Saturday, July 05, 2008

Comprehending roots of animosity toward transgenderism: Building a bridge based on mutual understanding

Comprehending roots of animosity toward transgenderism: Building a bridge based on mutual understanding

Dear Sisters,

I have long been curious about a segment of society that views the transgendered lifestyle with utter disdain. I have often wondered why we appear so threatening to some people and why they feel the need to impose their views on our community.

In reading the Old Testament of the Bible at the suggestion of my former therapist, I came across the following quote from Deuteronomy 22:5 the New International Version: “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.”

In searching for interpretations of this passage, I have come across a number of eye-opening statements on the web that have shed light on the connections that some people make from transgenderism to: 1) mixing of the genders 2) buying into Satan’s plan 3) attracting males to perform sodomy, and 4) and to attracting boys to sodomites. Some of the quotes I have reviewed include:

“Even the European Union, the supreme democracy, has stated that pants are man dressing whilst gown and skirts is garment pertaining to women.”

“We would have never even considered this 20 years ago, but now we are eliminating the difference in the sexes that God made. In fact, I believe that it is all part of Satan's plan to further defile mankind by mixing the genders. But God is the God of order, not of confusion.”

“We should first see that there is a need to keep a clear distinction between the two genders (male and female). God made two sexes. There is no third category as people are suggesting nowadays (such as transsexuals). God has made no such category. God made male and female. He stopped there and so should we!”

“It is well known that men wear earrings to look attractive to other men. These are the effeminate. Cross gender clothing and styles, therefore, are prohibited because they foster sodomy. The two are connected.”

“We need to remember even though our boys are free from problems with homosexuality, if they are wearing an earring, a sodomite will single him out with a special eye…….. And certainly we do not want men attracted to our boys or our own selves (if we as men wear earrings).”

It appears that much of the disdain we perceive comes from fear of the transgendered lifestyle with roots stemming from interpretations of Old Testament Biblical citations. In short, people fear the effects of transgenderism in their lives because they believe that the Bible tells them it is against God’s plan and will be a corrupting force to society.

Is the aforementioned quote from Deuteronomy 22:5 to be taken literally, or more constructively considered within the context of the society in which it was written? Are there alternative interpretations to this verse that are not condemning to the transgendered community? Perhaps an understanding of the philosophical and cultural schism will allow the process of healing and acceptance to begin. I hope that through understanding the basis of this conflict, that the transgendered community can strive to form a bridge with this segment of society.

Felicia Conti

3 comments:

N said...

It is good to understand that particular passage in the original cultural context - however, it may still not be so comforting to the trans-gendered community.

In short, cross-dressing - in both directions - has been a feature of various shamanistic, pagan, and magical practices down through the centuries. In this context, it is simply another way that the Hebrew culture was trying to set up a clear distinction between themselves and the cultures around them. Moses' prohibition is (as are so many things) fundamentally related to separating the Hebrews from the idolatrous practices around them - and consequently consecrating them to Yahweh.

In most shamanistic and/or pagan practice, the point of Transgender behavior is through it's connection to the transcendant realities that lie behind their overt manifestation in this world. It is only secondarily sexual (although, it has been that in different times and places, to be sure). Now there are those in the TG community who also recognize this fact and talk about experiencing the 'magic' of having their bodies and self-images changed. Viewed a certain way, this is really not very different at all from the pagan view - and hence still somewhat inimical to the Hebraic world-view.

So the approach I use (I come from a very evangelical background) is simply to ignore the issue. What most people are looking for is a reassurance that I am with them in their own community: that I share their goals for peace and their vision of a culture that is stable and safe. I build a bridge to our shared territories because this issue is a real divide for my friends in the more fundamentalist religions.

Felicia Conti said...

Deuteronomy 22:5 is often cited as God's prohibition against
crossdressing and any other sort of transgendered behavior. It seems
clear cut and forceful: it is an "abomination." And that is an
appeal: it seems so unequivocal.
Yet, in biblical scholarship, the passage is not so clear cut. Look at
the context. Deuteronomy 22:6 is almost never cited for any purpose as
it explains that you may rob a bird's nest of it's eggs or young but
you may not take the mother bird. Or Deuteronomy 23:2 which plainly
states that "No bastard shall enter the assembly of the Lord; even to
the tenth generation none of his descendents shall enter the assembly
of the Lord." Nor, surprisingly, is Deuteronomy 23:1 cited against
transsexuals as it states that anyone who has had their male member cut
off (no exceptions are offered for accidents or warfare) shall not
enter the assembly of the Lord.
My point is that this entire section of the Old Testament is laying
out details of Jewish law--the details of which are plainly set aside,
in the letters of Paul in the New Testament, as being less important
than the spirit behind them (as per the teachings and example of Jesus
Christ)and by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the antonement
for all humanity's sins. Thus, it seems rather selective for
conservative Christians to use this passage as a basis for the strong
condemnation of transgendered behavior. This is particularly true given
that they don't adhere to the vast majority of the other stipulations
of Jewish law.
Biblical scholarship also reveals important information about the
meaning of Deut. 22:5 itself. The word "abomination" is only used in
this entire book to refer to rituals that are specifically forbidden to
Hebrews. And crossdressing was an integral part of contemporary
Canaanite fertility rituals (the very ones most attractive to the
Hebrews who were trying at that time to become a successful
agricultural civilization after their years in Egyptian captivity).
What Deut. 22:5 is actually condemning--the spirit behind this law, if
you will--is Hebrews worshipping Canaanite gods. Even more stringently,
the passage condemns even participating in Canaanite rituals. In other
words, as is consistent with much biblical injunction, the Hebrews are
admonished to avoid belief in other gods but to also avoid the
appearance that they believe in them.
Clearly, the modern use of this passage as a blanket condemnation of
transgendered behavior is something taken out of context. Gender is
hardly a fixed concept throughout human history and clothing fashion
has hardly been permanently defined either (I mean NO one wore pants in
Hebrew--or early Christian--times). What I do believe is at the root of
animosity towards the transgendered, lies in the contemporary comments
cited. Crossdressing/transgendered behavior is viewed as prelude to
homosexual activity and even worse (in the writers' opinion), as a
means of trying to deceive heterosexuals into homosexual activity.
Being transgendered is subversive to the sexual order and is thus a
threat. God and His word get brought into it not so much as the
motivation but as a convenient cultural weapon to employ against the
transgendered "transgressor".
Oh, very thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Felicia.

Stephanie Yates

Felicia and Stephanie,

Great points.

As a tennant of my Christian faith, I believe the Old Testament to be both a Divinely Inspired historical record and the Laws of Moses to God's chosen people the Jews. Yet, in context to the deliverance from slavery in Egypt and wandering in the desert for 40 years, many of these Laws were enforced to keep their Jewish heritage and religious princples, plus as a matter of hygene and health.

All is fine with this record, for its time. The Hebrews did not even wear trousers (male garments) at this time. Although the Persians possibly did.

However, I'm a Christian. Which is to say I believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah and that His spiritual teachings transcend all laws of the Old Testament.

Act 13:39 (King James Version even!)

And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

So if it is againsts God's Law or not, my faith teaches me I'm justified, forgiven, through acceptance of Christ and following His principles. As a Christian, there are just two commandments.

Matthew 22:36-40

36"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"

37And He said to him, " YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'

38"This is the great and foremost commandment.

39"The second is like it, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'

40"On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."



For those both in and out of our community, I try to practice this spritiual principle:

Matthew 5:43-46

43"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.'

44"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

46"For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?


Jenna

Abominations, How does Crossdressing fit in the
topic of Abominations and the Old Testament?


Samantha

Hello Felicia,

I read your interest is about a "segment of society". I wonder why you may have an interest in that segment. The vast majority of people belonging to that segment "tailor" their lives by the believes that are clearly rooted in the scriptures that their belief support. Change for them is near zero, therefore, we'll received their animosity for as long as we become their business.

Of course I understand your curiosity. So am I, but probably you serve your curiosity better if you learn about the roots that welcomed such beliefs, rather than.... For instance, there were ancient times when famine caused by natural disasters "grounded" such beliefs. They were heavily connected with the wrath of god. Therefore, fear and guilt contributed to such. Ask anyone belonging to that group if they experience fear and guilt in an average day and their response likely will be no. Yet, they will associate such with their wrong doings but as well, there is an element of redemption and humility that would save them from the punishment that accordingly they "could receive" if they don't "repent". But interesting enough, they become the executors of such punishment in this realm rather than apply their compassion and support and let us "go to wherever" to pay for our sins. Then you can really understand, at least start to... the threats, segregation, etc origin.

The change you mention in your last paragraph will only happen when, we, as society stop to exercise judgment on others. Their lifestyles, beliefs, etc and as a consequence remove themselves from feeling the "obligation" of executing what their own beliefs tells them. Yes, interpretation can vary and such doesnʼt necessarily depends on how that may be addressed by the institution, but each individual. In fact, even theology academics/students often differ in their views about the bible and similar scriptures. The reason the "Da Vinci thing" has been a matter of debate through centuries.
As well, our own conduct in public and personal approach may have an impact in how some sectors of the population may regard us. However, there is a vast realm of diversity even among our realm and to some representing a woman means... and to others... but how the general population may see one or the other may affect their own views in general.
Hugs love,
Isis

Dear Sisters,

Thank you all for your thoughtful responses! Lotsa Love.

Felicia

Rikki said...

I know it has been a while since this posted, but I have been away.

The Bible is full of contradictions and it's funny how some people use certain passages out of context to make their point, whether to love or hate.

I believe God is a loving God who made us who we are, and the Bible was written by man to make a point that his personal views are more important that someone else's.

However, even Hollywood acknowledges that in the eras that are covered in the Bible, men wore skirts (robes), so where is the difference between men and women's attire.

So, though I am Catholic, I wouldn't put much stock in how the Bible is interpreted by people with their own agendas.

Rikki