I’ve already written – here – about this book. But I just found that it is free online. It’s a very controversial book, though I think it is quite interesting and helpful. Read the book for free here: The Man Who Would be Queen. After reading, go back and read my original blog post about it and comment with your thoughts.
This post is different from my other posts. I have written from a more neutral vantage point rather than specifically out of a Christian worldview, in the hope that this post can help others who may not share my faith. In this post, I synthesize a lot of the things I have written about in other posts, and hopefully this concise article will help not only non-Christians, but Christians as well who have been reading my blog for some time.
In this brief article, I would like to address men1 who feel the need to crossdress, but who find it problematic to do so in their current life situation. This could include:
- Married men whose wives do not approve of crossdressing.
- Men who would not be comfortable having it known that they crossdress, and so therefore they crossdress in secret with constant fear of being caught.
- Men who are prohibited from crossdressing legally because they live in oppressive countries, and would face prison or death if caught.
- Men who might not view crossdressing as inherently bad, but recognize that crossdressing has become an unhealthy addiction negatively affecting their lives.2
I have tremendous compassion for crossdressers and for gender nonconforming people in general. We have to deal with society caricaturing us, often hating us, and misunderstanding us. We often carry our own feelings of confusion, guilt, and fear. Given this reality, it’s not surprising that the types of men described feel intense pressure to give up crossdressing. Our problem is that most of us do not want to give up what we view as an important part of ourselves. Some call this their “feminine side” or “inner femininity.” Crossdressing for many men makes them feel more like their true selves, and gives them important feelings that they do not get any other way.
In this article, I propose an alternative method to crossdressing that still achieves the same result as crossdressing: being able to embrace one’s inner femininity. I call this method the Integration (or Unified-Self) Method. I hope to show not only that it is possible to stop crossdressing, but also to show how this does not entail losing or suppressing anything essential in one’s identity and personality.
I will begin by telling my own story. Second, I will outline my rationale for the Integration Method. Third, I will explain how to actually pursue this method in real life. Fourth, I will explain why it is possible to stop crossdressing and give a few suggestions about how to stop. Last, I will give some thoughts about pursuing contentment in the difficult situations some of us are in.
My own story drives me to show compassion to others who might share a similar situation. Biologically I was born a male, and for many years I used to be a very active crossdresser. While it primarily seemed to be a sexual issue for me, it was certainly more than that. I had sharp pangs of longing to be female. Even before I started grade school I secretly longed to be a girl, but could not understand why. Almost every night I would imagine being transformed into a girl. Later in life, I felt like I did not fit in with other men. I felt like my personality was much more truly a woman’s personality and so I dreamed about living as a woman full-time. But I was terrified to tell anyone about my feelings. I felt very much alone.
In some ways crossdressing was very satisfying. It not only gave me sexual pleasure but it also seemed to bring out aspects of my personality that I had previously felt uncomfortable expressing as a boy/man. For example, I could dance freely while crossdressed, but could never do so, even when alone, as my male self. However, I felt strong internal pressure to give up crossdressing because it was an addiction that was interfering with my life (and there were also moral and religious reasons I need not discuss here). This led me to half-hearted attempts to quit both crossdressing and my fantasizing about being a woman. I tried hard for years, with occasional success, but I could never quite seem to fully shake my strong desire/need for crossdressing.
My cycle of frustration ended five years ago when I first learned about the Integration Method. Through a great deal of effort and introspection I was able to stop crossdressing. But I also was able to find inner peace and to no longer desire to be a woman. Today I have learned to accept my male body and now I am proud to be the man I am. All of this was only possible because it was not done at the expense of suppressing my “inner femininity.” To be honest, my desire to put on female clothing has not completely left me as on rare days a crossdressing thought might still find purchase in my mind for a time. And I did put on articles of female clothing a few times in the last 5 years, purely for sexual pleasure, episodes which lasted only minutes and were surprisingly unsatisfying. Besides these anomalies, I now feel free from controlling crossdressing desires, free from confusion about my identity, and free from guilt. I am content and happy now.
So what is the method that allowed me to embrace my inner femininity while also giving up crossdressing? I call it the Integration or Unified-self method. To put it simply, this method focuses on integrating both the masculine and feminine aspects of myself into my one true persona, my male self. Let me unpack this a bit to make it clearer.
I think that most of us would agree that both sexes, male and female, can experience a wide spectrum of feelings and personality traits, and no sex owns particular personality traits. For example, it is very possible for men to have the trait of being sensitive, just as there are sensitive women. However, in many societies certain feelings and traits have been labeled as “masculine” or “feminine.” To be fair, this is helpful in some ways. It is true on average that women tend to exhibit certain traits, and that on average men tend to exhibit certain traits. So perhaps we could say that many men are strong, rational, organized, protective, and like to lead. And perhaps we could say that many women are sensitive, nurturing, emotional, gentler, and supportive. We could add many more traits to this list. This is a helpful way to label the general differences between men and women. Many people delight to poke fun at the differences, to analyze them, to see how the differences cause friction in relationships, and also many see beauty and complementarity in the differences between men and women.
The problem is that societies and people tend to absolutize the traits. Instead of thinking, “many men are like this,” people start to think that “men must be like this to be a real man.” Many of us have internalized and believed these absolutist messages growing up, whether consciously or subconsciously. As a result, those of us who do not exhibit a high number of the masculine traits feel like we do not belong. So we either force ourselves to do things we are not comfortable doing in order to fit in with other boys/men, or we abandon the “male project” altogether. Every man experiences the tension of cultural expectations to some degree but for a few of us this becomes painfully frustrating and overwhelming. Men like myself who gravitate towards crossdressing have greater difficulties fitting into such cultural norms because we often have much less of the traditional masculine traits than the average man to begin with. Similarly, we tend to have a lot more of the traditional feminine traits compared to the average man. The unhappy result is that men like us often go through life with our personalities more stifled and more stretched than the average man. We are much more likely to cause injury to our sense of self.
I believe that it is precisely this type of suppression of self which leads many young men (including myself) to begin to crossdress in the first place, as a secret outlet for many of our suppressed feelings. Crossdressers use the act of crossdressing to feel more like their true selves. The act seems to give us permission to feel “feminine” feelings. For example, when crossdressing we feel like we are allowed to be gentle, nurturing, sensitive, drawn to beauty, attractive, etc. The act seems to bring these personality traits and feelings to the surface.
To pursue this integration method, I argue that we must first begin to think about all of these personality traits and feelings as “human traits.” Often a society will recognize that men can be generally like a,b,c,d,e, and women generally like f,g,h,i,j. But pick out a specific man at random and he might be c,d,e,f,i. Pick out a specific woman and she might be a,d,h,i,j. And in reality, men and women have many more personality traits in common than are different. I affirm the common understanding that if we measured society as a whole according to masculine and feminine traits we might get a bell curve like this:3
My opinion is that a chart like this illustrates well the amount of sameness and difference between the two sexes, men and women. We can see that there are real personality differences between males and females.4 But we can also see that most people fall in the middle. Men and women are more the same than they are different. Some elements of society might want to steer men and women towards the extreme ends of the spectrum, but this is not where most people naturally fall. The first principle of the Integration Method is the understanding that our cherished personality traits are not exclusively “female” or “feminine” in their essence but may simply be more towards the feminine side of the spectrum. They are, in fact, human traits.
The Integration Method itself is the difficult process of discovering and understanding all of our human traits, including the ones some might call “feminine.” Then we determine which human trait crossdressing brings to the surface or helps to enhance. Finally, in lieu of crossdressing, we try to free ourselves to exhibit all of those human personality traits and feelings in the course of our regular male lives. We learn to undo the suppression and embrace the so-called “feminine” traits we cherish in ourselves, while still looking like a man and dressing like a man. To put it another way, the goal of this path is to take our two divided personas – the overly-stretched masculine self of our everyday life, and the secret, stifled feminine (crossdressed) self – and integrate them together so that we possess only one self, a unified self. If we successfully pursue this path, this would mean dressing and identifying as a man, but exhibiting the full range of human personality traits and feelings that are important to us and that we view as part of our identity.5 I actually affirm the statement, “be yourself and accept yourself.” But when I say this, I mean that you should accept yourself fully and completely, including your body and all your personal traits and feelings.
But this sounds easy when it is all theoretical. The reality, I admit, is much harder to achieve. What do we actually do in order to achieve this integrated self? I and my fellow bloggers have written much about this, and space does not permit to repeat everything here. But in what follows I will present a few ways to go about doing this. I want to be honest that these steps will not be as immediately fulfilling as crossdressing. Allow me to use an analogy concerning stress and illegal drugs to illustrate what I mean by this (and please remember that it is certainly not meant to be taken as an exact analogy, nor am I at all suggesting crossdressing should be made illegal). Some people use illegal drugs in order to deal with stress and anxiety in their lives. Such a treatment often works, for a time. There are probably some better ways to deal with one’s stress and anxiety, such as vigorous exercise, journaling, and perhaps even therapy. But these are more difficult. Why not take the easiest path to arrive at the same goal – the lessening of stress and anxiety through drugs? Here’s what I mean. I’m not naïve, and I know that for many the Integration Method will be a more difficult path compared to crossdressing in order to reach the end goal – experiencing certain “feminine” cherished feelings about one’s self. But as I mentioned from the outset, many men have the option taken away from them, or seek to distance themselves from crossdressing because it has become something closer to an addiction. I myself found this method (and giving up crossdressing) to be extremely difficult at the beginning. But now that I look back, I do not regret anything and I have found this process far more rewarding than crossdressing in achieving wholeness.
In fact, looking back, I believe that this alternative path brought about wholeness in a way that crossdressing cannot. In a strange paradox, while crossdressing could have been bringing true “feminine” feelings and personality traits to the surface during that moment, I think it was also causing further suppression of those traits in my normal male persona. From the stories I have read of other crossdressers, it certainly seems that regular crossdressing can in some cases cause people to further divide their sense of self into two personas, with two different names and identities, each with some of their personality traits, but with no one persona exhibiting all of that person’s personality traits and feelings as a unified whole. This is the opposite of a unified self. This is the opposite of a self which has embraced both so-called feminine and masculine personality traits in a healthy way. This is yet another reason why I believe the path of integration is the best path to wholeness and internal peace.
Some of the following steps take courage. In certain ways, it’s easier to crossdress in private than it is to be our true atypical male self in public. My personal feeling is that to continue to crossdress is to give in to the unfair gender stereotypes culture tries to impose upon us. I’d rather resist the stereotypes and champion a way forward for all of us men to be able to be ourselves, without thinking we need to put on a dress in order to fit in.
Some ways to pursue integration:
- Regularly affirm to yourself that masculine and feminine traits are only labeled as such because of cultural generalities. Remember that they are actually “human” traits.
- Think about all of your personality traits and feelings. Explore how you feel and what you are like when crossdressing. Explore how you feel and what you are like when you are not crossdressing. Write down and journal about the similarities and differences. Try to write down which traits most accurately describe your real natural self, when you feel comfortable and are not stretching yourself to live up to other people’s expectations. Now imagine what it would be like to exhibit all of these traits as your one unified male self.
- Make a firm decision to be who you are, and accept yourself as you really are, both your body and all of your personality traits and feelings.
- Every day tell yourself things like, “It is okay that I am a man but want to be beautiful.” “It is okay that I am emotional (or sensual, sensitive, spontaneous, etc.) as a man.”
- Think about what activities you have tried or been trying to do only in order to fit in and make yourself seem more masculine, rather than out of enjoyment. Consider stopping those activities if they are stressing you out because they do not really fit your temperaments or interests.
- Think critically about what activities, hobbies, or jobs you might have enjoyed doing but did not because you felt insecure about doing them as your male self. Maybe you pursued these activities only while crossdressed. Be intentional about pursuing some of them now. These could be things like knitting, ballet, cooking, painting, babysitting, or even something as simple as playing a supportive role in a cooperative video game or board game. Some things that I made a choice to do: I put a picture of flowers on my desktop and I let myself enjoy decorations people might think of as feminine. I enjoy shopping together with my wife for clothing for her.
- Most importantly, every time you get an urge or thought to crossdress, stop and ask yourself what the underlying motivation is. Are you longing to feel beautiful? Are you wanting to let your emotions out? After analyzing the underlying motivation, figure out what you can do instead of crossdressing to meet that need. It doesn’t matter if the stereotypical man would not have that same need. For example:
- If the need is intimacy, you could look for it in time spent with God, your wife, or a friend.
- If the need is to feel beautiful, you can think about how God views you as his beautiful creation, or how you are attractive to your wife. Or you can dress up nicely as a man wearing a fancy suit to make yourself feel attractive.
- If you want to enjoy the curves of the feminine body, remind yourself that this is not the body you have. Practice body appreciation of yourself! An alternative could be showing affection to your wife, or enjoy dressing her up in a beautiful feminine way so that you can enjoy her real bodily femininity.
- If your desire is sexually motivated, see if you can be intimate with your wife instead, or if that need must wait, try to look forward to the next time of being your wife with patience and excitement. Or, depending on your values, you could consider masturbation as an alternative.
- If you need to relieve stress, perhaps you can watch a favorite movie or play video games, or take up jogging.
- If you feel like decorating yourself, you could decorate your house instead or paint a painting. Or you could dress up as a man, but with more stylish clothing. I now wear pink and purple men’s shirts!
- If you want to feel soft and gentle, you could make a cup of tea and wrap up in a blanket on the couch.
I am not pretending that it is easy to know how to meet our needs in other ways. We have to think critically about these things. This list is not exhaustive, but hopefully it gets you started. Find what works for you. Each one of us felt different things while crossdressing, and so what we will each need may be different.
Whether these are truly feminine needs or traits that we cherish does not matter. Some of us grew up with terrible stereotypes of women that we now reject as educated adults. But we may have still suppressed a part of ourselves based on those stereotypes we grew up accepting. In fact, it may be we crossdressers who originally had the most internally absolutized views of masculinity and femininity, male and female, which led us to suppress parts of ourselves in the first place. So even if you now know that a certain trait or activity (like knitting) is not technically feminine in essence, it might be still something you suppressed previously and should now accept in yourself.
In the course of unifying our inner self through the Integration Method we might, on occasion, find that there are some “feminine” needs or feelings that we cannot achieve apart from crossdressing. If this occurs we might try reevaluating whether it really should be a need in our life in the first place. Is it really necessary for our happiness? Or is there a way we can redefine it or look at it in a new way? For example, perhaps I have the feeling of being carefree when crossdressed. I do not see how to get that feeling in any other way. But after careful thought, I can now see that real women actually do not necessarily have innate feelings of being carefree. This may be true in advertisements, but not in real life. In real life women have to take responsibility for their actions, and their lives can be hard and stressful and unfair. Recognizing this allows me to reexamine this desired feeling and come to the conclusion that that is not a feeling I should be trying to achieve anyway. I should instead be trying to be a responsible adult who is not always carefree.
Although this method requires real effort and perseverance, it has the potential to achieve for you much of what crossdressing was doing for you. This will allow you men in these terribly difficult or dangerous situations to give up crossdressing, so that you can keep your lives, your marriages, or your jobs and still keep your “inner femininity.”
But pursuing the long term integration method is only half of the solution. Men in these situations are hard pressed to quit crossdressing right away. How can that be done? Actually, after hearing my story, many crossdressers have wondered with some incredulity: “Is it really possible to stop crossdressing?” But I insist that it is possible to stop crossdressing if you really want to. This is simply logical and I’ve seen many other active crossdressers admit this as well.
We all have free will and we can make choices about what we will do and how we will live. Of course, we do not have the power to choose to instantly remove our longings to be the opposite sex, or to remove the internal impulses to crossdress. But we can indeed choose whether to crossdress or not, and whether to use time in fantasizing about our longings. All of us have thousands of desires and thoughts going on inside of us every day, and they regularly change due to our experiences, cultural expectations, and relationships. And of course, many of our desires are in conflict with each other. For example, we might desire a piece of cake but also desire to lose weight. We not only have competing desires on little issues, but on huge issues as well, such as relationships, which new job to take, and whether to transition or not.
It is impossible to fulfill all of our deepest desires, and that is okay, especially since some of them are harmful to ourselves or others. Every day we choose what we most want to do and act on it, while at the same time we choose not to act in other ways. But none of our desires need control us. If you really desire the path of integration and contentment that I am proposing rather than the path of crossdressing, then you can truly stop.
But it is difficult stop. I know from experience. Here are some basic suggestions that may help you to successfully stop:
- First, make sure you really believe you can stop. Do enough thinking and study about this so that you come to the point where you really believe it is possible. Otherwise you are unlikely to succeed.
- Second, make a firm decision to stop. Do not be wishy washy about it. The urge to crossdress will surely come, and you need to be ready to tell yourself you have already made a concrete decision to stop.
- When an urge comes, do not suppress it. Face it and deal with it. Remind yourself of the decision you made to quit. Consider the RAIN approach. “R – Recognize what craving feels like. A – Allow it to be present without pushing it away, allow it to come up, do its dance and fade away. I – Investigate what craving feels like in my body right now with curiosity. N – Note craving as it comes and goes along with tension, yearning, and tightness in the body.”6
- Find purposeful things to do in your life that will be fulfilling to keep your mind focused on other things (new job, church ministry, volunteering, travel, etc.). When the urges to come, consider distracting yourself until the urges die down. Hobbies, walks, weight lifting, video games, and even naps have worked for me. My favorite is to find beautiful clothing for my wife to wear for me.
- Try to decrease the number of triggers in your life that make you think about or want to crossdress. This could mean spending less time alone, less business trips, avoiding certain stores in the mall, avoiding certain websites, etc.
- Ask your wife to keep her clothes put away nicely so that you are not constantly seeing them over the floor or chairs.
- Consider finding an accountability partner or support group who will encourage you and help you to quit.
- When you fail and crossdress, tell someone else. Don’t let the failure paralyze you from continuing to try. Dust yourself off and keep on trying. Change is hard, but possible.
- Keep reading about crossdressing in books or at websites like mine. The more we understand ourselves and our desires, the easier it is to control those desires. Just be cautioned that thinking about crossdressing often can be a trigger.
But maybe you are thinking: “Quitting crossdressing does not seem any easier than the difficult work of integration! It hardly seems worth it.” I’ll be honest, I did find it hard at first. But I found it to be very worthwhile and I would make the same decision again 100 times over. Is it worth it for you? Well that of course depends a lot on what pressures you are facing to stop crossdressing. In some ways, only you can answer this question. Are you willing to keep living in fear? Are you willing to risk your marriage for the pleasure of crossdressing?
Unfortunately from my perspective, most crossdressing websites and books will tell you that the only way to deal with crossdressing urges is to continue to crossdress, or even to pursue hormonal or medical treatments to go further. And they usually advocate that doing this is so important, that it should be pursued regardless of opposition or consequences such as losing a job, a relationship, or a spouse.
Although these messages are well-intentioned and given out of love to spare others pain, I do not think that suggested path will necessarily heal people from their pain and gender discomfort. Firstly, while pursuing crossdressing might provide some pleasure or fulfillment, the potential loss of spouse or job could be devastating and add a great amount of pain. Secondly, I would say from personal experience that are crossdreaming longings cannot ever be fully satisfied. The more I crossdressed, the more I wanted to crossdress. The more womanly I looked, the more I “needed” to do to try to look even more womanly. I just could not sate those desires. Even in an ideal world where there was no danger and all of our spouses celebrated our crossdressing, if we went the far step of undergoing medical treatments to change our bodies, we still would know we are XY males who were not truly born females. It is a thirst that I believe we can never fully quench. And it is, I think, universal wisdom that when we focus on and spend our time longing for something that we cannot truly obtain, we will be discontent, frustrated, and less happy.
Giving up crossdressing and pursuing the path of integration can actually be more rewarding in some ways. The more we can accept ourselves for who we are, without changing ourselves or our bodies, the happier we can be. The more we can have an integrated and unified identity, with ALL of our personality traits being allowed, the happier we will be. However, I’m not going to make any false promises or guarantees. If you give up crossdressing, but do not do the hard work of integration, then perhaps you might not be as happy as if you were crossdressing. Crossdressing surely gives a temporary rush of endorphins and nice emotional feelings. But for me, after putting in the hard work, I am completely happy without crossdressing and do not miss it at all. It was one of the most important decisions of my life and that decision has given me regular feelings of freedom and joy. And I gave it u while not giving up any of my so called “feminine” traits.
As I conclude, I want to offer a few tips about learning contentment. Contentment is a form of happiness or satisfaction. It is a happiness obtained from accepting our situation, even if it not an ideal situation. If we can learn to accept that there are certain things in our lives that we cannot change, and stop focusing on those things that we cannot change, we can become more satisfied and happy, or in other words, more content.
The men I am writing to are in very difficult situations. There are certain things that they cannot easily change. They cannot make their wives enjoy their crossdressing. They cannot easily change an oppressive country. They cannot crossdress in public for various reasons. They cannot truly become the women they long to be. I propose that if we stop focusing on these things we cannot change, and rather focus on making our lives the best they can be in our current situations, that we will be happier.
Here are some ways we can pursue contentment:
- Accept the truth that your body is part of who you are and that you truly cannot change it. Let that reality sink in.
- Think about what is positive about your body and focus on that. Focus on the positive traits about your character and personality. Find joy in being yourself even if you are atypical.
- Celebrate your maleness by trying to look good and dress in a way that flatters your body.
- Every day focus on making positive changes in your life, the things that you are in control of changing.
- Cultivate gratitude, rather than envy. Do not let yourself give in to fantasies and thoughts of envy towards others. Resist thoughts of bitterness, resentment, or anger about your life.
- Focus on building others up every day instead of focusing on yourself. This is more fulfilling and the way to find a joy filled and happy life.
The serenity prayer is a good summary of these steps:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
The path I am advocating is not easy. It not only takes the work of learning self-control, but the hard emotional and intellectual work of understanding yourself and your inner motivations. It takes work to learn to be content with your body, and to integrate all of your personality traits. It can be a long journey until you come to full self-acceptance. But for many of us this may be the best path to freedom and happiness.
1. While this writing may resonate with some women crossdressers, I will refer to men throughout for simplicity and clarity. I have more understanding about men who crossdress, being one myself.↩
2. This article will not address addictions of a sexual nature, such as the combination of crossdressing and masturbation (which can often be similar to a pornography addiction). Such men also might have reasons to want to give up crossdressing, and they can find many posts, resources, links, and tools on the rest of this site that can help them.↩
3. Graph taken from the article, “The Masculine-Feminine Continuum,” by Caroline Turner.
4. Some argue that these differences are purely due to cultural expectations. Others argue that they are due to the differing biology of the sexes. Most now recognize it’s not nature or nurture, but nature AND nurture. I think there are real biological differences between men and women that play a big role in their personality traits and gender expression, but I also believe culture and environment play a big role as well. It is outside the scope of this article to pursue the current research on these questions. More importantly for this article, however, is that disagreements about the nature/nurture debate does not affect my basic point about accepting all parts of our personality and integrating them together, rather than trying to conform to cultural stereotypes.↩
5. A couple of friends who also gave up crossdressing give excellent further explanation of this integration process in these blog posts. It would be fair to say that I learned it from them.
6. Judson Brewer, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor (Adjunct) of Psychiatry; Medical Director, Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic. http://yourbrainonporn.com/simple-and-powerful-tool-yale-professor-judson-brewer-recommends-skilfully-handling-our-urges↩
Here are 4 articles at porn-no-more.com that give really good concrete practical steps to kill a pornography addiction. They are good steps at resisting temptations and triggers and steps for how to overcome the addiction. If you are like me, you were not addicted to pornography but rather to crossdressing videos, pictures, and stories online. Even though the issues are quite different in some ways, the nature of the sexual addiction is largely the same. See my post on crossdressing is like pornography. Therefore I’m sharing these articles to help all of us whether we struggle with pornography, crossdressing media online, or both
1. Create a Porn-Free Environment – This article is about limiting the easy accessibility of pornography in your home.
This tip – “Just get the stuff out. Box up tapes, DVD’s videos, CD;s, computer files and cable porn channels,” I would compare to the need to purge the female clothing in your house as well. Purging gets a bad name as people say, “you’ll just go back to it later, and waste money.” While that might be true in some unfortunate cases, the same thing happens to alcoholics, drug addicts, and porn addicts. And surely if those people were trying to quit their addictions we wouldn’t say, “oh but you’ll just go back to it later so don’t bother getting rid of the temptations.” That would be a ridiculous and an evil statement. Not purging the crossdressing paraphernalia is like keeping a fire in your house and hoping it doesn’t burn you or the home.
This tip – “Change your e-mail address,” is important for crossdressers too, perhaps more important than for porn addicts. So many people have signed up to my email prayer chain without changing their email addresses, thus still going by their female names. They regret it later and they just end up changing their email address a little bit later. But this is such an important transition to make in the recovery process. How can you let go of the false identity you created if you continue to go by the name of that false identity?
This tip – “Display motivational photos on your computer. Pictures of your family or a photo of your church or minister will do. Pick any images that remind you of why you’re doing what you’re doing,” is a good one too. In the case of crossdressers, I suggest finding a really good photo of you and your family. But especially important is that you look good in the photo, as a man. This will remind you of your real identity as a man and help you to be proud of that identity.
2. Get an Internet Filter Now! – I have one friend who smartly has many features locked out on his smart phone. To use certain websites and features, his wife has to be the one to deactivate the security program. Only she has the code.
3. Dealing with those damn cravings – Of course as a Christian I advocate other tools and strategies for resisting temptations, besides those listed in the article, such a prayer, Scripture memorization, etc. But the tips here are really helpful as well.
4. What to do when you want to quit porn – The first tip is about getting an accountability partner. I have had several, but I have had one man keep me accountable consistently for about 10 years. I don’t know what I would have done without accountability partners. Without them, I’m sure I’d still be in the throes of addiction.
We can stand our ground, brace ourselves, learn self-control, and resist in the face of strong urges to crossdress. But that gets tiring. So many crossdressers that come to this site try quitting and they find that they can do so. But they just get weary and say, “how long will I keep having to face the urges to crossdress?” As I’ve written about before, I don’t think the urges will ever fully go away for most of us. But that doesn’t mean they won’t lessen. I have experienced a great reduction in my crossdressing urges. They are perhaps about 10% of what they were 6 years ago, which is nothing to sneeze at. Many things have helped me to even desire crossdressing less and less. I have blogged about many, and will blog about more in the future.
I was reminded about the most important one recently when listening to a sermon by Pastor Francis Chan. I don’t have a link for it. But he had a great illustration. Think about those times when you are driving and a friend is in another vehicle and tries to get your attention. They wave, honk, and do everything they can but you don’t notice them. You only find out later that they saw you and were trying to get your attention. But your attention was 100% focused on the road, trying to drive safely and not get in an accident, 100% focused on getting where you were going. Chan likens this to our Christian life. We are all of us constantly bombarded by temptations to sin, whether it’s for sexual immorality like pornography or crossdressing, or other sins like greed, pride, and selfishness. But if we focus on God, we will notice those temptations less and less because our attention is fixed.
I have found this to be so true. The guys that come here and just sit at home and thinking about the temptations, end up failing and giving in. We have to have our focus on other things. If you focus on the temptations, you give them power. I’m not saying to suppress them and pretend they aren’t there. But if you are tempted, acknowledge it, choose “no” and them move on and think about other things. The more we have purpose in life and good things to do, the more we are pursuing Christ and his Kingdom in all aspects of our lives, the less that stupid things like crossdressing will be a draw for us.
If we are bored by life, depressed, not having anything productive to do, focused on ourselves rather than God, feeling alone, feeling worthless, feeling purposeless and drifting through life, that is when we will notice all the temptations to crossdress and feel like we must give in, or grow weary in resisting.
This has been my experience. When I am focused on God, his great love for me, my love for him, what Jesus did for me on the cross, when I am focused on Christ’s Kingdom and my place in it, running the race, helping people, preaching the Word, volunteering my time, and doing productive work, that is when I am filled with joy, that is when temptations don’t even seem to be there at all. It becomes easy to resist, because I don’t even notice the urges.
Men, let us find our purpose and joy in Christ, and pursue him and his Kingdom. It’s like the old hymn, Turn your Eyes Upon Jesus –
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
I found this a really helpful article, dissecting what temptation really is, and giving us inspiration to fight it, just as Jesus did.
How to Resist Temptation’s Mirage Moment – at Desiring God.
I love this statement near the beginning. How many times have I crossdressed because it seemed to promise me happiness? Only to discover afterwards that it brought nothing but discomfort and guilt.
Temptation is a disorienting, defiling experience when evil is presented to us as good. Destruction comes dressed up to look like happiness. Sin only occurs when we believe that the destructive lie can actually grant happiness.
Like any addiction, crossdressing always disappoints, but yet it always seems to call us back, and we hope each time that somehow it will be more fulfilling than last time, and so we do it again, but again it disappoints.
Our disoriented emotions begin to respond to this desire with a feeling of hope — hope that maybe this time, even if we’ve been disappointed many times before, the oasis will quench our desire. But we know that God has told us it is a false hope.
This last statement is great advice. I think it is a powerful exercise to do when tempted to crossdress. Why is it that I really want to crossdress? What is this actively falsely promising to fulfill for me? What is the activity really offering to me?
We must ask ourselves what the mirage is really promising? Sometimes just saying it out loud breaks its spell.
We must continually remind ourselves of God’s commands and God’s promises and the truth of God’s Word. We must not let our desires or our emotions control our lives. We will find true peace and happiness in God, not in sin.
Here are a couple very helpful websites by a sexual addiction therapist, Dorothy Hayden, LCSW. She has worked with many people who have had the compulsion to crossdress. Perhaps some of you would be helped by her therapy. I can’t speak from experience as I do not know her, but I have read many of her articles and I really have appreciated what I have read! Her therapy is not done from a Christian perspective, which of course I see as great downside, but I think her techniques could still be helpful to deal with the crossdressing behaviors and compulsion.
Here are two of her websites each with a plethora of great articles to read:
I really like the approach to therapy that I see here – Sex Addiction Recovery Approach
So many of the steps outlined are things I have discussed on my blog many times, but not in such a logical consistent order as she outlines it.
This quote is interesting and helpful – “Sexual addiction recovery is a life-long process. It moves you out of a narcissist position where your needs are imperative and only see others as need-supplying objects to where you are capable of true self-love. Personal authenticity enables you to have empathy and compassion for others and allows you to take genuine pleasure from giving love rather than always being a self-centered taker.”
I’ll post some other interesting quotes from her many blog posts and articles. Reading these quotes and thinking about crossdressing hits really close to home. Certainly crossdressing is one of the many types of dangerous sexual addiction.
Dorothy, I have to disagree with you on your answer here. I think that most of us are not struggling with gender dysphoria (though certainly some of us are), but rather we are still attracted to women as men. It’s just that we have unintentionally found an erotic shortcut, being attracted to a pseudo woman we can manipulate and control rather than a real flesh and blood woman. Of course other factors are involved with how we developed this – possible trauma, a way to relieve stress or feel comforted, belief in rigid gender stereotypes, etc. Unfortunately gender dysphoria sometimes comes in later over the years, as the pseudo woman starts to become a more important identity than our identity as a man. This does lead some crossdressers to eventually get sex reassignment surgery even though their crossdressing started as a sexual addiction.
“He is able to “undo” traumatic experiences from childhood, he meets needs for pseudo-connection, he uses sexual fantasy to release pleasure-producing endorphins in his brain, he is able to meet needs for breaking taboos, for novelty, to ward off fear of intimacy, among other functions of the sexual behavior. As you can see, sex addicts use sex to meet needs that can’t be met by sex.”
Fantasy is the fodder of a person in the “Erotic Haze”. In many cases, sex addicts perform some form of ritualized behavior. This usually precedes a sexual activity. For example, an addict may cruise in a car for hours looking for just the right sex worker. He gets pleasure from the ritual.
When the sex addict is in this mental state, his needs are what matter most of all. He feels no anxiety about responding to the needs of another. There is no fear of closeness, vulnerability or rejection. To him, nothing feels as if it is a compromise. All that exists is the pleasure of the sexual fulfillment. It is the only time in a sex addict’s life that he knows perfect control over the “other,” and this is distinctly unlike what he experienced as a child.
After 15 years of working with sex addicts, I have concluded that it is not sex – per Se – that is the object of the addictive attachment, but rather it is the state of sexual arousal that most addicts find so compelling. Orgasms are rarely the goal. As a matter of fact, people purposely delay orgasm because the aftermath can involve experiences of disillusionment, emptiness and shame.
Once you’ve entered “The Erotic Haze”, your ability to control your behavior becomes nil. Acting out becomes an inevitability. However, there are a number of stages you go through before you arrive at that state. You don’t get “struck” acting out. It doesn’t come out of the blue, compelling you to take immediate action. The purpose of understanding the sex addiction cycle is, with mindful awareness, to know you’re in one of the beginning phases and to apply newly learned coping skills before you drown in the quicksand.
Rituals are a critical part of any kind of deviant arousal template. The ritual itself becomes a fetish, capable of engendering sexual excitement and release it itself.
The exhibitionist walks through certain spots at certain times, cruising for the same type of woman. The transvestite carefully lays out woman’s clothing and lingerie on the bed, looking at them for a period of time before he dons them. The clinical literature talks about “the masochistic script”. To all appearances, the “domme” is in control. In reality, the masochist calls the shots. The room needs to be arranged just so. The type of clothing the dominatrix wears is dictated by the bottom. Often, even verbal and physical humiliation needs to follow his exact script, or he is disappointed in the scene.
This last part about rituals was really interesting to me. I have spent hours before doing google searches for crossdressing stuff but not allowing myself to actually go to any of the links. I was fooling myself at those times that I was not giving in to the addiction. But I was. Somehow I was getting pleasure just by doing the beginning stages of the ritual, which would otherwise have been google searching and clicking through to the links.
There are many more articles and blog posts that she wrote that I would like to share here, but I will save some of the better ones for later so you don’t have to try reading so much at once. She has some very good resources for you at both sites, whether you are struggling with pornography, crossdressing, other sexual addictions, or a combination of many of these.
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.