(This post was written for the Queer Theology Synchroblog 2018 - check out others' posts here)
As I have frequently affirmed. I profoundly agree with John O'Donohue that:
once we see God as an artist, everything changes
Each of us is an artist of our days; the greater our integrity and awareness, the more original and creative our time will become
(in To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings).
I also continue to hold that, at its best, the church (in the words of the great Catholic Modernist Fr.George Tyrrell) is an 'art school of divine-majesty'. In other words, as a human being, I am both a creative force myself (in the image of God the great creative) and a product of arts of living, belonging and believing which have brought me forth and shape me afresh. In particular, as a trans woman in 'transition', I am an unique art-work. So what kind of 'art-work' am I?...
In some ways, as a trans person, I am simply an 'art-work' like any other person who responds to the lure of God's love and the call to the 'fullness of life'. However, my particular embodiment has certain dimensions to it that highlight this very human divine activity. Let me highlight three for the moment...
A first aspect of my being a divinely human art-work is my participation in the process of continuing creation. This is both a welcome adventure and a painful task. For there is a joy and a cost to this calling, wrestling with the Spirit of transformation. Body, mind and soul are profoundly involved in this giving and receiving; in my coming out and expression, and in the discovery of renewing life and new connections. Such transitions however involve the shedding, and even shredding, of skin and relationships, as well as the feeling of delightful comfort with a more authentic be-coming. Being a living sculpture thus involves sacrifice and patience together with dance and release. No wonder, leaving the old self behind is so hard for so many and why trans people are a provocation to that seemingly 'impossible' path!
A second aspect of being this kind of a divinely human art-work is an openness to an undetermined future. For trans people are not 'painting by numbers' or re-building ourselves with a kit of straightforward instructions. 'This adds a further dimension to the disturbance we can represent or create. For to be a trans person is to risk a journey that is not safe or clear. At the beginning of transition, a trans person does not even know how their body will be in time, nor who will leave them, oppose or harm them. Even much later in life, we remain liminal people: living reminders of Jesus' truth that whoever wishes to safeguard their life will lose it but those who lose their life for truth's sake will find it. Yet this is part of our calling: a gift to others as well as ourselves.
For a third aspect of being a divinely human art-work, as a trans person, is a presentation which defies straightforward lines and boxes. We become poems rather than mere prose. We are canvases upon which projections may indeed be made and false conclusions drawn. Yet we possess the ability to offer fresh perspectives, dislocating the expected and inspiring re-imagination: calling others into becoming art-works themselves.
It is not about beauty or perfection, but love. For without love, art becomes increasingly mere show and performance, So being trans, for me, is about learning to love (not least my self) and to be loved, as a truly meaningful art-work is the product of, encouragement to, and participation in, love. It is about seeking to be a sacrament of creative love. For, as Thomas Merton put it:
Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
The Revd Dr Jo Inkpin: