If you’ve spent much time reading about crossdressing online then you will probably know about the term “purging” and all of the wisdom and lore that has built up around this idea. Purging is basically the act of getting rid of all of your female clothing and paraphernalia, whether by throwing it into a dumpster or donating it to a charity. Let me begin by summarizing the communal wisdom of the crossdressing community about purging.
What the crossdressing community says about purging
The community argues that purging is a rite of passage to becoming a mature crossdresser who is at peace with oneself and one’s true gender. Purging is common and to be expected. Many crossdressers might go through years or decades of binging and purging cycles of crossdressing. The purging is brought on by various feelings including fear and stress about the possibility of getting caught while crossdressed, shame and self-loathing, and wanting to please other people (like a wife). The purging cycle finally stops when the male-to-female crossdresser is courageous enough to accept himself for who he is. The crossdresser is now willing to accept that crossdressing is a part of his nature, whether he continues to view himself as a man, or now views himself as a woman. The crossdresser now has come to the point of maturity where he will crossdress regardless of the expectations and demands of others, and so he will divorce if he has to in order to have the freedom to be himself. He no longer has so much fear about being caught because he has stopped caring about the opinions of others regarding crossdressing. He also ends the purging cycle by forcing himself to not feel guilt and shame when looking at himself in the mirror. He must realize that the guilt and shame is only a product of the cultural upbringing that he has had. But now he can force himself to believe that crossdressing is good and a part of himself. The hopeful result is that the shame and guilt go away. But crossdressers can expect that at least some guilt and shame will always remain, but it can be managed. The crossdresser should make a commitment and promise to himself to never purge again. These mature crossdressers who have been through the purge cycle realize the vast amount of money and memories that they have lost by purging so many times. They make it their mission to counsel and help other crossdressers who are thinking about purging to reconsider, or to at least hide the clothing temporarily instead of getting rid of it all.
My view of purging
I agree with some of the analysis above but disagree strongly with most of it. To quit crossdressing and heal from it, you really will need to purge the female clothing, cosmetics, and accessories. They are the cause of your temptation. Let me put it very clearly. To say you are quitting crossdressing but keeping the female clothing in your house is the same as an alcoholic or drug addict who says he is quitting but keeps the alcohol or drugs in his house. Both cases are foolish.
If a crossdresser came to me saying that he wanted to quit but he wanted to keep the clothing in the house, then I would know one of three things:
- This person doesn’t truly want to quit. He is trying to please others or is deceiving himself.
- This person does want to quit but doesn’t believe that he will be successful. So he wants to keep the clothes rather than buying them all over again in a few months or a year. This person has already failed in quitting before he has really started. It’s very tough to quit an addiction if you start out believing you have already failed. This person is only temporarily abstinent while the urges have subsided. But he wants to be able to dress again quickly if the urges reappear.
- This person does want to quit, but is a fool. He thinks he can prove his strength by facing the temptation and not giving in. He thinks that he can prove to himself his mastery over his past addiction by staring the clothes in the face and not giving in. This person does not understand the nature of addiction. He needs to befriend a former drug addict or attend an AA meeting, or talk to a porn addict. He doesn’t realize that you can’t fight an addiction by simple willpower. You need to remove temptations, get encouragement and support from others, have an accountability system, a time of detoxing, etc. This crossdresser wants to quit crossdressing the same way he would quit watching too much television. He is not treating crossdressing as the serious thing it is. (This is something even mature crossdressers agree about, that you can’t quit crossdressing so simply, it’s not a small thing).
As a Christian, my favorite passage to think about in regards to purging is Proverbs 6 which is about adultery. Read verses 20-35 which warn about adultery, but particularly look at these four verses:
25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty
or let her captivate you with her eyes,
26 for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread,
and the adulteress preys upon your very life.
27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap
without his clothes being burned?
28 Can a man walk on hot coals
without his feet being scorched?
This passage from Proverbs is a helpful warning against adultery, prostitution, and lust in general. I know it is not directly about crossdressing. But I think it is good for us to meditate on it and think through how it might relate to crossdressing as another kind of sexual sin. Many crossdressers try to give up crossdressing without getting rid of their female clothing. Verse 27 makes it very clear that if we have fire or hot coals in our laps, we will get burned. I think keeping secret female clothing around is like keeping a raging fire in your house. You are just asking to be burned. You cannot contain a raging fire in a house. It doesn’t work. Put out the fire so you don’t fail again.
1. Some crossdressers argue that the urge will always come back in 100% of cases. I don’t know about the 100% being accurate, but I agree that in most cases purging will NOT take away the urge or desire to crossdress. But so what? I’ve never argued that we should quit crossdressing because the desire will go away. People don’t quit alcohol or heroin because they think the desire for it will go away. We quit crossdressing because it is an addiction which is sinful, harmful to ourselves and others, and it causes identity confusion. For more about how the desire to crossdress won’t necessarily go away, see this post – Healing Doesn’t Mean No More Temptations.
2. Crossdressers, as I’ve said above, say that the self-loathing and shame is only because of the culture’s view of crossdressing. They say that the crossdresser needs to personally realize there is nothing wrong with what he is doing. I STRONGLY disagree. Crossdressing by it’s very nature attacks the male identity of the person who is crossdressing. See my post – Crossdressing demands sacrifice of self. You know instinctively you are doing something that is not right. You love what you are doing and hate it at the same time. Every crossdressing episode takes you farther in the escalating addiction than before. Each time you take more risks, make longer lasting changes, and lose more of yourself, but you keep going back to it for the emotional release or sexual thrill. In almost every other area of life, when a child or an adult experiences shame and guilt, we tell them to pay attention to those feelings and change. Instead, crossdressers advocate burying this shame and guilt and instead to try to force yourself to not feel bad about what you are doing. See this post also – The suppression of crossdressing guilt.
3. Some crossdressers advocate putting the clothes into a storage unit instead of completely throwing them out. I see the pros and cons of this. On the one hand, if the crossdresser changes his mind, he hasn’t wasted that money. And I’m much more comfortable with this than with the crossdresser keeping the female clothes in his house where he has easy access to them. It’s like keeping a fire burning across town that might burn you, rather than a fire in your very house. But I know how crazy and strong this addiction is, and making a simple drive to a storage unit is not a hard thing when you feel that need. It is still dangerous. It’s like having constant easy access to a secret private harem of your own a few miles away. I can’t imagine the strong temptation that would be. Another reason people seem to think this idea is good is because they want you to try quitting but test and see if the urge comes back. And if the urge comes back, you can still go and get the clothes. But again, this misunderstands the nature of addiction. We need to quit even if the urges remain. For the crossdresser who wants to keep the clothing in the storage unit, I again refer him to my 3 points above about the person who wants to quit but keep the clothing in the house.
4. Some Christian ex-crossdressers have said they wanted to keep the clothing as a reminder of their sin and how God rescued them from it. When looking at the clothes, they can be reminded not to give in. But this is not the way God teaches us to do things. What happens to idols all throughout the Bible? They are destroyed, burned, and melted down. Idols are not kept in the house for reminders of the past sins of idolatry. What do drug addicts do with their drugs? They flush them down the toilet, they get rid of them. They don’t leave them on the shelf as a reminder of the depths of depravity they went down when addicted. A real addict and a real idolater know themselves and know their weaknesses. They know that although they might feel strong now, although they might look at the drug or idol now, and not be tempted, that a day will come when they are tempted and where they will be too weak and give in. 1 Corinthians 6:18 – Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.
5. Some say purging is bad stewardship. This seems to be a powerful objection. But with something sinful, it’s better to lose a million dollars than to sin. You cannot put a price tag on avoiding sin. One of our prayer group members ceremonially burned his female clothing in the presence of his wife. It was a healing moment for them. It was the death of the thing that was destroying their lives and marriage and a new beginning together. This was not bad stewardship. And besides, it’s never bad stewardship to give away your clothing to others. There are plenty of ways to donate it without burning it. Find a charity in town. Put the clothes in a clothing bin. You could even sell clothes on eBay! Do whatever you have to. But get rid of the clothes.
Brothers, don’t fool yourselves. You are weaker than you think. Get rid of the clothes. The urges will come back, so get rid of the clothes so that you don’t have easy access when temptation comes again. Believe that it is possible to quit crossdressing, even if the desires come back. You can heal from this. You can abstain. You can find freedom. But the first step is getting rid of the clothing! It’s hard, but you can do it. You could reflect on the difficulty of giving up “the one ring” in the Lord of the Rings books, see again this post – Crossdressing and the Lord of the Rings. Here are also some Bible verses which I think relate to purging and I hope you will take time to meditate on them:
Matthew 5: 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
1 Corinthians 10: 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.
A Last Recommendation
Take your wife or a friend with you and go on a shopping spree after the purge! But buy clothes that are for you as a man. Enjoy looking good as a man. Build up your wardrobe. Enjoy the experience. And then commit to never buying female clothes for yourself again.