In this post, I am going to talk about how I think crossdressing can easily become idolatry, in the same way that money or other good or neutral things in life can easily become an idol. This is different from me saying that crossdressing is always necessarily idolatry by its very nature. That is a much harder case to make. In my Deuteronomy 22:5 post, I talked about different ways that crossdressing could have been connected to idolatry. It is a narcissistic and self-absorbed activity, and the Bible links it strongly with idolatry by calling it an abomination. See what I write under the “Grammar of the text” section of that post.
But in this post, more basically I just want to explain why and how crossdressing can easily become idolatry for many people. In my experience, crossdressing certainly became an idol for me, and my sense is that for most people who struggle with it, it has become an idol for them. It seems that it becomes an idol for people far quicker and easier than most other things in life.
In this post, I am focusing mostly on the type of crossdressing I experienced. It was addictive and mostly sexual. However, I think most of what I write here could also be fitting and helpful for people who struggle with gender dysphoria. The coveting of a new body, the desire to replace the Creator and rejecting what he has made can also easily become idolatry. Most of the ideas in this post come from a pastor named Tim Keller. I’ve been reading some of what he has written about idolatry in general and I found it powerful and very interesting.
So before we get into crossdressing, let me just explain his view of what idolatry is in general terms. There are a couple types of idolatry. We can fall into idolatry by worshiping God in the incorrect way, such as trying to worship him using a golden calf instead of the way he told us to worship him. We can also fall into idolatry by worshiping other gods, or other things, in place of God. And since God demands ALL of our worship, we are still falling in idolatry if we give God 90% of our worship, and something else 10% of our worship. This is the kind of idolatry that crossdressing can fit into. But how do we know if we are worshiping something else besides God? If we don’t bow down to anything else does that mean we don’t worship anything else? No. There are ways we worship besides just bowing down or praying. So here are some ideas about idolatry I’ve gleaned from Keller:
1. Idolatry is the inordinate desire for anything. Idolatry can even be the desire for good things. In fact, good things usually end up being idols more often because most of us naturally desire good things. But it becomes idolatry when the desire is inordinate, when we desire that thing out of proportion to how good it is. So it’s idolatry when we desire it more than we should be desiring it. For example, it’s good to desire money because we need it for survival. But if we become consumed with it, full of greed, and obsessed with making as much money as we can, even if we hurt people to do it, we know we have made an idol out of money.
2. An idol is something more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, or identity. So if your spouse is more important than God for your happiness, meaning in life, or your identity, your spouse has become your idol.
3. Your idol likely is the thing you think about most when you are alone and have nothing else to do. Do you spend your time thinking about God and his wonderful love, or thinking about pornography or family or your achievements?
4. Your idol is the thing you feel like you can’t live without. You might not commit suicide without it, but you feel like you can’t live a joyful life without the idol. Life just doesn’t seem worth living without it.
5. It can help to determine your idol by looking at what your nightmares are. If your nightmares are about rejection, then your idol is probably “approval.” If your nightmares are about uncertainty, then your idol is probably “control.”
6. We worship what we think will really make us happy. The meaning of life is to worship God and find our happiness in him. When we seek our happiness anywhere else than in God, that is idolatry.
7. We eventually become like what we worship. If we worship God, we start to emulate him and become more like him. If we worship an idol, we get more and more consumed by the idol and become more like it.
8. When we seek after idols, we are seeking for something good, some need that we have, and trying to find it in false idols, rather than in God. So Keller says we might have beauty or image as idols, and instead of going to God to see how beautiful he is, or recognizing that he finds us beautiful, we instead get eating disorders or look for false intimacy in pornography or adultery. It’s looking for what we need in the wrong places.
9. The more you seek power from your idols, the more they drain you of strength. They enslave us and we become trapped by them. The more you worship them, the more they bring about spiritual blindness of heart and mind. (Isaiah 44:9, 18). In Romans 1, Paul also talks about the effects of idolatry. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. We end up being deceived by our idols. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
10. Your idol is what you want to protect, to the point that you are willing to sin against God. If you think of the 10 commandments, usually we don’t break any of the 10 commandments without first breaking the 1st commandment. We sin in daily life in order to protect our idols. What makes us lie or steal or disobey authority for? For whatever idol we are trying to keep a hold on. If our idol is power through our job, what might we be willing to do, how might we sin in order to keep our power and our job?
11. Idolatry makes us deserving of God’s wrath and punishment. In the same passage, Romans 1, Paul says – 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness. Idolatry makes us guilty before God and deserving of his wrath. We deserve both death and hell. But thankfully we can be 100% fully forgiven for all our sin through Jesus Christ. God himself took the punishment for us. God himself experienced his own wrath against our sin. But even as Christians who are forgiven we should still strongly resist idolatry. If we are truly born again, we will be people who no longer want to give in to idolatry. We know idolatry is not good for us. We know idolatry doesn’t please God and we should want to live for him out of gratitude for his forgiveness. And we we know we can find more joy and fulfillment in God than in idols.
I said at the beginning that crossdressing can easily become an idol. For many of us we start to worship it and value it over God. To try to prove my point, let’s go though the above eleven ideas about idolatry and think about them in the context of crossdressing.
1. Idolatry is an inordinate desire, possibly for something that is actually good. I would argue that crossdressing results from good desires that have spun out of control in confusion. We desire to feel attractive, but we go beyond the normal attempts to look good as men and try to look beautiful as women. We want to feel loved and close to someone, so we create a false woman to be with us. We want to feel safe, so we pretend we are a little girl. We want to escape reality and the stresses in our life, so we temporarily become someone else and live in fantasy. We could probably add another twenty reasons to this list, using all the reasons we crossdress. But crossdressing is taking these natural desires for good things, and trying to meet those desires in wrong places, as well as magnifying those desires into an unhealthy obsession where we desire crossdressing above all else.
2. An idol is more fundamental than God for our happiness, meaning in life, or identity. For those of us who crossdress, crossdressing can easily become the all consuming passion in our life. We don’t look to God for happiness, but only to crossdressing. It provides the main meaning in life. We claim that crossdressing is part of our identity. Of course many different things can become an idol for similar reasons. I think for me my spouse could potentially become an idol in this way. I might look to her for my primary happiness, meaning in life, and identity. But I think crossdressing is even more powerful than a spouse as an idol. All of us know how many crossdressers have given up happy marriages in order to pursue their idol of crossdressing. What a powerful idol it can be. It can plague marriages with unhappiness and strife, and usually just ends the marriages.
3. Your idol is likely the thing you think about most when you are alone. I know in the height of my crossdressing years my mind was constantly consumed with crossdressing thoughts. I would daydream about it whenever I possibly could. I wasn’t dwelling on God and living for him, but constantly scheming about how I could crossdress more, and constantly fantasizing about crossdressing.
4. Your idol is the thing you feel like you can’t life a joyful life without. How often have we heard this from crossdressers about crossdressing? The common saying is that, “sure you can give up crossdressing, but you will soon realize that you can’t live a happy joyful life without it. You’ll be always missing it and you’ll be miserable.” I’d hate to lose my family, but I think I could eventually get over my grief, and live a joyful life still afterwards. So hopefully my family is not an idol. But what about crossdressing? Can we live a joyful life without it? If we can’t answer “yes” then it is an idol in our lives.
5. Let’s look at our nightmares to see what our idols are. Some of our nightmares are about being caught crossdressing. It shows that our ultimate desire is really to be able to freely crossdress without people finding out or with people knowing about it but accepting it. How sad that one of our ultimate desires is unattainable. But it is an idolatrous desire that must die.
6. We worship what we think will make us the most happy, instead of finding our happiness in God. We think crossdressing will make us happy and that God won’t. In fact, we start to think that disobeying God’s commands in Scripture will make us happy, when we should realize that only in obeying God’s commands can we find true happiness.
7. We eventually become like what we worship. If we worship crossdressing, or worship the ideal of “woman,” or worship femininity, we will become more like that instead of like God. We end up worshiping the culture’s idea of what it means to be a woman. Not only are we fooling ourselves by being actual men who dress as women, but we take on the cultural ideas of womanhood and fall into the same sins and struggles that women in our culture fall into. We worship femininity as an idea and become more and more feminine, getting lost as to who we truly are. We worship the idea of being a woman and wanting to be a woman so much, that someday we might actually pursue sex change surgeries to attempt as best as we can to become a woman. We do these things instead of worshiping God and becoming more like him.
8. We seek after good things in false idols rather than finding them in God. We want to feel beautiful, but we try to find that in crossdressing, rather than in realizing that God finds us beautiful already in the way he created us (Psalm 139). We want intimacy and love, and try to find that through crossdressing, but we need to realize that we can have intimacy and love from God. We want to escape life pressures by crossdressing, but we fail to find our peace and relief from anxiety in God. We want adventure, and so we crossdress, but we fail to find adventure in living God’s calling on our lives.
9. The more we worship our idols, the more in bondage we become and the more deceived we become. The more we crossdress, the more we become addicted to it. The more we crossdress, the more we want to crossdress, and the more fully we want to crossdress. It becomes a huge part of our lives and we feel like we can’t do without it. We might even create an alternate persona that we can’t help but letting out once in a while. We become deceived. In the past, the more I crossdressed, the more I started to think I wanted to live as a woman. The more I crossdressed, the more I felt like a woman more than a man. The more I crossdressed, the more attractive I thought I was as a woman. But I was deceived. Of course I looked ridiculous. I was deceiving myself.
10. Your idol is what you sin against God to protect. How many of us have sinned in other ways in order to protect our crossdressing habits? Maybe we pretended to be a real woman and deceived others so that they wouldn’t know we were a man. Maybe we lied about touching clothing to a wife or sister or mother. Maybe we lied about what we were doing on the computer. Maybe crossdressing led us to marital unfaithfulness or even to ruining our marriage by forcing a divorce. Maybe crossdressing prompted us to steal female clothing. Maybe crossdressing increased our vanity and made us more self-absorbed. Maybe crossdressing increased our jealousy and envy of other women or other crossdressers. Maybe crossdressing caused us to not live in a healthy way and lose too much weight. Maybe crossdressing caused us to waste much time that God would have wanted us to use more productively. Maybe crossdressing caused us to start taking the Bible less seriously and disobeying other commands of God. Maybe crossdressing has caused us to miss work or school or church.
11. Idolatry makes us deserving of God’s wrath. We deserve God’s wrath for our sin of crossdressing. I’m not singling out crossdressing. If we have made an idol out of spouse or family or comfort or money or anything else, that also makes us deserving of God’s wrath. All of us have sinned in so many ways, and all of us have been idolatrous in so many ways. We all deserve hell. But our wonderful merciful God took the punishment we deserve and has offered us complete forgiveness if we trust in Jesus. For those of us who have made an idol out of crossdressing, forgiveness in Jesus is offered freely.
How can we get rid of an idol in our lives? How do we fight against it? The only way to get rid of an idol in our hearts is to replace it with something else. We need to replace any idolatrous desires with the desire for God. Only the good news about God and who he is, the good news about Jesus and his salvation can replace our idols. We need the Holy Spirit and God’s love to replace the hole in our hearts that we are trying to fill with other things. We need to give up looking for treasures on earth, and realize that God is our true treasure.
We need to stop looking for our needs and our happiness to be met in idols. We have to investigate and figure out what needs and feelings we are trying to meet through crossdressing and realize how God truly provides for those needs and desires we crave. We must have an all consuming passion for Jesus and find our joy, happiness, and needs met in him. Once Jesus becomes the treasure of our life, crossdressing and all other idols will start to become like rubbish. Philippians 3:8 – 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.