“Sometimes what people think of as a flaw is what makes something so special.
Something or someone." ~~Tess, The Violin Lesson

Hi all,

Welcome to another JABB newsletter! 

In December 1996, the TBAA episode "The Violin Lesson" aired on CBS.  As you no doubt know, it featured our trio of angels helping a family cope with the impending death of their son/brother/uncle, Tony, who was a gay man dying of AIDS.  This was not the first time I'd seen homosexuality or AIDS confronted on television.  But it was the first time I'd seen a spiritually-based show do it.  I can still remember watching it for the first time in my grandparents' bedroom because we were over there for the holidays but everyone knew to give Jenni her TBAA time.  At the time, it was pretty obvious to me that I wasn't gay.  I don't think I even realized I could be considered queer.  But I loved that episode.  I felt proud of TBAA.  And while, as time went by, there were things TBAA did that made me uneasy... I'm still proud of them for that episode.  I know they probably lost some viewers over it.  I sometimes wonder if TPTB gave them any pushback.  Regardless, I'm glad the episode exists and I can only imagine how many other queer people it touched.  I hope that, in my small way, I've continued the show's legacy of encouragement.  I hope I've made people feel special... not flawed.

As we near the end of Pride month, I just wanted to say a few things about how LGBTQIA+ characters are handled within the Dyeland stories and why I think that's important.  Everyone should know they're loved by God.

God bless,

Ask a JABB Co-Founder- The Pride Edition

What's the deal with Crowley?  Is he transgender?  Non-binary?  Gender nonconforming?

Not really to my understanding and conception of him within the bounds of the Dyeland stories.  I can't speak for Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett.  Crowley is an angel.  (And, yes, he was a demon but demons are just fallen angels... not a different species.)  While most of the angels identify with one gender consistently, this isn't a requirement.  And given we don't know what their true forms are, it's highly possible they don't have sexes.  (One can assume their human forms do because I feel like the lack of biological sex would have raised alarms in the times, both on TBAA and in Dyeland stories, when they were hospitalized.  Surely that would show up in physical exams and blood tests.)  Crowley is not transgender because he isn't identifying as a gender other than what he was assigned at birth because he wasn't assigned a gender at birth.  Non-binary and gender nonconforming make a little more sense but also seem not quite right because they're human terms.  Both assume his species have an established gender norm.  It's quite possible angels do not.  Keep in mind that the angels on TBAA and in the stories are those who regularly interface with Earth and thus are more likely to take on human-like traits.  Angels who are mostly stationed in Heaven could possibly be an array of genders, agender, or something beyond our human comprehension.  Thus, it's hard to place Crowley on some sort of gender spectrum because we don't know what that spectrum looks like for his species.  What we know is that Crowley mostly presents as male and uses male pronouns.  When she presents as female, she uses female pronouns.  That has not yet happened in the Dyeland stories.

All this being said, I think it's very probable that Crowley identifies strongly with those who are LGBTQIA+.  Just as Tess identifies with Black individuals and shares in their culture, concerns, and traumas in a way Monica and Andrew cannot despite not actually being of Africa, we can assume Crowley shares in the experiences of gay, transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people because society at various points views him as such. 

What prompted you to feature queer characters with increasing frequency in Dyeland stories?

I don't remember ever making a conscious choice to do so.  Increasingly often, those are the stories that I'm drawn to in terms of my TV and movie viewing habits so I suppose it makes sense that I'd bring that same interest to my writing.  I'm also someone who is really drawn to Christian stories and you almost never see Christian faith and identities outside of cisgender heterosexual people explored together in longform media.  The only example I can think of is Gentleman Jack.  So that interests me.

And, really, there's been a queer character at the center of the Dyeland stories for the entire time they've existed even though she wasn't clearly labeled as such.  While she (and her author) didn't have the word for some time, JenniAnn has always been asexual.  I suppose there is almost a sense of loyalty to the queer community, too, because of that... and on the less positive side, a "not all Christians!" sentiment.  I'm very aware of how some Christians demonize queer people and behave as if eradicating queerness was priority number one for Jesus... which is a really strange choice when He spent zero time in three years addressing it.  That's not the Jesus I know.  So I'm going to portray the one I know and he has no problem being around queer people.

Would you ever portray a non-original character as queer?

Probably not unless there was compelling evidence/tradition.  Do I know Saints Sergius and Bacchus were gay?  No.  Is there a pretty strong tradition of them being so?  Yes.  So I felt pretty comfortable with that.  But I'm not gonna just decide that, I dunno, one of the Jameses was pansexual.  That seems really random.  I'm sure Jesus knew queer people... but I'm not comfortable assuming who those people were. 

Are Adam, Kylie, and Clay meant to represent polyamory?

Umm... do you want them to?  If so... yes, sure.

And I really don't mean to be flaky.  That wasn't my intention when I wrote "Triad" and started down that path.  I was just thinking of ways the anam cara relationship could play out.  So like there's Andrew/JenniAnn and Monica/Arthur who share non-sexual but romantic straight-passing relationships.  Then there's Aziraphale/Crowley and Jamie/Gwen who are similar but, from the outside, appear gay.  And we know from a flash forward that Violeta and Shelby are anam caras but in a sisterly way.  And I just started to think that there was no reason it always had to be two individuals.  Also, I really loved the connection between Adam and Kylie but also Clay and Kylie and I didn't want to pick.  So I decided it was a three-way anam cara connection.  Which leads us back to the original question.

If you think polyamory involves all parties having sexual relations then no because only Clay and Kylie have sex.

If you think polyamory involves all parties being romantically involved then, again, no because only Clay and Kylie are romantically involved.

If you think polyamory involves more than two people being in a loving relationship that doesn't necessarily involve sex or romance and sharing domestic duties then, yes, it is. 

Now some questions submitted by Sierra:

Will you eventually have all types of queer identities in Dyeland?

No way.  Not for lack of wanting to.  It's simply impossible.  I mean just considering asexual identities alone, I know of at least ten different varieties.  I know I wouldn't be able to represent all ten.  So when I know I don't have the time and energy to represent all the variations within my own label, I know I can't with the lot of them.  I mean I recently found myself thinking "I should introduce a bisexual character..." and it took a good while for me to remember that I already had.  Vonnie is bisexual.  And it wasn't even that long ago that I wrote that!  So while I would very much like to have as many people represented as possible, I don't want to go for quantity over quality... especially when my brain is already fritzing about what I've already done.  There's a reason there are so many charts and lists and such on the web site.  My poor brain!

Is it hard or easy for you to write Joshua’s dialogue to queer characters given the traditional Christian outlook and do you ever get nervous if Joshua’s words to queer characters are incorrect (and the real Jesus would be unhappy)?

Whenever Joshua speaks about any issue, it can be hard.  But since so many of my co-religionists feel free to put words in His mouth, I don't see why I can't.  To listen to some of them, the two main things Jesus railed about were abortion and homosexuality.  The reality is He addressed neither during his three years of preaching.  Or, if He did, the Holy Spirit apparently didn't see fit to ensure it was written down... something I think unlikely.  I trust that anyone reading the Dyeland stories can understand that I'm writing every single word (obviously excepting the times others submit stories).  I am not infallible.  So, sure, I could be wrong.  But I trust that God knows my intentions are good.  I pray over what I write.  People should pray over what they read.  I don't really know that Joshua speaking to queer characters is any more difficult for me than Joshua speaking to straight characters in some situations.  I mean just to cite one example, Jesus said “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.  (Matthew 18:6, NIV)"  So... while Joshua gave Emma's abuser, Derek, a chance to redeem himself... maybe the actual Jesus wouldn't be so inclined.  I don't know.  I just know that God is merciful and loving.

As for whether I worry about Joshua seeming too affirming of queer people...  No.  Because if the actual Jesus actually thought being queer was bad then one would think He could have found even five minutes within three years to address it.  If someone thinks a given issue is so dangerous to someone's spiritual well-being but can't find even five minutes to address it... they're a bad moral teacher.  They are sloppy and irresponsible.  And they're also not an infallible god.  But I believe Jesus was and is a good moral teacher.  He is neither sloppy nor irresponsible.  He is the infallible God.  He said "Judge lest not yet be judged."

If I've said something wrong... and at some point I must have because, again, I'm not infallible... then I trust that God will forgive.  I tried my best to listen to Him.  As someone who is ace, I feel His love and His acceptance despite the fact that I am not heterosexual.  I don't believe myself to be special in that.

This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye who, through his work, reminded us that God loves us all.

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