Source: Copyright © Janice Van Cleve
“A woman must not wear men’s clothes nor a man put on woman’s dress; anyone who does this is detestable to Yahweh, your God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5, Jerusalem Bible). With these words Judeo-Christian antagonists assail transvestites and sometimes succeed in plunging them into needless guilt.
Nancy A., from The Rose City, attempted to counter this passage in the NWGA newsletter Vol. 1, No. 4. The article, “Don’t Give Me That Old Time Religion” correctly pointed out that most of these antagonists are ignorant of the Bible or at least very selective in applying it. But Nancy strikes only glancing blows and fails to neutralize the passage as an argument used against us.
For example, the article noted that translations are sometimes faulty. This is a moot point: Whatever translation you prefer, the meaning of Deuteronomy 22:5 is quite clear. The article asks if current mannish fashions for women contradict Deuteronomy 22:5. Merissa Sherrill Lynn’s definitive article “The Fashion Argument” in Tapestry #48 answered that once and for all – transvestism is NOT a fashion issue. The article also asks if the laws of the state take precedence over the rules of a wandering nomadic tribe from the distant past. This is a matter of faith. If the Bible is really the Word of God, it would not matter if He gave it to “The Washington Post” or to a fossilized trilobite. It stands as given over all human laws and governments. (Remember, it was the state which legally killed Jews in Nazi Germany and the state which legally denied Blacks equal rights until 1954 in the U.S.).
Nancy tried to trash Deuteronomy on the basis of its other proscriptions – i.e., planting other crops in a vineyard (Deuteronomy 22:9), wearing two fabrics together (Deuteronomy 22:11), killing brides who are not virgins (Deuteronomy 22:21), etc. I’ve often countered these “Christian” antagonists by asking how they like their bacon and eggs – pork is forbidden by Deuteronomy 14:8.
But this is begging the question. These things may seem silly to us modern mortals but they may not be silly to their Author. After all, human logic is no match for God’s logic: “The heavens are as high above the earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9). No, Deuteronomy 22:5 must be accepted as God’s word and be dealt with on its own ground.
Deuteronomy is the civil and religious law given to the Israelites by Moses and was formally recognized as part of the Law as early as the reign of Josiah (604 B.C.). It was certainly part of the Law as Christ and St. Paul knew it.
What did Christ say about the Law? “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved.” (Matthew 5:17-18).
Until its purpose is achieved… just what was the purpose of the Law? St. Paul describes the promise made to Abraham by God on the basis of faith and goes on to say: “What then was the purpose of adding the Law? This was done to specify crimes, until the posterity came to whom the promise was addressed.” (Galatians 3:19). The Law is not an end in itself. Rather it was a temporary guideline to govern the Jews until Christ established His new covenant. Christ said: “The sabbath (the Law) was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27).
And Christ demonstrated that the purpose of the old Law was completed at His coming by repeatedly violating it. He did this not to destroy the Law, but to display (for those who would see and listen!) the true meaning and depth and love behind the Law. He forgave sins, He ate forbidden foods, and He cured on the sabbath. He totally revised the concept of sin: “Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean.” (Mark 7:15). Eating certain foods, wearing certain clothes, planting certain crops, etc. proscribed by the old Law are no longer sins. “It is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge.” (Mark 7:21).
The new wine of Christ’s teaching could not be contained by the old wine skins of the Law (Matthew 9:17). Therefore Christ declared Himself Master of the Sabbath (that is, Master of the old Law and thus having authority to complete it (Matthew 12:8) and gave all generations new commandments: “You must love the Lord your God with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.” (Matthew 22:37-40). With these commandments, ratified by Christ’s own death and resurrection, the old Law came to an end (Romans 10:4).
So what of Deuteronomy 22:5 and the “sin” of transvestism? Those who choose to place themselves under the old Law must keep the entire Law (Galatians 5:3) and they will be judged by it (Romans 2:12). They must recognize, however, that the old Law cannot justify their existence “because no one can be justified in the sight of God by keeping the Law: all that law does is to tell us what is sinful.” (Romans 3:20). “For if the Law can justify us, there is no point in the death of Christ.” (Galatians 2:21).
Those, however, who have faith enough to place themselves under Christ’s new commandments are “free to serve in the new spiritual way and not the old way of a written law.” (Romans 7:6). “Sin will no longer dominate your life, since you are living by grace and not by law.” (Romans 6:14); “for when there is no Law, sin is dead.” (Romans 7:8).
And so sisters, do not feel guilt about being a transvestite. It is no sin. Instead, heed the words of St. Paul: “Let us go forward on the road that has brought us to where we are.” (Philippians 3:16).