CTBHHM: Cross-Dressing (with a Dose of Transphobia)

CTBHHM: Cross-Dressing (with a Dose of Transphobia) August 8, 2014

Created To Be His Help Meet, p. 267

Remember that we’re in the section where Debi is discussion exemptions from obedience to one’s husband. The trouble is that, as readers have pointed out, she’s not actually explaining where the line is. Instead, she’s throwing out extreme examples where it’s okay to disobey. This is not all that helpful to women in much more typical situations, and in fact it (not unsurprisingly) reinforces the idea that disobeying one’s husband can only be done in extreme cases. So, here is this week’s letter:

Cross-Dressing Dear Pearls, My husband has started dressing in women’s night gowns at night and wants me to pretend he is a woman when we have sex. He reminds me that what happens in our bedroom is OK because the bed is undefiled. He is a teacher at Church and well thought of. I know he is the head of the home, so I have to go along with him a few times, but it makes me sick. What is the right thing to do? Anna

I am at a disadvantage here on several levels. First, I am not sure whether this letter is a real letter Debi received or one she has created for the point of illustration. We’ve discussed this issue before. Second, I don’t know enough about kink to know whether what Anna is saying makes sense and what exactly is going on. It could be that Anna’s husband is transgender and is trying to present as a woman in the only place she feels she can. From my knowledge of kink, though, such as it is, it could also be that Anna’s husband simply enjoys throwing some cross-dressing in with his sex. (If any of my readers have further insight, I’d love to hear it!)

But let’s get one thing straight: If one partner is into things in bed that the other partner isn’t into—particularly things that make the other partner sick—those things should not play a role in that couple’s sex lives. One of the cornerstones of kink, especially, is the idea that both partners should be comfortable with the things they choose to do, and that sexual play should be fully consensual. Of course, Anna is operating on fundamentalist Christian teachings that hold that women owe their husbands sex, so she’s not exactly on the same plane here. So, what does Debi say?

God did not delegate to a man the authority to induce his wife to participate in mental lesbianism. If she obeyed him, she would be committing sodomy in her heart—a clear violation of the moral law of God.

Did you see that one coming? Mental lesbianism? I suppose it’s very Debi. I mean, Debi earlier told women that if men other than their husbands lust after them, they—the women—are committing adultery even if they have no idea they are being lusted after and do no lusting themselves. The idea of committing sin “in your heart” rather than through outward actions is also very fundamentalist. Regardless, what Debi’s doing here is lumping cross-dressing in as sodomy, and thus giving Anna a get out of jail free card.

The husband—or whatever he/it was—was taking to himself a sphere of authority that belongs to God only (Deuteronomy 22:5).

Let’s take a look at the verse Debi cites:

Deuteronomy 22:5—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.

This goes back to the spheres of authority Michael talked about. Of course, Debi is being inconsistent in citing this verse but not having any issue with shellfish. But more than that, if we’re trying to piece together the line Debi is drawing, it appears that her argument is that a wife must obey an ungodly husband, but if her husband asks her to participate in something directly forbidden in the Bible she is to refuse.

We instructed the wife to refuse to participate in his perversion and to express her disgust for his cross-dressing. If she treated his sin as a preference, she would normalize his behavior. She must make it known that he is an unsaved man, on his way to hell, and that she is not going to dishonor her lord.

Okay, wow. Remember how I said that Anna should be completely justified in declining to participate based solely on not feeling comfortable with including cross-dressing in sex? Well, this is not what I meant. But you probably knew that. Honestly, what Debi recommends here doesn’t seem to fit well with her insistence that wives should always and constantly reverence and respect their husbands whether they deserve it or not. I can see her telling Anna to decline to participate, but the part about expressing disgust and telling her husband he’s going to hell doesn’t seem to really fit.

But you know what really makes me sick? In Debi’s earlier story about her young friend married to a man who demanded sexual things of her that she found repulsive, she told friend to obey her husband even though it made her feel “truly ill” to do so. Here, again, we have a woman asked by her husband to participate in sexual things she finds repulsive. Anna gets a reprieve, but only because the sexual things can be linked to sodomy. Debi’s young friend got no such reprieve. Debi doesn’t care a whit about these women’s ability to consent. All she cares about is whether or not the sex involved is related to homosexuality.

The idea that Anna’s husband might be a closeted transgender woman also makes me sad, because Debi’s advice ensures that (this being the case) she will never get the help or support she needs from her spouse. I am reminded of Melissa’s story, and I am very glad Melissa paid no mind to this kind of advice and instead supported Haley through her transition. Had Melissa followed the advice Debi would have given her, either Haley would still be living a painful closeted life as Henry or Haley would have transitioned anyway only to watch her family torn apart by bigotry. Either way, the beautiful family Melissa and Haley have today—and the beautiful relationship they share—would never have come into existence.

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