Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Sunday, 8 July 2012

More on Christianity and Cross Dressing

For those of you not of faith or who are not interested in religious issues, I'm sorry if this post bores you, I will try to have another funny for you tomorrow, or later today.

Over on an On-Line Forum I belong to there has been a discussion about the conflicts we have as cross-dressers, for many of us the worse part is the disharmony it causes in our personal relationships.   However for a very large number the thought that it goes against our religion is also a big source of conflict.   This is what one member wrote, for background he (he identifies as a man who sometimes dresses as a woman) is a non religious Jew.

OK. So here is the biblical reference:

“The woman shall not wear that which pertained 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.”
Deuteronomy 22:5

But here is the beginning of the entry on Dress from “The Jewish Religion, A Companion” by Louis Jacobs (i.e a standard reference source):

“There are three biblical laws regarding dress: the fringes are to attached to the corners of the garments…that a garment containing a mixture of wool and flax is not to be worn; and that a man must not wear woman’s apparel or a woman a man’s (Deuteronomy 22:5). The reason given for the last prohibition is either that this might lead to men and women gaining entrance in disguise into companies of the opposite sex for immoral purposes, or else because of the need to distinguish clearly between male and female in God’s creation. In sixteenth-century Italy, because of the influence of the Italian carnival, men used to dress up as women on Purim and women as men, and the Rabbis permitted this on the grounds that, since this done, for men and women to wear the other’s clothes on Purim is not to wear the garments of the opposite sex. (see CUSTOM).”

In order to understand what Jacobs is saying in the last sentence, one has to read the entry on Customs:

“…Originally, the term minhag, ‘custom’ (from a root meaning ‘to follow’, i.e. that which people follow) referred to a practice about which the law was unclear, perhaps where certain details were the subject of debate by the legal authorities. When it was observed that the people followed a particular interpretation or ruling, the practise acquired full legal status. As the Talmud (Berakhot) puts it ‘Go out and see and see what people actually do.”

That is Jewish law is malleable, depending on what people do. This is how come CDing during Purim was allowed - because people were doing it and, as Jacobs, puts it the Rabbis were operating on the basis “if you can’t beat them, join them.” The idea of Jewish law as malleable may well be in the back of the mind of the out orthodox TS in the article **** links.

The other thing is that if you believe that you have some element of woman in you - and that’s the reason you’re Cding (as an MTF cross dresser) - then you could actually argue that the biblical problem disappears. After all when you’re dressing up you’re just wearing the appropriate clothes for that bit of your gender that you’re expressing at that moment. Indeed you could say the abomination would be to be made to wear men’s clothes the whole time, when you have this woman part of you that needs expressing.

For some time it has been of an academic theological interest to me which of the Biblical laws we choose to ignore and which we choose to adhere to as Christians, it is easy to say well those were for the Jews not for Christians (food laws, circumcision etc.) but others seem to have simply fallen into disuse by both Jews and Christians alike.   So I ask myself why is this one verse so important, it is not reinforced anywhere else in either what we Christians call the New or Old Testaments, yet a society which spurns much of the rest of Biblical teaching clings to this bit.

Personally I have given up wrestling with this as it applies to me, I know I am made by God in his and her image, I know I am loved, and I know I cared for and about, surely that has to be enough.
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