Abominations

Here is a list of things called “Abominable” in some translations of the Bible. The oddest is Luke 16:15, “what is prized by human beings”-surely not everything? God sees things profoundly differently from human values?- but most are a bit yuck, or revolting, or dishonourable.

There are ways round these rules. I heard last week that the word translated “a woman’s garment” in Deuteronomy 22:5 is a particular outer garment of the time, a bit like banning the earasaid. I have never worn an earasaid, and though I would try one if I had the opportunity I would not seek one out.

A man in a woman’s garment is “abominable”. A Jew told me the Hebrew meant something closer to taboo, and again that is something revolting. In Flowers on Channel 4, two characters at first seen as father and daughter, though later they say this was a pretence, are seen having sex. I was revolted. That is a taboo, and I don’t know if my revulsion is cultural or from my species. Ancient Egyptian kings habitually married their sisters, and Tutankhamun may have suffered genetic conditions of inbreeding.

Men in women’s loos is also a taboo. I go in, because I am accepted as an honorary woman, mostly. My friend said trenchantly that if there was a long queue in the Ladies’ she would go in the Gents’. Why not, it is only a cubicle. If you break the taboo, you become unpredictable, a threat, even if you do not do anything else objectionable. You do not think like the rest of us.

A taboo can be cultural, part of the glue that holds a community together. It has value only for that community. Yet for some people transsexuality and even homosexuality remain taboo.

Dishonesty is “abominable”. That weakens the ties of any community. We need to be able to trust each other.

I don’t think God directly dictated the words of the Masoretic text (the current Hebrew Bible) as God is said to have dictated the Koran. People wrote it. We can judge for ourselves what is sinful. I wish to improve my way of being in the world. Starting to present male again is not remotely my priority for this. I have no hope of living entirely according to any moral code. But I don’t want to explain away troubling Biblical text. It is there. It may mean one thing or another. I don’t need a specific view of it, so that my way of being somehow becomes safe or acceptable. My way of being is safe and acceptable enough.

I asked the woman who so interpreted Deuteronomy when it was written. She said in its current form probably about 600 BC, just before the Exile, though perhaps parts came from oral tradition. But if that question indicates how liberal the speaker is, I don’t know how to calibrate it.

Goya, courtyard with lunatics

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