In my gender community debut at the Texas "T" Party in early
1996, I described my journey to become a complete person. As I spoke,
the memories of the pain I had endured from repeated rejection came
flooding back. I had seen the impact on countless others and promised
myself I would never forget. If you haven't personally experienced
that type of pain it is easy to pass by unaffected. One of my jobs
is to help others sense what we have experienced.
The ridicule and rejection of cross-dressers as expressed by mainstream
society is so strong that the most consistent advice I have received
from others was to never tell anyone! There is an incredible
fear that we will lose our wives, our children, our jobs; everything
of importance. That fear becomes even more palpable for those who
wish to have a personal relationship with God. We are extremely hesitant
to bring the question to our minister for fear of being branded as
a sinner, excluded from the church and separated from God. So most
of us say nothing and continue to hide causing still more guilt, shame
Some friends advised me not to bother trying to talk with religious
leaders about our issues claiming that they wouldn't listen. I hoped
that assessment was overly pessimistic but when my newsletter urged
religious leaders to Let The Walls Fall Down in love, most of the
bricks fell on my head. I used to think of Bible thumpers as people
who pounded on their Bibles to make a point but these people pound
their Bibles on the heads of anyone who disagrees with them.
Without learning any personal facts about my situation nearly 80%,
42 of 54 clergy, labeled my cross-dressing as sinful and requiring
repentance. I was stunned by the overwhelmingly negative and often
violent nature of the responses. If that was the reaction when they
acted "out of love" as many insisted they were doing, I
shudder to think what it would be if they didn't love me. These extracts
demonstrate the seriousness of the situation.
In each case I sent a follow-up email pointing out that only one Biblical
verse addressed the issue, that commentators gave multiple interpretations
of the meaning and that most concluded it wasn't about cross-dressing
per se. Given that, I concluded that a blanket condemnation is not
warranted, that each case needs to be viewed separately and that dialog
is needed to understand the situation. In turn the clergy branded
me as rebelling against God, failing to accept His Word and suffering
from a serious relationship problem with God.
So what's the story here? Am I an honest seeker of the truth or just
a rebellious critter who wants to shape the Bible to fit my own agenda?
This newsletter encourages thinking and questioning. We may feel more
comfortable if we don't but seekers of the truth must challenge conventional
ideas. That probing is difficult but serious inquiry will either
validate the truth of the existing views or lead to better understanding.
My request of religious leaders is to read this material without firing
off an immediate reply. Please take the time to pray and seek
God's will on how He would have you proceed.
My early religious training was administered by Catholic nuns in grade
school. The vehicle was the Baltimore Catechism. The method was to
memorize the questions and answers or experience the splendor of a
ruler across the knuckles. I didn't need to think. I didn't need to
study the Bible. I just had to regurgitate the answers on demand.
Trouble was my brain kept thinking up new questions. Sister's response
was if I even think of another question, it is a mortal sin and I
am damned to Hell. So I learned the answers. I learned to keep my
thoughts to myself. I learned fear and guilt. Hardly the best foundation
for a relationship with my Creator.
Religious conditions didn't change much for me until I encountered
the Jesuits at Marquette. "What does it say?" was replaced
with, "What do you think?" When I stumbled about uncertain
how to respond to this new concept, I got smacked with a verbal ruler.
"Look! God gave each of you a brain. He expects you to use it.
I'm going to teach you how to use it, not what to think. Now, what
about...?" We were expected to challenge assumptions and
validate logical steps. We were taught to draw on a wide variety of
material developed by people with differing yet knowledgeable views
and then use our own critical
thinking abilities to make informed decisions. I was starting to learn
to express my thoughts. I was starting to unlearn fear. Once
I started on this path, return to the old one was impossible.
A fundamental aspect of good logic is to carefully examine the authors'
assumptions. If I accept their assumptions and they employ sound logic,
I will find myself forced to agree with their conclusion. Many writers
gloss over their assumptions or never state them explicitly. I want
mine to be clear so you can assess them. My assumptions are
* God is my Creator
* The Bible represents God's Word and helps direct
* Scripture must be interpreted in light of the
times and circumstances in which it was written
* There will always be a certain amount of ambiguity
* No single scholar or religious group has the
definitive word on all Scriptural meaning
* It is my duty as a Christian to obtain as much
insight as possible and remain open to hearing the views of others
even if they are different from my personal beliefs
The religious community's response to "Let The Walls Fall Down"
honed in on Deuteronomy: Chapter 22, Verse 5, "A woman must not
wear men's clothing, and a man must not wear women's clothing."
and said it clearly identified me as a sinner who needed to repent.
They said failure to acknowledge my sin left me in a state of rebellion
Previously I had looked up several interpretations, found multiple
views and concluded it was not an absolute condemnation of
cross-dressing. That level of analysis was enough for me at the time
but was inadequate now. Since I am not a Biblical scholar and can't
compete with religious leaders on detailed Scriptural interpretation
I turned to existing Bible commentaries. I was determined to find
out what they had to say and gather all points of view. I finally
stopped looking after 30 commentaries. Here's a summary
of their interpretations with the number of each shown in
* Pagan religious connotation (12)
* Deviant sexual practices or moral issues (9)
* Maintain proper distinction between the sexes
* Part of a collection of laws with a common theme
* Definitely not about simple cross-dressing (5)
* Magical connection related to disguise or deceit
* Related to armor or wartime attire (3)
* No comment (3)
* Hard line literal interpretation to be applied
to all cross-dressing (2)
* Doesn't apply because we aren't under the law
A handful spoke with authority by making absolute statements. About
one-third offered multiple possible explanations hence 52 interpretations
from thirty sources. Over half used qualifiers such as likely, may/might,
possible/probable, seems, some or suggests/suppose. With that
diversity of opinion, how can anyone insist that their view is the
correct one and impose it on others without allowing any questioning?
Rather, I believe that this diversity supports my contention that
a blanket condemnation is unwarranted.
Some still insist on taking this verse literally without qualification
or interpretation. If they say it is wrong for a man to wear a dress,
then logically they must also say it is wrong for a woman to wear
pants, suspenders, a vest and a tie. Virtually everyone applied the
rule vigorously to men yet ignored it when dealing with women. How
can that be justified?
Continuing with literal interpretations, two other verses are curiously
related to clothing. Verse 11, "Donīt wear clothing woven from
two kinds of thread: for instance, wool and linen together."
Why isnīt there a great disturbance about wearing shirts and blouses
made of polyester and cotton? Verse 12, "You must sew tassels
on the four corners of your cloaks." Wearing tassels today is
more likely to be associated with a burlesque show than a religious
expression. Why didn't anyone mention these verses?
Verse 22 is really interesting, "If a man be found lying with
a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both
the man that lie with the woman and the woman: so shalt thou put away
evil from Israel." If you brand a cross-dresser as an abomination
aren't you similarly required to put adulterers to death?
Finally, verses 28 and 29 state, "If a man finds a damsel that
is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie
with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall
give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver and she shall
be his wife; because he has humbled her, he may not put her away all
his days." Are we to force every man who seduced a virgin to
pay a dowry, marry her and prohibit a divorce for his lifetime?
If anyone chooses to take part of one verse literally, then they must
take the others the same way. We have only discussed six verses from
one chapter, and I don't know anyone who consistently follows the
literal interpretation of all of them. The Torah has 5,851 verses
and some make even these situations appear mundane. Are we to take
them all literally as well? If we don't take them literally,
what should we do? Consider these alternatives:
For Religious leaders
* Stop rushing to judgment by condemning all cross-dressing
as a sin requiring repentance
* Start dealing with these hurting individuals
with love and compassion by discussing the issue constructively
* Help these men achieve a personal relationship
* Stop silently accepting the pronouncements of
religious leaders regarding cross-dressing and use these
materials to open a dialog
* Start seeking an accepting church home -- see
my quest for some ideas
* Be honest about your issues and seek constructive
solutions rather than hiding
In a recent Greg Evans' "Luann" cartoon, the husband is
watching her at breakfast. Without saying a word he mentally critiques
her every action -- using regular coffee instead of decaf, an extra
spoon, lots of cream, leaving toast crumbs in the butter, not wiping
up a spill. Finally Luann turns and says, "You're being 'Judge
Mental' again, aren't you?" Far too often we fit that judgmental
mold. Wouldn't it be better to fit the loving mold of Angela Michaels,
a member of my gender family, who said, "Love is -- Not worrying
about the difference." We can choose whether to build the
walls between us and God higher or to help them fall down. What will
My catechism experiences and battering because of cross-dressing aren't
unique. For those who have felt the sting of legalism, shame
and guilt in a religious context, help is available. A good
place to start is the book, "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse"
by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen.
For those religious leaders who find themselves trapped in the role
of the abuser, the same source offers help in breaking that role.
God loves us all and His healing is always available.
For church leaders willing to open their hearts and churches to cross-dressers,
Diane A. Zahn
P.O. Box 2176
Monroe, MI 48161
Diane is working with , the International Foundation for Gender Education,
to assemble a list of empathetic churches,
pastors and religious organizations willing to talk with members of
the transgender community. We need your active involvement to
break down the walls that other religious leaders have constructed.
Opportunities for Improvement
P.O. Box 31475
Oakland, CA 94604, U.S.A.