This is my redemption story.
Early in my journey, back when I identified as Laura Jensen, transgender female, many Christians looked at me as unredeemable, even repugnant. This was evident the Sunday I walked into a southern California church for morning service, all decked out in my flashy, sassy red pumps, blonde hair, and red dress. Later that day the pastor, came to my home. He wasn’t there to welcome me. Instead, he told me, “We don’t want your kind in our church.” He made it clear that I was not welcome to sit in his church or to stand at the cross of Jesus Christ.
Did that pastor look at me through God’s eyes? Did he grasp, or even care, what kind Jesus Christ wants in His church? No, not at all. That pastor saw trans people as unredeemable, but I was hoping God saw me as a person who wanted to know him.
Hate and Rejection
Unfortunately, that pastor wasn’t alone in his view of me. After my transition, almost everyone looked at me as someone to ignore, avoid, or reject.
My employer, American Honda Motor Company, quickly terminated me from my executive position when I told them I now identified as a woman named Laura. I loved working at Honda. But in 1983, anyone coming to work with a new name and gender was repugnant, even a valued employee with a five-year track record. Honda walked me out the door.
I thought I’d be fine. Companies had always been eager to hire me, and I expected I’d be able to find other employment quickly. I was wrong on that one. I never was able to gain any equivalent employment from then to now, thirty-six years later.
Some in my family rejected me when I started identifying as a transgender female. It hurt, but I understood.
My marriage had ended before I underwent the surgical transition. My wife of sixteen years needed to be unshackled from me and my new female identity and get on with her life, just as I thought I needed to get on with mine.
I faced ugly opposition at times. For example, while working as a dishwasher at a restaurant, another employee took a dislike to me being there. He vandalized my parked car, smashing a window and slashing all four tires.
But I wouldn’t let hate and rejection bring me down or define my life. In fact, I kind of understood it when men got angry or churches or employers exercised their civil right to reject me and dismiss me. I was not going to act like a victim, no matter what I had to face or endure. I believed that challenging the obstacles head-on made me stronger and better. So, I wholeheartedly embraced the T in the LGBT rainbow. After all, my “gender therapist” said hormones and surgery were the answers to all my problems. Pure determination was how I approached life, and I vowed to make my female persona work.
When a Church Saw Me through “God’s Eyes”
Eventually, I decided to try going to church again, this time in the San Francisco Bay Area. A friend suggested I talk with the pastor at his office about whether I would be accepted at the church. My impression of Pastor Jeff Farrar from our first meeting was that Pastor Jeff was a big guy with an even bigger heart. I could tell that he was looking at me through the eyes of Jesus, not man’s scornful eyes of judgment. He saw me for what I was: a transgender female who needed both God’s love, and more importantly, God’s redemption.
Pastor Jeff knew that welcoming me as Laura required a leap of faith for him as a pastor, and that it would take the church congregation into uncharted waters. He wasn’t sure what God’s plan was for Laura, but he was willing to walk alongside me all the way to see what God would do.
Jeff also felt a responsibility to protect his flock from anyone whose intention was to disrupt the church. He purposefully sought to know my heart. Pastor Jeff wasn’t concerned about pesky pronouns or my female name; he got to know me. Pastor Jeff invited me into his home, ate lunch with me, and prayed with me. Was I open to the Lord working in my life? Or was I going to remain defiant, insisting that God made me a transgender female? These were important questions. Pastor Jeff wisely allowed God to work in me and in the church, always resisting the temptation to tell God what to do with me.
I started to ask myself if identifying as a transgender female was God’s design for my life. Through many discussions with Jeff, I was coming to realize transgender identities were man’s idea, not God’s. My female persona, Laura Jensen, had been designed by surgeons who didn’t care about my salvation, relationship, or my redemption with Jesus Christ.
In a stroke of genius, Pastor Jeff asked me to write a weekly prayer letter detailing my immediate struggles and needs. He then sent it confidentially to thirty or so individuals who committed to pray for me. The writing of that weekly prayer letter opened me up to be touched by the Lord while nurturing my desire to see Jesus Christ as the redeemer who could restore the life taken from me.
The Impact of Effective Counseling
Christian counseling was a key factor in my recovery. Living as a transgender woman presented a strong visual to the world at large that I had lost touch with the reality of who I was. I needed help to untangle the many factors that had caused me to reject the truth of who I was in such a dramatic fashion.
Counseling for me involved talking a lot and the counselor simply listening. Some people didn’t like my counselor—some felt he was “not Christian enough,” and others said he was “too Christian.” It didn’t matter. What mattered was that he built a safe environment, where I could share my deepest hurts, secrets, and difficulties, and work through the messy, painful emotions to recovery.
Prolonged childhood cross-dressing and sexual abuse had caused my emotional distress. I didn’t want to be the person who was abused, so I started “acting out” as if I were someone else, a female. That’s what it meant for me to have a transgender identity.
The most loving and compassionate help offered to me came from people who pointed me toward Jesus. Affirming false cross-gender identities is not love; helping someone reclaiming their true identity in Christ is. Over time, thanks also to a loving church family and its pastor, I completely regained the reality of who I was, the man God made, and turned away from my false surgical and emotional identity of Laura.
A Dramatic Encounter Sealed the Deal
One Saturday, at the end of a particularly long and impactful counseling session, my counselor started praying with me. What happened there would change my world forever. During the prayer, I saw Jesus coming toward me with his arms outstretched, reaching down to embrace a little baby in front of me who was wrapped in cloth. The baby was me. Jesus picked up that baby boy and looked toward me saying, “You will be safe with me forever.” Then he vanished as quickly as he had appeared.
After eight years of identifying as a transgender female, I knew beyond a doubt I was safe in the arms of Jesus, redeemed and on the steady path to full restoration. Over forty years of gender distress were gone. All because one church pastor looked at me with the eyes of God, resisting the impulse to judge me or dismiss me as unredeemable, and hung in there to see what God would do.
Recently, Pastor Jeff and I participated in a series of short videos where we share what happened so many years ago when Laura showed up at church. In my book, A Transgender’s Faith, Pastor Jeff shares how he and the church elder board sought scripture for guidance to minister to me, a “scary” person. Even today, Pastor Jeff calls the process with Laura an “extraordinary” time in the life of the church. You see, while God was working on my restoration, he was also shaping the hearts of his people as they obeyed his call to love a broken-down life back to his presence, where healing is found.
My redemption gave me new eyes of compassion for others who regret changing genders, so I started a website, sexchangeregret.com, to reach out to those who needed to know they aren’t alone and that going back is possible. I’m a living example of that. The number of regretters is high and growing because of one basic fact: surgical and hormonal gender transition fails to address the deeper issues that cause the desire to be someone else. For the last ten years, people harmed by surgeons in the name of “gender transitioning” have reached out to me with their stories, looking for someone who understands.
Doctors and surgeons had made a total wreck of my life, but Jesus intervened. He inspired Pastor Jeff to see me as Jesus does: as a beloved son needing his love and redemption.
No One Said It Would Be Easy
God commanded us, his church, to bring the good news to the world, and that’s exactly what this church did for me. Unfortunately, this isn’t always how Christians react to those who need God’s grace. Far too often, when a church is confronted with controversial situations, its leaders choose avoidance or silence, fearful of being God’s agents of transformation. As a result, gender ideology goes unchallenged and flourishes, harming innocent people.
The world needs the truth, and the church needs to tell it. God didn’t say it would be easy or popular. In fact, it’s increasingly risky.
We live in a time when people who voice the truth about sex and gender are scorned and vilified, silenced as quacks and haters, and terminated from employment. The biblical reality of male and female created by God is being replaced by the idea that a surgeon’s knife and cross-sex hormones can make anyone into the gender of their choice. But that’s not God’s design, nor is it biologically possible to change a man into a woman or vice versa.
All church signs should say “Welcome all sinners,” because that’s who we all are—sinners in need of God’s redemption. Now redeemed and restored, I serve Jesus Christ. I have been clean and sober for thirty-three years and married for twenty-two years. I now have the honor and privilege to sit and talk with others whose lives, torn apart by reckless surgeons, need rebuilding. I do my best to help them encounter God’s redeeming grace and unconditional love.
The next time you encounter someone struggling with their identity, consider trying out a pair of “God’s glasses.” Strive to see those around you as our creator does. You never know what God will do.