The Queer Body of Christ

By Jude Jones

In the lead-up to the festive period, we’re republishing this article written in 2022 – and originally published in the Cambridge Language Collective – by acting managing editor Jude Jones on the queer art history and medieval iconography of Jesus Christ, opening new possibilities for reading the body of Christ this Christmastime.

In December 2022, Trinity College Cambridge junior fellow researcher Joshua Heath and Dean Dr. Michael Banner fell into minor tabloid controversy by referring to “Christ’s simultaneously masculine and feminine body” in certain medieval manuscripts, suggesting that “if the body of Christ is […] the body of all bodies, then his body is also the trans body.”

Accusations of woke-ism and attempts to rewrite history were quickly thrown, however as Emily Lawson-Todd demonstrated excellently in her Varsity response to these pieces, such accusations completedy missed the point. No, Jesus wasn’t trans (if only because such a concept didn’t exist in the Middle Ages), nor was this idea ever seriously presented as gospel. However, the description of Christ’s body of a “body of all bodies” open to everybody, including trans and non-binary people, is one with serious historic precedent that shows how reductive modern understandings of medieval theology have become and why it is necessary to revise and queer how we look at gender, sexuality, and religion in the Middle Ages. All are welcome in Christ, and they always have been.

Jean Le Noir, Miniature of Christ’s Side Wound and Instruments of the Passion, detail, folio 331r, in the Prayer Book of Bonne of Luxembourg, before 1349. The Cloisters Collection at the Met Museum.

SMART. QUEER SMART.

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