Saturday, October 17, 2009

Spain: Calendar features transgender models posing as the Virgin, controversy follows

A calendar released by an LGBT rights organization in Spain is raising some eyebrows for its use of religious imagery in what is a predominately Catholic country.

The 2010 calendar, which had an initial pressing of 10,000 copies, shows settings that mimic religious paintings and features transgender models dressed like the Virgin Mary.

Copies were distributed at July's pride march in Madrid but it's receiving widespread attention now after El Mundo published this story today.

On sale to raise funds for the LGTB Collective of Madrid (COGAM), its
authors say that it's meant to be a "secular calendar" and that it each page suggests alternate ways to celebrate religious holidays.

"Wherever it's noted that December 25 is Christmas, a candy sweet should be eaten on behalf of International Democracy Day" is one example.

Venezuelan photographer Juan Antinoo, author of the images, says that he doesn't see why they should be considered controversial.

"It's not something that worries me, what truly is important is that the message gets out there; which is the importance of the use of a condom" he said. "They are interpretations of religious images, not copies," he added, "I sincerely don't think anyone should be offended by them".

[Disclaimer: I've actually met Antinoo couple of times and love his work and, in this case, each page is supposed to incorporate condoms as imagery; I have to say, though, that I'm not sure the prevention message quite carries through here in the way that his "BEARback, yes, bareback NO" campaign did].

Of course, the predominant factor that sets these images apart is the use of transgender models posing as the Virgin. The include Carla Antonelli, a leading Spanish transgender rights activist, who said she certainly considered the potential controversy that the calendar might elicit before she agreed to pose for it.

"I posed myself the following scenario: Why is it that a transsexual woman can't represent a religious icon given life by so many other actors and actresses throughout history? To not do it would be akin to internalizing the same discriminatory principles that people want to throw against us", she said.

The project's authors say that there is a definite intent to make transgender women more visible to society.

I'm not sure how the whole thing would play here in the United States [you might remember the whole bru-ha-ha over the Folsom Street Fair poster a couple of years ago or the reaction by then-Mayor Rudolph Guiliani to a certain painting]. But this is Spain, a country in which one of the most common insults, despite religious overtones, might even make atheists blush ("Me cago en la ostia"), and where people don't mince words when they want to say something.

So, if your faith is strong enough to withstand it (and if you are a true believer, it should), or if you dig the transgressive nature of the campaign, or if you want to know what the bru-ha-ha is about, or if you want to feel offended despite the warnings, please feel free to peruse through each page of the calendar here (Warning: some nudity).

  • Carla Antonelli's blog can be found here.
  • Antinoo's site can be found here.

From Questioning Transphobia:
The shock of these images is, I think, that transsexual bodies are associated implicitly with the profane. Christian theology is, as queer liberation theologian Marcella Althaus-Reid puts it, a “vanilla theology,” an imaginative specatacular economy that depicts already-privileged bodies as holy (the historically inaccurate depiction of Jesus as a white man), and excludes those of marginalised groups. She says that “belief systems are organised around people’s bodies, and people’s bodies in relationships, and in sexual relationships” (2003: 43)... [read on]
From My Private Casbah:
Even though I'm not Catholic, it's devotion to Mary is one of its features that draws me to it the most. The idea of an African woman producing a vessel of salvation for mankind is an intensely powerful idea. I love speaking to Notre Dame D'Afrique [...]The depiction of Mary as a transgender woman seems very natural to me. I really don't understand how it is any different than the myriad ways that Mary has already been depicted. I know that some people arrogantly think that they can own the divine. They don't want others to know that Mary belongs to everyone. She is the face that we see when we think about the feminine divinity. If Mary looks like us and the Creator deemed her worthy of recognition and respect and admiration, how could we worthless? In my opinion, depicting Mary as a transgender woman only magnifies her image and I think this is something that could be quite empowering for all women [read on]
From Page McBee at the bitch magazine blogs:
This calendar may be cheeky and subversive, but it's also powerful in its indictment of the offended viewer: what is so wrong about trans women, anyway? Who decides what bodies are "right?" And what does it mean to be a woman, anyway? Hat's off to these women who, like many before them, force us to examine these sorts of questions anew [read on]
From New York Gay Pride:
I think this is unnecessary and reminds me of the gay nativity in Amsterdam during X-mas last year. A drag queen Maria, a leather Joseph etc. It’s just really disrespectful to religious people and only gathers bad publicity for the gay community. Some things should be left sacred [read on].
From Queering the Church:
So, this calendar, appropriating religious imagery to promote condoms, raise funds for LGBT Collective Madrid, and is meant to suggest alternative, secular ways to celebrate religious holidays, “should (not) be considered controversial”? I’m certain that very many would disagree, and only on the fiercely traditionalist fringe [read on].
From Guanabee:
The calendar has, unsurprisingly, drawn ire of the Catholic Church. And why not, really? Even if the calendar didn’t feature transgender individuals (whom some religious groups view as fighting against being the way God made them), it does prominently feature condoms, which go against the Catholic Church’s firm stance against contraception and view that sex is a means of procreation. So, yes. It is most definitely intentionally provocative. Which is why it’s here, right now, along with our own little reminder to practice safe sex. Unless you choose to remain abstinent because of your faith. In which case: We still love ya, too. And we’ll be eating various sweets on Christmas day for you, for Jesus, for democracy, and because we’re kind of a pig... [read on]
Previously on Blabbeando:


Anonymous said...

I'm willing to "live and let live", but when people who are gay or transgendered or any other such group, deliberately and knowingly disrespects the beliefs of another group, my concern for their community and its "rights" falls to the bottom of my "to care about list. Trying to build up one's ego by disrespecting someone else's beliefs is childish, and really leaves a bad taste. How about if we as part of the same human family try to support one another instead of adding to the world's misery.

Anonymous said...

any other "such" group?

pray tell, what kind of groups are these you speak of, and what kinds of groups would you be willing to treat with more respect and civility? why?

Anonymous said...

How about we start with how exactly this is disrespectful in any way? If you honestly think trans women are not worthy of your respect you may need to rethink how dedicated you are to your "live and let live" stance