Is Crossdressing “Incurable?”

Source: Catherine L. Anderson

There’s a widespread notion that crossdressing cannot be cured – that the best a crossdresser can hope for is to just accept the crossdressing. This has been repeated so often that many people do not even question it.

But there are some obvious problems with this view:

  1. The statement, “crossdressing cannot be cured,” is a sweeping generalization. It allows no exceptions. Even on that basis alone it’s surely false.
  2. The statement is a personal or ’political’ opinion presented as a scientific fact. Those who state it supply no evidence to support the claim.
  3. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If one thinks it’s common knowledge that crossdressing is incurable, why try? But with no attempt, there’s no possibility of cure.

No Generalizations

Before saying more, let’s agree to avoid generalizations. The origin and meaning of crossdressing varies across individuals. I would never insist that all crossdressing is curable. I’m not saying that every single crossdresser needs therapy. But I do suggest that, for some crossdressers, therapy makes good sense and there is plenty of potential for cure – especially if we take a broad view of what a “cure” means. I’d like this short page to help offset and balance the many other pages that completely dismiss the relevance and possibility of cure.

Does Crossdressing Need Cure?

Some say “cure” doesn’t apply here because there’s nothing wrong – that crossdressing is a just a lifestyle choice or expression of one’s true femininity.

Well, maybe that’s true sometimes. But I don’t think it’s always true. For some crossdressers, there is ample reason to view the behavior as detrimental to well-being. It might not be overtly harmful – but it may obstruct full self-actualization. That’s the issue here.

I don’t like using personal examples, but this one comes to mind. I’ve noticed that if there were two attractive *-girls, identical in every outward respect, except that one was a g-girl (genetic girl) and the other was a t-girl (transexual or transgender), I’d be more attracted to the t-girl. Further, I’d feel comfortable chatting with the t-girl, getting her number, and asking her out. But with the g-girl I’d be awkward and incapacitatingly shy. That suggests to me that there is a problem somewhere – some kind of mental block towards g-girls. And if so, I may be missing out on what I really want in life. That’s something to explore with counseling.

Can Crossdressing Be Cured?

It’s also said cure is impossible because “the urge never goes away” or “even if it stops for a while, crossdressing will start again later in life.” I believe neither of these preclude the possibility of cure.

For me, a cure means a significant, qualitative mental change in the crossdresser. It involves a dis-attachment to the crossdressing. Crossdressing is the main thing in many crossdressers’ lives; it affects all their thinking. I see cure as changing this mental structure. If crossdressing originates in aspects of early childhood development, then a cure implies that the crossdresser solves, works-out, or transcends the associated emotional blocks and perceptual distortions.

If that can happen, it’s a profound change. Now, as to whether, after this, a man would ever crossdress again, I can’t say. He might get bored some evening, dress, and visit a club to see old friends. But if he does, it would be completely different. If he has reached “insight” concerning his crossdressing, I don’t think it would matter to him much one way or the other whether he dressed. The point is that, if he did dress, it would have a different meaning.

Or, perhaps during some emotional crisis the urge might develop again. But if that’s merely a phase, then again I don’t think it denies the legitimacy of a cure.

Good Things Take Effort

Any comprehensive textbook on psychiatry will reveal theories on the origin of crossdressing. Whether one agrees with it or not, there does exist a view that crossdressing is, for some men anyway, dysfunctional and “aberrant” (in the sense of drawing a man away from his own potentials).

Most well-trained psychotherapists I know would be astounded to hear the assertion “everybody knows crossdressing is incurable.” They might agree cure is not especially easy. But that’s much different from saying cure is impossible or irrelevant.

Good therapists will tell you that therapy is not easy. Many clients have the naive expectation that merely attending 4 sessions will make their problems go away. Therapy works when the client is motivated – highly motivated – for change. The therapist is a tool. The real energy for the healing comes from the client.

Therapy is like trying to lose 50 lbs. People who have lost a lot of weight know how much motivation it takes. You have to intensely want to lose the weight. It becomes for a while your main goal. Many life details must be rearranged to support the goal.

The same applies to therapy for crossdressers. The crossdresser must be extraordinarily motivated for there to be expectation of success.

We teach children that they can do anything if they try hard enough. Why should that be different here? Some crossdressers insist that crossdressing expresses their basic right to act unfettered by social convention. Good! We agree “to thine own self be true.” But if some man’s crossdressing derives from early-life experiences over which he had no control, must he let his whole life to be ruled by that? What kind of choice is that? I believe that a recognition of the potential for self-determination is of central importance in each person’s life. The crossdresser should not rule out any potential for change.

It doesn’t matter what’s true for “most people.” What matters is what’s true for you. Your life is your movie, and you are the hero. To truly succeed, you can be certain of one thing: that you will have to do heroic things. As writers like anthropologist Joseph Campbell suggest, it is no coincidence that many myths involve heroic journeys into dark places – the “underworld.” Part of the myth’s message is that to succeed in life, one must descend into the recesses of ones’ own mind. It takes courage and firmness of purpose. You cannot just go through the motions.

For a while I was puzzled by the scarcity of published research on the efficacy of psychotherapy for crossdressing. Then I realized that, unlike a purely medical treatment, such psychotherapy is very different for each person. Each case history could itself become a story, a novel. That’s a good analogy. Many novels are precisely about a profound mental restructuring of the protagonist.

Any such change in your life is at least that complex. It is not the stuff generalizations are made of. It is subtle and unique to you. But it is possible. And such changes are lot of what life is about. It is part of the “mythic quest” of each life’s journey.

Thankfully, we are not alone. Our own instinct to be fully self-actualized is there to guide is. That drive is a deep part of each person – something to count on. If crossdressing is truly not for you, of if you are overdoing it, then this part of you will help show you the way, provided that you are receptive to it, and do not exclude the possibility of change.

Practical Considerations

Here are some pointers for those inclined to consider therapy for crossdressing: