LGBT+ History Month: Remembering The Blessed Queer Mary
The Blessed Queer Mary
Mary, the Mother of Christ, occupies a strange place in our faith. For some she is revered, petitioned for help with prayer and central to worship; for others she is ignored once the nativity has been packed away, she has done her job and there is no more need of her. Whatever you might think of her, seeing her pop up in a celebration of LGBT+ saints might raise a few eyebrows.
For me, Mary is the ultimate Queer saint. Bel hooks famously defined being queer as “not necessarily who you’re having sex with, but about the self being constantly at odds with everything else around it.” And Mary is constantly at odds with everything else around her. As soon as she says, “behold I am the servant of the Lord, be it unto me according to his will,” Mary enters a queer space. A young pregnant virgin, who doesn’t ask permission of her parents or her betrothed, who faces society full on knowing that she is being who God created her to be. At odds with all the societal norms that surrounded her.
The Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise when she meets Elizabeth, is an anthem to queerness. Indeed, it should be our Eurovision entry this year, or at least a gay anthem alongside Raining Men, YMCA, and Rise Like a Phoenix. Building on Hannah’s prayer of praise, and Psalm 113, Luke gives Mary an anthem that is completely at odds with the way the world works. The hungry, poor, outcasts are given centre stage and the rich, full, and powerful are humbled and sent away.
Mary’s queerness isn’t about the question of her sex life, of her virginity, it is the whole of her life. Knowing that God has called her to be who she is, knowing that God has called her to do only what she can do, knowing that this is her time, Mary is constantly at odds with everything else around her, she lives her best queer life.
The poet Thom Gunn sums this up beautifully in his poem Jesus and His Mother
How could I know what I began
Meeting the eyes more furious than
the eyes of Joseph, the eyes of God?
I am my own and not my own
I am my own and not my own. Mary knows that she has complete agency, she meets the eyes of Joseph as an equal, she meets the eyes of God in her own way. For a first century Palestinian woman it doesn’t get much queerer than that. But she also knows that she is part of something bigger.
Rowan Williams has written, “one of the benefits of having a calendar of saints is that these wildly different lives speak to us in different situations and at different moments.” Mary speaks to us in a huge variety of ways, and her queerness speaks to our own queerness today.
We need to know that we have been created by God to be who we are, and in that God can use us and bless us and shape us and allow us to flourish exactly as we are. That we are unique in what we can offer to God, to the Church and to the world. Like Mary we challenge the norms that have become prisons for so many, we give voice to the longings of the marginalised and overlooked. Like Mary we give birth to the Word in our own contexts, to bring release, freedom, grace and love.
Hail Mary, full of queer grace, blessed are you among people, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Queer and Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us queers now and at the hour of our freedom.”
Fr Lee Taylor
Chaplain - Rhythm