Iconic lesbian poet and writer Jeanette Winterson, who penned Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit among many other queer tales, may no longer be excited about her gay label, but lesbians worldwide are. So it’s not surprising to see media surrounding her new relationship with Susie Orbach, the psychotherapist who helped Diana, Princess of Wales, to overcome bulimia.
The far-from-closeted Winterson is not upset to be out in public rather upset about the way gay issues are covered saying: “I would feel better if the tabloids, all of them, weren’t so anti-gay in their general outlook and if they would stop using ‘lesbian’ as a negative adjective.”
And in typical irreverence goes on to write on her blog:
Anyway, it’s not like we’re Madonna. I am a writer and she is known in her own right, but doesn’t need this round her neck. Lying in her arms will do fine. I want to live in a world where the gender of your lover is the least interesting thing about them.
Winterson also has two upcoming projects that should interest gay and straight fans alike. On Christmas Day, the BBC will premiere the children’s drama, Ingenious, starring Una Stubbs, which tells the story of a group of children who discover genies in a glass bottle and go on to hunt for a dragon. This family friendly romp will likely get more attention, but perhaps more interesting is Winterson’s retelling of the Christmas Story.
Described by some critics as “a cross between the nativity and one of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories” the fable tells the nativity story from the point of view of the donkey. In a modern competitive twist the burro gets the chance to carry the pregnant virgin on his back by answering a tie-breaker question correctly. He goes on to eloquently describe Jesus’s birth:
There was a rushing sound, like water, and a cry, like life. It was life, bloody and raw, and wet and steaming in the cold like our breath, and the baby, its face screwed up and its eyes closed, and Joseph’s hand bigger than its back, and suddenly there was the blast of trumpets, and the front blew clean off the stable, and I looked up and saw the Angels’ feet pushed through the sagging roof, and their bodies taut on the ridge-line, heralding the beginning of something, the end of something, I don’t know what words to say, but beginnings and ends are hinged together and folded back against each other, like shutters, like angels’ wings.
I tipped back my head, and I brayed and brayed to join the trumpets. My nose was so high and the roof so low, that the Angel’s foot brushed me as I sang.
Winterson does not describe herself as a Christian, although she grew up in a religiously strict household. She does, however, consider herself “one of the faithful” and believes it is important for children of all religions to hear stories of the Bible and other religious texts in a way that is accessible to them.
Winterson says: “I believe in God as highest value, and I believe in a connection between all living things — humans, animals, and the land …We cannot know if God exists, but we can know what it is to want more than materialism and pragmatism.”
Will you be reading Winteron’s Christmas tale?