I know many pastors, Christian counselors, and wives of crossdressers are coming to my website, probably in the 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 website 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. (At the outset, I want to suggest reading an article that is similar to my post, that will also give you a helpful introduction to giving pastoral care to someone experiencing gender dysphoria – Discipleship and the Transgender Convert: Issues and Proposals).
First, what is crossdressing? What is transgenderism? What does “transsexual” mean? What is gender dysphoria?
Please see this post – Definitions of terms and labels
You will also find good help from a ministry named Parakaleo who made an FAQ. Go here, then search for FAQ about midway through the document.
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 knowledgeable 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 a little about the basic terms and definitions. 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 painful feelings you are going through 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 – Reasons Crossdressing is Sinful and 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. 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 and Resources. And you can invite him to join our prayer and accountability group, of about 60 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. Online 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 a couple 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. ou 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. Be aware that transgender activists and the general culture wants to place people neatly into these two camps – that people are either crossdressers for sexual reasons or they are transgender. But the reality is far more complex, and I would argue that most men transitioning to living as women today also began their crossdressing as something they did for sexual pleasure. 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.
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. It talks a lot about the internal marriage that is created where the crossdresser functions as both husband and wife.
Randall Wayne’s testimony – About how he overcame crossdressing.
Testimonies – Guest posts on my blog in which other ex-crossdressers have shared their testimonies.
Here are some of the posts and articles I recommend you and he both read if he struggles with gender dysphoria.
Articles not written by me:
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.
Joan or John? – Article from the Gospel Coalition
For many more articles, testimonies, organizations, and resources see this page – Links and Resources
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 enough the importance of regular prayer and Scripture reading.
See here for all my posts which reflect on Bible passages – Bible blog posts. See especially my series called “Helpful Bible Verses.” Here are some of the other most important posts on Bible passages:
Consequences: Divorce and Church discipline
I do believe that crossdressing and 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 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 USA 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 transition to live as women and then remain married to their wives as “women.” Worse, women who do not tolerate their husband’s crossdressing are made out to be bigoted villains. 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 in the wives section of our Forum. There is also a Private Prayer Group for wives.
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 around 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 like my blog and helpful books and articles. Have him read my arguments for why crossdressing is sinful and harmful. And express to him that even if crossdressing is not sinful (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, for to do so would put herself 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. You may divorce your husband for his unfaithfulness because of crossdressing, but you still have to forgive.
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 had their marriages restored. I’ve counseled many of them. 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. Mutual suffering in marriage, being real to each other about your 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, 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 a wife’s role in her husband’s recovery from sexual addiction – 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.
- Encourage your husband to get help from a pastor or a counselor or both.
- 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.
- Make sure he has gotten rid of every last item of female clothing that he had stashed away.
- 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. Plus it will help you to help yourself so that you do not let yourself worry and be anxious constantly wondering if he has failed again.
- 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. Maybe wearing an apron triggers him. Maybe doing the laundry triggers him. Maybe you playing with his hair triggers him. Maybe your daughter is doing something to trigger him with her toys or dress up clothing. Maybe your high heeled shoes are a trigger for him. Do you care about your husband enough to alter your wardrobe? You should. But don’t start panicking thinking that everything is a trigger. I just gave some possible examples. It’s different for each crossdresser.
- 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 your spouse. 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. Or if you are taking a break from sex together because of the pain, try to make sure there is still some physical affection, even just a hug here and there.
- 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. Focus on your friendship. Focus on the positive things in your marriage.
- 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.