Heavenly Homos, Etc.: Queer Icons from LGBTQ Life, Religion, and History (Book Review)
by David Friscic
October 12, 2022
Dutch artist Jan Haen has written a unique and intellectually stimulating book entitled Heavenly Homos, Etc.: Queer Icons from LGBTQ Life, Religion and History and it is indeed a “heavenly” read! Thank your lucky stars for a book that features such a vast array of saints, people in the Bible, writers, scientists and so forth—inclusivity is the keyword in this fascinating book.
Beautifully drawn artwork by artist Haen informs the pages of this book which is drenched in page after page of beautifully drawn human figures who represent hope for the LGBTQ community. The artwork is richly detailed yet, concurrently, enveloped with the artist’s keen eye for portraying the emotional essences of human beings—especially those who may be in emotional or spiritual pain.
Saints such as Saint Peter and Saint John, inspirational figures like Mychal Judge and Alan Turing, LGBTQ heroes like Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepard, and figures who may or may not be gay such as Joan of Arc and Saint Sebastian are painted with sensitivity and obviously intuitive awareness.
Though the book cover says that it is intended for adults, the book may be useful for teens and young adults who are exploring their sexuality and spirituality. More questions are raised than answered and this is a good approach as we live in such a polarized world.
Two males narrate the proceedings with an infectious and sweetly warm style—questions and answers are raised and answered in a very relaxed style yet with a, concurrently, educational, and informative tone. As I read the book, I almost felt as if two friends were simply conversing with me in a conversational style.
The text is decidedly informative, engaging and infectiously curious in tone but it never shies away from describing the horrors of homophobia. The brutal killing of Ugandan David Kato, Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy of Bangladesh and Dr. George Duncan of England and Australia are described in detail and are not for the faint of heart.
I was not initially aware of such influential figures as Jan van Killsdonk, Fanny Ann Eddy and Aelred of Rievaulx but this delightfully informative book helped to make me aware of them.
Author and artist Jan Haen is a Redemptorist priest who has ministered in the Netherlands and South Africa. He is an active member of the Werkverband van Katholieke Homo-Pastores, an association of Gay pastoral leaders. Haen’s paintbrush is awash with stunning colors.
Haen was inspired by the artwork of Keith Haring, Robert Lentz, and Andrew Freshour. Haen’s artwork is, indeed, colorful and entrancing in its beauty.
Pansexuality, asexuality, bisexuality, what it means to be transgender, lesbianism, procreation, masturbation and Sodom and Gomorrah are all discussed in detail in separate sections in an easy to understand yet elegantly written style.
Paradigms are pushed and probed throughout this richly detailed graphic book. The result is a unique and distinctive graphic book that is narrated with highly informative and compelling prose.
On the inside of the back page of the book, credit was given by Haen to Wikipedia and to Roberto Gonzalez Fernandes’s book Journeys (GMP: London, 1988) which inspired his book as well as What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality (Alamo Square Press, 1994)—authored by longtime DignityUSA presider Daniel Helminiak—which justified it.
Consultant Kittredge Cherry and John Mabry, publisher and editor-in -chief of Apocryphile Press, should be credited for bringing this very educational and artistic book to what will hopefully be a wide readership. (Indeed, Jan Haen credits them on the back page).
Do not miss the opportunity to read this educational and gorgeously produced book. This book will speak to those who want to understand the spirituality of the LGBTQ heart and mind.