Question: "Is it wrong for men to be effeminate or for women to be masculine?"
Answer: In order to answer this question, we need to define some terms. People are different. We are not cookie-cutter clones divided only by gender. A slightly built man with a naturally soft voice may be considered effeminate by some, but he may be just as joyfully accepting of his gender as a muscle-bound caricature of manliness. A man’s build and natural attributes are gifts from God and are not to be points of ridicule. The same is true for women. Some women are more stereotypically feminine than others. Their desires and interests correspond with the accepted ideal of what it means to be a woman. But a tomboy can be as honoring to God as a girly-girl if she embraces His design for her and glorifies Him with her gifts.
So for the purposes of this article, we will define effeminate (for men) and masculine (for women) as lifestyle choices in defiance of a person’s God-given gender. In the Old Testament, the word translated as “effeminate” is also used for male prostitutes (Deuteronomy 23:17; 1 Kings 22:46). In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “effeminate” means “soft and delicate.” In First Corinthians 6:9, this word is listed separately from homosexuality, indicating that they are not synonymous. An “effeminate” man in this verse is one who has rejected his masculinity and identifies as a female. He may or may not be sexually active, but he has chosen to live intentionally as a “soft and delicate” person, rather than embrace His God-given identity as a man. He takes on the characteristics of a female and relates to other males much like women do.
When God designed male and female (Genesis 5:2), He created more than mere physical differences. Men and women were created to fulfill differing roles in creation and in our relationship with the Lord. Rejecting those God-assigned roles is a symptom of rebellion against our Creator. When people defy God and decide they can live any way they choose, God allows them to follow their perverted lusts to their natural consequences. Romans 1:26–27 says, “That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved” (NLT).
Perversion escalates when women and men abandon their God-ordained identities and try to adopt the characteristics of the opposite gender. Men become like women, and women become like men. The sin lies in our choices, not our natural differences. We must be careful not to assign certain traits to each gender based upon our own cultural norms. In some cultures, men holding hands or kissing on the cheek is a sign of friendship, not an indication of femininity or homosexuality. In Jesus’ day, men wore robes and reclined at the table, lying upon each other’s chests (John 21:20). But these cultural differences in no way indicate a rejection of masculinity.
The phenomenon of gender reversals is escalating in our day with sex-change surgeries and demands that the “transgendered” be accommodated. People are abandoning their natural identities and mentally identifying as any gender they choose. Society is indulging this behavior, which leads to even more confusion. For those struggling with gender confusion, the answer lies not in altering their physical bodies, but in allowing the Holy Spirit to change their hearts (1 Peter 4:2). When we submit ourselves fully to the lordship of Jesus, we desire to follow His design for us, rather than choose our own design (Galatians 2:20).
For a man to despise his gender and identify as a woman, or for a woman to abandon her gender and present herself as a man, is wrong. It is a defiance of God’s design when He created male and female. Deuteronomy 22:5 says, “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.” This command was not as much about clothing as it was about guarding the sanctity of what it means to be a man or a woman. Romans 1 shows that gender confusion is merely a symptom of a bigger problem. When people reject God’s authority and set themselves up as their own gods, chaos results. Verses 21 and 22 illustrate the problem: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.”
Thinking that we know better than God is the doorway to becoming a fool. When a man defies his masculinity or a woman rejects her femininity, it is a symptom of grosser sin: rejection of God’s ultimate authority. The closer we grow to God, the more we can embrace our gender identity. Both genders display certain aspects of God’s character in a unique way. When we pervert His choice for us, we limit the opportunities He gives us to demonstrate the glory of being created in His image (Genesis 1:27).