|“Sometimes what people think of as a
flaw is what makes something so special.
Something or someone." ~~Tess, The Violin Lesson
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.
a JABB Co-Founder- The Pride Edition
What's the deal with Crowley? Is
he transgender? Non-binary? Gender
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
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
Are Adam, Kylie, and Clay meant to
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
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.
Credits: The photographs used on this page are from Touched by
an Angel and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions,
and Moon Water Productions. They are not being used to