This Ash Wednesday, you may see something surprising. Some Christians will have a bit of glitter mixed in with the ashes on their foreheads. This will be a sign that the person wearing the ashes is a queer-positive Christian who believes that God is queer-positive, too.
Ash Wednesday is the traditional start of Lent, a time when believing Christians receive ashes on their forehead as a sign of repentance, a recognition of mortality, and a shared journey with Jesus towards his death on the cross. It is also the day of the year when Christians are outwardly recognizable by the black smudge on their faces. Some people wipe it right off, others wear it all day, with a mixture of pride and vulnerability at their outward expression of their faith. In other words, it is a day when Christians come out and deal with many of the spiritual issues that queer people face every day of our lives.
Glitter+Ash Wednesday is a project conceived by Rev. Liz Edman, author of Queer Virtue, and organized by Parity, a national group that seeks to empower LGBTQ people through a lens of faith. We are queer activists who are amazed by the extraordinary moral witness of the LGBTQ community. We are Christians who are moved by the courage shown of our queer Christian siblings. We are pastors who are dog tired of seeing our faith distorted to justify spiritual violence against queer souls. Glitter+Ash will be a day when progressive, queer-positive Christians come out as the kind of Christians we are, witnessing to the God we worship.
The Glitter+Ash on our foreheads will blend symbols of mortality and hope, of penance and celebration: a potent and inherently queer sign of Christian belief. Glitter is an inextricable element of queer history. It is how we have always displayed our gritty, scandalous hope, even as we have looked our oppression in the eye.
We are living at a time, right now, when many people are taking to the streets to stand in solidarity with women, Muslims, refugees, and immigrants. Glitter ashes are one way that progressive, queer-positive Christians can join this national movement to stand up and be counted. The glitter sparkling in the ash will be a powerful queer/Christian reminder of St. Augustine’s teaching that we cannot despair because despair paralyzes, thwarting repentance and impeding the change that we are called to make.
The largest gathering is expected to take place in New York City, where clergy will lead a short service and impose Glitter+Ash at the Stonewall National Monument in Christopher Park across from the Stonewall Inn. To find a Glitter+Ash Wednesday site near you, or to organize one in your community, go to http://parity.nyc/glitter-ash-wednesday/.
On Glitter+Ash Wednesday, look for this sign of hope and solidarity. It may be a little bit of purple glitter mixed in with ashes, or it may be just the realization that glitter is possible. Wherever it appears, Glitter+Ash will affirm God’s pleasure in the beauty of our queerness, showing up to sparkle where it is least expected.
ELIZABETH M. EDMAN is the author of Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life cand Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity (Beacon Press, 2016). MARIAN EDMONDS-ALLEN is the executive director of Parity, Parity is a faith-based organization that works to empower LGBTQ and allied people of faith as they explore the intersections of their spiritual, gender and sexual identities. Photos courtesy: facebook.com/glitterashwednesday.