realize what those words were! It was a very scary moment. I was not sure what was going to happen, if these guys were going to stop at ‘just insulting me’ or if they were going to beat me up. Fear is an interesting emotion and at that point I reacted quickly and ran into a side street close by hoping to lose them in the labyrinth-side streets of Sliema. The car did not follow me. It seems they only wanted to scare me and not beat me up. I arrived home, running, afraid, opened the door quickly looking behind me full of fear, hoping that no one was following me. A few weeks before, in that same area a young black man was beaten up, his jaw was smashed. If I remember correctly no one was arraigned in court over that case. I was afraid that it was going to happen again. When that car stopped I realized how terrifying that experience must have been for that other guy. I realized how unjust our society is. And yet that moment was too scary. I did not record their number plate in my head, I did not recall any details except that it was a white car with four guys in it. I did not file a report.

During that night I tried to sleep clutched to my pillow, my cat besides me trying to console me, not understanding what had upset me so much. Unfortunately this was not the first time that this happened even though the other previous times - twice to be exact were not as scary or threatening.

Indeed chastity is deeply yearned for in our society. We have a desperate need to re-discover chastity when looking at each other’s body, also at the bodies of LGBT people.

My own experience which I have just shared with you reminds me of what James Alison argues about the ‘scapegoat’, about humanity’s ‘need’ to feel united by creating a scapegoat, the sacrifice of a victim. How beautiful it is that Jesus freed us from this false need and again taught us that God does not require human sacrifice, God is not in need of any victims, God has nothing to do with this kind of violence, God is the Good Father! (Mt 21: 33-45; Lk 11: 11-13).

Writing to you about violence and chastity reminds me of an image in Timothy Radcliffe’s book ‘I call you friends’. It is an image of Jesus holding the body of a young man with HIV. How beautiful and liberating it is to dwell upon the thought that Jesus has nothing to do with violence and oppression.

‘You have heard how it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say this to you, if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’

Mt 5: 27-28

© 2008 Mario Gerada

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