Peterson Toscano, who will be familiar to Greenbelt Festival goers, has a video of his work exploring biblical texts relating to gender diversity, which can be streamed through Amazon now. It is work you may be familiar with if you have seen him in recent years, but which will be new to many.
Transfigurations – Transgressing Gender in the Bible looks at a range of different biblical characters through the use of a range of performance pieces. He begins by looking at Deborah and the scripture found in Judges 4-5. This illustrates how femininity is cannot be defined in a particular way because what it means to be female is something which has diverse meanings.
He then moves on to look at the story of Joseph, described through the perspective of the hyper-masculine uncle Esau. Within the explanation of this narrative which follows Peterson talks about the way that the story talks about blended families before moving on to looking at gender diversity. He looks at the issue of gender diversity using biblical scholarship to explore the clothing of different colours which Joseph was given and the context he was working on. He acknowledges the explanation he gives may not be the only one but it is one which needs listening to.
So within the first two pieces he introduces us to a piece of scripture many of us will not have explored before and reintroduces us in a new way to a biblical character we will have been familiar with from a young age.
Next he moves on to eunuchs and explains their place in the ancient world. He uses the book of Esther to look at this group again using a performance piece. As with the other dramatic representations the use of his hands and intensity of his facial expressions are key to making this work.
In the discussion he moves on to look at other eunuchs including an Ethiopian one in Jeremiah. Again whilst gender variance is the thread which links this with the other characters in the concept of ethnicity is also gently dropped in.
From here Peterson moves on to another performance piece looking at the more familiar Ethiopian eunuch who we read of in the new testament. We don’t know the name of this eunuch so Toscano gives them a gender neutral name. Finally we get another character who gets a bit part mention in the bible but again seems to be acting outside gender norms.
If you are not familiar with the concept of gender diversity I would suggest that you use these videos in conjunction with the Genderbread Person materials from Sam Killerman to help you understand further the concept of gender diversity.
I would recommend this video for those who want to explore gender diversity from a biblical perspective. I’d also say this is a great way back into scripture for those who want to explore scripture more but currently it somewhat dry.
This video is particularly something I would recommend to those who are scared of theology, thinking it is something dry and dusty done by old men in cathedrals or universities. This shows biblical scholarship can be interesting and transmitted in ways which are interesting and culturally relevant.