A Perspective on Grace

Q: I feel awful about my cross dressing. Am I in hopeless sin when I cross dress?

For those of you who have beaten yourself up for years trying to fight your transgendered nature, may I offer some hope.

You may have spent decades fighting your transgendered nature. Perhaps you grew up believing it to be evil. Your cross-dressing (CDing) was usually done in secret and was combined with experiences you would rather not talk about. I have heard a lot of discussion on both sides of the issue. Is CDing wrong or right – sin or not? My angle on this is a little unusual.

I really do not know if CDing is sin or not. Advocates, on both sides of this issue, offer compelling arguments. I am interested in the debate, but not overly concerned about its resolution. In either case, a definitive answer appears to be elusive.

In regards to importance, the issue of  “sin” takes a backseat to good mental health and the exploration of who we are as God’s children. Our Heavenly Father is a God of love who desires for us to be happy and whole and has bestowed grace on us to do so. God is more loving and more tolerant with his children than we could ever be with each other. 

However, since this is an important question to so many, let’s unpack it.

The issue of sin and CDing may be a lightning rod for a much larger issue. CDing was the “thorn” God used to deflate my spiritual ego. This spiritual discomfort caused me to ask two questions: “What is the nature of sin?” –and- “At what point does an action become sin?”

In Matthew 5:27, Jesus says we sin even in our thoughts. This, of course, leaves little hope for any of us who wish to be sin-free. In fact, whenever Christ was asked to declare something as sinful, he always presented a larger definition that included those asking the question. Take, for example, the story of the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:3) The Pharisees brought a woman before Jesus and wanted his approval to stone her to death. He acknowledged the woman’s sin, but went on to say, “…He who is without sin cast the first stone.” Even though some came to the scene with rocks already in hand, no one threw a stone, for each of them knew, they too, had sins.

Why would Jesus do this? Why expand the parameters of sin? Because, Christ purposed to make the “narrow way” to God even more narrow, so we would have no option but to lean on the grace he was to purchase on the cross. As he says in John 14:6: 

“I am the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me.”

The message of the gospel of grace is not one of “trying to do good.” Christ did not die to remove sin from our lives, but to remove sin’s power to control us. For the power of sin comes from this trap: whether we are fleeing sin, or embracing it, sin still has power over us. Sin wants to dictate our spiritual, and day-to-day, agendas.

I used to feel that this emphatically stated “path to God only through Jesus” sounded rather restrictive. However, my perspective changed when I began to understand how Jesus’ death on the cross altered forever the power that sin had over us in a way that is unparalleled in human history.

Christ came to set us free, completely free, from the power of sin. As a child of God, the righteousness we have adopted is the righteousness of Christ. Therefore we should no longer be bound by the agenda that sin would have us follow.

Christ recognized the sin of adultery, and the sin of all those present, but dispensed grace in his dealings with the woman and encouraged her. He says to us “Follow me, for my load is easy and my burden is light.” He says to us, “I want to be your agenda. I will change your heart as I see fit. I will be your guide, focus on me.” We are now free to explore, as our Savior leads, because we are under the GRACE of God.

Am I saying that sin is irrelevant? On the surface it may appear so, but actually it is just the opposite! Sin permeates everything that we do. Separating it out is a winnowing process that takes a lifetime. Trying to determine what is sin is difficult because often those actions our culture has decreed as “obvious sin” are not. On the other hand, some things that our society says are legal, and holds up as worthwhile goals, are in fact sin. Accepting my transgender nature, and God’s grace, has taught me that I am more sinful, not less.

Choosing one particular sin to focus on can have harmful consequences. The danger in vilifying one aspect of our fallen nature, is that we then, by contrast, tend to justify the rest of what we do. We start to believe that we can somehow earn righteousness if we “just get this one area under control.”

In Matthew:19, a rich young ruler comes to Jesus and asks: “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” Jesus answers with “Why are you asking me about what is good? There is only One who is good…” He then speaks to the young man about keeping the commandments, and the young man declares he has kept them all. So Jesus gives him another, “…sell your possessions and give to the poor…come and follow me.” The young man goes away grieved because he is very rich. Jesus remarks to the disciples present, “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

In Jesus’ day, just as in our day, wealth was viewed as a blessing from God. So when the disciples heard this they were perplexed and asked, “Then who can be saved?” I love Jesus’ reply, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” The point of this exchange was not that wealth is bad, but that there is no “good thing” you can do to enter into Heaven. Why is this important to the transgendered believer? Because we are faced with our own human frailty day by day and have the choice to either accept the grace that our Lord freely offers, or drive ourselves crazy trying to do the “right thing” to obtain God’s favor and eternal salvation. What Jesus says to his disciples he says to you, “With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Admitting we need God and letting go of our pursuit of self-righteousness is a good place to be spiritually. Our relationship with God should not be linked to our performance. A healthy relationship with our creator is one where we simply fall on our face, clinging to our Savior, and asking him to have mercy on us a sinner. He will not judge you in this but accept you with more than open arms. With this attitude you can experience the promise: 

“I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

If you are struggling, if your pillow is wet with the tears of self-condemnation, my advice to you is “let it all go.” Die to your self-righteousness and be reborn with the understanding that you are a redeemed creation and that your life is Christ’s and not your own. 

God really does desire to give his children good gifts. Trust him and enjoy the ride!