Queer encounters of enfleshing theology

Queer encounters of enfleshing theology
By Michael Sepidoza Campos and Anna Krizelle Aguilan Tadiosa

During the Summer of 2019, I taught Queer Theology at Union Theological Seminary, Philippines—the first course of its kind in the oldest Protestant seminary in the country. It took but a moment to discover that queer discourse is deeply enfleshed into the consciousness and practice of the seminary program. The institution’s commitment to justice situated gender, class, politics, LGBTQIA+, and feminist discourse at the heart of theological education.
This piece embodies the heart of our conversations. Alongside Filipino, Sri Lankan, and Burmese graduate students, we straddled languages, accents, multiple Englishes, affection, prayers, and dance to “queer” theology. Removed from the stability of logic and language, we could not but “queer” the process of encounter itself.
In this poetic conversation, AK Tadiosa poses questions, observations, and affection in Tagalog. I, in turn, respond in English—and in a manner that echoes, prods, and magnifies her prose. Rather than translate, I invite readers to sit with incomprehension and mistranslation, to embody (as it were), the queerness of an encounter that escapes the stability of text.

 

Ang Makulay na Pagkamulat sa Araling “Queer Theology”

What hues and shadows spill in the flow of unveiling? 
How does a “queer” theologian teach and learn?

Sa isang seminaristang gaya ko,
Na punan ng iba’t ibang takot sa usaping teyolohiya
May kaba ang dibdib, at pasan sa isipan at balikat
Dahilan sa ibang antas nga naman kapag teyolohiya na ang tinatalakay
Para bang kay hirap arukin, at samahan pa ng salitang “queer”
At dagdagan pa ng propesor na isang panauhing mula sa ibang bansa
Siya kaya’y banyaga o kababayan namin?
Sakit kaya siya sa ulo o kanlungan namin sa aming katanungan?
For a theologian
Unveiling language inevitably fails
Mistranslations and violations, 
orthodoxy and heterodoxy
Confounding boundaries
To queer compels one to stand in between 
homeland and exile,
Host and stranger
Hindi pa nagsisimula ang klase ng “Queer Theology”
Ay may kaba ng dibdib at takot na ako
Samahan pa ng unawang limitado
na para sa LGBTQIA+++ lamang ito
Parang kahong nakalas ang iba’t ibang tabi (side)
Ang maling pagkakaunawa’y nabuwag at binuo ng panibagong dunong
Nagbigay at nagpaigting pa lalo ng layang hangad
Nabuksan pa lalo ang katauhan at kaisipan
Ginising ang akalang gising na at mulat
Theologian and learner—in an unwieldy body
I realize that queering 
Exceeds sexuality and gender
We can only hold “LGBTQIA”
as awkward markers of bodies
And interrogate the linearity of thought
If only to pierce
Through limits of imagination
Isang guro ang bumasag sa hindi naming inaasahan
At dito ko napagtanto na litaw pa rin ang tradisyong taglay
Dahil sa pagkakaunawang malaki ang agwat ng isang guro at mag-aaral
Ngunit ibang kalinga at pangangalaga ang aming naramdaman
Ibang pagmamahal, na para bang nawala ang lahat ng bagabag at takot
Ibang ligaya ang naidulot kasabay ng kapayapaan ng diwa at isip
Naisapamuhay niya ang kanyang minumutawi sa loob ng silid-aralan
Binigyan n’ya ng masmalalim na kahulugan ang pagigin guro
What does it mean to teach?
How can we traverse the divide
between knower and known?
One can teach
Only before encounters that straddle
the chasm between mind and affect
love that spills beyond flights of logic
Seep into bodies that desire
Knowledge erotic in its longings
Hinimay himay ang bawat aralin
Gaya ng pagpapakilala sa iba’t ibang kulay at hugis
Binalikan ang pinagmulan ng mga nakasanayan
Upang magkaroon ng kabatiran sa mga umiiral na mga batas/panukala/tradisyon
Mahalagang ugatin ang pinagmulan upang mabasag ang pagkakahati-hati
Ang ugnayan ng dalwang nagbabanggaang tensyon
At ano ang kahalagahan nito sa ating buhay at pamumuhay
Ang tensyong hindi nalalayo sa pang-araw-araw na buhay
Hindi lahat ng tensyon ay nagdudulot ng kaguluhan
Dahil ang pagitan ng dalwang tensyon maaaring magdulot ng masmalalim na ugnayan
At tunay na malikhaing ugnayan upang makatugon sa kapwa at bayan
To teach
Is to return to beginnings, 
the place of handing over—Tradition
To queer is to enter 
Tensions that fragment
Expose the illusion of binaries
Immerse into the “ordinariness” of subversion
If only to
Love and forget, learn and obliviate,
Dismember and embrace
Mahalaga ang asignaturang ito para sa pagkakamit
Ng buhay na ganap at kasiya-siya
Ang maging iba o kakaiba ay hindi masama
Ito’y mahalagang palatandaan upang alamin bakit siya naiiba
Alisin ang mapang-uri at mapanghusga sa kapwa
Na siyang nagiging dahilan ng ating pagliit ng mundo
To queerly teach and to teach queerly
Is to break through categorical thinking
And lean into the messiness of bodily encounters
To pierce  through the smallness of our world.
Into rurok—the pinnacle of desire.
Ang bawat saklaw, salik ay tinitimbang at binibigyang halaga
Kung nung una ay kaagyat na may pinapanigan
Ngunit ngayon ay masusing sinisipat ang bawat sulok
Ano ang kwento sa bawat sulok na ito
Ano ang kanilang sigaw at bulong?
Tanging dalwang tengang pinagsama ang may puso para dito
Ito ang mas nagpalalim pa sa tunay na kahulugan ng kaharian ng Diyos
Upang makamit ang kapayapaang dala ni Kristo
Kailangang mabulabog at gumana ang lahat ng mga pandama
What does it mean to enter shadowed spaces
Corners that accumulate the dust of silence and indifference?
What does it mean to speak in whispers?
To hear that which is uttered in the silence of a broken heart?
From these shadows emanate
The Reign of God
The peace of Christ
Word uttered in love.
Sa loob ng klase damang-dama ko ang aking pagkatunaw
Sa pag-aakalang may kaalaman akong taglay
Ngunit nawala ang itinakdang kulay sa akin
Nagbalik ako sa putik,
Lahat ng mga itinatago, mga nakaraan
Nagdulot ng ibang perspektibo
Nagbigay ng mas maraming kulay sa aking katauhan
Queer spaces
Queer learning
Compels fragmentation
Colors bleed
Into ideas and bodies
Past enfolding into the present
Colors into new hues and shades
Panimula lamang ito ng mas papaigting pa ng pagkamulat
Ang aming guro upang tumiim sa amin ang leksyon
Ay parang ibon na nangangalaga sa mga inakay
At ngayon ang mga inakay na ito’y hindi malilimutan pamanang natutunan
Handang maging daluyan upang makamit ang kahulugan ng eksistensya
At maramdaman ang kapayapaang nagmumula sa Diyos
Kaya’t patuloy kaming hahayo kasama ang mga buhay ng patotoo
At sa pangunguna ng Tunay na Akda, Pintor ng Kambas ng Sangnilikha
at Maestro ng Ritmo ng Buhay
Sa saliw ng nagbabago at mapanghamong panahon.
AK Tadiosa | 30 August 2019
And among you,
My queer-ying learners
Emerge a peace that embraces unrest
Unsatisfied with contentment
Insisting into the possible
Into the body of God who creates not from nothing,
But from the fleshiness of
A fragmented body.
Of God who cannot
But (be) queer.
MS Campos | 04 September 2019
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Anna Krizelle Aguilan Tadiosa, also known as AK or Eykaey, 6thgeneration descendant of a well-known revolutionary religious leader Apolinario dela Cruz “Hermano Pule” in the Philippines. She’s also a daughter, niece and granddaughter of Pastors, Deaconesses, activists and community organizers. She’s currently a Senior Student of Master of Divinity at Union Theological Seminary-Philippines, an administrative pastor of United Church of Christ in the Philippines – Calumpang, City of Tayabas, Quezon, Province, and a registered nurse. She loves playing cello, making mixed-medium art piece, and writing free verse poems. Lastly, she believes that “God wears lipstick” and everything is colorful.

As founding member of Emerging Queer Asian-Pacific Islander Religion Scholars, Michael Sepidoza Campos researches at the intersection of Filipino-American diaspora, postcolonial theory, queer theory, and critical pedagogy. His writings on queer life and religion include, "Embracing the Stranger: Reflections on the Ambivalent Hospitality of LGBTIQ Catholics" in More Than A Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church - Inquiry, Thought, and Expression (Fordham University Press, 2014); "The Baklâ: Gendered Religious Performance in Filipino Cultural Spaces" in Queer Religion: LGBT Movements and Queering Religion (Praeger, 2012); and "In God's House: Of Silences and Belonging" in Theology and Sexuality, vol. 17.3 (Equinox, 2011). Campos co-edited Queering Migrations Towards, From, and Beyond Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) with Hugo Córdova Quero and Joseph N. Goh. He served as steering committee co-chair for the Asian, North American Religion, Culture, and Society Group at the American Academy of Religion.

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