Most of us have probably heard of the biblical story of Joseph and his multi-colored coat. If we don’t remember the story from a religious upbringing, we almost certainly are familiar with the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Weber musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (based on the biblical story of Joseph, a young dreamer).
In the biblical story, Joseph is one of many siblings, but he is also the parental favorite. His father gives him a gift – a beautiful coat that features many colors. Artwork based on the story often shows the coat looking like a wearable rainbow.
Joseph’s siblings were annoyed that Joseph rated such a snazzy gift and they allowed petty jealousy to cause them to plot against Joseph. According the story, they actually sold their younger brother into slavery and told their father that he had been killed.
The rainbow coat was a sign of favor, but it also made Joseph different, even special, and for that Joseph was singled out and abused.
Joseph dealt with his adversity as best he could. In slavery, he was promoted, but then he was imprisoned. In prison, he managed to stand out, and eventually was released and even became successful in politics. In time, he was able to use his political position to help people, including the family that earlier abandoned him to a life of hardship.
The Joseph story is a wonderful allegory for Rainbow People everywhere. We in the Queer community know what it is like to be different, and special. We understand what it means to be unique, and gifted, and able to achieve great things in spite of having endured cruelty. We have had ups and downs, and sometimes, we have proven to be more gracious than those who wrote us off or who tried to erase our stories or assault our dignity.
Our same-gender love and attraction or our gender non-conformity is a special gift, a sign of being different and at the same time specially blessed; our sexual orientation or gender identity is our coat of favor which shows we are part of the rainbow diversity of life. That specialness has made us targets for some, but even with all the ups and downs of being a targeted and oppressed group, we have proven to be resilient, creative, loving, and utterly fabulous!
I love that the rainbow has become a symbol of our beautiful community. Our rainbow flag is our coat of many colors, our sign that we are special, we are blessed, we are fully embraced by the loving Presence many of us call “God.” Like Joseph, our path hasn’t always been easy, but it has made us strong, wise, and at our best, compassionate and dedicated to making a positive difference in the world.
The next time you see a rainbow flag, I hope you will think of it as a sign that you are gifted by the Universe, and that you are indeed a gift from the Universe to the world.
The prophet Ezekiel imagined God this way: “As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord…” (KJV). Rainbow People are made in the image of the Rainbow God. We are the world’s Sacred Rainbow People!
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins is the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale (www.sunshinecathedral.org).