Q: What is your motive for dressing up in clothing of the “opposite” gender?

Feeling comfortable in one’s clothing is almost the same as feeling comfortable in one’s own skin. Are we sinning if we do not value our “skin,” or if we hate the way we look, or are repulsed by our appearance? Are we rejecting this fundamental gift of God? Are we second-guessing the Creator and calling into question the creative process as it pertains to us?

There are verses in the Bible that talk about our bodies being the temple of God. One is found in 1 Corinthians 3:16 – “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” We are to cherish that which God has given to us.

We are to cherish that which God has given to us. The Bible also speaks of certain facts concerning our bodies:, “…no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it…” Ephesians 5:29

These may sound like admonishments to keep us in peak physical condition, and not allow ourselves to be maimed. However, as with many scriptures, this is not the whole truth. If the command were a rigid, “Do not alter, nor have harm caused to your being, because you should at all times glorify God by the presentation of a healthy body,” then Christ would have been at fault when He allowed himself to be crucified. Obviously, there are other considerations that may be more important.

Wearing clothing of the “opposite gender” is an attempt to alter one’s self-perception. When doing so, the image in the mirror can provide a sense of normality. Is making yourself over in this fashion against the fundamental will of God? Should the practice of cross-dressing (CDing) in light of these, and other, scriptures be questioned? The answer is an obvious yes; motives should always be questioned.

So what is the motive? Is it to flee from God’s creation, or is it to move towards acceptance of it? Perhaps it is a bit of both.

For most who cross-dress, their CDing sessions are like therapy. It is a way to connect with the part of yourself that was previously squelched. In a sense, one image is rejected in favor of the other. But in another sense, this activity can be useful to help recapture a sense of balance. The pendulum swings in both directions, and for many years perhaps it was pushed too far in one direction. So, if it now goes too far the other way, it is with the hope it will eventually swing back towards the middle at some point. There is some damage control that needs to be addressed. God understands this, and His grace covers this process.

It is not just a matter of accepting who we are on the outside; the real struggle is trying to accept who we are on the inside. If we can do this, then what is accomplished will last, even after the make-up is sponged off, and the wig is back in its box.

Where do these feelings of body-loathing come from? What can be done about them? Can we, through sheer will, stop from feeling a certain way? Perhaps the answer again is both “yes” and “no.”

“No” in that it is nearly impossible to rewind the tape of our life and begin over again. We cannot avoid altogether the destructive narrow society in which we have been raised. We are stuck with our notions of beauty and gender roles, ingrained in us since birth. Yet, the answer can also be “yes”, in that we can honestly face our shortcomings. It is because we are saved by grace, and that God wishes for us to know the truth about ourselves that we can come to grips with who we are, and where God wants us to go.

There have been times in our lives when we nourished our flesh, and cared for it. There have been times when we saw ourselves as the temple of God. Perhaps only when we were young, but those times did exist. The image we embraced as a child (a very young child) was the truth of who we are. We need to remember that truth.

So how do we get some of this healthy, Godly perspective back?

First by recognizing that we are purposefully created. It may not “feel” that way, but we can begin to intellectually agree with the precept. The second is to begin the process of chipping away at the hard bitter scales of self-loathing that now cover the body. Try to reverse some of the emotional damage that has been done. Clothing apparently can be an easy way to start.

I heard a song on the radio yesterday. One of the verses went something like, “When all of your clothes feel like somebody’s old throw-a-ways…”

That sums it up fairly well. As we get older our clothes may not fit as well as they once did. Our bodies and minds change and so should our clothing to reflect that change. Don’t always wait until they wear out. Perhaps when you were young you wore hand-me-downs. Chances are they never really felt right. Once new, these clothes had now been well worn. A once bright orange T-shirt is now a dim peach color. Pulling it over your head, you feel it scratch along your skin and pinched under your arms. The whole shirt was twisted and stretched to fit someone else’s’ body, not yours. The real you is being usurped and invalidated with a covering not reflective of your identity.

Christmas presents were always looked forward to. I must have been 8-years-old this particular Christmas. A brightly wrapped box lay under the tree in expectation of my wide-eyed discovery. Of course clothing was not usually on my wish list, but as long as it wasn’t underwear or socks, I didn’t mind too much. This particular package’s turn had arrived. I sat on the floor with my legs crossed, Indian-style, with the box on my lap. Tearing open one end, I pulled the box out from underneath its wrapper. I broke the tape that held on the lid. Lifting up one side, I reached in to see if I could guess what it was. My fingers told me it was rough. “Good. It wasn’t underwear, I thought, at least I sincerely hoped not.”

I started to form some guesses. A new jacket? Perhaps a shirt? Maybe a new pair of jeans; the kind that would “squeak” as you walked down the halls at school. The feel of something new, was always appreciated. Finally, I pulled the new treasure out from under its lid. It was pants. Purple ones. I was flabbergasted. Purple pants? She had bought purple pants? I then flashed back on a moment, a few months previous, when my mother had asked me what my favorite color was. I had indeed told her it was “purple”. So that Christmas I received one pair of pants, one shirt, a jacket and socks…all purple. Since then, whenever anyone inquires as to my favorite color, I always answer black – it’s safer.

A couple of years ago I was out shopping, needing to purchase some replacement items, and I began to realize that I was still under the influence of the fashion sense of my older brother and my mother. I gravitated towards the familiar, no matter how cold it left me inside. I realized that in many ways, my mother was still dressing me. Being “thrifty” I became aware that almost none of the items I wore were purchased by me. Most of my wardrobe was comprised of Christmas and birthday gifts, sporting event give-a-ways, hand-me-ups and downs, task-specific items, and yes, still even some thrift store purchases.

Since then, I have tried to make a conscious effort to actually shop for some clothing that speaks of who I am. What I really want to do is find an expression that more closely resembles how I feel inside. With all the choices available, I should be successful.

If you have not been clothes shopping for awhile, perhaps it is time. Purchase something that you like, and is comfortable. You may be surprised by how it makes you feel. You may not feel like you deserve it, but you might just need it.