“Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” — 1 Peter 3:15
Note: All letters are posted as they were received. No spelling or grammar errors have been corrected. Links to responses are at the end of the letter.
I have a brother, whom I love dearly, who is a cross dresser. I am a Holy Spirit filled christian and reading this just makes me want to puke. Satan knows the word of God inside out and he has you blind as a bat. I cannot stand here and swallow all this junk that you have said. It makes me sick. I am trying to understand my brothers problem/choice he has made in life. It has made me sick to see that you compare yourself to eunichs, when eunichs were men that their testacles were not formed correctly, or they were castrated or they just choose not to get married to have normal sexual relations with women. It clearly doesn’t say that they wore womens clothing!!! And also, if you really are a christian and have received Jesus and your Lord and Saviour how come you are not following His commands not to dress as women DEUT 22:5 WHEREE IT CLEARLY STATES A WOMEN SHOULD NOT WEAR ANYTHING THAT PERTAINS TO A MAN, NOR A MAN SHALL PUT ON A WOMENS GARMENT; FOR WHOEVER DOES THISE THINGS IS AN ABOMINATION TO THE LORD YOU GOD???? You clearly do not understand the Word of God when you say that it contradicts itself — ON THE CONTRARY!!!! GOD’S WORD IS CLEAR AND TRUE HE WROTE IT AND IT WILL LAST FOREVER. IT JUST MAKES ME SICK HOW YOU ARE PERVERTING GOD’S WORD!!!!! MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR SOUL!!!!
Rev. Vera I. Bourne responds: Dear Barbiesline@aol.com,
I’m so glad you wrote to the magazine and expressed your anger and confusion. It must be difficult to have a brother whom you love who chooses to cross-dress. Have you talked at length to him about his need to cross-dress and your aversion to this habit? I have no experience in this field I will not attempt to offer you any explanation. But I would like to share some thoughts on clothing and fashion adopted by various cultures, as well as take a look at the laws recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy.
In Australia, and in most Western nations, we accept slacks and shirts, or suits as clothing suitable for men, but this is not the case in most of the world’s nations. As a woman who is half-Maori I offer you the traditional clothing worn by men from various Polynesian nations, for men here wear skirts, either of material or reeds (grass-skirts). Yet these men, as is demonstrated when they engage in the haka before a sporting match, are not cross-dressing, but are wearing those garments which appropriate the qualities demonstrated in battles in which their ancestors were engaged. Men from Arab nations were long flowing robes, which we might consider more fitted to women, but which in fact protect the wearers from the intense heat of the sun. Traditional Japanese clothing for the warrior class and for the wealthy rulers has never fitted our concept of masculine clothing. In earlier periods of history men in England, America and even Australia wore powdered wigs, something upon which fashion would frown nowadays. Fashions change, and we change our clothing to suit our occupations. Currently across the world, those competing in equestrian dressage events, be they men or women, basically wear the same outfits – a practical necessity.
Deuteronomy records regulations by which the infant nation of Israel was governed. To choose just one law, e.g. that contained in your reference to Deuteronomy 22: 5, while ignoring the rest of these laws is unbalanced. Let us look together at other regulations contained in this book: Deuteronomy 21: 18-21 recommends the punishment for a stubborn and rebellious son as stoning by the men of the town. In our society such practise would bring with it the death penalty. Deuteronomy 22; 9 denies farmers the right to plant any two different varieties of grape in the one vineyard, yet we know that this is a practical method of maintaining a longer harvesting season, thereby utilising the available labour force more efficiently. Deuteronomy 22: 20-21prescribes death by stoning for any woman found not to be a virgin at her wedding. Likewise both parties found in adulterous relationships are to be stoned to death. Deuteronomy 23 commences with a list of all those who are denied access to worship in the Temple, and that includes the descendents to the tenth generation of those deemed as sinners. Deuteronomy 20: 14 allows the women, children, livestock and all goods captured in a war to be plundered by the incoming forces, while all men are to be slaughtered. Surely you will see from these brief examples that Deuteronomy’s regulations have no credence in today’s society.
We who have accepted Jesus as our Saviour are no longer bound by the regulations such as those listed in the Book of Deuteronomy, instead we follow gladly the commands of Christ, to make God the centre of our life and love, and to treat all people as those who are beloved of God. In obedience to Christ we abstain from judging others, for as our Saviour declared at the end of the Sermon on the Mount: Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Thank you for the blessing with which you ended your letter, it is indeed our hope and assurance that indeed God will have mercy not only on our souls, but also on the souls of all people throughout the world. Thank you taking the time to write of your concerns.
Maarten van den Driest responds: Greetings,
My deepest apologies for the fact that we make you want to puke. We have our own private place on the Internet, expressing who we are and proclaiming our faith in Jesus Christ, our Saviour. It saddens me that you take offense at our very existence. Allow me to ask you a question: Do you think Jesus would have written us such a letter?
I have – as many of my sisters and brothers here – studied the Holy Bible for years. I know the texts. In fact, taken literally, you are breaking 1 Timothy 2:12 in lecturing me. (Verses 11 and 12 say clearly: “11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”) If you think God’s word is so very clear and literally true then tell me why you speak out on religious matters as a woman to a man?
Let’s explore other verses and the issue of taking the Bible literally. Exodus 20:13, for example: “Thou shalt not kill.” One of the Commandments, very clear. Then what about standing armies? Will you defend yourself against an attacker to the point of killing him? I do not say other verses do not clarify the matter, because they do, but we have a single sentence here. The Commandment does not specify. Do I take it literally or not?
Have you ever in your life worshipped another god than the one true God? Have you ever in your life done something out of egotism, out of avarice? Have you ever held a grudge? Did you ever lie? Then you have broken His Commandments and His entire law. I repeat, if you take the Bible so seriously, where do you get the idea that you can lecture others?
I take pity on your brother. I do not know why he is a crossdresser or how exactly. I do know there are many forms of crossdressing. One is for fun (drag queens and such) and another is because of transsexuality (man feels he actually should be a woman – or the other way around – and wants to act it). The first one is to me, frankly, not serious enough to worry over. Deut. 22:5 is a ritual rule, whether you CAPITALIZE it or not, and no longer in force for Christians who are saved by Grace. The main point of the verse is to stop the people of Israel from worshipping other gods. Those people of Israel don’t exist anymore and neither do any of us worship fertility deities. Transsexuality is a big issue that definitely will not be solved by screaming Bible verses. Some good psychological help can often do a lot towards an integrated life.
I fear your brother is going through a terrible time since there are people around him who say they love him dearly and then go and shout insults to other Christians. How exactly do you show your love to him? Have you ever asked him why he does what he does? If he is addicted to women’s clothing or if he just likes it? Whether he thinks he is a man or a woman? Have you ever told him you will love him no matter what? Jesus does that. Quite clearly.
Of course ‘Satan knows the word of God inside out’! I could say the same to you and we’d still be nowhere. It is an empty slogan. You use it only to discredit people without having to pay for it. Why do you make Satanists out of us? Why do you suffer so much? Can we share in your pain? Can we in some way reach out to you and show you our love?
I do not know what you are referring to precisely when you mention eunuchs but the sparse verses about eunuchs sometimes have a ring to them that gay and lesbian people can identify with. We also ‘cannot marry’. Why? Not because we do not want to or because there is something wrong with our testicles but because people like you force us into a life of loneliness, despair, ridicule, hate and suffering. Gay and lesbian people are simply men and women who have a preference concerning love, intimacy and sex for the same gender. The love is the same! The connections are the same! I know. I have been in a gay relationship over two years. It sadly broke up because so-called Christians had put such a pressure on my boyfriend that he could not cope. I have forgiven the church for that. I have forgiven my ex-boyfriend for everything. Now why can you not find it in yourself to forgive us – who have done nothing to you – for existing?
I leave you with these words:
“For I am certain that not death, or life, or angels, or rulers, or things present, or things to come, or powers, Or things on high, or things under the earth, or anything which is made, will be able to come between us and the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, a quiet mind, kind acts, well-doing, faith, gentle behavior, control over desires: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
May God have mercy on your soul, too.
Angela Rose responds: To our dear Christian friend,
Hi! Glad you dropped by this ministry!
I have a brother, whom I love dearly, who is a cross dresser.
And that is a good thing, the fact that you love your brother.
I am a Holy Spirit filled christian and reading this just makes me want to puke. Satan knows the word of God inside out and he has you blind as a bat. I cannot stand here and swallow all this junk that you have said. It makes me sick. I am trying to understand my brothers problem/choice he has made in life.
I am glad you want to try to understand what your brother is going through. I can scarcely think of something more emotionally difficult than dealing with being a transgender, and I appreciate your willingness to try to gain some knowledge on the subject.
All fetuses start off from a female “template.” Mildred Brown, in her book “True Selves,” states that, “It is an established medical fact that it is not until the twelfth week in the prenatal cycle that the genitalia of the human embryo differentiate as either male or female. However, it is not until approximately the sixteenth week that the gender identity portion of the brain differentiates in the unborn child. Some researchers believe, therefore, that if certain hormones are not present or if there is a hormonal imbalance during this critical four-week period, gender identity may not develop or differentiate along the same lines as the genitalia” (Brown p. 22-23). The most drastic form of transgenderism is transsexuality. A transsexual is someone so distraught over their body and life role (as their mental image of their own body says it should be female) that a male-to-female transsexual will undergo hundreds of hours of painful electrolysis, a lifetime of hormone replacement therapy to correct the body’s chemistry, and eventual surgeries. For a female-to-male transsexual, there is either binding or bilateral mastectomy, hormone replacement therapy, and possibly other surgeries. For others, simply being able to crossdress to allow that feminine side of his persona to be expressed upon occasion is sufficient. And there is plenty of middle ground as well. There are people who live as the gender opposite their birth sex without surgery. I don’t think any of us would show off our genitalia to the general public, which means that one doesn’t have to have a particular set of external genitalia to be a man or a woman to society’s eyes. Such transgenderists are content in life with that extent of change to their lives and bodies. I don’t know your brother, but from what you share he is a crossdresser, not interested in making physical changes to his body. So hopefully this gives you a little better idea of who he may be and who he may not.
Part of what makes being a transgender so painful is having to hide. If your brother has confided his crossdressing in you (which I hope he has, rather than this being some rumour floating around your family or friends), it takes incredible courage to do so. Many have lost family, friends, home, job, social status, and even their lives, for such disclosure. Most crossdressers can and do simply choose to live hidden, not telling anyone of their feminine side, but I admire your brother’s honesty and willingness to tell you of something so difficult and scary to share. I am also glad to see the trust he has placed in you, that he feels open enough with you to be able to share this with you. It tells me a lot about what high regard he has for you.
It has made me sick to see that you compare yourself to eunichs, when eunichs were men that their testacles were not formed correctly, or they were castrated or they just choose not to get married to have normal sexual relations with women. It clearly doesn’t say that they wore womens clothing!!!
No crossdresser would want to be castrated. They enjoy the fact that they are men, but they also understand that they have a feminine side of themselves that is expressed through their dressing. I seriously don’t see anything sinful in what style of fabric one adorns one’s body with.
For a transsexual, castration and other related surgeries are corrective surgeries which cannot be undergone without extensive psychiatric evaluation, previous hormone replacement therapy, and a minimum of a year living full-time in the new gender role, showing ability to function in society in this new role. It’s not something one does on a lark. As going through the whole process of gender transition is simply the correcting of a medical condition, I see nothing sinful in it.
And also, if you really are a christian and have received Jesus and your Lord and Saviour how come you are not following His commands not to dress as women DEUT 22:5 WHEREE IT CLEARLY STATES A WOMEN SHOULD NOT WEAR ANYTHING THAT PERTAINS TO A MAN, NOR A MAN SHALL PUT ON A WOMENS GARMENT; FOR WHOEVER DOES THISE THINGS IS AN ABOMINATION TO THE LORD YOU GOD????
And, oh yes, if one were a female and a crossdresser that would be no big deal in our society. Natal women can wear ANYthing male in full view of the public and no-one would “puke” over that. Men’s sweats, sweaters, shirts, hats, you name it. There is nothing “sinful” in that, and I would suspect that most of your female friends (if not you yourself even) have worn something that is men’s wear at some time in your life. Unless we would prefer to uphold a double standard and ignore the fact that the Deuteronomy verse says neither sex may crossdress, we must admonish the women who crossdress as severely as the men who do so. But I don’t believe it is necessary to admonish either sex for crossdressing.
Here is the whole of Deuteronomy 22: 5-12 (NIV), just to make sure that we don’t simply pull verse 5 out of context:
(5) A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.
(6) If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young.
(7) You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that all may go well with you and you may have a long life.
(8) When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.
(9) Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled.
(10) Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.
(11) Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.
(12) Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear.
So by these Old Testament laws, I would be leery of going to the store to buy both chicken and eggs. I have to build a fence along the edge of my roof. Any gardening I do, I can’t plant corn and squash in the same plot. I can’t wear any blended fabrics, and whatever outerwear I have, I need to sew tassels on it. And you must follow all these rules as well, and so must every other person who professes belief in Jesus the Christ.
Of course not! And same holds for each article of the Old Testament that shows itself not to be relevant to our life, time, and society. I find it very sad and disturbing that there are those, however, who would simply dismiss all the laws they choose to dismiss and enforce the ones they feel must be enforced … “Let’s see – fence around roof – don’t need that … different crops, same field – not relevant … brother wears dress – God hates him, Satan has my brother deceived and blinded and he and everyone else like him will be going straight to Hell unless they repent of their sin … I’m wearing my husband’s cotton/polyester sweatshirt – that’s comfy and warm and God doesn’t mind … ”
It’s very easy for all of us to say a particular verse is not applicable because we want to do the opposite. For example, I like to eat lobster, but according to Leviticus 11:10-12: “but all the creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales – whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water – you are to detest. And since you are to detest them, you must not eat their meat and you must detest their carcasses. Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is detestable to you.” So, the scripture forbids me to eat lobster, but I have anyway. Am I in sin? Can I condemn others who eat lobster because of this verse? It is also very easy for us to forbid someone else to do something because we don’t like it or it makes us feel uncomfortable, and then search for one obscure verse to tell someone else they can’t do something. Because you are uncomfortable with your brother’s crossdressing, and you can dig up an ancient verse on it (one which, by the way, was originally intended to warn against pagan temple rituals that included crossdressing in assorted sex acts and temple prostitution), do you have the right to condemn your brother, or by extension, all crossdressers? Or by further extension, all transgender individuals or the wife that wears her husband’s sweatshirt?
I would bet neither of us has the entire Bible memorized. I’m certain you had to dig through your concordance to find the Deuteronomy 22:5 verse just as I had to dig through mine to find Leviticus 11:12. For me to forbid others to eat lobster, or you to forbid your brother to crossdress, or any other case where someone casts judgment because the Bible says in one obscure verse that we wouldn’t have found except for that we were looking to justify our own feelings, is unconscionable.
You clearly do not understand the Word of God when you say that it contradicts itself — ON THE CONTRARY!!!! GOD’S WORD IS CLEAR AND TRUE HE WROTE IT AND IT WILL LAST FOREVER. IT JUST MAKES ME SICK HOW YOU ARE PERVERTING GOD’S WORD!!!!! MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR SOUL!!!!
I don’t think anyone has said the Bible contradicts itself on this issue. I do very firmly believe that every one of us emphasizes the verses we choose to emphasize, and ignores the verses we choose to ignore. If “He wrote It and It will last forever,” then we’d better start burying our noses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy and Numbers (for starters) and make sure we are toeing the line on every last letter of the law, for it must be that by works and deeds and actions that we are saved, and not by grace. Oh wait, Ephesians 2:8-9 suggests otherwise. Maybe we are all better off to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength … [and to] `Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31, NIV). The everlasting words of James 4:11-12 are impressive as well: “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbour?”
I earnestly pray that God will show you how to love your brother even when he seems unlovable to you. I pray, too, for your brother that he is able to patiently and lovingly explain his crossdressing to you. Remember God loves you both.
Peter Padilla responds: To our dear Christian friend,
I’m so glad that your first thought is for the love you have for your brother, since that is the underlying message in all of Christianity. At every juncture in the New Testament, where the disciples were tempted to pass judgment on the community around them, Christ admonished them that the greatest commandment of all was love.
Christ’s presence as a human on this earth formed a new covenant between God and His creation, and we are wise to seek the full knowledge and benefit of that covenant. Many specific instructions found in the Old Testament must be read with the wisdom God has granted us today. Many Christians, fully aware of the instructions in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, eat pork and shellfish, cut their hair, and wear blended fabric without fear of judgment or retribution from God. The very passage you cite in your letter has often been used to deny women equal leadership roles in the church, and condemns women for wearing pants instead of dresses. Mainline Christianity no longer cites Old Testament support of slavery, polygamy, or the subjugation of women. It is odd to choose a few sentences from among so many, and believe that God now finds only a few once-forbidden activities to be an abomination.
Christians have been studying the Bible for 2,000 years; our Jewish friends for nearly 6,000 years. I am amazed when I see people claim to have perfect understanding of every word in the Bible: How can so many people know “exactly” what God meant, but have such different beliefs about God’s Word? We are only human. We must apply our knowledge and experience to the words in Scripture, and reach the best conclusion about how to lead Christian lives.
Our place is not to judge; we are placed upon this earth for whatever purpose God intends our lives to serve. And not one of us is perfect; each of us commits sins and harms the people around us, no matter our intent to do only good. Deuteronomy gives us instruction to be fair and honest, a message we can take to heart. We should not cause harm to others, at the least. A man’s desire to wear women’s clothing is no more harmful than a woman’s desire to wear denim jeans. I have a hard time believing that this is the principal concern of our loving Creator.
Please continue to show your love for your brother, and pray for him as you would all others for whom you care deeply. He is deserving of your love and compassion. We will be praying for God to grant you that compassion and His love.
In God’s love,
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.