“Can I talk to you?”
When Gary spoke those words to me one evening after church almost three decades ago, my gut told me that a moment of truth had arrived.
Gary had helped me tremendously over the past months. He knew I carried the toxic effects of a broken relationship with my dad. Gary was my spiritual dad after I began attending a church in Vancouver, Washington, where I was living at the time.
I followed him back to the church prayer room where Dave, the college pastor who was also a friend of mine, was waiting.
“Hey, we’re hearing rumors about you and we just want to know, who are you?” Dave asked me. “Who are you, really?”
The couple of times it had come up in previous years—only once in a church—my response had been, “I am a man living in a woman’s body.” But this time, the truth came out of my mouth.
“I’m a woman living as a man.” When I spoke those words, it felt like the Holy Spirit blew directly into me. It was a “Whoa!” kind of moment. An enemy tower in my life had fallen.
For just over 11 years, I had been living a lie, deceived into thinking I could go on living as “Keith”—the male persona I had created for myself—and that God was OK with it. That delusion caused me untold grief and relational pain. Though at first I felt free and euphoric, my transgender life ultimately proved not only burdensome but unlivable.
At the age of 19, after I had launched into my transition of becoming “Keith,” I was invited to a church youth event. The Gospel was presented, an invitation was given, and I responded. But I knew little about God, about fully surrendering to Jesus Christ, about the beauty of His created order, His plan for male and female, or the chaos and pain of breaking that order.
From that point, I tried to live as a Christian while also trying to live as a transgender male. I was pretty convincing, enduring hormone treatments and “top surgery” to appear male. I had facial hair and a deeper voice than I would have otherwise. But I would fall into periods of alcohol abuse after losing a job or breaking up with one of several women I had dated. Complicating that was a pornography addiction.
At one point in my journey—one day on my way to church orchestra practice, in fact—I believe I heard God ask me simply: ‘‘Will you—now?’’
After taking assessment of my life and thinking nothing was holding me back, I said, “Yes, Lord, I will.”
In short order, I was totally delivered from pornography, never to return. God had taken it all—the desire for it, the longing to view it. Yet for a good while, I did not deal—in my own heart and mind and with those around me—with the deception of presenting myself as someone who, deep down, I wasn’t and couldn’t ever be.
Physically and practically, I was “Keith” to those around me. I was studying the Bible and serving in the church. But the Lord was working patiently to bring me to that fateful night of coming face to face with Dave and Gary over my true identity. In that moment of truth inside the church prayer room, God made it clear: I had to go back to being the woman God created. There was just no other way. I had to do this.
Over the next two weeks after being confronted, the Lord gave me unusual detail about what I needed to do. I confessed what I had concealed to a list of people whom He had laid on my heart to share it with. Dave even went with me to have these hard talks, one after another. It was humiliating and freeing.
But the next 5 1/2 years was a difficult—sometimes gut-wrenching—journey to becoming KathyGrace again.
Early on, my pastor in Vancouver discovered a ministry that was willing to help me: Portland Fellowship—in Portland, Oregon. Portland Fellowship helps sexually broken people find hope and change through the power of Christ. I began their discipleship program—what I would term a long, difficult “renovation project” back to my original, God-ordained design and becoming emotionally, physically and spiritually restored.
God in His kindness brought into my life several lovely Christian women who loved me as I was and modeled for me what God’s design for femininity looks like. They taught me to plumb the depths of Scripture. They even helped me relearn little things, like applying makeup. The first time I tried wearing a dress, they cheered me on despite my fear. They were living portraits of Christlikeness.
Although it was hard, I would travel that road to restoration all over again because of the freedom I now have.
At one point in my journey—wanting to be known by then as the Christian woman I had become and not just “that lady who used to be transgender”—I stepped away from leading small groups at Portland Fellowship. But in 2005, I felt called to return to Portland Fellowship as a volunteer. All these years later, I now serve as the women’s ministry leader, helping guide hurting people toward restoration in Christ alone.
Our spiritual enemy wants the world to think that such changes aren’t possible. God has made me a living testimony that change is possible. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). Indeed, such transformation has allowed me to experience His “good, pleasing and perfect will.”
From now until He calls me home or returns for us, I will tell of His marvelous works in my life and help others find that same hope and transformation. ©2021 KathyGrace Duncan
The Scripture quotation is taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version.
KathyGrace Duncan is women’s ministry leader at Portland Fellowship in Portland, Oregon. She is also actively involved in the CHANGED Movement, a group dedicated to spreading the message that change is possible for the sexually broken through the power of Jesus Christ.
Photo: Courtesy of KathyGrace Duncan