Peterson Toscano’s one-man theatrical production has been extremely impactful in terms of raising awareness of gender variant characters in the Christian Bible. Peterson performed Transfigurations: Transgressing Gender in the Bible for live audiences beginning in 2007. He retired the production in 2016 and then released a DVD version in 2017–which I highly recommend as a study resource, both for individuals and for groups. The movie can be streamed on Amazon and there is also a study guide.
I cite Peterson and Transfigurations in four different chapters of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation. Transfigurations was certainly one of the inspirations that helped me to know that there would be enough content to justify an entire book on gender variance in the Christian Bible!
Peterson brings Hegai, a eunuch who was involved in Ester’s story, to life. Hegai was one of a dozen names eunuchs in the Book of Esther. I also recommend his exploration of Ashpenaz in his Bible Bash podcast with Liam Hooper. In OtherWise Christian, I really only touch on the eunuchs of Esther (in chapter 16) in passing as I review a variety of eunuchs who are mentioned in passing throughout Hebrew scripture.
In Transfigurations, Peterson also tells the story of Joseph through the eyes of his uncle, the masculine Esau. J Mase III credits Peterson with inspiring Mase’s spoken word piece, Josephine. I cite both artists and draw in additional scholarship in chapter 19 of OtherWise Christian.
Deborah is one of the few assigned-female-at-birth (AFAB) characters, both in Transfigurations and in OtherWise Christian. Peterson takes a playful approach to telling her story while I explore related scholarship in chapter 20 of OtherWise Christian.
In chapter 24 of OtherWise Christian, I follow two more leads left by Peterson in Transfigurations. Peterson teases out a theoretical situation that could have led to the disciples meeting a “man carrying a jar of water.” I make the connections between this “certain” man and the Essene sect of Judaism, which John the Baptist was also believed to be a part of.
The DVD includes two versions: a lecture version and a theatrical version. The other AFAB character shows up only in the theatrical version on the DVD as Peterson draws connections between Mary of Bethany and the Mary that appears in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas. I sort out “something about Mary(s)” as I explore issues in Christian discipleship in chapter 24 of OtherWise Christian.
CORRECTION: Ebed-melech also appears in Transfigurations! However, only in the lecture version (chapter 7). In the early years of Transfigurations (when I saw it a couple of times), Toscano was doing the performance version. Based on audience feedback, Toscano developed the lecture version as an alternative to give people more background. Apparently, I had not watched the lecture version close enough to have retained that Ebed-melech is in there, so he was omitted from my first version of this post. Peterson kindly corrected me.
Trivia from Peterson himself to go with the correction!
I only ever did the performance version and never did commentary until the Q&A but after I [broke] my wrist and had a performance at Yale, I couldn’t do the performance version. For that show I created the Performance Lecture version. It then become the preferred method because it helped people know the details behind the story. I really like the performance version, and thanks to David Weekley, it was included in the DVD. He lobbied hard to have it included because of the dramatic ending (which doesn’t happen in the Performance Lecture.)
Aside from ground-breaking scholarship and great theater, Peterson Toscano’s Transfigurations inspired many transgender folk and our allies to rethink our relationship with the Bible. This work has been and continues to be an extraordinary game-changing resource, for which transgender communities should always be grateful to Peterson.
Order Transfigurations: https://petersontoscano.com/portfolio/transfigurations/
MORE RESOURCES: Transgender and the (Christian) Bible
Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on July 8, 2019.
Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have corrections or are able to contribute further context or reflections.