Hidden Perspectives

Bringing the Bible Out of the Closet

Chella Quint Interview by Aysha Musa

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cq what upCan you introduce yourself to our readers and give us an idea of what you do?
I’m Chella Quint and I do lots of stuff! Comedy writing and performing, zines, spoken word, compering, public engagement, education and consultancy, art and design… All of my comedy and art projects tend to have a positive, educational and social justice message and often tend to be community-linked. I don’t like comedy or art that makes fun of ordinary people’s identities. It has no value.

How did you get involved with Hidden Perspectives?
The outstanding Cara from LaDIY strenuously encouraged me to get involved after previous work I’d done for Ladiyfest, including compering a safe-space comedy night, contributing to their body image fanzine, and hosting a feminist pub quiz!

You are a woman of many talents; your website bills you as a “comedy writer, performer, artist, educator, and old school zine girl”, what do you have in store for the HP festival?
Well, I would normally have performed something, but I’m actually going to be in New York for a conference linked to my MA research. I’m gutted to be missing it!  Cara wanted me to be involved anyway, so I’ve written a zine and done some artwork instead that can be purchased and viewed at the event.

Is it cheating to answer the rest of this question by giving you the official brief I sent to Hidden Perspectives? I was very articulate that day!

I think Judaica represents a powerful physical link to my family history and culture, and would purchase more for my home if the imagery, language and depictions reflected my cultural connection to Judaism rather than religious messages – particularly religious messages and imagery that lack LGBT representation or inclusion. This sentiment goes double for Christian education resources – there are so many adorable accoutrements for a child’s bedroom or home library that simply don’t make room for LGBT communities, nor is there much out there that allows for those who are happily religiously affiliated and also identify as LGBT.

This project aims to meet the joint need for LGBT religious representation that is normalised and catered for, as well as finding creative ways to address (rather than glossing over, as this would be another kind of misrepresentation) the homophobia and heterosexism in most interpretations of Judaeo-Christian literature and iconography.

“The Animals and the Ark and the Rainbow”

The Animals and the Ark and the Rainbow is a YA fiction zine written from the perspective of one young person’s irreverent, scholarly, and brave response to that pastor who said gay marriage caused the Great Flood. The zine includes two hand-created fonts (one is a handwriting font, and the other is made up of various animal dingbats) and full colour illustrations. Proceeds from each of the 100 signed and numbered copy of this book will be donated to SAYiT: The Sheena Amos Youth Trust.

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I’ve created some acrylic jewellery with the help of Access Space. There is a giraffe mobile, which links to the story, giraffe earrings, and several rainbow giraffe pride necklaces. You will have to read the zine to find out what this giraffe business is all about! One of the necklaces is based on pride rings, which were popular when I was a student at New York University in the mid-90s. They were a set of aluminium rings in rainbow colours strung on a long ball chain that you could throw on as you were leaving the house to go out for a night. They let everyone know you were queer, which was not that unusual in Greenwich Village, New York!  This set is made up of giraffes, and they are strung on hemp for extra biblical accuracy!

Stay tuned for another piece of work later in the year, which can also be purchased in limited quantities to benefit the Sheena  Amos Youth Trust.

Do you have a personal story about LGBT and Religion/The Bible?
My dad was Jewish and my mom was Catholic. We were all raised religiously atheist and culturally Jewish, with a healthy understanding of most major world religions. We attended all of the usual religious lifecycle events and occasions with both sides of the family and learned a lot.

When I came out, and started taking my wife along to family gatherings, more of my extended family started coming out as well! I now have three gay cousins… that I know of! I think it was easier for me to come out without the extra pressure of fire and brimstone or excommunication and stuff, and I guess it was easier for extended family members to talk about it with my parents because they were supportive. Also, all the gay couples in my family are interfaith! I’m sure there’s a PhD in that for somebody…

When my wife and I got civilised (it was a civil partnership –  what would you call it?) we said our vows under a chuppah and we stepped on a glass at the end  while everyone shouted ‘Mazel Tov’. I don’t think I would have felt married if we’d left those bits out.

Why do you think projects like Hidden Perspectives are important?
I think when anyone addresses their privilege and includes and advocates for any marginalised group, good things will happen. More people should do this now that Hidden Perspectives has taken the lead.

Why should people get involved? What’s your hope for people who do?
Learning new things and meeting new people is awesome! I hope people contribute their own ideas and insights as well as learning from those who are giving talks. I hope everyone enjoys the awesome performances that are lined up! I really hope people buy a zine and donate great wads of cash to SAYiT, because they do outstanding work empowering young LGBT people to address the homophobia and heterosexism they have to deal with every day.  The importance of their work really can’t be underestimated. It’s the difference between life and death for some kids, fulfilling livelihood and poverty for others, and I’m not exaggerating in the slightest.

Do you believe LGBT and the Bible should be discussed together (under the same platform)?
Absolutely. I think this project is a great idea. I’d encourage people to talk about LGBT stuff more in general. We hear a lot about religion in the media. It’s time for LGBT people to have positive representation as a rule, not an exception, and address some people’s deeply felt taboos and stigmas – many of which have a religious basis, but not leaving out cultural or political bias.

What has been your experience of the interaction between LGBT & Religion?
I find it mostly positive, on a personal level.  In the media, and on a large scale, though, it’s absolutely horrendous.

I find it really presumptuous when people cite religion as a reason other people might feel uncomfortable with me. ‘Oh that group of people might be offended if you say you’re gay’ or ‘my parents might not like you – sorry’ etc.

I find when I meet individual people of various strict religious beliefs that they personally are very polite and friendly and interested in talking to me. I keep anticipating I’m going to meet some very religious person who’s going to be personally horrible to my face, but it’s very rare. I could only think of three occasions:

1.      My aunt told my mom she didn’t agree with gay marriage because she was Catholic. So we didn’t tell her we were engaged, she found out from her kids, felt left out, and sent us a ‘housewarming present’. I’ll keep you posted if things improve further on that front.

2.      Someone I thought was a friend said she ‘didn’t believe in gay people’ because of her religion. I said ‘I’m right here!’ I felt like the tooth fairy. I don’t stay in touch with her anymore.

3.      A colleague once said she ‘didn’t need to know what LGBT meant’ because of her religion. I replied that I was LGBT and I had learned about her religion because we live in a diverse community and it’s important to understand each other. I found that pretty hurtful.

What I find really frustrating is when people try to be intermediaries between very religious people and ‘those who may offend them’. I call them ‘offended by proxy’. The ‘offended by proxy’ gambit seems to speak of more ignorance, and less willingness to engage than the attitudes of people who have genuine strong faith and tradition that hasn’t included LGBT people in the past. I’d rather talk to a very religious person who thinks I’m going to hell but can have a nice chat with me over a cup of tea and see that I’m an actual human being than someone who’s ‘afraid to cause controversy’ or thinks I should ‘be discreet in case I offend someone’. That right there is bigotry, plain and simple.

What are some of your hopes for the future of LGBT & Religion discussion?
I’d like to think that religions can evolve and change on a larger scale and at a faster pace than previously, to address the human rights issues that cause rifts and alienate marginalised groups.  I hope everyone has a lovely time at Hidden Perspectives, and that it is the catalyst for important conversations.

Chella Quint

Author: Hidden Perspectives

A research project within the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS) at The University of Sheffield.

One thought on “Chella Quint Interview by Aysha Musa

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