Nobody knows about my struggles with cross-dressing — not even my spouse. But I can’t seem to control it because of the pleasure I get when I wear women’s clothes. The pressure to keep my transvestism hidden is intense, and I can’t shake a sense of guilt.
It took courage to open your heart to us, and we don’t take your trust for granted. We respect your honesty and vulnerability, and we want to come alongside you in any way we can.
At the outset, we want to let you know that Focus on the Family is a Christian organization that draws its beliefs about human sexuality from the Bible. As context for answering your question, then, we need to look at some basic Christian principles. (Sometimes non-Christians feel that a biblical view on topics such as sexuality seems random and arbitrary. But our perspective is a logical outgrowth of examining what God intended within His created design.)
What the Bible says about human sexuality
Scripture tells us that the distinction between male and female is foundational to our identity as human beings created in God’s image. Also, it makes clear that sex is the Creator’s gift to a husband and wife within the exclusive bond of marriage. The following thoughts are based on these biblical doctrines that have been integral to church teaching for two thousand years.
There are at least three ways that cross-dressing falls short of God’s design for healthy sexuality:
Cross-dressing is non-relational
God created sexuality as one way for a husband and wife to connect relationally. Sexual expression, then, is a tool for intimacy rather than an end in and of itself.
This is very different from current cultural views that emphasize self-enjoyment. If an erotic sexual experience is the ultimate goal of a certain action, then “self-enjoyment” becomes merely a hedonistic pursuit aimed at personal pleasure rather than a means of deep, intimate human connection.
Cross-dressing is addictive
When endorphins and other hormones such as oxytocin are released through sexual expression, these neurochemical changes draw a couple together.
For example, the effects of oxytocin are experienced through skin-to-skin contact and are responsible for the human feeling of closeness. When this feeling is experienced in the context of a marriage, it acts as a “glue” — causing the couple to feel closer and work toward greater commitment.
However, if sexual arousal happens with inanimate objects (such as clothing) or through masturbation to pornography, oxytocin only serves to “glue” the person to more of the same behaviors. (This is the theory behind “behavioral addiction” or “process addiction.” In such instances, a person becomes addicted to their own brain chemical responses that develop as a result of repetitive actions.)
Cross-dressing can mask underlying negative emotions
When someone turns to erotic sexual behaviors that are empty of human relationship and only serve to find a “high” in their own brain chemistry, there are usually two underlying motives: pursuing pleasure or avoiding pain.
It’s not hard to understand why someone might engage in these behaviors simply for the sensual pleasure they produce. However, sometimes the motivation is what we call “eroticized emotions.” What does that mean?
When a person experiences negative emotions (such as loneliness, insecurity, anxiety, or hopelessness), God intends for that person to face those feelings directly and address them in healthy ways. Often, that will be in the context of appropriate human relationships.
But when a person can’t be honest with themself about negative emotions (or when they don’t know how to effectively resolve the emotions), they sometimes turn to less appropriate ways of making the feelings “go away.”
Engaging in these behaviors tricks the brain into thinking that negative emotions have been dealt with. In reality, though, they’ve only been masked. They’ve been pushed below a person’s consciousness and disguised by elevated brain chemistry that comes from erotic behavior.
Cross-dressing isn’t the same thing as transgenderism or gender dysphoria
It may also be helpful to point out that some people confuse cross-dressing (an expression of transvestism) with two related but distinct issues:
- transgenderism, where a person experiences internal perceptions of gender that are different than their biological sex, and
- gender dysphoria, where a person experiences distress about feeling transgender.
Some people cross-dress because they are sexually aroused by fabrics, materials, or garments traditionally worn by the opposite sex. These individuals are not necessarily experiencing transgenderism or gender dysphoria.
On the other hand, people who are sexually aroused by thoughts or images of themselves as the opposite sex (when it’s more about gender identity than clothes) are more likely to overlap with transgenderism or gender dysphoria.
Would you let us walk with you?
Transvestism, transgenderism, and related issues are extremely complex in nature and origin. Some individuals report being influenced by hurtful or dysfunctional circumstances in their childhood. Others say they started feeling confused about their sexual identity in childhood or adolescence. And then their uncertainties were heightened by the open and experimentalist attitudes of our post-modern society.
Regardless, be assured that our purpose in talking about these concerns isn’t to judge people. Instead, we want to offer help. For people who’d like to pursue change, we want to help them follow God’s guidance and find wise counseling. Those steps can help them live in line with their Creator’s plan and design for their given biological sex.
Of course, overcoming any kind of compulsion or feelings of anxiety takes time and gentle care. The task isn’t simple, and it doesn’t have a quick fix. But God cares deeply about you, and He’s always open to your prayers. He desires for you to become the person He designed you to be. An intimate and growing relationship with your Heavenly Father has the power to bring about lasting transformation from the inside out.
We strongly encourage you to look for a qualified licensed Christian counselor. Preferably, they should have experience working with individuals in similar circumstances — and they should be compassionate, empathic, and willing to listen.
Not sure where to start? Call us for a free over-the-phone consultation. Our licensed or pastoral counselors would welcome the chance to hear your story and help you take the first steps toward healing. They can also suggest referrals to ongoing support from qualified counselors and Christian therapists in your area. In the meantime, the resources and referrals below can be helpful.
If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.
Overcoming Sexual Brokenness (resource list)
Healing From Sexual Abuse (resource list)
Transgender Resources (resource list)