Unless you are a heathen, you are probably familiar with the classics: Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Genesis 19, and of course Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. In addition to endorsing incest, these passages from the Good Book have long been used to oppress gays and lesbians.
But the Bible is full of treasures, and while reading a (sadly, secular) book called Solomon Gursky Was Here I was alerted to another one (p. 230-231):
One evening Mr. Nicholson, having quite forgotten his wife’s presence, covered Ephraim’s hand with his own to guide him in a penmanship exercise. Ephraim, fully aware that she was there, contrived to draw his head closer to Mr. Nicholson, their cheeks blushing. Mrs. Nicholson spoke out: ” ‘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 an abomination unto the Lord thy God.’ ”
Mr. Nicholson’s eyes filled with tears. His lower lip trembled. “That will be sufficient for today, boy. Now you run along and see that you make yourself useful to Mrs. Nicholson.”
The young Ephraim Gursky is learning to read and write from the kindly Mr. Nicholson, who just happens to have the hots for his teenaged student. (For some reason, nearly everybody — man or woman — who runs into the young Ephraim Gursky develops the hots for him.) Mrs. Nicholson, wise to her husband’s unnatural desires, recites the above passage, which I had never heard of before. But sure enough, it’s Deuteronomy 22:5. Most of you are more Biblically literate than I am, and have probably run into this passage before. It was completely new to me, particularly in the context of oppressing the LGBTQ+ community. In my defence, Deuteronomy is not exactly the most plot-driven book of the Bible. But in all my years of living in this wretched state, you would think somebody would have thrown these verses around even once? Am I really that oblivious?
The context of this quotation is so weird. As far as I could tell, Mr. Nicholson was dressed in a perfectly masculine manner: pressed J. Crew slacks, Derek Rose boxers, maybe a nice button down shirt from the Gap, socks from one of those monthly buying clubs they advertise during podcasts. Yet Mrs Nicholson pulls out these verses, and not Leviticus or Genesis 19 or any of the other greatest hits. This scene was set in the 1830s or 1840s. Is that how people of the day oppressed homosexuals? Surely they had access to the classics too. It is entirely possible that the author was being intentional about the Bible verse being off-target, but I did not catch the significance. Or maybe Mr. Nicholson wore an earring in that ear? That could explain the verse for sure.
Even if these verses were off-topic ammunition for homosexuality, they make God’s opinion of crossdressing pretty clear. Aren’t there all kinds of Drag Queen Storytime events that make evangelicals itchy? Strictly speaking, these verses would not have been appropriate fodder for discriminating against transgender people, given that transwomen are women and thus presumably should wear women’s clothing, but lots of drag queens are cisgendered. Also, some women wear trousers and some men wear War Paint makeup. There are lots of targets for this particular verse.
The more I think about it, the more strongly I feel that I have just been oblivious. But now I am aware, and you are too. Let us all be very careful the next time we tune into catty Drag Race recaps on Maddie’s blog, or the next time Sixpence posts some charming video of a genderbending country music star giving us a tour of his tiny New York City apartment. Also let’s remember that clothing is strictly gendered, and be careful to abide by those gender rules. We would not want to jeopardize our immortal souls.