Frequently asked questions about: Transvestism, or Transsexuality / Transsexualism
1. What is transvestism or crossdressing?
The compulsive wearing of clothing pertaining to the opposite sex. It is primarily a male activity. It often results in sexual arousal. Transvestites remain aware of, and usually content with, their biological sex.
2. How does transvestism differ from transsexuality?
Transvestism and male transsexuality differ by degree. Both behaviours are part of a continuum. Transsexuality represents the end of the continuum. Transsexuals are not content with their biological sex. All transsexuals must necessarily go through a crossdressing period.
Transvestism and transsexuality are both issues of personal identity . Clinically such behaviours are referred to as Gender Identity Disorder (GID).
4. Are homosexuality and transvestism the same?
No. Transvestism is not homosexuality. (Transsexuals frequently strongly dissociate with homosexuality.)
5. What is a drag queen?
Some homosexuals enjoy the theatrical parody of women and are known as ‘drag queens’. The term is believed to have originated with Elizabethan theatre. In those days women were not allowed to perform, so the parts were played by boys or small, slightly men. Female costumes were heavy and were dragged across the stage.
Sexual arousal associated with an inanimate object such as gloves or shoes.
7. Cause of transvestism
No known bio-chemical (biological) cause can be demonstrated to exist. Invariably, transvestites report the practice developing in early childhood, certainly before the onset of puberty. Authorities tend to agree that cause is multi-factorial – primarily psychological in origin.
B. The practice of transvestism (Acting out)
Transvestism often takes place secretly and in isolation. It is not uncommon for it to occur in the privacy of home with the consent of a spouse. Most wives, however, find it difficult to cope with and come to resent it deeply.
Increasing public awareness has spawned the development of small social groups that meet regularly. Such groups foster and encourage social relationships, including adoption of gender specific names and dressing fully in the clothes associated with the opposite sex. Specialist clothing chains exist to cater for transgendered persons.
As with any repeated behaviour it is possible that the behaviour becomes addictive.
Transvestites can often sustain long periods of abstinence (often preceded by the purging of all female clothing). Re-activation can be triggered by stress or personal crisis that may also involve a change of circumstance.
Signs that crossdressing has become addictive include:
(1) Frequency, and/or
(2) Overriding desire to crossdress
(3) Unwillingness to stop or seek help (denial)
(4) Willingness to take risks to pursue the activity
(5) Alienation from friends and family in pursuance of the behaviour
(6) The compulsive spending of excessive amounts on clothes and crossdressing activities
(7) The compulsive purging of all items of clothing, with a (unsuccessful) commitment never to repeat
C. Is transvestism compatible with Christianity?
What constitutes gender appropriate clothing varies from culture to culture. Crossdressing is acceptable in cultures such as Samoan society, certain sects in India. Crossdressing native American Indians have been regarded as a type of holy man.
The passage of time and changes of fashion also determine gender appropriate clothing. In Western society what may not have been considered gender appropriate apparel 30 or 40 years ago may have become acceptable today. The wearing of trousers and slacks by women in a cold climate may be commonplace but uncomfortable and inappropriate in a hot climate. A Scotsman wearing a kilt is not a transvestite.
The wearing of opposite sex clothing is proscribed in the Old Testament. (Deuteronomy 22:5). Therefore does Deuteronomy 22:5 have an application to the 21st. Century New Testament Christian?
The crossdressing constraint is amongst a numerous list of miscellaneous instructions handed down to Moses from God. Falling as it does amongst instructions – such as: to build a parapet on flat roofed houses, making of tassels for a cloak. And, not plowing with both an ox & a donkey yoked together – many of which are clearly no longer appropriate in today’s society. Some, therefore conclude that Deuteronomy 22:5 similarly has no application for today’s Christian.
Indeed it is rationalised by some that by the grace flowing from the death of Jesus on the Cross, crossdressing is a permissible activity for Christians. Neither the word transvestism nor crossdressing (or, for that matter transsexuality) appear in the New Testament. The word transvestism was originally a psychological term coined only in the early part of the 20th century to describe men who habitually crossdress. The fact that the constraint appears in one of the earliest books of the Old Testament evidences that crossdressing, by both males and females, is not an exclusively a 20th century phenomena.
The Hebrew word ‘ toebah ’ is the word that is translated into English as ‘abomination’ or ‘detestable’ in Deuteronomy 22:5. It appears in other passages of Old Testament scripture notably Leviticus 18:22 and Lev. 20:13. Used in the context the word means to reverse what is good. It also has a strong element of idolatry contained in its meaning.
The book of Genesis gives an outline of God’s created intent declaring that His creation of male and female to be very good. It is clear from the passage that His intent that male and female are intended to be complimentary.
The use of the Hebrew word ‘ toebah ’ in Deuteronomy 22:5 would indicate that any human behaviour that reverses His created intent either inadvertently or by design is anathema to God. The implication is that for the Jews, whose life is determined by the Old Testament crossdressing is to be seen as an issue of morality. (Jesus himself is recorded as referring back paradigmatically to the creation passage Genesis 1:27.)
The book of Romans begins with an account of humankind’s state of rebellion against God. To emphasise the gravity of this rebellion against God, Paul repeats three times that ‘God gave them over to repeat that which ought not to be done’.
Paul makes it clear that as a consequence of man’s rebellion, and the lack of obedience, that immoral behaviour (sin) will follow. Immorality or unrighteous behaviour are the result of mankind’s rebellion against God.
The Old Testament comprised civil, ceremonial and moral law. The New Testament with Jesus’ authority, shows that the civil and ceremonial laws are superseded, whilst the moral law is to be upheld.
Therefore, mankind as a whole is seen to be rebellious in the New Testament just as it is in the Old Testament. (When Paul declared in his epistle to the Romans the state of mankind, the New Testament had not then come to be compiled.)
Paul’s statement of the rebellious nature of mankind as a whole is a leveler. That is, no one is exempt from that indictment (for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God). It is only through the death of Jesus on the cross that man can be redeemed. It is only then, as a consequence of God’s mercy, that man can be credited with righteousness.
Christians responding through the New Birth implicitly agree to honour His mercy by remaining obedient to God’s demands of purity and obedience to His holiness code.
In his first epistle to the Corinthian church it is clear that Paul expects change to occur away from former immoral lifestyles such as idolatry, adultery and effeminacy. Contemporary commentaries on this epistle indicate that the Greek words that are translated into current English as homosexuality, also extend to behaviours that identify with the opposite sex i.e. transvestism and transsexuality.
Paul goes on to state emphatically that such unrepentant persons will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
Paul states in his epistle to the Galatians that : ‘… we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should revealed,’ having earlier declared that his understanding had come by the direct revelation of Jesus Christ.
The author of the epistle to the Hebrews, in Chapter 6 encourages the moving on from the elementary teachings of Christ to enlightened understanding and maturity. The epistle states that it is impossible for persons, who having received the elementary teachings of Christ and have then fallen away, not moving on to maturity, to be bought back to repentance. By falling away, the author states, such persons subject the Son of God all over again to the public disgrace of the Cross.
Therefore, it must be concluded that a Christian who continues dressing in the clothing of the opposite sex so as to create the illusion of being a member of the opposite sex is in effect remaining in a state of rebellion against God and subjects himself to the due penalty. It matters not whether that person does so in isolation, or with the active participation of others – Christian or non Christian.
D. A pastoral response
Active participation, whether alone or in company, will result in an increased desire to pursue the activity. The crossdressing behaviour will come to dominate the lifestyle. Any behaviour that dominates a lifestyle, or likely to lead to its dominance is, for the Christian – idolatry.
Experience has shown that where repentance is genuine the addictive component of crossdressing will be recognised by the individual concerned.
To move to wholeness in Christ and overcome any addictive behaviour an acknowledgment of dependency on Christ is a necessary first step. Such behaviours can have such a stranglehold that an establishment of a strict regime in accountability is essential.
The Church ought to provide a supportive environment whilst any unresolved issues that have lead to the development of the behaviour in the first place are addressed.
Prayer alone, without the active support of others, is likely not to succeed and result in disillusionment. Overcoming such behaviours can be painful and tedious. Personal commitment, by all concerned, is essential.
1. What is a transsexual?
The term is used to describe an apparently biologically normal individual who has an overwhelming desire to be identified as a member of the opposite sex. Increasingly such individuals seek chemical (hormone) therapy and surgery to conform their body to that of the opposite biological sex. In reality it is impossible to chemically or surgically alter one’s biological sex. Medical authorities consistently assert that sex is determined by the chromosomes.
2. What causes transsexualism?
There are no scientifically proven genetic or organic causes for transsexualism. There is much indemonstrable speculation and unsubstantiated mythology. Most serious available medical research suggests that it is a psychological condition.
3. What is Intersex?
A number of rare (1:2000 births) medical conditions where some physical sexual ambiguity exists. These well known conditions include hermaphroditism, Turner’s syndrome & congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Some intersex conditions may not manifest until adolescence. Intersex conditions have demonstrable underlying biochemical causes, which are normally confirmed by blood tests. Intersex conditions should not be confused with transsexualism. Correct diagnosis of ‘transsexualism’ should include a chromosome test to eliminate the possibility of a pre-existing intersex condition.
4. What is Gender Identity Disorder?
The clinical (or medical) term used to describe those people who describe themselves (or self-determine) as transsexual. The term ‘transsexualism’ is a misnomer. The clinical term is more accurate as a person’s self-perceived identity is emphasised. It is a popular though misleading claim that transsexualism (Gender Identity Disorder) is now has ‘proven’ that the condition exists as a consequence of an abnormality in the brain, or perhaps as a consequence of some hormonal imbalance prior to birth. Whilst some research has been conducted into the brains of deceased transsexuals studies are limited in scope and far from conclusive. Prenatal hormonal imbalance theories are speculative. The amount of scientific research into transsexualism is limited. Research that has been conducted overwhelmingly points to causation being multi-factorial and primarily psychological in origin. Psychiatric evidence indicates that gender ambiguity can be responsive to therapies without recourse to surgery. Transsexualism therefore continues to be regarded by medical authorities as primarily an issue of personal identity, though appropriate treatment of the condition is disputed .
5. Is transsexualism homosexuality?
No. Homosexualism is the physical and/or emotional attraction to persons of the same sex, including the desire to act out that attraction. Homosexuals are normally content with their biological (given) sex. They rarely have any strong desire to change sex.
6. Is bi-sexualism the same as transsexualism?
7. Are children at risk?
No. Transgendered persons are not paedophiles.
8. What is sex reassignment surgery (SRS)?
A number of surgical operations designed to conform the body to that of the opposite biological sex. Surgery is normally concurrent with chemical (hormonal) therapies that can redistribute body fat, alter skin texture and increase or reduce bodily hair. The degree of surgery or chemical therapies undertaken can very from individual to individual. It has been estimated that possibly as many as 50% of transsexuals do not actually proceed to SRS.
9. How much does surgery cost?
It varies with the amount of surgery requested. At least £7,000.
10. What happens if a person changes their mind after surgery?
Post-operative transsexuals do from time to time recognise that surgery was a mistake, or poorly performed. It is impossible satisfactorily to replace surgically removed genitalia. A measure of reparative surgery is available at considerable cost.
11. Is pre-operative counselling available?
It is, but increasingly candidates are being fast-tracked through to surgery virtually upon request with minimal or no counselling. Existing guidelines recommend at least two years living in the desired gender role. Frequently the guidelines are ignored. Diagnosis and supply of hormones is now available over the Internet.
12. Do transsexual people marry and have families?
Many transsexuals are, or have been, married. Many have fathered or mothered children. Few marriages survive transsexualism. Transsexual parents usually remain alienated from their children.
13. What about transvestism (crossdressing)?
Transvestism refers to the wearing of clothing of the opposite sex, primarily by males, often resulting in sexual arousal. Transvestites remain aware of and content with their biological sex. However, all transsexuals necessarily pass through an (often prolonged) crossdressing phase.
14. How many transsexuals exist in the community?
It has been estimated that there are some 5000+ postoperative transsexual people in Great Britain. These estimates are not reliable.
15. Do postoperative transsexuals live a fulfilling life?
Some apparently do. Many, however, do not and remain on various forms of support.
16. Should transsexuals be allowed to marry?
A male-to-female transsexual person can legally marry a female-to-male transsexual. As neither surgery nor hormones change a person’s biological sex a transsexual remains in their given (birth) sex. In essence, a ‘marriage’ involving a male-to-female transsexual and a biological male would be a same-sex relationship. Currently illegal, a change in the law is now being proposed.
17. How should Christians respond to transsexualism?
Transsexualism is a complex condition that is not easy for people to understand, particularly if a person is content with their own gender identity. Christians should respond as far as possible with compassion and understanding. However, transsexualism is a self-determined condition. It is unique in that the patient makes their own diagnosis – a doctor only confirms it. Genetic determination is not likely ever to be scientifically demonstrated. Evidence suggests that resolution of the underlying gender ambiguity and conflict can be slow and painful. It is only likely to be resolved with strong commitment and determination. Christians should be willing to support in every possible way the struggles of transsexual people to accept their true birth sex.
18. Shouldn’t Christians just accept people as they choose to be?
We all live in a fallen world and often we come short of God’s standards. Nevertheless, God’s created intent for humankind is made clear in the early chapters of the book of Genesis. That intent is confirmed throughout the Old and New Testaments. Jesus himself referred back paradigmatically to the creation story in Genesis. Christians experiencing scriptural new birth should expect personal wholeness to result from a commitment to being fully obedient to Christ, including any identity ambiguity. Christians should expect transformation through the work of the Holy Spirit to occur in everyone’s life in producing Christ-like lives.
This guide to has been prepared by Parakaleo Ministry in cooperation with the Evangelical Alliance.