Friday, April 2, 2010

On Bathrooms, Deuteronomy, and Freedom

There are certain questions and topics that frequently arise in the life of the everyday T-girl. "Which bathroom do you use?" seems to be one of the most common inquiries. Personally, I try to avoid it, but there have been times when I have used the ladies room. I've always waited until it was empty for safety and politeness, and usually tried to find "single seaters" where I can lock the door and enjoy some privacy.

Years ago, I attended several Help Me, Accept Me meetings at the Dallas, Texas Gay and Lesbian Center. I would arrive partially dressed and scurry into the restroom to apply the finishing touches. There was always a long line of T-girls at the women's restroom, so I would duck into the men's room and be finished before everyone else. Looking back, the scene was a bit comical. I remember another T-girl seemed to disapprove of my actions and questioned me about my choice. I replied, "Are you kidding?! We're all TGs here!" My practical outlook on things seemed to negate the need for restrooms designated for two specific genders when everyone in attendance was pretty much the same. Some may not agree with me on that point, but I still try to be practical in all things.

It was when I first began coming to terms with my transgenderism that I came across Deuteronomy 22:5 -- The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God. That seemed to seal my fate. I was definitely some sort of pervert in the eyes of the Lord. This was going to be a demerit on my record for the rest of my life, end of conversation, subject closed.

Then I learned about context. Everything in the Bible is spoken in the context of the day, and in the context with the rest of the Bible. Have you ever seen pictures of how good Israelites dressed back then? There was not a lot of difference as they pretty much wore robes. This piqued my curiosity. Then I looked at this verse within the context of the surrounding verses and found no context -- this verse of instruction stands by itself with no explanation.

I turned to some well-established theologians and commentators who felt this verse was a warning to the Israelites about some of the pagan practices of their neighbors. These pagans would cross dress to serve false gods and idols. This led me to believe that the intention of this verse was less about what a person wore than what he or she did. This makes practical sense to me. It makes sense that God would be angry at one of His children for turning their back on Him and going after an idol. Does God care if I wear guy's or gal's jeans? Does God care if a woman wears pants or skirts? Does God care if I wear heels or flats? These matters seem trivial and of no importance in light of the historical context. The focus is not on how I look but on how I'm serving.

Matthew 23:25-26 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. (26) Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. When Christ came to this earth, He fulfilled both the Law and the Prophets. One of His revolutionary teachings was on the correct motivations of the heart. Our reasons for action and intentions are as important if not more important than our physical actions. In the quote above, Christ was confronting a bunch of religious leaders who were so wrapped up in legalism and ritualism, and the power and prestige of their office, that they forgot the most basic aspect of God -- love. The scribes and Pharisees loved the applause and praise of the people for being "holier than thou", but gave little thought about how God viewed their actions and intent.

And don't forget, the New Teatment looks back and fulfills the context of the Old Testament, while the Old looks forward to the New for completion.

I'm probably not doing a very good job of conveying my thoughts, but here is an extreme example: It's okay to cross dress. It's not okay to cross dress and rob a bank. Why? Because it's not okay to rob a bank period! Hitting a little bit closer to home, it's also not okay to cross dress with the malicious intent to mislead someone.

Now why did I and many other people have to work so hard to come to the conclusion that cross dressing in and of itself is okay? Well, it wasn't God's fault, I can assure you. Fact is, we live in an imperfect world where there is sin, and the old devil himself is a master of lies, deceit, and misdirection. The devil can use his tricks on believers just as he can unbelievers. It's up to those who know The Truth to encourage others in The Truth and lead still others to The Truth.

Maybe I'll come back to this topic again. In the meantime, I'll try to prepare myself so I can better address it. My poor writing on religious matters has helped me have empathy with Moses when at the burning bush he said "I am slow of tongue".



  1. There is a tendency among many Christians to become "Pharisees", i.e. legalistic instead of spiritual. They interpret text literally instead of symbolically, and fail to see that even the Bible is a text written down by fallible human beings in an historical context.

    Jesus use parables all the time, precisely because there are some things that cannot be told in a legalistic or scientific way.

    My favorite Jesus saying on the question of gender is found in the Gospel of Thomas. It is not part of the Bible, although it is clearly an early collection of sayings, probably as genuine as any of the ones found in the four gospels. (Wikipedia:

    Jesus saw infants being suckled.
    He said to his disciples:
    "These little ones being suckled are like those who enter the kingdom."
    They said to him: "Then will we enter the kingdom as little ones?"
    Jesus said to them: "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside
    and the above like the below – that is, to make the male and the female into a single one, so that the male will not be male and the female will not be female –
    and when you make eyes instead of an eye
    and a hand instead of a hand and a foot instead of a foot, an image instead of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom].'

    The message is about transcending the traditional dichotomies made by the language of man and see that they are all one from another perspective.

    It has also been suggested that the phrases "when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside and the above like the below" refers to the sexual act, i.e. some kind of sex reversal. It could be. In that case the reversal of active and passive parts in the sexual act represents another kind of union of opposites.

  2. Jack, the Gospel of Thomas was not included in the Bible precisely because it had Gnostic language like this in it. One of the tenets of Gnosticism was that they viewed the spiritual as more important than the physical. They didn't think our bodies were important to God, and therefore our genders along with it. (though The Gospel of Thomas also mentions that women need to become men in order to be saved. It had a very low view of women). The early church knew that it wasn't really written by Thomas, but by false Gnostic Christians, and did not include it in in the Bible for that reason. It contradicted with the teaching of the apostles that had been handed down since the time of Jesus. They had absolutely no doubts that Gnostic writing like these were not true to the things Jesus had taught. It was very common in that day for people to write things and place the names of well-known people of the past, as the author, to get more recognition. Hence writings claimed to have been written by Adam or Enoch, far after the time they were alive.

    The Bible was written by human authors in various contexts, with various personalities, experiences, vocabulary, goals in mind etc. But Christians believe God also inspired them by the Holy Spirit to write exactly what he wanted them to say.