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 some wisdom about how to best do this and some general tips. In every case of telling someone, 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 have actually done to another person takes away all the false rationalizations that may have built up in my head. It makes crossdressing less powerful and enticing even before the other person speaks in response to your revelation. For months or years after telling someone, crossdressing no longer seems powerful or something I can’t control. 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. 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. It is also a matter of integrity. You have committed to share your life with your wife. To not share with her is a sin of omission, deception through omission. Be an honest person, a person of integrity.
Do you need to tell her every twisted thought that enters your head? No, of course not. But to hide this huge aspect of your identity, your personality, would be dishonest and even a betrayal. She deserves to know about this. Even if crossdressing was only something in your past, she still deserves to know, and remember that there will still be future temptations. Though you are forgiven by God in Christ, your past history still shapes so much of your 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, there is another reason you need to tell her, though not the most important reason. She needs to be aware of her actions so that she doesn’t inadvertently tempt you to sin through kinky games in the bedroom or leaving her clothes lying about. 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 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. Whenever my wife and I share our deep struggles with one another, it strengthens our trust, forgiveness, love, and commitment. Whenever Christians come together in giving and receiving confessions, grace, and forgiveness, it is a powerful spiritual moment of connection. For both you and your wife, I suggest you read this post – Giving Pastoral care to a crossdresser or transgendered person.
When you share with your wife, be ready for the shock that will be on her face. She may need time to process and think before immediately responding. Be ready also for the feeling of disgust she may have when picturing what you describe to her of your past actions. Be ready also to have long conversations in the following days and weeks, helping her to understand, and reassuring her in the face of her many fears and questions. Be ready to apologize on your knees and ask for forgiveness. Be ready to commit to her to never fail again, commit to getting more help from other people in your struggle if you need it, and ask her to never let you crossdress again.
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 also. 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 my post 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. Print the post out for him to read. 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 was not a negative experience. He helped me to deal with temptations, looking at strategies he himself had used to give up smoking. 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.
I have experienced many of these friendships. These friends and friendships are priceless gifts from God. Such openness and vulnerability is amazing. The accountability and encouragement you can receive through these are wonderful. You are missing out if you don’t have relationships like this. If you don’t, you need to cultivate them. Slowly build trust. You have to be intentional. If you never start opening up, they may never open up either. Be intentional and you can have the joy of these friendships. You can be fully known and still accepted. Your years of fear and isolation and loneliness will melt 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.
- 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 experiencing same-sex attraction), 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. 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.
- 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.