For most of us, crossdressing was (or still is) a sexual addiction. It’s good to understand what it is, why it is a problem, and how to get help. This resource at Psych Central is brief but helpful. Here is a link to the first page – “What is Sexual Addiction?” But please don’t overlook that at the bottom of the first article are about 7 more articles connected to the first one, such as about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of sexual addiction. There is even a quiz you can take to see if you have an addiction. Sometimes we delude ourselves and don’t think we have a problem. Give these pages a quick read, they might be helpful for some of you.
I know many pastors and Christian counselors and wives of crossdressers are finding my blog, probably in hopes of finding help in ministering to crossdressers, transsexuals, or people struggling with gender dysphoria. I can tell this by looking at the search terms people use when they find my blog. I know that I’ve written a lot on my blog and it can be daunting trying to figure out where to start. So I thought I’d make a one stop shop, one big post for those pastors or wives or caring friends, people who don’t struggle with crossdressing themselves, but are trying to help someone else with one or both of these conditions. Feel free to comment below with suggestions, comments, or questions in case you are still confused or unsure about something after reading this post.
First, what is crossdressing? What is transgenderism? What does “transsexual” mean? What is gender dysphoria?
Definition of Terms
I’ll let this great link from Parakeleo answer these basic questions for me: FAQ’s. Their FAQ page is extremely helpful and will give you all the main facts that you need to know. The only thing I would add to the definitions is that in many people there is great overlap between the many issues involved: sexual orientation, sexual/gender identity and dysphoria, transgenderism, and crossdressing as sexual addiction. Most people don’t fit cleanly into the categories. It takes many crossdressers years just to figure themselves out, and for many of us, we have both the sexual aspect of crossdressing as well as some gender dysphoria. In others still, it could begin as a sexual fetish (being attracted to the fake woman in the mirror), but over time become less sexual and turn into desire for a complete sex reassignment surgery.
We don’t really know what causes these addictions or cases of gender confusion. Part of my work on this blog has been to wrestle with others trying to figure out what caused us to be the way we are. We have a lot of interesting ideas and theories, but little certainty. Some of the triggers could be biological, some could be the environment and family setting, some could be the person not fitting into gender stereotypes of the culture, some could be personality, and some could be certain key experiences of crossdressing during puberty which misplaced our sexual desires for girls onto ourselves instead. We really don’t know. But even if we knew the cause, this would not necessarily change our response and form of treatment.
The rest of this post will talk about your response and about types of “treatment.” If you are looking for an academic treatise about treatment for crossdressers, you could begin with a site like – this. While I believe certain types of psychological conditioning or medication could be helpful to some crossdressers, I don’t see them as a necessity for someone to quit crossdressing and find healing in his heart and mind. In addition, oftentimes medication only helps to reduce temptations and symptoms, but doesn’t get to the root psychological and spiritual causes of the problem. I am not an expert, not in the least, about the medications involved to treat a crossdressing addiction or gender dysphoria. So the rest of this post will focus on the other aspects of your response. In my case, I did not find healing from my addiction through secular therapies or techniques, nor through medication. In the rest of this post, I will focus on what I believe are the most important ways for you to help crossdressers or transgendered individuals. The power of the truth of God’s Word, the grace we receive in Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, together are more than enough to deal with this painful issue.
Scary Strange Topic?
Hopefully some of your feelings of fear or strangeness about this issue has worn off now that you have read all that good information from Parakeleo. Please remember that the man (or in less frequent cases, the woman) you are trying to help likely did not choose to have these feelings in any way. Remember that Jesus responded to sexual sinners with love and compassion and forgiveness. Remember also your own sins that you don’t feel like telling anyone about, and think of the great courage it took for this man to share his struggle with you. Or if his secret was accidentally found out, imagine the shame and fear he must be feeling. Try to put yourself in his place. Be a good listener. As with other issues like homosexuality, the Church needs to be careful in its response to this issue. See this post next to get yourself in the right frame of mind – Church’s Response to homosexuality, crossdressing, transsexualism. If we don’t respond well, we can contribute to the shame, isolation, and persecution of crossdressers and transsexuals. This is a serious issue given the high suicide rate of transsexuals – Suicide prevalence among transsexuals and crossdressers.
For wives, if you are feeling betrayed and no longer trust your husband, or are feeling like the marriage is at an end, please hold on. Keep up your hope. Keep trusting in the Lord. I will address wives directly and the difficult of such feelings in a special section for you at the end of this post.
Now that you’re ready to listen well and give empathy, also be firm to stand on the truth of God’s Word. Don’t judge the morality of this complicated issue of crossdressing based on your own feelings or the culture’s view. Look at it objectively. See the destruction this addiction or confusion has caused in the man’s life before you. Crossdressing may have always seemed harmless to you, but now you know it isn’t that simple. See this post to understand why crossdressing is far from harmless – Summary of why crossdressing is sinful/harmful.
How can you help?
Be a good listener and be patient. It might take some good time for the crossdresser to figure out his own feelings, and his own beliefs on the subject. He has to want to get help, he has to want to stop, and he has to want healing from this condition. You cannot force him. So be patient, keep listening, and point him to good resources.
First of all, you can point him to my blog’s page of all my blog posts – Full Blog Post List. He will have hours and hours to read about this topic if he wants to. And you can point him to my blog’s page of helpful links of many different organizations, recovery tools, articles, and other blogs – Links, Resources, and Testimonies. And you can invite him to join our prayer and accountability group, of about 50 other men (though some have come and gone as they beat their addiction), who are together quitting crossdressing, resisting transgenderism, and trying to be content with who we are, and recover from our brokenness caused by these addictions and confusions. Email Prayer Group
It is good for you on the one hand to think of crossdressing as an addiction like alcoholism. So the way you would help an alcoholic as a pastor might be very similar to how you could help someone struggling with crossdressing. You should expect several failures before abstinence. You should expect a family intervention might be necessary in some cases. You should understand the need for accountability, prayer, and encouragement. You should understand how important it is for you and the family members to repeatedly give encouragement and forgiveness, as the man goes through the process of quitting. You should realize that getting out of crossdressing and masturbatory addiction is as tough as getting out of a drug addiction in many ways.
Set goals with him that are achievable. If he can go cold turkey, great. This is certainly possible and probably the best approach. Otherwise set increasingly better goals until he quits completely. Celebrate the successes. When failures come, help him deal with failure in a healthy way so that he doesn’t wallow in despair and shame, but finds new motivation to have self control because of God’s grace and forgiveness in his life. Encourage him to work hard to quit. Perhaps he can memorize Scripture that will help him during times of temptation, or journal when tempted so he can write down and describe his feelings. See this post for more practical things he can do – No more half measures.
Much of your ministry will actually be focused on caring and supporting and listening to the pain of the spouse. In addition, you will be in a position to help them work through the complications this causes in their marriage. Here are some of the most important issues you will be in a position to help with as a pastor: forgiveness, confession, repentance, rebuilding trust, going to God in our pain and suffering, setting boundaries, accountability, understanding the crossdressing or gender dysphoria from a theological perspective, help for reducing temptations, help in fighting temptations, etc.
However, when gender dysphoria is put into the picture, the treatment and the way you can help such a person gets a bit more complicated. You will have to help him sort out identity issues, what it means to be a man or woman, the biblical importance of our bodies, and learning how to be content with being a man. Remember that some people may struggle with both crossdressing as sexual addiction and gender dysphoria, or they might not even be sure how to describe their struggle until they read more. As I list helpful resources, blog posts, and articles below, I divided them into two categories. Some of the articles talk about both issues, but I’ve only put them under one of the headings. You may want to look through both lists for this reason.
Here are some of the posts and articles I recommend you and he both read if he struggles with crossdressing as a sexual addiction.
Other articles not written by me:
The Transvestic Career Path – Interesting article about how one develops into a transvestite or crossdresser. Talks a lot about the internal marriage that is created where the crossdresser functions as both husband and wife. Very helpful for understanding what crossdressing and transvestism are really all about.
Randall Wayne’s testimony about overcoming crossdressing
My Un-ordinary life – Blog written by a wife of a crossdresser sharing her painful experiences
RAIN approach – Simple and effective tool to resist urges and temptations when they come.
Here are some of the posts and articles I recommend you and he both read if he struggles with gender dysphoria and transgenderism.
Articles not written by me:
The Transgender Triumph – Long informative article about transgenderism’s history in the US.
Understanding the Transgender Phenomenon – Analyzing transgenderism from a Christian perspective.
The Psychpathology of “sex reassignment” surgery – Assessing Its Medical, Psychological, and Ethical Appropriateness. By Richard P. Fitzgibbons, M.D., Philip M. Sutton, and Dale O’Leary. This is a interesting and convincing academic article about why doing such surgeries is unethical and is actually mutilation.
The Transgender Con? Many “Transgender” People Regret Switch – Helpful article talking about people who have detransitioned and why, and it dismantles some transgender ideology.
For many more articles, testimonies, organizations, and resources see this page – Links, Resources, and Testimonies.
Helpful Bible Verses
One of the best and main things you can do as a pastor is to focus on the Word of God together. And you can do this even if you are still struggling to understand crossdressing and transgenderism! God’s Word can bring wonderful transformation to anyone regardless of what kind of psychological or spiritual issue they face. The man you are helping will likely find a lot of resources on the internet and from counselors about crossdressing and transgenderism. Likely he knows more than you already and if not, will certainly know more than you soon. Honestly, he will probably learn so much about the science, sociology, and ramifications of crossdressing and transgenderism that soon he will be talking about stuff that is over your head and out of your expertise. So stick to what you know, that is God’s Word, and help him to see and understand the theological side of the issues. Here are blog posts of mine that reflect on how God’s Word relates to these issues. You could meditate together on several of them each time you meet. And pray pray pray, when together, and pray for him regularly on your own. I cannot emphasize the importance of regular prayer and Scripture reading enough.
Other articles not written by Me:
Body Modification – Article/sermon about body modification in general and how Christians should view their bodies. Connects various issues together under one theme – transgenderism, crossdressing, tatooing, transableism, anorexia, etc.
Spiritual Warfare – Sermon by Tim Keller, helpful ideas for resisting Satan’s schemes to accuse us and tempt us to sin.
Consequences: Divorce and Church discipline
I do believe that crossdressing or trying to change our bodies to appear as the opposite sex are both sinful activities. That means that if someone persists in these activities there will be consequences.
While I believe divorce should be a last ditch effort after all other possible solutions have been tried, I do think divorce is permissible in these cases. If a woman is married to a man who is persisting in trying to become a woman, this is marital unfaithfulness to a very perverted and distorted degree. It is abandonment of the marriage. The woman did not agree to marry another woman. And if the man is persisting in crossdressing as sexual sin, this is sexual sin no less than adultery or pornography. He is lusting after the false woman he made of himself. It is marital unfaithfulness. If a husband regularly failed from time to time, but always repented and always kept working on quitting, I would not consider this grounds for divorce. Divorce should be avoided at all costs, and it is important to do all possible to counsel the wife and help her to forgive the husband and rebuild trust. There is sin and brokenness in every marriage. A wife’s first gut impulse might be fear, rage, disgust, and so she may start thinking about divorce immediately. Help her to be patient, to forgive, and to do all that is possible to work on the marriage and help the husband repent and change, before even thinking about a divorce. If a divorce becomes necessary because the husband persists in sin, with no repentance, for example if he starts living full-time as a woman, then the wife should be counseled that she is not doing wrong in getting a divorce and should not be mired down in guilt. But even in these cases, continue to work with the couple and pray for change, for the husband may come to senses after being apart from his wife for a brief time, and there may be a possibility for reconciliation.
Besides the issue of divorce, there is the issue of church discipline. This is something that most churches in the US have simply stopped doing in general, although many churches around the world still continue to do loving, gentle, and effective church discipline. I’m not going to give a whole treatise on how to do church discipline. But church discipline is a long process of calling people to repent and step out of sin. Excommunication is only the very last ditch step after all other efforts of discipline and discipleship have failed. And church discipline is not to be undertaken when someone sins, but only for the sin of unrepentance. If someone repeatedly sins but they do not repent and do not try to stop, even after repeated confrontations by church members and church leadership, then this can and should lead to church discipline and even excommunication. Just as I would put someone under church discipline who refused to repent of adultery or pornography addiction, I would put someone under church discipline who refused to repent and quit crossdressing. But even if this last terrible step happens, the idea is still for the person to realize their sin, come back to the church, receive assurance of grace, and the whole church can celebrate together that they’ve been restored.
For you wives
You are in a terribly difficult position if you are a wife of a crossdresser. All people are sinful, all people are broken, and so therefore all marriages have some degree of brokenness. But I feel more pity for you than for the average spouse in painful marriages. The reason is that this issue is so little understood, so strange, and yet our culture is so accepting of it. Instead of celebrating husbands who repent of their crossdressing and reconcile with their wives, our culture celebrates those husbands who get sex-changes and then remain married to their wives as “women.” It is a sad state of affairs we find ourselves in.
But please, don’t despair, don’t give up hope. There are resources out there to help you. First of all, you may feel free to vent, to get advice, and to ask for prayer on this page – Wives of crossdressers chat.
You have a difficult road ahead of you. Jesus promised that if we followed him as his disciples that we would suffer. That is the reality of our lives, and often the more Christ-like we are, the more we will suffer. Sticking with your husband and continuing to love will cost you. But the good news is that Jesus is with us through the presence of the Holy Spirit! He comforts us with his Word. He gives us strength and power to persevere. He gives us his love and compassion and mercy! And we know that we have a sure and wonderful hope of eternal life with our Lord God, forever and ever, with no more pain, tears, or suffering. And we know that our God is powerful enough to even use suffering to achieve something good in his plan! (Romans 8:28). So we continue to do what is right, even when it is hard, knowing that God is shaping our character, and accomplishing good things in our lives and in this world in his sovereign plan.
You will also need to struggle to identify and repent of your own sins. As you hate the sin in your husband, be sure to look at the sins in your own life (Matthew 7:1-6). He didn’t choose what he would struggle with, and neither did you. And don’t forget pride is a sin God hates just as much if not more than sexual sin. God is quick to forgive, but those with proud hearts are far from God. The Pharisees lived rightly but were far from God in their hearts and were slow to forgive sexual sinners. Jesus warned them of judgment.
Yet in the end, it is true that what your husbands are doing is sinful and they chose to do it, even if they did not choose to have the original desire to do it. They have hurt you. They have betrayed you. They have broken your trust. They have disgusted you. They have caused you great pain. They have sinned. Remember that even more than sinning against you, they have sinned against God (Psalm 51:4). They have rebelled against the design of their Creator which is far more serious than what they did against you. They are guilty, and you don’t need to beat about the bush when talking to them. They did wrong. Although you must avoid a prideful attitude, and must avoid judgment without mercy as I talked about in the above paragraph, you still must be able to state clearly that what your husband did was wrong.
If he argues with you and says that it is not wrong to crossdress or live as a woman, then there is little you can do besides pray and point him to resources and books like my blog. Have him read my arguments for why crossdressing is sinful and harmful. And express to him that even if crossdressing is not essentially wrong (which I believe it clearly is), it is still hurting the marriage and therefore still a betrayal of trust and harm to you.
Whether or not your husband repents, your main job is to work on your own heart. Whether or not your husband repents, God calls us to forgive. And it is no light matter. I will be blunt. Jesus says if you don’t forgive others, like your husband, for their sins, God won’t forgive you. This is something repeated over and over by Jesus in many statements and different parables. Someone that has truly experienced God’s forgiveness for their own sins will be someone who forgives others for their sins. The debt we have to God is infinitely bigger than any debt people owe to us. If we are not willing to forgive, than we are not people who have been transformed by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, we are not people who will be forgiven. What is forgiveness? It is not making excuses for your husband, it is not making yourself forget what your husband did, and it is not pretending that your husband didn’t do wrong. Forgiveness means moving forward, continuing to love your husband, wishing well for him, and leaving the judgment for his sin up to God. Forgiveness is about your heart giving up your bitterness. It is still possible to forgive but have consequences remain in a marriage. It can take a while to rebuild trust even when there is forgiveness. (Another example of a consequence: A wife who was abused by a husband can truly forgive but still not go back to living with her husband in danger). Forgiveness is not always instantaneous, sometimes it’s a process, but your first priority with God is to work on forgiving your husband.
I think you will need a support system. You probably don’t want to go around telling everyone about your husband’s secret struggle, and I’m sure your husband doesn’t want you to either. But get permission from your husband to tell one friend, and your pastor (or counselor). You have to have people you can talk about this openly to, people who can give you advice, walk through this suffering with you, and pray for you. Many wives that have talked to me told me that their husbands did not want them telling even a pastor or friend, and in some cases threatened them angrily. Each situation is different, but I really think you need the support. In cases where the husband is continuing in sin and not repenting, I think the wife should talk to someone even against the husband’s wishes. Use your wisdom. You could do this in secret, or you could say to your husband, “you are continuing in sin, and being unfaithful in our marriage, I cannot live like this and I need to get counsel and support and wisdom from other people, so you should know I am going to tell the pastor.” I say use your wisdom because you don’t want to put yourself in danger, but if possible you should give your husband a chance to hear that you are planning to tell someone and maybe he will change his mind and talk to the pastor together with you.
You will have to have an honest and clear discussion with your husband about the breach of trust and betrayal that you feel. You will have to discuss how that trust can be rebuilt, and give him hope that it can be rebuilt. Discuss together how you are going to move forward, both in marriage, and also how your husband will move forward in fighting the addiction, getting help, and healing from this struggle. You’ll have to set some standards of improvement that you want to see. Discuss these together. Don’t give him ultimatums. That is not a healthy process for recovery. Together discuss your action plan of how you will move forward in faith and hope. Together discuss boundaries, ideas, how the sexual relationship might change, accountability issues, how you will spend time in prayer and Scripture reading together to rebuild the marriage, etc. Have hope. Have optimism. Although it’s hard to find such stories on the internet, lots of men have recovered from crossdressing addiction and marriages restored. In fact, going through such a struggle like this together can actually build up your marriage so that it is stronger than most other marriages around. I speak from experience that mutual suffering in marriage, being real to each other about our darkest secrets and struggles, and moving forward in faith trusting in God, can do a lot to build a firm foundation in a marriage.
You CAN recover from this. Your heart CAN heal. Keep going to God. Rely on him for strength. Keep reading his Word. Keep praying. Keep spending time with Jesus. Keep loving your husband and encouraging him. You can heal. The marriage can heal. Transformation can come. At the end, you’ll be thankful you stuck it out and you’ll see the power of God’s amazing grace and love in your marriage and your own life and your husband’s life.
What can you do or not do to help your husband recover from this addiction and confusion?
I will give my ideas, but they are only my opinions. It’s good for you to talk to your friends, your pastor, and talk to God and read his Word yourself, in order to have good guidance for what is best for you to do.
Here is a post I wrote about an article that talks about a wife’s role in her husband’s recovery from sexual addiction – Article – The Role of a wife in your recovery. It’s important to figure out how much you need to know the details about his struggle and what details are best left unshared. See the post for a fuller explanation.
- Pray together with your husband regularly that God would help him overcome this addiction. But pray about other regular life stuff too.
- Read God’s Word together with your husband. Grow together in faith and knowledge of God. Be transformed by God’s Word together.
- Especially in the beginning of your husbands attempt to quit this addiction, help him to reduce the amount of time he spends alone. This will greatly reduce the amount of temptation he will experience until he gets through his sort of “detox” stage. Once his body is used to going without crossdressing for a while, it may start to become easier and he might have more self control during alone times.
- Affirm your husband’s manhood verbally. Be creative in how you do this. Make him feel good about being a man. Help him remember that he is a man.
- Affirm your attraction to your husband as a man, including your sexual attraction to him. If necessary, remind him that you are totally turned off and disgusted at the thought of him crossdressed, just like he would be if you crossdressed.
- Encourage him to be a good father and to set a good example for your children.
- Encourage him to grow a beard. It’s very hard to convincingly crossdress with a beard. And it will help your husband to feel more manly especially if he knows that it is attractive to you.
- Buy nice clothes for your husband or with your husband to help him enjoy looking good as a man.
- Be a good listener as your husband reads this blog and comes to understand himself better.
- Encourage him regularly.
- Do not constantly ask him if he has been crossdressing. Limit yourself to once a week at most. It helps to have one time set aside regularly every week where you both know you will pray for the marriage and talk about any issues in the marriage. This way you don’t talk about hard things every day which can destroy all the peace and happiness in a marriage.
- Be conscious of your clothing. Don’t leave it lying around. When the clothing is on you, he will not focus so much on the clothing but be attracted to you. But when he sees your clothing by itself he may turn to crossdressing thoughts. Don’t leave underwear or skirts lying around. Have a good plan together about the laundry bin. Keep your drawers and closet closed.
- Be mindful about things that specifically trigger your husband to temptation. It’s different for each man, and some of the things might make no sense to you, but try to be helpful anyway. For me when my wife wants me to wear an apron when cooking, that is something that can lead me down a path to sin in my mind, and crossdressing in real life the next day. But to her she cannot understand why this would be an issue. For some men it might be you being playful with him putting hair ties in his hair, or other feminine things. To other men, it might be you as a wife wearing high heeled shoes that are a trigger. Do you care about your husband enough to alter your wardrobe? You should.
- Avoid movies and television shows that have even 5 seconds of crossdressing in them. If you have some movies, like comedies about crossdressing, even if they are your favorites, get rid of them immediately.
- Assure your husband regularly that he is forgiven in Christ. Assure him regularly of your forgiveness and continued love as well.
- Don’t become your husband’s accountability partner. This is a dirty task. Your husband needs someone he can give all the detailed shit to, and this should not be you as the knowledge would only harm you and the marriage. If you told your husband every nasty sinful thought you’ve ever had would it help him? No. You each need an accountability and support partner who is not the other person. An outside person can tell your husband, “you need to love your wife in this way and this way” which is more powerful than you being the only one to tell him.
- Challenge your husband to grow in holiness. If we are true Christians, we must be growing in our sanctification. It is the evidence that we have been truly saved. If your husband has been stuck in a cycle of crossdressing, repentance, abstinence, crossdressing, repentance, abstinence for a long time, challenge him to take some new steps to get out of the rut and get rid of crossdressing for good. He can read my blog for new ideas.
- Encourage your husband to read my blog. Encourage your husband to join our email prayer group through this blog.
- You don’t want your husband to foolishly think that he is the only sinful person. You as a wife are messed up too. It’s easy for your husband to wallow in shame and guilt thinking he is the worst person in the world. It helps him to remember that you are sinful and saved by grace too. Confess your sins to him too even if they are not sexual sins.
- Continue to have sex with your husband. It helps to realize that rejection of him can fuel his desire to go to the other woman (himself). Furthermore, having sex with you is the best way for him to recondition his body to desire a real woman instead of the fake woman of himself. This suggestion might seem like a lot to ask of you in your painful situation, but if you are going to try to save the marriage, this is one of the most helpful things you can do to help him change.
- Help him to see that he is not really a woman, no matter how he might look. Help him to recognize the self-delusion. Help him to realize that there is more to being a woman than wearing make up and a dress. How dare he think that is what it means to be a woman. He doesn’t have the body of a woman. He did not grow up being treated like a woman. He doesn’t know the pressures a woman faces. He doesn’t know the pains and joys of menstruation and pregnancy.
- Focus not on the crossdressing but on the good things in your lives. The more you spend all your time focusing on the problems, the more miserable you will be.
- Find good ways for you both to spend your time, so you are thinking about other good things, and so your husband has good purposeful things to do with his time. Then he can focus on those things instead of desiring crossdressing. He can have good meaning in his life and less time to waste on sin. Get new hobbies, have fun together. Volunteer together to help the poor. Minister in church together. Join Bible studies together. Join community groups.
- Have hope. Encourage. Be optimistic. Celebrate changes. Be thankful for small graces that God gives. Be thankful for every good change you see. Rejoice in the hope of the New Creation, of eternal life when God will COMPLETELY HEAL our brokenness and remove every stain of our sin. Be patient. Jesus will come again. Persevere as you wait.
That is the end of this long post. Please feel free to comment with suggestions, criticisms, comments, or questions. May God help you and use you as you minister to his children.
I just finished reading, “The Man Who Would be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism,” by J. Michael Bailey. I thought it was an excellent read and is definitely one of the more helpful books/articles I’ve ever read for understanding myself and my crossdressing more fully. My main disclaimer is that the author’s perspective on homosexuality, crossdressing, and transsexualism is far more morally neutral than my own. He has a different worldview. But I want to recommend it to you so that you can understand these issues and yourselves better. He tackles them from a social perspective and a scientific perspective, explaining many things that I had not realized before or talked about on this blog. My second disclaimer is that I definitely do not agree with all that he wrote, and I don’t necessarily wish to defend his research methods, nor do I wish to defend all of his theories or statements. I’ll explain more as we go.
Some of you may know, some of you may not know, that Bailey is a super controversial figure when it comes to these topics, and his book is extremely controversial. Some people love it, some people hate it, some people view it as a mixed bag. Some people claim that Bailey and his science have been completely discredited, and that his research methods were unprofessional. Others say he did a good job and regardless of any faults, his theories were correct. Others say that all the accusations against him were false and concocted. One thing is for sure, if you agree with his theories (or Ray Blanchard’s theories which he draws on), you will receive a hate-storm from many transsexuals. Just do an internet search and you can find countless articles and debates about these figures and their books that will keep you reading for hours.
You would think that in a country that prizes free speech, we could discuss theories like this peacefully and with curiosity and tolerance. But any talking about these theories usually meets with stiff resistance. Yet I venture in anyway. I already have had people threatening to try to get my blog shut down because of talking about these theories before, so why not continue? I think most of what is in his book holds true, is convincing to me, and helpful for understanding myself and my friends. Does he make things a bit simplistic at times? Yes. Does he say some things that might come across as insulting to some people? Yes. But in general, I found it a really helpful book.
Bailey’s book does not only deal with crossdressing and transsexualism but also with homosexuality. I learned a lot about homosexuals, what they are often like, and what struggles they face. I thought I already knew a lot about that issue, but I learned even more. Let me tell you a couple things I learned about homosexuality. One is that homosexuals really do tend to be more feminine, which puts them in a really difficult position because they are attracted to what is masculine. This leads to femmephobia among homosexuals. They do not like what is feminine in themselves or in one another, even though that is what they are naturally born like. I learned that many of the stereotypes people have about gay men hold true, they do “tend” to walk a certain way, talk a certain way, and act more feminine. But like all stereotypes, these are stereotypes and don’t ring true for every individual. Bailey’s view is quite interesting. He observes that many transsexuals are actually gay men who are naturally feminine, but feel like they could better attract a masculine heterosexual man as a woman, than a masculine gay man as a feminine man. Some may argue with this, but it was really interesting and thought provoking.
Let’s move on to some of his theories about crossdressers. Here is Bailey’s contentious view in summary – “Those who love women become the women they love.” He affirms Ray Blanchard’s theory that there are two types of transsexuals. There are those who are homosexual like the type of person I spoke of in the above paragraph. They are naturally feminine, usually start living as girls at a younger age, they are able to pass well, and they are attracted to men. And then there are those that are autogynephilic. Some of you probably know this term already if you read other websites about crossdressers. The term itself is quite loaded and leads to feisty debates. I have usually avoided such technical language in most of my blog posts to be able to communicate to a general audience of people who are struggling. But it’s a good term and theory to be familiar with – autogynephilia. From wikipedia – “Autogynephilia (/ˌɔːtoʊˌɡaɪnəˈfɪliə/; from Greek αὐτό- (“self”), γυνή (“woman”) and φιλία (“love”) — “love of oneself as a woman”) is a term coined in 1989 by Ray Blanchard, to refer to “a man’s paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman.”
In other words, autogynephilic men are sexually aroused by the image or idea of themselves as women. This could be through fantasy or actual crossdressing. I would fall into this camp. Most of us are not naturally feminine (though of course I would say there are exceptions). Most of us didn’t truly want to become girls when we were just young boys (though if you are like me, your fantasies about crossdressing started at a very young age). We are attracted to women and most of us are married. For many of us this tendency to crossdress remains a sexual addiction but doesn’t go further. For others of us, we continue down this path to the point of living as women, getting surgery, and becoming the women we love so much and want to be. The claim is that if a man becomes a woman later in life, or after being married already, he is probably one of these autogynephilic crossdressers.
In general I think Bailey and Blanchard are right on when describing these two types of transsexuals. Before I started to become familiar with the theories and these researchers a few years ago, this was the idea I had just from reading the stories about crossdressers and transsexuals online. It seems pretty obvious just from my personal experience alone that most of us fall into one of these two camps. Now, where I differ from them perhaps, is that I would never say that ALL of us fit neatly into one of these camps. We are all complex and messed up people. We are broken and confused in a myriad of ways because of our sin, because of our genetics, because of our upbringing, and because of our environment and different experiences. So no, I do not believe that all of us fit neatly into one of these two categories. There are going to be exceptions and people with other combinations of feelings, sexuality, and gender manifestations that won’t neatly fit these categories. But broadly speaking, I find these theories to be convincing and true to my experience and what I’ve read about others’ experiences.
Bailey talks about two sub-types of men with autogynephilia. There are those, like me, who are aroused by the idea of crossdressing as a woman, that is, to look like a woman with clothes on. Then there are those where their fantasies are more focused on the body. They have fantasies of being nude women. He says it is those with the nude fantasies who usually are not content until they get a sex reassignment surgery. They can’t just crossdress to disguise themselves. They are obsessed with the idea of actually having breasts or a vagina. This seems to make sense, but as I’ve counseled so many men on these issues and read so many blogs and stories, it seems that it is more than just these people who are getting the surgeries and living as women full-time. I think there are many who only had the crossdressed clothed fantasies, and spent so much time rationalizing their behavior and their “inner woman” that they fell in love with the new identity and continued in it. They want “her” to be real so badly that they become “her”. That reminds me of this article.
Bailey says that these autogynephiles who try to live as women and think they are attracted to men, are not actually attracted to men, but just the idea of having a man attracted to them as a “woman.” That is, the arousal is focused on them thinking about themselves not someone else. I imagine some people find this really offensive, and maybe it’s not really true, but it makes sense to me, as I’ve had similar fantasies while reading crossdressing fiction.
Bailey isn’t sure what causes us to become autogynephiles. I am glad he admits this. He thinks it is innate but doesn’t have a good argument for this and admits it. He mentioned a story of a crossdresser with a father who also crossdressed. He says we are not at all close to identifying the real causes.
One interesting thing he talked about was that crossdressers on average have more paraphilias, especially masochism. This was disturbing to read about, but again it rang true in myself. If our sexuality has been diverted, and misplaced, so that we are attracted to self, it’s not difficult to imagine our sexuality has been warped and broken in other ways as well. This would also explain why crossdressing fiction sites are some of the most disturbing places on the internet to go, filled with stories of masochism, sadism, infantile fantasies, incest, exhibitionism, and other strange fetishes.
Bailey claims that most crossdressers deny this sexual component, and that they are lying to themselves and others. They want to portray themselves as multi-faceted, courageous, and empathic to their wives especially, to show that they are having courage enough to portray their inner femininity, which sounds a lot better than saying your sexual attraction is misplaced from others and instead to yourself. A lot of people have taken issue with Blanchard and Bailey for accusing crossdressers of lacking such integrity and accusing them of lying. I want to be slow in accusing crossdressers of lying, and yet at the same time, I know how much I allowed myself to be deceived while in the throes of crossdressing, and how much I even purposely deceived myself in order to rationalize my behavior. I have seen such self-deception many times. So I don’t think what he is saying is a stretch. When we are faced with looking at ourselves truly and deeply, of course we would not want to admit that such an important part of ourselves is just a misplaced broken sexuality. That would force us to deal with it and try to get help. But if we claim it’s a part of our soul that needs to be brought out, then we and others can’t tell us to stop.
Bailey is a researcher and as such he doesn’t make many moral claims or many suggestions about what the various types of people he’s discussed should do and how they should live. He personally doesn’t hold out much hope for change or happiness for people with gender dysphoria except for them to get surgery and live as women.
This is where I differ the most. I have been resisting my crossdressing desires, and over time those desires lose their power and my attraction to real women grows. It’s a process of healing, but it’s very possible. I have experienced tremendous change, and you only have to read some of the comments on my blog, or join our prayer group, to find out how many men there are who have also experienced great change and healing (both of Blanchard’s types have found help). The situation is far from hopeless. Bailey, as far as I can tell, is not a Christian, so I’m not surprised that he sees no hope for change. Without a Christian worldview, it would be hard to believe there is much hope for any of us in our brokenness, whether it’s selfishness, greed, sexual problems, marriage problems, etc. But we know that in Christ, we are not left alone in our brokenness. But I would also go so far as to say that even without a relationship with God, you can still overcome and heal from crossdressing. It’s not so terribly difficult as people would have us imagine it to be.
So in conclusion, if you want to understand yourself more, please read this book.
Written by Alec
My name is Alec. I am a recovering sex and lust addict getting my thrill through crossdressing, rather than porn or strip clubs. I basically have the same story of most 53 year old closeted crossdressers. I got interested at puberty and with so much acting out over the years, it’s a miracle I am still alive. I have had high blood pressure, jumpy heart nausea and light headedness from this, plus severe exhaustion, withdrawal from people and severe anger tantrums or just being unpleasant to people when getting interrupted from it. It’s been written, many times on CD support sites about how crossdressing is not an addiction. They are right but neither alcohol or drugs are an addiction. It’s in the way something gets continually used and abused.
So I know I have this condition and how do I fight it? Sexaholics Anonymous helps a bit. I go to four meetings per week. But no one else has an addiction that comes from crossdressing. It helps me to come out of the closet in a different way by admitting I have this addiction, instead of dressing up to come out of the closet.
I tested a hypothesis before, hearing from CDs on how getting out of the closet reduces the anxiety and acting out because you’re living your fantasy. So I said to my SA group, “I’m going to go home, dress up, maybe go out to a safe place, however, no acting out or lusting whatsoever, before, during and after dressing up.” So I did. My reactions were paranoia of being watched, feeling out of place, boredom and when home the severe tension and anger felt when one can’t act out. I could motivate myself to not act for several hours but the urge be too strong. And of course, what happens following ejaculation? Guilt, shame and the women’s clothing immediately comes off, unless I’m so exhausted from acting out that I can’t even move. I tried this many times and I find it impossible to dress in women’s clothing without getting turned on. Each new clothing article I would put on, wig, makeup, raise my voice, etc….would just make me act out harder and after doing that keep finding new ways to increase the thrill so I would turn to the internet and objectify trans women. Then just go back and forth. But that’s enough graphic description as that may trigger some of you.
The key to stopping is to following the 12 steps for addiction and coming out, verbally that you desire to stop, telling someone you trust, maybe confessing to a Christian preacher and keep working at it. You will slip a lot in the beginning but have to work at it one day at a time, some days it’s even an hour at a time, and get a sponsor. Two sayings we have in SA, is “we’re looking for progress, not perfection” and “keep coming back, it works if you work it, cause you’re worth it.”
Stay away also from the crossdresser or transgender websites. They’re all support sites of CDing, etc…And will tell you this is not an addiction, “it’s just the way you are”, “you’re just needing to express your feminine side”, etc.. .which just become new excuses to act out in a new way, or they’ve tried Sex Addicts Anonymous before, or the Bible doesn’t condemn crossdressing. Getting on a crossdressing website is like an alcoholic going to a fraternity party where they live on beer.
Look around you and see that the world isn’t perfect, that there’s a ton of miserable women out there. There is no utopia on earth.
In reading the Bible I can apply enough passages to see crossdressing is an unholy activity. Start with Deuteronomy 22:5. It speaks it literally and in an earlier translation too and Paul spoke often of sexual perversion. I wonder if he himself was a recovering addict of some kind.
Anyhow, to stop, abstinence seems to be key.
What do you do to relax on a Friday night? Have a drink? Watch the telly? See a show? Much to the bemusement of my wife, recently I chose to polish my shoes. No matter how hard I tried to explain why I enjoyed it, my wife couldn’t understand and in the end exclaimed “well, it makes sense because it goes with your whole shirt and tie thing.” In saying this, she was simply recognising that I take a certain amount of pride in my appearance. It was for me a reminder of how much I have grown away from CD in recent years. I want to explore briefly what has happened to create this change – in summary I call it Becoming the Man God Wants Me to be.
I must state that I am not totally free of CD. I still have temptations. But I hope that the story of the start of my change will help you. We are all individuals with unique stories and reasons for CD, so take what you find helpful.
Before we married, I told my wife about my CD. What helpful stuff I did find online, I forwarded to her. I told her I had started as a teen and had been trying for about five years to stop. Although I managed to stop at points using a ‘manly’ pulling my socks up effort, I would end up binging with greater falls and risks each time. This continued in marriage: within a year I had binged twice. Both times my wife found something, and my secret was laid bare. I think it took me both times see how hurt she was, and therefore how much it cost for her to forgive me. I also hated the secrecy that surrounded CD: this is something I saw through counselling, and was another motivation for me to quit.
I went to counselling primarily for porn addiction, but I also opened up about CD. My counsellor told me to observe the times when I used porn and CD. A few months later I concluded that they often went together. For a while I theorised that one led to the other, then theorised vice versa. I then theorised I should stop theorising, because I realised that my depression played a part, in that when I was feeling low I was most likely to use porn and/or CD. I was searching for meaning in my day-to-day life, and was using these things to help make me feel something positive. For example, I had a particular dress I wore at night (when my wife was working): I reasoned that it made me feel peaceful and calm, and so I would sleep. Similarly, I had other clothing that I would wear when working at home because I felt more comfortable than I did in jeans and a shirt. In short, dressing made me feel good, and it felt right. I had a sense, though, that it wasn’t. I knew God should be my ultimate source of comfort, but my action in dressing didn’t reflect that. I had found the truth in Harry Schaumburg’s statement that “sexual addition isn’t just an issue of sex or even of external behavior. It’s a by-product of loneliness, pain, the self-centered demand to be loved and accepted regardless of the consequences, and a loss of vital relationship.” (False Intimacy: Understanding the struggle of sexual addiction). Through Schaumburg’s book I realised that I was addicted: I would go to any lengths – driving to the other side of the city – to buy things. I thought I could control my CD; I thought that if I dressed, I wouldn’t go on to masturbate, even though perhaps 9 times out of 10 I did. I thought I could keep it secret. My thinking was what Schaumberg calls ‘rationalisation’. I felt CD met a need in me. But I realised through this book, counselling, and my wife’s example that, far from meeting it, it destroyed good things that God gave me.
My need was this: to be accepted, to be able to be me, to have a purpose. I began a quest to tackle these in a proper way. I asked God to help me. I read about what it means to be a Godly man. I re-read Disciplines of a Godly Man. I saw my wife’s forgiveness of my actions. I asked God to help me be able to praise her. I saw and began to accept that I am a man, that He created me a man, that He gave me a gift in my wife, a woman. Spelling this out and dwelling it out made me ask God – “ok. I get that I’m a man now. So how am I to become the man you want me to be?” And that’s why I summarise my growth as BTMGWMTB.
About a year after my counselling finished, I received some cognitive behavioural therapy to help with my depression. Some of the tools help CD. For example learning to have down/’me’ time. As a Christian, I believe God gave us this earth to enjoy it. But I often felt guilty if I went out with friends or did things without my wife. As a result I wasn’t doing any of the things I really wanted to do. Of course, you have to make sacrifices. But when I discussed, for example, that I wanted to go to a writer’s event, this brought us closer together. Performing there and meeting others gave me an enormous boost to my confidence, and I have made some friends. And as my confidence grew, I turned to writing as much as CD, and then after a while turned to writing more and more. I replaced, bit by bit, the harmful with the good. It took a while, but I came to learn that if I didn’t do these things, I was more likely to feel low, and so I was more likely to CD.
I also know I need to look after myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. If I do not, I cannot hope to resist any temptations. Of course, I still fail. But I do myself no favours if I do not sleep well, eat properly, read and pray, keep physically fit. Three words: Traditional wet shave. I listen to podcasts while I shave. Learning about God and how to trust him, while feeling in tune with my ancestors, giving me confidence in both Him and externally. shaving is now a process I look forward to. This small step helped me take more pride in my appearance and opened up the world of male sartorial.
Two years ago, I was wearing the same band t-shirts I had been wearing for the last 8 or so years. I only updated my jeans when I really had to. And then, noting how good I felt at a close shave, I decided to update my wardrobe, little bits at a time. I started with belts and beanies (it was winter). I bought new winter shoes. As I received a few compliments, I kept going. Now, this has never been my motivation, but it did break down the stereotype that a man can never be interested in his clothes. Now, I am no fashionista, but I see clothing as an opportunity to use God’s gift of creativity. I think He gave me an eye for woman’s clothes, and now I am using it within the bounds of being a man. I have as many casual shoes as my wife has (if not more…), and love choosing them according to mood/occasion/weather. When I dress well, it helps to give me confidence. I know that God is my ultimate source of confidence. But a full windsor and a crisp shirt all lined up at the gig line, and sleeves rolled up properly (flat, no bunching, three finger widths wide, please), and shoes you can use as a mirror also helps.
Yes, I still have a long way to go. But bit by bit, God is teaching me what it means to live out my calling as a man. Psalm 139 says “how blessed I am, so bound with love, surrounded yet so free.” (New Scottish Hymns). I used to think that when I CD’d I was free to be who I wanted to be and that being a man was so restricting. I have found the opposite. It is only within the bounds of God’s love am I truly free, including from CD.
This was a helpful article by Kevin DeYoung at Gospel Coalition – 15 Ways to Fight Lust with the Sword of the Spirit.
The beginning of the article is downright depressing, about how many pastors are giving in to sexual immorality, especially on the internet. I understand and know the problem very well even though I don’t struggle with pornography. I certainly struggle with other temptations. It’s depressing thinking about so many pastors giving in to sexual sin, and yet I also remember Romans 7, that we all do what we don’t want to do, and we are broken, sinful, and will continue to struggle with sin until Jesus comes back. I expect all of us to struggle and fail at times. What scares me for real is the pastors who have the habit of sexual addiction in some form, but they aren’t fighting it or repenting of it. That is very serious.
DeYoung’s Bible passage commentaries are very good. This is a good little devotional.
I am only troubled by #1. It’s easy for Scripture to say to rejoice in my wife, but what if she doesn’t rejoice in sex, but rather only does it because she has to? The marriage bed is not a delight for everyone, and for those of us that have a problem in that area, it sure makes it even more difficult to not give in to temptation. But resist we still must. It’s hard, but – is possible, and Jesus is coming back soon, or we die soon. Either way the struggle is short compared to eternal life. Also DeYoung’s 2nd passage and commentary addresses this concern.
#5 is a comfort to those of us with unwanted temptations. Temptations are not the same as giving in to temptations. We should not judge ourselves for the temptations, nor let others judge us for them. And yet, we should be continually growing in our relationships with God and holiness so that the temptations get weaker and weaker and disappear more over time. In the path of sanctification, not only our actions should change, but gradually our affections and desires should change as well.
#8 is difficult for those of us with a crossdressing temptation. We can get led astray by looking even at a woman who is not particularly attractive just because of her clothing. We get led astray by the internet and television which are hard to go without these days. Even all the news lately triggers us when talking about transgender issues. And we can’t very well ask our wives to put a lock on her closet and the laundry bin. Temptations are there and we must do what we can to minimize them, but ultimately we need self-control because we can’t remove all the temptations.
#15 is a good reminder for hope for change. It CAN happen.
Many people have made the claim that I advocate suppressing your crossdressing desires. I do not actually make that claim. It is not healthy. We must acknowledge that those desires are there, and consciously choose not to act on them. If we just try to ignore the thoughts, sometimes that only makes them more powerful. And if we try to deny to ourselves that we really have such feelings, they will come out in an unhealthy explosion later. No, we should not suppress them. We need to acknowledge them, deal with them, understand them, and then choose not to act on them.
This article from – Your Brain on Porn – talks about to deal with temptations in a healthy way that does not involve suppressing them.
When I get tempted to crossdress, I use this “RAIN“approach from the article, without consciously thinking about the acronym. I feel the temptation come. My body starts feeling weird and tense. I recognize that, yes, I do have a desire to crossdress. I then might even explore that desire. What am I really desiring? Do I desire to read crossdressing fiction? Do I want to wear women’s clothing? Or maybe I just am wanting a sexual release and crossdressing is the easiest way to get it? Or sometimes maybe it’s not about the sexual release, and something about the “femininity” is attracting me. So I don’t push the desire away. I think about it and try to understand the underlying motivations for that desire in that moment.
Once I understand it, then I choose to reject it, and apply the proper real solution. If it is that I’m bored, I find something productive to do. If it is that I need sexual release, I will plan a time of sex with my wife, or if she is gone on a trip, then I may masturbate (I use that one sparingly). If I am lonely, I will go spend time with God or another person. If I’m feeling stressed, I will find comfort in God’s Word. If I’m feeling bad about myself, and my masculinity, and desiring to be a woman, then I’ll combat the lies in my head with logical truths from God’s Word, about what it really means to be a man or a woman, and then seek contentment in the real situation I am in, knowing that I cannot really change my sex.
I think if many of you use this method, you will be able to calmly and rationally say “no” to temptations.