MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Thursday, August 31st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: And I’m Paul Butler. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: A de-transitioner’s conversion story.
Now a quick word to parents: this is a story of redemption. That means there’s an encouraging ending, but the journey to get there includes difficult details that may be too heavy for younger listeners. So you might want to skip ahead seven minutes or hit pause and come back later.
BROWN: Earlier this month, we reported on a hearing in Congress about the ethics of so-called gender affirming care. Supporters claimed that kids who don’t feel at home in their bodies need medical interventions in order to avoid bitter outcomes. But opponents made the case that cross-sex hormone injections and surgeries are bitter outcomes themselves, leading to life-long regret.
BUTLER: This worldview conflict isn’t just happening at the national political level. It’s also happening in communities across the country, including Christian churches.
WORLD Intern Aidan Johnston has our story.
AIDAN JOHNSTON, REPORTER: From a young age, KathyGrace Duncan thought something was wrong with her.
KATHYGRACE DUNCAN: So, um, my story starts when, before I went to kindergarten, so like three, four, I believed I was born into the wrong body. I believe that I should have been born a boy.
KathyGrace says she learned to hate her femininity after she saw her father verbally abuse her mother.
KATHYGRACE: I didn't have the tools to understand what was happening. So I took away that women were weak, women were hated, and women were vulnerable.
The solution seemed obvious: KathyGrace would live as a boy.
KATHYGRACE: So I made a vow at a very early age, and I'm going to be the man my dad is not, and I'm going to rescue women.
Between 2016 and 2019, the number of gender transition surgeries in the U.S. nearly tripled. More and more people are trying to change their gender, but many are admitting that it didn’t work
Walt Heyer lived as a woman for a number of years before returning to life as a man. Now, he helps those who have come to regret transgender procedures. Heyer says that childhood abuse is typical among those who come to him for help.
WALT HEYER: And so 100% of the people I work with all fit into some adverse childhood experience.
If you're a child who has a parent that's been incarcerated. If you're a child who has a parent that's an alcoholic or drug addict. If you're a child who has had a divorce between mom and dad, that was traumatizing.
KathyGrace suffered similar traumatic experiences. In addition to her father abusing her mother, she was molested at a young age by another family member.
When KathyGrace was 16, she began leading a double life. After school, she would dress up as a boy and take other girls out on dates. Three years later, KathyGrace started taking testosterone and began living as a man full time.
KATHYGRACE: So there was hair loss, you know, I had male pattern baldness. And also, my voice deepened. You know, I filled out muscularly wise, I worked out a lot. So, you know, filled out that way. And I had a beard, you know.
This year, multiple women who had treatments like KathyGrace stepped forward to sue their doctors. They say those gender-transition procedures were medical malpractice. Chloe Cole filed her lawsuit in February.
CHLOE COLE: Starting at the age of 13 was when I was placed on puberty blockers, and then a month after that I was put on testosterone. And at 15, the summer just after my sophomore year of high school ended, was when I underwent the mastectomy.
Kayla Lovedahl followed with her own lawsuit in June, then Prisha Mosley and Soren Aldaco in July. The women say their doctors provided things like puberty blockers, testosterone, and surgeries all to make them feel more like men. They believe these so-called treatments are actually medical malpractice that cause significant harm, and they’re still trying to undo the damage.
According to Walt Heyer, these medical practices are bound to fail.
HEYER: No one, no one in history has ever changed their gender. So then we have to sit back and go, What are they doing then? Well, they're destroying who they are, they're not changing their gender.
KathyGrace thought living as a man would fulfill her, but eventually, she discovered what she really needed was a changed heart. It was only two weeks after KathyGrace began taking testosterone and living as Keith that she started attending church.
KATHYGRACE: So the next Sunday, I was there, they called me into the office and they said, Hey, we're hearing these rumors about you. And we just want to know, who are you? Who are you really? And I said to them, I'm a, I'm a man who used to be a woman. And they're like, Okay, well, you know, we love you. We just can't have you going here.
After she was kicked out of church, KathyGrace started dating a Christian woman, without explaining who she really was. Her girlfriend brought her to a new church, where KathyGrace kept her true identity a secret for 6 years.
KATHYGRACE: I was involved in the junior high Ministry had small group boys. I led a men's Bible study, I was in the college age group as well as the single adults everywhere I thought the Lord would be that's where I wanted to be.
That was when KathyGrace’s secret finally came out. Her pastor Dave pulled her aside after a youth group trip.
KATHYGRACE: Dave said, "Hey, I just have some questions for you. I just want to know, who are you? Who are you really, we're hearing some murmurs?" Pretty much the same question that I got from the previous church. And so I said to Dave, I'm a woman living as a man. And that was the truth. I've never been a man who, you know, used to be a woman. I've always been a woman living as a man. And when I said that the Holy Spirit went [BLOWS INTO MIC] and blew into me. I was like, okay, whoa, what just happened? You know. But in that encounter, I realized I have to go back to being the woman that he created me to be.
That day, KathyGrace says the Lord started renewing her mind.
KATHYGRACE: To take it back to the original intent of my thinking, which is, I'm a woman. And that, because I asked the Lord for a long time, so Lord, how did you change my thinking? How did you do that? Because it was in a moment. Because I believed I was man, I was happy, I wasn't looking to get out.
Within two weeks, KathyGrace broke up with her girlfriend, stepped down from church leadership, and started to live in line with her biological sex.
KATHYGRACE: Then I was able to begin to outwardly express being a woman because before that was that was a very fearful thing. So I began to do that was able to crossover going back to living as a woman.
For women like Chloe Cole and Kayla Lovedahl, transitioning back to living as women was a hard journey with lasting physical damage. Chloe Cole regrets that she will never be able to breastfeed a baby, and the effects on her fertility are unknown. KathyGrace needed electrolysis to remove her facial hair. But she highlights that it was God’s redemptive work that allowed her to embrace her womanhood.
Since then, KathyGrace joined the Portland Fellowship which ministers to people struggling with same-sex attraction and transgender feelings. She says that in order to help this generation of youth in situations like hers, the church needs to speak the truth in love. KathyGrace often sees churches respond either only in truth without the kindness of love, or in love without the boundaries of truth. But there’s a better way.
KATHYGRACE: The church approach needs to be “we love you and we love you so much that we don’t want you to stay this way.” And loving them. Truly loving them. And knowing it’s the kindness that leads to repentance.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Aidan Johnston.
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