Cross-dressing is a growing phenomenon today. Often called “drag queens” or “female impersonators,” men who dress as women are becoming more normalized than ever in our sexually broken culture. Some who do so are gay, but people of other genders and sexual identities sometimes also perform as drag queens.
Some “drag queens” have social media audiences exceeding two million. “Drag Queen Story Hours” are events hosted by drag queens who read children’s books in public libraries and otherwise engage with children aged three to eleven.
RuPaul Andre Charles is the best-known drag queen in American culture; he has appeared in numerous movies and documentaries, won several Emmy Awards for his show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and became the first drag queen to become a spokesman for a major cosmetics company.
What should Christians think about this phenomenon? How should we respond biblically and redemptively?
Is cross-dressing a sin? What does the Bible say about cross-dressing?
The Bible forbids men and women from dressing as the opposite gender: “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lᴏʀᴅ your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5).
This text does not forbid women from wearing slacks or men from wearing something a woman might also wear (such as sunglasses or a jacket). Rather, the context points to the intent to deceive, to present oneself as something he or she is not.
In other words, men are not to change their clothing and appearance to attempt to look like women; women are not to do the same to appear to look like men. Anything else is a rebellion against God’s created order of men and women, both made in his image and likeness but bearing appearances and traits unique to their genders (Genesis 1:27).
A New Testament parallel is the biblical call for men and women to wear their hair at a length appropriate for their gender (1 Corinthians 11:14–15).
Further, we are taught in Scripture that our bodies must be used for God’s glory: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).
We are not to dress in ways that draw undue attention to ourselves (cf. 1 Timothy 2:9–10; James 2:1–4). Instead, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Why do some people cross-dress?
I am not a professional counselor, but in my online research I have discovered the following:
According to psychologists, cross-dressing often involves “recurrent, intense sexual arousal.” It is a form of “fetishism,” with the clothing as the fetish, and is also considered a type of paraphilia (“atypical sexual behavior”).
Cross-dressing can also constitute a defense mechanism to suppress one’s feelings against loss. It can be done to subvert gender norms, as an act of sexual liberation, or to explore one’s gender identity.
By contrast, God’s intention for our sexual lives is clear. We are created as male and female and intended to live in alignment with our gender (Genesis 1:27; 2:18–24). Sex is therefore intended only within the monogamous, covenant marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 7:3, 39).
Any activity that violates this intended order, such as cross-dressing, adultery, prostitution, or pornography, is sinful and harms those who engage in it.
How should Christians respond to cross-dressing?
If you know someone engaged in cross-dressing (or whose spouse is doing so), how should you respond redemptively to them?
- Pray for the Spirit to bring this person to repentance and restoration to God’s design for their lives.
- Be willing to share biblical truth with them as you have opportunity under the Spirit’s guidance, doing so “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
- Seek to live with personal biblical morality. We are all broken, fallen people (Romans 3:23). You may not be engaged in cross-dressing, but there may be other areas of your life where Christ is not Lord. Submit your life fully to the Spirit each day (Ephesians 5:18), presenting your “body” as a “living sacrifice” to your Lord (Romans 12:1).
Charles Spurgeon testified, “I would sooner be holy than happy if the two things could be divorced. Were it possible for a man always to sorrow and yet to be pure, I would choose the sorrow if I might win the purity, for to be free from the power of sin, to be made to love holiness, is true happiness.”
Will you experience “true happiness” today?