Transgender to Transformed: A Story of Transition That Will Truly Set You FreeWritten by Laura Perry Reviewed By Emily J. Maurits
‘Don’t dismiss someone’s feelings even if they don’t sound reasonable’ (p. 74). This is the advice Perry gives readers as she recounts the crushing moment when her teenage plea for help is ignored, a moment which may very well have set her on her transgender journey. It’s a wise piece of counsel, not only for relating to people struggling with their gender identity, but also for reading their stories.
Transgender to Transformed is Perry’s account of how she embarked on the path of gender transitioning before it became as popular and political as it is today. In 2007, Perry admits, ‘I hadn’t even heard the term “transgender”’ (p. 97). It wasn’t until she googled ‘girl becoming boy’ and went along to a local support group that the ‘transgender world’ opened up. Armed with her new-found knowledge, courtesy of Google, she began her three mandatory psychology sessions in order to obtain her ‘ticket to paradise’, testosterone (p. 98). A double mastectomy, hysterectomy and removal of her other female organs soon followed. But to begin her story here is to ignore the many factors which influenced this decision, and risks playing into the false narrative propagated by trans ideology, according to which Perry was simply born in the wrong body.
Perry disagrees with this oft-chanted assessment, and her efforts to chart the various decisions which led her to embrace a transgender identity occupy much of this short book. She recounts the survivor-guilt that plagued her since she was a young child, born of the knowledge that before her conception two brothers had died in-utero (p. 24). As a result, Perry recalls ‘I thought my mom had wanted my brother to live instead of me’, an admission that at the very least should stand as a reminder to parents to be very careful with their words, and the ways they speak about and to their children (p. 74). Perry was a high-energy, sport-loving, rambunctious child—characteristics which earned her the epithet ‘annoying’—and a self-admitted ‘Daddy’s girl’ (pp. 20–23). At the age of eight she was raped by a friend’s older brother, a violation she kept hidden from her parents for 25 years. After this, she experienced an increasing urge to engage in sexual activities and admits that, as a result, ‘My jealousy of boys in general was rising’, for she saw them as having the power to give and withhold sex, while to her mind females were a commodity to be discarded after use, just as she had been (p. 28).
Her teenage years were flooded with health problems, fluctuating weight gain, and tempestuous relationships, as she sought to feel loved and be desired. Almost overshadowing these (significant) challenges, however, was her determination to express her hurt and anger by exploring dark spiritual forces. Listening to death metal, exploring witchcraft, sketching demons and praying to Satan only increased the volatility of her temper and rebellion. In an attempt to save their daughter, Perry’s Christian parents sent her to stay first with family in Alaska, and then to a group home where she began to dabble with Christianity.
Even so, it wasn’t long after graduation before Perry reverted to her old ways, pursuing pornography, sex, alcohol and satanic music (p. 91). Becoming dissatisfied with casual hook-ups and loveless relationships, she returned to her childhood fantasies of being male, and thus sexually desirable and loved (p. 96). After a few hours of online research, Laura turned up at a LGBTQ support group and introduced herself as ‘Jake’. She was heralded a hero.
What followed were a few years of joy—for while transitioning ‘there were so many milestones … to celebrate’, Perry explains (making me wonder if God’s people are just as good at rejoicing in our own transformation into Christ-likeness)—and many more of exhausting deception (pp. 100–101). In fact, her attempt to leave her female sex behind often meant quitting a job or breaking off relationships as soon as someone discovered her biological sex, and regularly having to reinvent her entire history pre-transition. This, combined with the fact that her political opinions were at odds with those held by many in the LGBTQ community, led Perry and her transgender partner (‘Jackie’, born Steve) to become virtual recluses.
Yet after almost a decade of living as a man, Perry began to realise that even if she were able to get all the available surgeries she would never truly become male. Even so, there seemed to be no way out: she hated being female. It was here that God began to move openly in her life. When her mother (with whom she was barely in contact) reached out and asked Perry to make a website for her Bible study group, Perry agreed for monetary reasons. Soon, however, she was ringing her mum to ask questions about what she was learning as she summarised the studies. In doing so, Perry noticed that God had also transformed her mother—gone was the woman who had tried to earn salvation by works, and in her place was someone with a ‘living, vibrant faith’ who encouraged Perry to ‘trust God’ rather than attempting to fix her daughter’s many problems (p. 124). It was this latter witness which convinced Perry that the gospel was true and led her to give her heart to Jesus.
Still, it wasn’t until Perry had heard several Christian speakers speak about the sin of embracing a transgender identity that she was able to acknowledge that ‘Laura was who [God] had created; Jake had been my own creation, my own self-imposed identity’ (p. 136). Eventually, in 2016, Laura left her transgender partner and drove to her parent’s church clad in a skirt and earrings. There she received a heart-felt welcome from the congregation and her mum’s Bible study group, who had been praying for her for years.
While every detransition account will be different, Perry’s autobiography offers several transferable lessons. First, it’s a reminder that not all who identify as transgender find belonging in the LGBTQ community, are militant, flamboyant, or embrace trans ideology. Indeed, one of the most touching aspects of Perry’s story is Steve’s desire to understand her journey, and the way God uses their relationship to save him too. Second, Perry is clear that it was the love of God and the realisation that she was rejecting who he had created her to be which led her to detransition. Third, it was at first obedient trust alone which gave Perry the courage to return to her womanhood, let alone the feminine clothing she ‘felt so humiliated by’ (p. 155). Detransitioning was difficult and involved periods of heavy mourning, but she testifies that God ‘satisfied [her] soul’ (p. 165). Fourth, Perry’s return was largely enabled by the steadfastness of her parents who through the years continued to remind her of reality by calling her ‘Laura’, always picked up the phone, opened their home, and (most importantly for Perry), rather than ‘forcing their hand on me’ they ‘allowed me the grace to wrestle with it all, and … trusted God’ (p. 158).
The risk inherent in personal stories is that the particulars of an individual’s experience can be over generalised—either by the author or by the reader. For example, while Perry’s gender battles were linked to an experience of sexual abuse, it should not be inferred that this is always the case—even though Perry comes close to suggesting as much at one point (p. 172). Some readers may also wonder if the correlation of Christianity with certain political views requires a more nuanced treatment.
As a whole, this book is best suited to a Christian audience, given the often didactic tone, inclusion of unexpounded Bible verses, and the use of Christian terms and assumptions. I personally would have liked greater clarity and organisation in the final chapter, which is an earnest appeal to those who have embraced a trans identity, as well as their Christian family members. Nevertheless, this chapter contains many nuggets of gold, including Perry’s encouragement not to seek familial peace at the cost of truth spoken in love (p. 184).
Transgender to Transformed is a fascinating look into one woman’s journey into and out of transgenderism, and a redemptive story of God’s faithful love. What it lacks in nuance it makes up for by reminding readers that even in the complex and the tragic God is neither dismissive nor silent, and nor should we be.
Emily J. Maurits
Emily J. Maurits
Marrickville Road Church
Marrickville, New South Wales, Australia
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