When I first started this blog I wrote a bit about how I am able to mix my conservative religious beliefs with an act that is explicitly condemned in the Bible. Recently a friend told me he struggles with exactly the same problem and asked me how I interpret the various passages which condemn crossdressing and homosexuality, and rather than just copy-and-paste my old article I decided to give the thought another long bout of introspection so I could clarify what I believe about the Christian Bible. Here is the result:
You asked about the bible’s take on “effeminate” not entering the kingdom of heaven. Of course you mean 1 Corinthians 6:9, which lists a whole slew of people that shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven but do you see heavily publicized hate groups warning us that God Hates Slanderers, or God Hates Drunkards? No, apparently the only sin worth mentioning is homosexuality, and that’s not the word used. Nor is “effeminate”. The word in Greek is “malakoi” (you might get the idea that I’ve spent a LOT of time researching this, and you’d be right). That word literally means “soft ones”. It’s the same word Jesus uses when talking about John the Baptist he sarcastically asks the crowd “What did you come out here to see, someone wearing [malakoi] soft clothes?” Obviously to the people of that culture, “soft clothes” was a euphemism, a code word if you will that everyone knew exactly what Paul was talking about. From the context of carnal immorality in general, he obviously did mean some kind of physical deviation, and quite probably homosexuality in which case we’re off the hook, at least here. In any case, even if he specifically said “crossdressers”, I’d have an issue with this precisely because the church as a whole doesn’t take an equally hard stance against people who lie, people who cheat (think: finding loopholes to reduce your taxes, or speeding because “everyone does it”)… not to mention slanderers (not that anyone in church ever gossips) or even boastful people.
Romans 1:24-27 is a lot more explicit, but here Paul is speaking in a historical context of why God voided His contract with Abraham’s people over their excess of unrepentant sin. There is absolutely no way to sugar-coat his description of lesbians (1:26) and male homosexuals (1:27) or pretend it only applies to temple prostitutes or some other such nonsense. Yes, God really does hate fags if you’ll pardon my appropriation of that hate group’s favorite phrase… or, more to the point, He hates homosexual acts.
And He hates crossdressers, or at least crossdressing. The passage that zaps us is Deuteronomy 22:5 (I always squirm uncomfortably when a pastor suddenly decides to go into the OT and happens to hit on that one). Again, there’s just no way you can twist the words so they don’t apply to us. We’re not just an annoyance or detestable, we’re a full-blown “abomination to God”.
Once I got through decades of self-doubt just because I didn’t understand what I was and thought I was gay or “trapped in a man’s body” and all that other stuff you can’t research because the Internet hasn’t been invented yet, I finally started to accept who I am… and then hit Deut 22:5. It was like finally getting up to a full gallop and getting ready to win the race only to slam face-first into a brick wall.
I cried about it. I prayed about it. I hated myself for it. And then… I was at peace about it. What changed? Did God change His mind?
No. I changed my understanding of God’s priorities. First I realized that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. God gave me this personality and these urges for a reason. I’m not saying “It’s OK because it’s God’s fault I do something awful”; I’m just saying I’m grateful that I exist, and I know one day I’ll find out why I got the weird parts in the mix. One possibility is that the extra dose of femininity that makes me prefer dresses also made me a gentler husband and father. I know for sure that once I started dressing more or less full time my stress levels went down considerably.
I also came to realize that we will ALWAYS sin — whether it’s “wearing that which pertains to a woman” or getting drunk or disobeying the laws of the government God placed in authority over us or gossiping or undercutting our tithe or whatever — and we are already condemned for it. The good news is that we are also forgiven… and because God doesn’t weigh sins according to some arbitrary standard of quality we do, my crossdressing is forgiven right along with my speeding and all the times I didn’t stop at a glass of wine or a single margarita but intentionally got myself good and snockered so I could sleep better (which never actually works, since I end up getting up to pee 82 times overnight).
So no, I don’t believe that crossdressing is NOT a sin… but I confessed all to God and asked Him to take it away from me if it is interfering with the two commandments*, and so far He has not chosen to do so. I am extremely thankful that it’s at least a problem I can keep within the confines of my own home and family… I read about these brother/sisters who are so obsessed with crossdressing that they risk their marriages, their jobs, their very lives by putting the dressing ahead of all other priorities, and I wonder if I would have the strength to stop if the urge got so strong that I couldn’t think straight. Probably not.
* Yeah, two, not ten commandments and you know exactly what I mean. If we try our best to love God and love our neighbor — even the jerk who hates you and can’t possibly be loved — then all the other rules and regulations are irrelevant.
How’s THAT for a heavy sermon to end the day on? 🙂