Is cross-dressing and/or being transgender a sin? According to a few passages in the Bible, and to those who make a habit of picking and choosing Bible verses, it is indeed. When fundamentalist religious people assail your cross-dressing or transgender status, they usually will offer up a passage such as Deuteronomy 22 from the Old Testament. So this passage is worth exploring for those of us who do not feel in our hearts and minds that cross-dressing or being transgender could possibly be as horrible as it is made out to be by some religionists. Let's take a closer look.
Deuteronomy 22 starts off sweetly, lecturing to return to the rightful owner items such as oxen, sheep, asses and clothing that have been lost. Probably most of the world would agree that's a good idea.
But then it goes weird on us. At least to those of us in the modern world. Perhaps when it was written, 3,000 years ago, it made sense... at least for the old men who wrote it.
Indeed, it does say in Deuteronomy (verse 22) that "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." (King James Version)
Before we consider other commandments of this same verse, let us consider this particular section. Is it not true that virtually every modern woman blatantly violates this verse on a regular basis? Within a literal interpretation of the foregoing verse would not millions of contemporary women appear as an "abomination" to the Lord in the wearing of pants, shorts, mens-style shirts and jackets, overalls, cowboy boots, athletic shoes, baseball caps, physicians smocks, construction site attire, and many other items of clothing that were originally designed exclusively for the male gender? Meanwhile, they feel free to cast off their dresses, skirts, frilly blouses, high-heeled shoes, and all other feminine-specific clothing items. This fact in itself is enough to invalidate any modern levity to which this hoary verse may still aspire.
So women around the world are for sure going to hell according to Deuteronomy. But absolutely not wearing the clothing of the opposite gender is just the start of a panopoly of strange commands that Deuteronomy says must be strictly adhered to in order to not piss off a very capricious God. How many of these Godly demands (as interpreted by Iron Age priests) are you (or anybody) piously obeying?
Deuteronomy insists that you must build a "parapet" (ledge) around your roof so no one will fall off.
Deuteronomy commands you to fashion tassels or fringes on the four corners of your cloak or coat.
Deuteronomy lays the law down against wearing any garment that combines fibers.
You might want to take a look at that tag on your cotton-polyester blend t-shirt to see how you (and your entire culture) are faring so far in the Deuteronomy God's onerous judgment.
And that's just the soft stuff.
Deuteronomy now sternly admonishes families to retain evidence of their daughter's virginity at the time of marriage (the bedsheets from her wedding night, presumably smeared with blood from the piercing of the hymen), so that they may have proof if the good-for-nothing husband later accuses his wife of not being a virgin. Now, if this happens, the woman can be taken back by her father, but is still regarded as married to the jackass and cannot be divorced from him as long as she lives. BUT... if the claim is true and she really was not a virgin upon marriage (or if the parents lost that bloody sheet and cannot prove otherwise)... well then Deuteronomy commands that she be dragged to the door of her father's house and stoned to death.
So there's that. Raise your hand if your priest or pastor (or fundamentalist congregation) was adamant about this provision during your pre-marital religious counseling.
Then Deuteronomy goes on to proclaim that if a man sleeps with another man's wife, or with a betrothed virgin, then both of the lovers must die.
Deuteronomy says that if a man comes upon a virgin out in the country who is pledged to be married, and rapes her, he must be killed. However, if the girl was not pledged to be married, the guy must pay the father 50 sheckles of silver (about $400 in today's currency) and marry the girl, and they cannot ever be divorced. Deuteronomy says nothing about a man raping a non-virgin, or betrothed virgins raped in the town. One would think God would be more precise, and not leave gaping holes in his rules and regulations regarding rape and out-of-wedlock intercourse.
Now, if the modern reader disapproves of the cruel and barbaric solutions commanded by Deuteronomy for these sexual situations, has failed to construct that parapet around their roof, does not have those four tassels dangling from their coat, and routinely wears garments of mixed fibers, then it is crystal clear that the whole of Deuteronomy Verse 22 has not a shred of validity to their values. Since these readers are already completely disregarding the bulk of Deuteronomy 22, they should certainly feel perfectly free to dress in the clothing of the opposite gender without the slightest notion that what they are doing is actually an abomination to any God worth worshipping.
Conversely, those who are spouting a selected passage of Deuteronomy 22, while ignoring almost everything else in the verse, are the ones who should feel guilt and shame. At best they are ignorant of the rest of the verse, at worst they are shameless hypocrites.
If you are Christian, perhaps the very best comeback to such arguments is from Paul's letter to the Galatians (Galatians 3) in which he states emphatically that the "law" (the old ways of doing things, as specified in the Old Testment) no longer holds sway:
"So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
There you have it... complete and whole acceptance for anyone who has faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of what they are wearing or their gender identity.
So anyone proclaiming any Biblical basis for discrimination or recrimination of transgendered persons is completely inaccurate, and actually quite un-Christian... and certainly un-American, where freedom of, and freedom from, religion is one of the firmest pillars of our democracy.
Are you ready to release the inner you?