This may be surprising to some of you, but one of the most common questions I’ve been asked since I started this website many years ago is: “Did demons cause my crossdressing desires?” Or other related questions like: “Am I possessed by a demon and that is why I can’t stop crossdressing?” My first inclination is always to say “no” to this question, but it really deserves a much more nuanced and careful answer. That is the goal of this post. In my answer, I will endeavor to argue for and balance two of my beliefs. 1. I believe the vast majority of crossdressers did not have their desire for crossdressing caused by demons (and I would say the same for those who struggle with gender dysphoria). 2. I believe that demons are real, that they can possess people, and that they tempt people to sin.
Demons are Real
Some of us believe that demons are real because the Bible tells us that they are real. Some of us believe that demons are real because we think we have experienced them in some fashion, whether through feeling a spiritual attack or seeing someone we know possessed or oppressed by a demon. But for many Americans, and others around the world, it has become extremely difficult to believe that demons exist. In our well-educated, secular, and materialistic culture it seems like a primitive and stupid belief. We tend to think only uncivilized people around the world still believe in spirits. We only believe in what we can see and in what we think science can prove and demonstrate in a lab. I admit that it can be a hard thing to believe if you have not experienced anything to make you believe it.
But consider a few things. First, do you believe in God? If you believe that God is a real spiritual being, even though you cannot see him or touch him, then why not believe that God created other spiritual beings? Perhaps you don’t believe that God exists. I don’t have space in this post to try to convince you of God’s existence. But for those who already believe that God exists, ask yourself how or why you could believe that God exists but not other spiritual beings that he could have created? Is it really so hard to believe that God could create other purely spiritual creatures like himself? After all, he created humanity, and we in a sense more complex as we are both physical and spiritual beings. Is it so hard to believe that some of the spirits God created continued to serve him (angels), while others of those spirits have rebelled against him (demons)?
Second, do you believe that what the Bible says is true? Do you believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be? If so, then you should also believe that demons are real. Jesus believed that demons are real and he even commanded them to leave people that they were possessing. Unless you believe that Jesus was only an ignorant teacher or a madman, than you should also believe that demons are real.
And third, consider that Satan and demons could be real even if you don’t see them. If Satan and his minions are real, and he truly is the archenemy of God, then he must not be an absolute idiot. He could very well have good strategies for how he engages with us in this world. He might have good reason to be working covertly and quietly in places like the USA. Perhaps he knows that showing his power more clearly in countries like the USA would only make people believe more strongly in the spiritual realm, and thus more people would turn to God. Perhaps leaving us in our rejection of God and materialism is exactly what Satan wants. Take a moment to ponder that you believe in all kinds of other things you have never experienced. You’ve never had the horrible disease, Ebola, and probably have never seen anyone with that disease, yet you’ve heard of other people around the world having it and you believe that they truly experienced it. Why not think the same way about demons? Just because you haven’t been possessed or attacked by demons, nor the people in your small circle of friends, that doesn’t mean that no one else around the world is experiencing attacks from demons.
Assuming that Satan and his demons are real, what do they do? Different theologians and churches talk about demonic activities in various ways. For the sake of simplicity, let me explain two activities of demons: demon possession and how demons tempt people to sin. The Bible talks about both.
Demon possession is when someone has a demon or demons living within them. The demons take away the person’s freedom and control and the person is to some degree a slave, doing what the demon wants rather than what he or she wants. They live lives of sin and may also appear to be mentally ill. They may hear the voices of the demons in their head. They may appear to have multiple personalities or speak in different voices. They may exhibit certain traits, personalities, and skills (feats of strength), that are foreign to them normally. I’m not totally sure how people end up being possessed by demons, but from stories I have heard it seems that sometimes people actually invite demons into their lives directly, and other times they open themselves up to demons through engaging in idolatry, other religions, witchcraft, addictions, or simply by living a life of without God, totally rejecting Him.
Are there men who are addicted to crossdressing because they are demon possessed? I believe that this is possible, but probably very unlikely concerning most crossdressers. Some churches teach that demons each specialize in a certain sin and are causing people to commit specific sins. I disagree with this teaching. I don’t see any evidence for it in the Bible. I doubt that there are “crossdressing demons” whose job it is to make men crossdress. I don’t know of any biblical story where demons were causing someone to be enslaved to one specific sin. Rather, I think all demons do everything they can to keep people separated from God, keep people living in darkness and fear, and keep people living in any kind of sin. I imagine that for non-Christians, demons take the sins they are already engaging in, and cause them to become more addicted to them, or try to make them feel less guilty about them, or increase the temptations they experience for those sins, or try to get them to pursue even more different kinds of sins and pleasures.
In most cases, I don’t think there is any need to theorize about someone being demon possessed to explain their crossdressing addiction. We have enough explanation for crossdressing by looking at our own sinful natures, our own lusts for pleasure, the troubles in our childhoods, and other environmental factors that could have contributed to us learning these strange desires and addictions. Too quickly assigning crossdressing desires to demons may be a sign of looking to blame someone else for our own sin, or to make crossdressing seem more powerful than it really is in our lives, when in reality we have the power to overcome it. Jumping to explain another person’s crossdressing as a result of demons could also be a gut reaction to something that seems so strange and gross. But just because it is an odd sin, it doesn’t mean that it is caused by demons. I’m sure demons have just as much fun tempting people to look at pornography or commit adultery. And for wives of crossdressers, I would add this caution also. You might jump to explain your husband’s crossdressing as a result of demons because you can’t imagine your wonderfully good husband doing something so wrong on his own. It could be that you have not truly grappled with the reality of the sinful nature, both of your husband, and of yourself. We are all capable not just of committing strange sins like crossdressing, but of truly terrible and dark things. We are all capable of murder, theft, and adultery. As people, we are prone to such things even without demons interfering. This is the reality of the sinful nature, the reality of original sin that we are born with.
However, I do think it is possible that crossdressers could be demon possessed, just like other people could be demon possessed. I would never rule it out because demons are real. And certainly, if we look at the behavior of some crossdressers, it seems like some of them have truly lost their minds, totally changed their character, totally changed their feelings towards their families, and they seem to no longer be themselves. It’s possible that some of these men are in bondage to demons. Since we usually won’t know for sure, we need to pray for these men. Pray that Jesus rescues them from bondage to this sin and from bondage to demons. And if you ever do come face to face with a person possessed by demons, be ready to do an exorcism. Don’t be afraid. If you know Jesus personally, then you can command those demons to leave in Jesus’ name. See Matthew 8:16, Matthew 10:1, and Luke 10:17-20. Demons tremble pitifully before the Almighty God. You don’t need to live in fear of them, whether they are attacking you or someone you love. Hear these promises from Scripture:
1 John 4:4 – You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
James 4:7 – Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
What about Christians? Can we be possessed? The Bible clearly teaches that we cannot be possessed when we are in Christ. Those who have trusted in Christ have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, God himself, to live within us. God does not share the same home as demons. If we are in Christ, we are safe and sealed, and we cannot be possessed. Therefore, if you are struggling with a crossdressing addiction, and you also have a true relationship with Jesus, you cannot point to being possessed by a demon as a cause. When we are in Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin, but we have been given freedom and power to say “no” to sin. We will still willfully choose to sin at times, and when we do, we run back to Jesus in repentance and confession. But we are not in slavery to sin. People who are demon possessed have lost their self-control, but those in Christ are given freedom. One of the fruits of having the Holy Spirit is self-control.
2 Corinthians 3:17 – Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work. When we are in Christ, the devil cannot be in us at the same time.
1 John 3:8 – He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
Demons Tempt People to Sin
When we are in Christ, we don’t have to be afraid of becoming slaves to Satan or demons through possession. But demons do still tempt Christians to sin. How does this work? I confess that much of it remains a mystery to me, but somehow in the spiritual realm, demons are working to tempt you and me to give in to sin. Somehow they seem to have the ability to influence our thoughts through our spirit or mind. Whether Christian or not Christian, I think demons are working to get people to sin in any possible way because demons hate God and hate us and don’t want us to obey God. But again, I don’t think we should assume demons are creating the crossdressing desire in Christians (or others) out of thin air. We shouldn’t quickly blame demons for what is probably the result of our sinful nature, our own idolatry, our own selfishness, and our own rebellious and evil desires.
James 1:13-15 –13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
I’m not saying that demons cannot create new temptations. I don’t know. But generally it looks like demons take what is already there in our sinful nature, and exacerbate it. They take what is already bad in us and try to make it worse. So with crossdressing, they don’t have to create the addiction or desire in people. They instead can try to encourage us to keep giving in to sin. Again, I don’t know exactly how they do it, and they seem to do it very quietly and secretly. Perhaps they remind us in some way of what we desire to do. Perhaps they are able to bring crossdressing up in our minds. Perhaps they can work through other people to be negative influences in our lives, so that those people lie to us or try to get us to sin.
I think demons also try to lie to us directly. See John 8:44, 2 Corinthians 4:4, 2 Corinthians 11:3, 2 Corinthians 11:14, and Revelation 12:9. Demons try to make us doubt our salvation, they try to make us doubt God’s promises, and they try to make us think a life is sin will be better and more fulfilling than obedience. I have no doubt that when people are thinking about God’s commands for men and women, and when people think about how the Bible says crossdressing is wrong, the demons may speak to them what Satan said to Adam and Eve, “did God really say? Did God really say that it was wrong? Isn’t that just the Old Testament? Haven’t we learned more since then? Did God really know what he was talking about? God said it was wrong, but you know it’s harmless.
For more on how demons try to tempt us to sin and lie to us, read this post – How Satan tempts us to crossdress.
Overcoming Demonic Temptations
The most important thing to realize is that God has given us power and victory over demons and over sin. We have free-will and power from the Holy Spirit. We can say “no” to sin. The Bible teaches that we can never use demons as an excuse for giving in to temptation because God has provided a way out of every temptation.
1 Corinithians 10:13 – No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
When the devil or demons lie to us and try to get us to doubt God’s promises or give in to sin, we must fight back by remembering our identity in Christ, thanking God for our salvation, and by remembering the promises of God in Scripture.
Ephesians 6:10-18 – 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 – 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Don’t give demons a foothold in your life by giving in to addiction or giving in to sin generally. Fight against sin in your life. Strive for holiness. Hunger and thirst for righteousness. If you allow sin in to your life, you are also allowing demons more to work with.
Ephesians 4:26-27 – 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
If you ever feel attacked by demons, don’t be slow to ask for help. I like the picture I’ve attached to this post. You might feel like you are in darkness, but you can always reach out to Jesus, always cry out for help and you will be helped! Jesus is with you and will not leave you alone. And if you ever need to, you can also command demons to leave off from attacking you in Jesus’ name. Shout out loud to them if you have to. When you are feeling tempted, shout to them that you belong to Jesus, not to them, and you are not going to give in to the addiction.
1 Peter 5:8-9 – 8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
But don’t spend all of your time rebuking Satan and demons. Don’t give them too much power and credit. They are weaker than you think. Jesus has already defeated them. The war is won although the battles continue temporarily. Their doom is sure. Don’t live in fear of them. And don’t look for them around every corner and behind every sin. Spend 99.99% of your time speaking to Jesus and growing in your relationship to him, and don’t focus much time on yelling at Satan and demons to leave your life. Exorcise demons when you need to, rebuke them when you need to, but don’t give them more attention than they deserve. Focus your minds on Christ and your union with him.
Don’t be afraid of demons. Don’t live in fear of them. And don’t blame them for your problems with crossdressing. Own up to the sins you have committed and ask for God to help you overcome your sinful nature. Spend time thanking God for the freedom we have in Christ, and that we are no longer slaves to the prince of this world, and that we are no longer slaves to sin. And be ready to fight temptation by dwelling on God’s promises in His Word. Purposefully spend time with Christ each day and remain connected to him. Pray for those and help those who are still stuck in crossdressing and sin and bondage to demons. Their only hope is in Christ! Preach the good news of the Gospel and ask God to work in their lives.
Feel free to comment below with specific questions related to this topic of demons and temptations.
Further Resources about Spiritual Warfare and Fighting Temptation
Are We Too Concerned with Demons? – R.C. Sproul
How Satan Gets a Hold On You – Desiring God
Did the Devil Make Me Do It? – The Gospel Coalition
Why Satan is so Skillful at Tempting us to Sin – Tim Challies
Satan’s Great Trick – Tim Challies
Satan has a Forked Tongue – The Gospel Coalition
Satan’s Ten Strategies Against You – Desiring God