I have told quite a number of people in my life about my crossdressing addiction, both professionals, and also close family and friends. So I’d like to share what I hope is some wisdom about how to best do this, and some general tips.
Throughout my life, I have told about this issue to my wife, a family member, two psychologists, one pastor, and three close friends. Of course I’ve talked to plenty of other people online through this blog and email group, but I’m not counting those. In every case of telling one of these people, things went smoothly and I did not have any regret about sharing this secret with them. I know that this may not be the case for all of us, so I count myself fortunate and am very grateful for such good people in my life.
First we should look at the question, “should I really risk telling anyone at all? Why take the risk? What benefit is there?”
This is a great question and it deserves a thoughtful answer. I think for sure that this is not something a man should just tell anyone about. We have to take care to guard ourselves from those who would malign our names or spread gossip or misinterpret our behavior. But it is helpful to tell some few people.
One good reason to tell someone about your crossdressing past or present, is that it brings it into the light. Bringing sin into the light makes it lose power. I have found that whenever I’ve told someone, it makes crossdressing seem so much more foolish, dumb, and unexciting to me. Just speaking about what I actually do to another person takes away all the false rationalizations that I had built up in my head. It makes crossdressing less powerful and enticing even before the other person speaks in response to your revelation. When I tell someone, and for many weeks/months after telling someone, crossdressing no longer seems like something I can’t control. I feel in control of my life and it seems easy to resist crossdressing temptations. To dwell on this biblical theme of bringing sins into the light by confessing to one another, read 1 John 1 and Ephesians 5:1-20.
There are other reasons we should tell someone. Firstly, let’s think about our spouses. I cannot imagine having such a big secret kept from my wife. My only regret is that I did not tell my wife before we got married, but rather I told her a few months into marriage. Different people have different views about marriage. But I want to be “fully known” by the one who loves me and has committed to share her life with me. To be loved without being truly known is still good and still truly love, but it’s more superficial. To be known, flaws and virtues together, and still loved, that is a treasure. That is what God’s love for us is like to a profound more awesome degree. I have committed to share my life with my wife, come what may, in sickness and in health, in all things, in happiness or unhappiness. We make our decisions together. We let nothing break our marriage. It is inconceivable to me to imagine being married to someone who didn’t know everything about me.
Do I need to tell her every twisted thought that enters my head? No, of course not. But to hide this huge aspect of my identity, my personality, would be dishonest and even a betrayal. She deserves to know about this. Yes, it is largely just a sin of the past, but there are still temptations in the present. Yes I am forgiven by God for all that I have done, but that past history still shapes so much of my personality, behavior, and perspectives. The proof that she should know about your crossdressing is a quick mental imagination. Take a second and imagine how angry she would be if she found out about your crossdressing from somebody else besides you. She would be angry that you hid it from her. She wants to know you fully just as you want to know her fully. Imagine how you would feel if she had a secret addiction to pornography that she didn’t tell you about. Husbands and wives deserve to know these things about each other, so that they can help each other, forgive each other, and love each other in spite of faults and failures. You are not to hide parts of yourself from someone who is “one flesh” with you.
In addition, I would need to tell her for one reason alone, though not the most important reason, and that is that she needs to be aware of her actions so that she doesn’t inadvertently tempt me to sin through kinky games in the bedroom or leaving clothes lying about. So I think it is a necessity to tell our spouses, and I think the best thing to do is to tell them during the engagement period, or before, so that they can fully know who they are committing to spend their life with. If their love falls apart at such a revelation, than that is not the kind of person you would want to marry anyway. And if you are reading this and you have not told your wife yet, well, better late than never. It may be harder for her to forgive you, and she may feel deeply betrayed, but it’s better you tell her now so that you can have a real honest relationship now. It will greatly help though that you are telling her yourself rather than her finding out through catching you in the act or hearing from somebody else. Such a vulnerable act in marriage might very well strengthen a hurting or bored marriage. When I told my wife about my struggle, she shared her own deep secrets and struggles. In doing so, the marriage was strengthened as we both felt truly known and truly loved and realized that we really meant to act on life-long commitment. Each person giving and receiving confession, grace, and forgiveness is a very powerful moment in a marriage. For both you and her, I suggest you read this post – Giving Pastoral care to a crossdresser or transgendered person.
When I shared with my wife, she also became vulnerable and shared with me about her struggles. She listened to me for a long time, without speaking much. She gave me no condemnation and did not show any less love to me after the revelation. She was not repulsed by me, though she found the behavior itself disgusting and strange. She forgave me for past mistakes. She gave me much grace. She made it clear that she would not be okay with me purposely giving in to crossdressing, which I was in full agreement with. The first conversation lasted 2-3 hours, and there were many subsequent short conversations after that. She did her own personal research on crossdressing afterwards, and finally it was just a normal thing to acknowledge it and talk about it openly. However, I found that generally she did not enjoy talking about it, so we don’t talk about it very much. When I have had failures and told her in past years, she has always responded with some disappointment, but also with understanding since she is aware of her own sins and struggles as well. She always forgave me after each time I confessed. I have asked her directly then and recently if my revelation contributed to the difficulties in our marriage, and in our sexuality together, and the answer is a very clear “no.” We both know the marriage issues we deal with very specifically, and this crossdressing past is not the issue.
Secondly, it can be helpful to tell professional counselors, psychologists, or pastors about your secret. These people will likely be able to give you some good support, encouragement, listening ears, and perhaps help you to recover, change, quit the addiction, and heal. However, I have some reservations about this though too. Many of these counselors and pastors have very little understanding about crossdressing and gender dysphoria, and even if they are loving and compassionate, you may find yourself spending all the time teaching them rather than getting much help from them. Also, in some cases, psychologists will tell you to “be yourself” meaning to give in to whatever desires you find inside you, whether helpful or not, whether sinful or not. They may help you to destroy your life out of their own ignorance. They may make it more difficult for you to quit the addiction that you know is tearing your soul and mind and life apart. So be wary in finding a counselor. Seek out counselors that are knowledgeable about the issue, and are willing to help you heal in your identity as a man, rather than exacerbating your problem. Seek out Christian counselors that have a relationship with the Creator of the universe.
Pastors are more likely to be quite ignorant about your feelings and condition, and yet as you teach them and as they listen, I think they can be quite helpful. If you get a good pastor who is teachable and doesn’t condemn you out of his fear of the strangeness of your behavior, he might be very helpful to you. If you read the post above about giving pastoral care, there are many many issues that a pastor can help you work through even if he doesn’t know as much about crossdressing as you do. Please see that post for a longer description about this and consider sharing the post with your pastor. But he can help you work out what crossdressing is doing to your relationship with God, he can help you grow in prayer and Bible study, he can help you learn how to fight and resist temptation, he can help you to forgive, to grow in your identity in Christ, to help you appreciate God’s grace, to help you learn what it means to be a man according to God’s word, and so on.
When I shared with counselors and a pastor, my biggest surprise was by how insignificant they seemed to think crossdressing was. They focused on other areas of spiritual and marital growth with me instead. I think this is largely due to their ignorance about what a pervasive and destructive force crossdressing can really be. I did work through crossdressing more in-depth with one counselor. Mostly I was educating him, but it was helpful to speak out loud and process out loud about it. In the end, it probably wasn’t worth the money. But it was definitely not a negative experience. He helped me to deal with temptations, looking at strategies he himself had used to give up smoking. All in all it was not bad. If one of you really needed a counselor though, I would try to help you find a biblical counselor who has some experience dealing with these sexual and gender issues.
Thirdly, it can very helpful to tell friends. They are the easiest of any of these to tell, because if they are a close friend, you already have trust built up. And since you aren’t in a sexual relationship, as with your wife, they won’t feel betrayed by your revelation, they won’t worry about how your condition will affect the marriage, etc. It will be quite easy for them to listen, and probably still appreciate the friendship just as much after your revelation, if not more so. There are so many advantages to telling a friend. Besides bringing the sin into the light and having it lose power over you, telling a friend can also give you someone who you can vent to, to share your fears, frustrations, lamentations, and hopes and even jokes about this condition. Telling a friend will give you someone who can help to hold you accountable. We grow together in community when we are “real” with each other. And telling a friend can deepen the friendship, bonding you together for life as close and loyal friends who will always be there for each other, friends who know the deepest darkest crap about each other, but are still together.
When I first told friends, I was in high school. Telling them took a great deal of courage, and I couldn’t look them in the face, and I believe I was crying through most of it. But like my wife, they gave me grace and understanding. When I told them and made myself so vulnerable, they shared with me about their pornography addictions, in detail, including frank talks about masturbation. Our friendships went to a new deeper level. If you’ve never experienced such a close friendship, where you share those details about your life that you find most shameful, you are missing out. Such friendships cannot be bought. My friends and I were able to give each other help and accountability, so that even in high school and then later in college we could truly help and challenge one another to grow in Christ rather than spending all of our time playing football and Xbox and looking for girls. These are friendships that last to this day, even though we don’t see each other much. We will forever have that trust and loyalty. Telling friends was one of the best things I’ve ever did. I felt accepted even though fully known. I felt secure. Years of fear and isolation and loneliness melted away.
Some general tips as you think about telling someone
- Begin by telling a friend who has known you for a while, and who you trust, someone who is mature and living for Christ. The first time you tell someone is the most difficult, and you don’t want to tell someone you don’t fully trust for this first time. It will be hard enough that you don’t want to have to worry about risk of others finding out.
- Start by seeing if the friend is willing to be vulnerable. Be vulnerable about another area of your life, maybe how you spend your money, what kind of woman you want to marry, how you treat your wife, pornography, etc, and see if your friend will hold you accountable in that area of your life, and if he will be reciprocal opening up about that area of his life as well. For me, this subject is too personal to tell someone about it if they will not also open up to me. I have told people about my crossdressing who were not reciprocal and it went fine. But those conversations were much less satisfying and much less helpful. It is truly helpful to tell someone when they will also open up to you.
- You can test the waters by bringing up homosexuality. When you talk to a Christian about homosexuality, they may have many different responses, but let me generalize down to three. 1. They could talk about how people should be themselves and we shouldn’t say it’s wrong to give in to homosexuality. 2. They could be scathing and judgmental against gays, and want nothing to do with them. 3. They could have a more balanced biblical approach, that they love homosexuals and want to be friends with them, but also they say that giving in to homosexual behavior itself is sinful and wrong. So being “gay,” (meaning having those desires), is not our fault, but we do control whether we give in or not. If you want to stay on the safe side, you might only tell about your crossdressing to someone who fits #3. That way they can help you to resist crossdressing while also giving you grace and compassion. Someone in #1 might try to convince you just to accept your crossdressing, or worse, they might be offended if you don’t embrace your crossdressing. Someone in #2 might end the friendship with you when they find out about this strange sin you deal with. Think about these various responses but in the end use your own judgment. For me, I might still tell someone regardless of what number they fall into in regards to homosexuality. In my experience, some friends who may have started in #1 or #2, have actually changed to more of the position of #3 after hearing my testimony. So I appreciate God using me in that way.
- Pray about it first. Pray for the person you will tell. Take time to prepare. Write down what you want to say if you have to. Don’t rush into it.
- If telling your wife for the first time, make sure you include a deep heartfelt apology for not telling her sooner, and explain why you did not do so, without excusing yourself. Also, point her to this post for wives. Apologize and repent for any crossdressing you have done while married, including things done online, but don’t go into great detail as that will only disturb her and in my opinion is not necessary. Help her to understand that even though you hid this from her for so long, that your marriage is still a real marriage, you still love her greatly, the memories of good times in the past are true and real memories, she doesn’t need to doubt your love and loyalty, etc. Pray together afterwards. Thank her for the grace she gives you. Pledge to her that you will get the help you need to fight this addiction so that you stop giving in and heal from it.
- When I told people, I always began by saying I had something important to tell them, and that they should just let me speak without interrupting until I get most of my speech out.
- Take time to tell them. Make sure you tell them when you have a few hours set aside. Make sure there won’t be interruptions or phone calls. Make sure you have time and energy to answer any and all of their many questions that they will surely have.
- If tears come, let them come. Be vulnerable. The tears will help to show your repentance and deep feeling.
- Make sure that they understand you didn’t choose to be like this, that you wished and prayed for the desires to go away. Help them to understand that these desires don’t define who you are, they are just a tiny part of you, just a part of the sinful nature that everyone has.
- Tell them as much information as you can so that they don’t go away with bad misconceptions. And perhaps give them some followup resources to read if they want more information, such as good books and articles that you can find on my links page, or my blog itself.
- When they open up and are vulnerable with you, give them the same grace that they gave you. Pray together afterwards.
If you have other good tips and suggestions, please comment below to share with all of us.