The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth 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.
–Deut 22:5 KJV
Back in August of 2016 Pastor John Piper published an interview with Rob Smith titled Why Did the Transgender Revolution Catch Us by Surprise?
This week we are talking about transgender, a topic of frequent inquiry from our readers, and to help us, we welcome Rob Smith to the podcast. Rob is a theologian who lectures in systematic theology and ethics at Sydney Missionary and Bible College in Australia. He is also an honorary assistant minister at St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral in Sydney.
He approaches the topic of the transgender revolution as a biblical theologian, as a historian of the movement, and as a pastor whose own family has been touched by gender dysphoria. It hits close to home for him.
Smith gives a good high level summary of the historic movements that brought us to our current state, including:
- Feminism and the idea that gender is a social construct
- Homosexual acceptance
- The sexual revolution
It is worth reading at the link above. Overall the explanation is good, but I want to zero in on a massive blind spot for conservative Christians; feminist envy and rebellion. Specifically, feminists have worked tirelessly to remove the stigma from women dressing like men. Feminists have been so successful here that the very idea of a woman “dressing like a man” is foreign to our current thinking.
Deut 22:5 tells us that men dressing like women, and women dressing like men is an abomination to God. The Bible doesn’t give us a strict dress code for men and women, although Pastor Wilson explains that a literal translation of the verse would prohibit women from wearing combat gear.
Notice the odd construction — “that which pertains to a man.” The Hebrew underneath is keli geber, and should be read as the “gear of a warrior.” Whether we are talking about a man in fishnet stockings, or a woman decked out in full battle regalia, we need to recognize that God finds it loathsome. So should we.
This brings to mind an insult that was already dated when I was a child:
Your mother wears combat boots!
One dictionary of British and American English catch phrases explains that other variants of the same insult included:
Your mother drives a tank!
Your mother eats K rations!
I know as a child that I always assumed the combat boots insult was an accusation that your mother was unfeminine, or manly. It would be like saying your father wears a dress, or women’s undergarments. Not surprisingly, according to the dictionary linked above another variant of the insult was:
ah, yer mother wears cotton drawers!
All of these insults most obviously shame the person for having a mother who is unfeminine, or to use a similarly dated phrase, unladylike. The problem is, for decades we have been taught that there is nothing shameful about a woman dressing like and acting like a man. This is so much the case that it is really difficult to conceive of what would be considered cross-dressing for a woman in our culture, including modern conservative Christian culture. Which of the following would cause a modern woman to be shamed for being a cross dresser?
- Wearing jeans instead of dresses and skirts? Nope.
- Wearing boxer shorts? Nope.
- Joining the army and driving a tank, eating field rations, and wearing combat boots? Nope.
- Dressing up like a lumberjack? Nope.
- Wearing a man’s haircut? Nope.
A woman today who dresses like a man might be chided for her questionable fashion sense, but she wouldn’t seen as cross dressing. For a woman to be considered a cross dresser, she would have to go to the greatest extremes. Not only would she have to make herself look like a man in every way, she would have to actually claim to be a man for us to consider her a cross dresser.
Contrast this with a man who does any of the below. Is he seen as a cross dresser?
- Wears women’s underwear? Yes.
- Wears women’s dresses or skirts (excluding kilts)? Yes.
- Wears women’s shoes? Yes.
We have in our culture two kinds of clothing/styles:
- Clothing and styles everyone can wear.
- Clothing and styles men must not wear.
From a practical perspective, it is all but impossible for a woman to cross dress in our culture. We have great difficulty even conceiving of the idea. Cross dressing in our culture is something that almost exclusively pertains to men, because a woman cross dressing is simply normal. From this perspective, we were already half way to accepting cross dressing as far back as the 1980s. We’ve lived for decades rejecting the idea that something God detests is even possible. Even worse, we have denied that our perspective on the issue has changed. We forgot it, and then we forgot that we forgot it.
Conservative Christians are as blind to this as the rest of our culture, if not more so. Men like Piper have spent a lifetime pretending that women (including conservative Christian women) aren’t in open rebellion. When after decades of activism women were finally able to push their way into combat roles in the US military, Piper and his colleagues went into fever dream mode, pretending that men were forcing reluctant women to act like men. Piper wrote:
If I were the last man on the planet to think so, I would want the honor of saying no woman should go before me into combat to defend my country. A man who endorses women in combat is not pro-woman; he’s a wimp.
Women may be more courageous than men in any given situation. They may have nobler vision. They may be smarter. That is not the issue. What God has written on our hearts and designed for our survival and our joy is the issue. Manhood puts itself forward between the women and the enemy. That is part of what manhood means. That is who we are by God’s design. The courage of women will show itself in a hundred ways. But when a man is around, he will not exploit that courage to fight the battle where he belongs.
Owen Strachan wrote:
…the call by men for women to fight in their place is the height of cowardice, and worthy of the strongest possible rebuke.
If men will not own this responsibility, then women will be forced to take it on as did biblical women such as Deborah and Jael…
Acknowledging reality was simply too terrifying, so they pretended it wasn’t happening and tried to distract us with cartoonish chivalry. This kind of absurd denial of what was going on right in front of our faces left us blind to the very idea of cross dressing for half of the population. Now that we have fully accepted cross dressing for women, the path for doing the same for men is already paved.