'Queer Bible' translation aims to be 'radical'

by Michael Foust , Guest Reviewer |

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)A protester dressed as a devil who said his name is "Queen" stands outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 26, 2013.

A poet and translator based in New York is working on a so-called "Queer Bible" he says will allow for "queer representation" within the text, and it's funded by a Kickstarter campaign that already has reached its goal.

Brooklyn poet Robert Whitehead says it will be a "radical translation" that is "radically inclusive," with the intent to push back against conservative interpretations of Scripture.

"I will make shifts to pronouns, word choice, and rhetoric that will allow for queer representation," Whitehead wrote at Kickstarter.com. "I will revise metaphor, allegory, and narrative in order to undo the problems of male gaze, redistribute attention to marginalized characters, and scrub heterosexist ideology from the stories. My intent is not to change meaning-- that is, what I see as the fundamental truths of the text -- but rather to show meaning in a queer way."

Whitehead acknowledged he is not a theologian but said a new translation is needed. It will be a "long and arduous process," he said.

"I see the radical act of this project as having the potential to assert the power of queerness against the brutal conservative, literalist reading of this religious text" he wrote. "I see this project as telling my own story and the story of countless queers who have been told they are wrong because it is written in the Bible. I see this project as using Biblical idiom as the material for representation of a queer mythic and psychological existence. It is a project of queer liberation, queer representation, and queer celebration."

He already has translated the first three chapters of Genesis and has passed his goal of $2,000 to get the project started. The biblical text, he claims, "changes with" humanity.

"Unfortunately, the Bible has been misused by religious, political, or cultural leaders and institutions to negatively influence the lives of queer people," he wrote. "Recently in the US, a county clerk in Kentucky started a national conversation when she refused marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Biblical grounds. In Omaha, NE, religious affiliation and Biblical teachings are being used as arguments to keep young people from receiving comprehensive sexual education that includes information on gender identity and sexual orientation. A religious university in Portland, OR, wants to ban transgender students from their campus and is using the Bible to back it up."

The translation, if it is completed, will be different from the "Queen James Bible," which was released in 2012 and changed only eight verses – not the entire text.