Queen Esther, a role model for LGBTQ people, helped save the Jews from destruction in ancient Persia, an event commemorated today in the Jewish festival of Purim (Feb. 23-24 this year). LGBT Jews see her as an inspiration for coming out. A possible lesbian love story between Biblical queens Esther and Vashti has fired the imagination of a lesbian playwright, while a scholar says both queens are role models for gay and lesbians in ministry.
Esther hid her Jewish identity in order to become the next queen of Persia. Later she “came out” as Jewish to the king, thereby saving her people from a planned massacre. Their story is told in the Book of Esther in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament). Vashti was a Persian queen who refused to obey a summons from her drunken husband, the king.
The Washington Post article Gay Jews Connect Their Experience To Story of Purim reports that some see Purim as an unofficial LGBT Pride Day. Esther is traditionally considered the heroine of the story, but independent-minded Vashti has been reclaimed by feminists and now LGBT people.
Lesbian playwright Carolyn Gageimagined a love story between the two queens in her play “Esther and Vashti.” Gage describes her play as “a fast-paced, high-action drama where the love story of two women of different cultures and class backgrounds plays itself out against a backdrop of anti-Semitism and the sexual colonization of women.” Her “radical feminist retelling” fills in the blanks of scripture. In her version, Esther, a radical Jewish lesbian living in exile, and Vashti, a Persian woman of privilege, were lovers before Vashti married the king. The plight of the two women coincides with their successful effort to stop the impending massacre of the Jews.
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