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Focus on the Family Broadcast

God’s Amazing Grace in a Transgendered Person’s Life (Part 1 of 2)

God’s Amazing Grace in a Transgendered Person’s Life (Part 1 of 2)

Laura Perry Smalts shares about her 7-year journey of transitioning and identifying as a male before realizing she was living a lie and then fully embracing her female gender. She tells about her painful experiences living with a self-created identity outside of God’s design and incredible plan for her, revealed through her loving parents and other believers. Laura and Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician, speak compassionately about the issues surrounding gender confusion in today’s culture, offering practical insights, hope and help. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: March 5, 2024

John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, Laura Perry Smalts tells her story of experiencing gender identity confusion.

Laura Perry Smalts: And so, I realized that I could not ever be a man. And that’s when that depression really started to set in, ’cause I realized this was always gonna be fake. But there was so much pain in being a woman. And I didn’t know why. I didn’t know why every time I thought about being a woman, I just would have rather died.

Jim Daly: John, I’m so grateful to Laura for her honesty about some of the lowest points of her life. And praise God that He did not leave her there but brought her out of that and redeemed her. Laura gives me so much compassion and hope for people who are experiencing gender confusion.

John: Yeah, I’d agree. This is really an important conversation for all of us to hear.

Jim: Yeah, I think the most dangerous lies our culture is telling right now are about gender identity. It’s just come like a storm. And this is such a difficult topic because it is so personal to so many people. But, today’s conversation is full of vital information for those of you who are parents and grandparents that are dealing with this. And we are hearing from you.

Even if you don’t know anyone yourself dealing with this, our culture is rapidly going in a dark direction and you need to be informed to help speak the truth to those around you. So, we’re gonna equip you today in that way. I recently talked with, uh, Laura and Dr. Meg Meeker who brought her medical expertise to the conversation. She’s a pediatrician and is well informed on this topic. And I really hope, uh, you’ll listen closely to what they have to say.

John: Yeah, Laura does a lot of, uh, speaking, sharing her story and helping people navigate gender confusion. Uh, she’s happily married now to a man named Perry and God has done really amazing things in and through her. And Laura’s story is captured in her book, Transgender to Transformed: A Story of Transition That Will Truly Set You Free. We’ve got that here at the ministry and that really forms the basis of the conversation today.

Uh, Jim mentioned that our other guest is Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician. And, uh, she’s a familiar guest here on Focus on the Family and has talked with hundreds of parents in her own practice about gender identity and the damage of medical transition. Let’s go ahead and hear Jim’s conversation with Laura and Dr. Meeker on today’s Focus on the Family.

Jim: Let’s start with you Dr. Meeker. Uh, more and more young people, especially girls, are experiencing gender confusion. Uh, 10 years ago, I think the prevalence of transgenderism, if I could call it that, in children was like 0.1% and now it’s two to 3% according to different surveys. I think that’s about a 4,000% increase. Just generally, wh-, what’s going on?

Dr. Meg Meeker: You know, when physicians like myself, ’cause I talk to a lot of them, first experienced this explosion of transgenderism, our mouths dropped open and we looked at each and thought, what is happening? A-, and I say, you know, I’ve been doing this 35 years. H-, Have you ever seen this, to my colleagues. And they said absolutely not.

I really do think that it has, uh, arisen out of a phenomenon we’ve seen occurring over the past 15 or 20 years. And that is redefining sexuality. And then once you redefine sexuality, where do you go from that? Then you redefine gender.

And I really believe that our culture is doing that because we see problems in our kids and we wanna give them a quick answer. Well, if you have depression or if you have this then, and you think about the fact that you might want to be a boy if you’re a girl and, um, vise versa, here’s the answer. Go do it.

And life isn’t that simple. So I really think that it’s a result of this desire in our country to emasculate, take aw-, away femininity, redefine sexuality and now redefine gender. And it’s very confusing for kids.

I had a patient who was 13. I’d known her all of her life. This is typical.

Jim: Huh.

Dr. Meeker: Very, very troubled family. And she decided to she wanted to transition. Mom took her down to University of Michigan and she spent three hours, two hours interviewing, um, sociologists, psychologists, whatever, one hour with a gender clinic doctor. Came home with testosterone. Three hours and I’d known this kid all of her life.

So next time I saw her, her voice had changed. Fundamentally what happens is that physicians wanna get kids before they hit puberty so they stall puberty. They literally stop it. So, for girls that means giving them testosterone which has problems. For boys that means giving them estrogen and progesterone.

Now when you do that, when you interrupt puberty, um, in a teenager, we don’t know long term what is gonna happen. But we do know there’s a very high rate of infertility that goes along with it. So we’re leading kids.

And then there, there’s also data on all the physical problems that happen. There are bone issues, there, there, there’s a syndrome where it sort of imitates a brain tumor if you will. This is very, very serious medical intervention.

Jim: Well, again, I appreciate that foundation because I think it’s critical to know. And we’re gonna, you know, ask more questions down the line here in this program about those things. Uh, Europe has experienced certain things. I’m gonna talk to you about that. But let me bring Laura in. Laura, it’s so good to have you on the program. Thanks for being with us.

Laura: Thank you so much for having me on.

Jim: Yeah. And, um, you know, I think Dr. Meeker has done a wonderful job kind of laying the, the kind of macro groundwork for what’s going on in the culture, etc. But this was you. This is part of your story and you pursued it and, you know, in the end, you’ve, um, changed back to your biological sex. I think we all realize that. But I do want to hear your story because it’s so powerful.

Tell us about your childhood, what was going on, the feelings you had, maybe some of the contributing factors. This is a big question and it’s gonna take a big answer. But just take your time and go through it. What was happening for you? What were those big flags that led you to the things you did to your body?

Laura: You know, and when I, when I transitioned initially, I would have said I was born that way. I’ve always had these feelings. I, this is just who I am. I, I really saw no connection. But now, in hindsight, I, it’s like oh my goodness, I can see where these lies really developed. It started very early in childhood and I really misunderstood things with my mom.

Um, I’ve blamed her a lot on my past. But now that I’m older, I have so much grace for her and I understand the struggles and her own brokenness. Um, but, but as a child, we had a very difficult relationship. She was much closer to my brother. And we were very different in personality.

Like, he was very quiet, very obedient, kind of the golden child and I was very kind of obnoxious and hyper. I had a ton of energy, very loud. Um, and she was going through so much stress. And I remember, like if I picture my mom from childhood, I just see her stressed out. She was burned out. Um, and she said she was always on this performance treadmill for God, trying so hard in her own flesh to please God.

Jim: Huh.

Laura: Um, but I began to interpret that as mom loves my brother more than me. And so, at a very early age, I began to, um, wish that I had been a boy. And then I found out she’d miscarried two boys between us. And then I was like, well mom wished I had been one of the boys instead. And then, I was molested at eight years old and the sexual confusion on top of all that just really began to, um, to drive this desire home.

And I, I felt like being a girl was insecure, like, uh, um, vulnerable and, um, I felt like men had the power and I was just, you know, good to be used and thrown away.

Jim: Yeah, Laura, let me, let me interrupt because I wanna bring Meg in on that. That’s a very common story. And it’s a tragic story. I don’t wanna, you know, make too light of that. I mean a sexual experience at a young age, abusive experience. And I think that was another young boy.

Laura: It was.

Jim: Who, if I remember your story correctly. So it wasn’t coming from an adult male or something like that, which is also unfortunately so common. But, Meg, speak to that with the patients that you’ve seen. How often, uh, is, is there a sexual abuse situation that kind of triggers some of this for some of those patients?

And I ask this because so often, as I communicate with people in the LGBTQ community, they want to play this down, that it wasn’t a triggering event. And that’s not my story and yes, things happen but that’s not why I am who I am. And, I just wanna illuminate that a little bit because so often the tragedy and what breaks my heart is it is part of the story when I get to know these people.

And they do tell me eventually, yeah I was molested as an eight, nine, ten year old. Speak to the power of that situation.

Dr. Meeker: Yeah, you know, we don’t really know any statistics about, um, sexual abuse in people who wanna transition. However, I can tell you this. The rates of depression and suicidal ideation for those who are going to transition is very, very high. And given what we know about sexual abuse statistics in the general population, it is going to be very high in those who wanna transition as well.

When a, a child or a woman, uh, a girl is sexually molested, it hits to the very depth of who she is. I really believe it, it cracks into her soul. And there’s tremendous pain, tremendous, uh, psychological pain. But I also think spiritual pain. And I do think that the devil gets in there and if he can fiddle with your sexuality, he can take every part of you down, because your sexuality is related to every part of who you are, your personality, your feelings, um, your physical being. Every part of you.

And so I think that we underestimate the pain and the destruction to a child when they’re sexually abused. And I would say for boys as well. You know, masculinity is huge part of who they are growing up. And if they are molested by another boy, the effective that is profound on their masculinity. You know, it’s been knocked down, it’s been broken.

Um, and so I think that when you break a person’s sexual identity early on in life, that leaves them open for all sorts of other things to come in and, you know, upset them, disturb them, make them more. So, sexual abuse is, I’m sure, very high among those who wanna transition. Because we know that depression and suicidality in, um, the transgender community is higher than it is in any other demographic of teens in the US.

Jim: Yeah. Laura let’s come back to you and I just wanted to insert that because it’s so critical and, again, most of the people I know, including a woman who was a lesbian and came back to Christ. She said, uh, there was an incident where a boy simply exposed himself to her and she translated that as power. He’s got the power. I do not. I want to be in the power position. And she points back to that as the beginning of her attraction to women ’cause she didn’t want to be a female. She wanted to portray a, a male in that way in the role.

Um, so coming back to you, Laura. Ex-, uh, keep going into your story and let’s talk about the decisions you made, uh, to eventually begin hormone or surgical treatment to become a man.

Laura: Yeah, and that’s such a good point, I just wanted to say real quick, that um, because I felt that same way. That the boys had all the power. He totally rejected me after that. It was my friend’s brother and then, um, I was just completely thrown away. I remember feeling, at eight years, that that boys have all the power and being jealous.

But I will also, um, that pornography is kind of doing the same thing. So some kids are saying I was never touched, I was never molested, anything like that. But they’re either being exposed to like that or they’re being exposed to pornography at very young ages and I think it’s having that same devastating effect.

Um, but, but as I grew up, I was sort of living this double life and I was raised in a Christian home, in a very Christian environment. But I don’t remember really wanting God. I wasn’t pursuing God. I was kind of felt like it was shoved down my throat. But I think so much of it was because I was living with this internal secret that was just destroying me. I felt so much guilt and shame from all of that and I felt dirty and used, even at a very young age.

Um, and so I just began drifting more and more away from the Lord. I knew I was biologically female, um, and I didn’t know what to do with those feelings. I’d never, ever heard the word transgender. So that wasn’t even on my radar that I, I could “transition”, so I remember feeling like, okay God’s given me this body that I don’t want in the first place and my mother didn’t want me in my mind. She did. She loved me very much but in my mind.

And then so, but it’s not even working properly and I’m beginning to get really angry with God. And I began to get in a lot of sexual sin, and I didn’t realize the brokenness that was gonna bring in my life. I thought God just didn’t want me to have fun. Um, but it began to really fracture my identity and my worth and my value. And I felt like women had absolutely no value. And that’s really what made the, um, when I began to make the decision to transition. I looked back and childhood and I was like, I’ve always felt like a boy.

The reason this never works out is because I was meant to be the man. I was a man. I, I knew how to treat a woman. And so that’s really where that started.

Jim: How old were you then, when, uh, you made the decision to surgically make changes and, you know, to the degree you can explain that please so the audience understands what you’ve gone through.

Laura: Yeah, I was 25 and one of the first things I had to do, I’d gone to a support group ’cause I’d never even heard this until I looked it up on Google. And so they, they told me about the W Path Standards and this is how you sort of transition. And I was required to go to three one-hour counseling sessions, which they don’t even do that in a lot of states now. Um, but in the third session, the therapist realized that I had all these problems with my mom and problems in childhood. And she said, wow you really have issues with your mom.

And I was stunned, I was like whoa wait. When did we get talking about this? And I blew up at her. I said, I’m not here to talk about my mom. And I just, um, I really said I don’t wanna talk about that. And so she said you’re just here to get this diagnosis. I said, yes, that’s all I’m here for. And she said, okay. And she just gave me this letter stating I’d been diagnosed with gender identity disorder which is what it was before it was gender dysphoria.

And then, um, I took this to my doctor that I’d been seen for for years and I’d never said anything about this. And all of a sudden I have this diagnosis and he’s, um, he asked me something like, are you sure this is what you wanna do? Yes, this is what I wanna do. He said, okay and he started me on testosterone that day.

Jim: Wow, I mean that’s kind of what Meg Meeker was talking about. And, Dr. Meeker, I mean that description that Laura’s giving of the office visit and the lack of digging and the lack of understanding, I would think, uh, with that counselor, for example, with Laura, she should have really insisted, let’s dig into those issues with your mom. And let’s discover maybe where some of this was derailed for you. And then you can decide where things go from there. But there’s not even that kind of retrospection is there?

Dr. Meeker: No, and one of the things that concerns me the most is that kids are coming forward wanting to transition for a reason. And the reason isn’t just that they feel like they should be a boy. And instantly more girls want to be boys then boys to girls. But we never get to those issues. We never get to those problems. We slap an answer on.

And it’s really painful and hard for the people who transition because, once they’ve transitioned, kids I’m talking about, and they move into their 20’s, the rates of suicide and depression are much higher in them then the general public. Unfortunately, the medical community is drinking the Kool-Aid, the AMA, the American Academy of Pediatrics and, um, American Board of Internal Medicine, all say that we need to gender confirm. We need to confirm a gender identity.

And then, if we don’t, then we’re gonna get a big slap on the wrist. And it’s phenomenal to me that we’ve come to a place where good physicians believe that the answer to children’s problems is to give them hormones, interrupt puberty and cut off their genitalia. God help us. But these poor kids don’t get their issues attended to.

You know, it’s, it’s like putting on a, a, a big huge Band-Aid. Um, depression and suicidality are very high in the LGBT community. And it’s kind of like chicken or an egg. What came first? The depression and suicidality or, you know, the, the gender dysphoria. But we never care enough to find out. So that’s very disturbing to me. The medical community is all over this. They’re buying into this.

Jim: Let me, let me put a data point in there. And Laura, I mean you’re living it so jump in, either one of you, on this. But 70 to 90% of gender confused children and, and teens will self-correct by 19 years old. And to me, that’s been the moral outrage for me.

That, in these elementary schools, with school administrators and counselors, they’re taking these young children and affirming something that 70 to 90% of those kids will grow out of once they understand, their brains are more mature, etc. And they’re imprisoning them, guiding them down this path of ruin and regret.

Laura: Right, I think, you know, if I hadn’t, um, gotten into so much sexual sin, I had kind of grown out of it a little bit in high school, I don’t know how much I really thought about it. Again, it, I hadn’t heard the word. So I think if I’d been in this culture, I would have been screaming at eight, nine years old that this is who I am, and I’ve got to transition.

But, um, I, I don’t remember having those feelings as much in high school. Um, but then I looked back on everything and if I had gotten help at that time that I needed it, if I had done it God’s way and not gotten into all this sexual sin that lead to so much more brokenness. Um, so I actually, I think that is really true that I think a lot of kids grow out of this. Um, but now, the studies are showing the total opposite if they are socially affirmed and put on puberty blockers, um, 90 to 100% are now wanting to medically transition.

Jim: Yeah, that’s amazing. I mean, again, it’s affirming something that, if time were given, they most likely would not choose those things as a 20, 21 year old, typically. Laura, back to your story because you were a little later in making that decision in your 20’s. But describe what you took, the impact that it had on you, even how that impact continues today.

Laura: Yeah, I, I started on very high doses of testosterone. And within, uh, maybe a month, I don’t remember the exact timing but my voice began to get, uh, a lot lower. It was a lot lower then then it is now. Um, you know, and began to really grow a little bit of facial hair. The facial hair took several years. But even certain things, like my jaw line began to um, look a little sharper.

But, really, over time, it was like every little process, ev-, every little change was such a huge affirmation and I was, I was aware in one sense that this was all fake but every little step seems to get you closer to that goal. And so you keep thinking that the next change will make it feel more real and so then I had my, my name legally changed in, uh, 2009 and then I had my first surgery and I had a double mastectomy in 2009, uh, later that September. And it was like, you know, every step along this way seems to be getting close to that goal.

But then, I remember after my chest surgery, being extremely depressed. Well, I was excited at first ’cause I liked the results, you know, and I was like this is amazing. This is everything I ever wanted. But then, um, after maybe a few weeks later, couple months later, it was like wait a minute, this, this didn’t make me a man and it was confusing because it made me legally male.

But, um, I, I realized that even women had mastectomies and this didn’t make me a man. But, you know, over the years, um, as I continued to transition, uh, you know, more and more steps towards this, um, I eventually had a hysterectomy, I had the ovaries removed and, um, I began to have a lot of cognitive problems. And, I began to have, um, a lot of memory and focus problems. I began having a lot of trouble at work. And so I didn’t even know then the, the dangers of all this.

But I do know that my blood started getting so thick that my doctor was making me go to have therapeutic blood withdrawals to, to thin the blood.

Jim: Laura, let me ask you now. We, we’ve covered the physical quite well I think and hopefully given some people some insight. Now let’s move more into that emotional spiritual realm where y-you described it so well where you felt like you were getting a handle on this where your body was finally taking the shape that you had wanted since you were a child, it sounded like. And, um, in that regard, when did the dent become more palpable for you? When did you start going, okay wait a minute. This isn’t what I want. This isn’t who I am. This isn’t my identity. And where did God show up in all of that discussion?

Laura: Yeah, it really started, um, after my hysterectomy and I, I didn’t even realize depression was part of menopause, um, but I started getting extremely depressed. And I realized that, as I started looking into the genital reassignment surgery options, I was horrified when I realized how fake it all was. And that it was never gonna be real. And I remember being so broken and so just crushed because no one had ever told me that this was not ever gonna be real. That I could have this appearance of a man and I had this job where I was only known as a male. I passed pretty well in society. Um, but I needed the truth inside and I rea-, one there were tons of complications with these surgeries.

Um, but on top of that, at the time, some of the statistics were saying 40 to 60% would never have any sexual feeling again. And so I realized that I could not ever be a man. And that’s when that depression really started to set in ’cause I realized this was always gonna be fake. But there was so much pain in being a woman and I didn’t know why. I didn’t know why every time I thought about being a woman, I just would have rather died. And so, I, I sort of trudging through life and I remember getting extremely restless. I wasn’t sleeping well. And I remember thinking there’s got to be more to life than this. I, I was so, um, frustrated.

But I thought, it’s not Christianity ’cause I grew up in that. And I, I’d had this very legalistic sense of Christianity. I didn’t understand. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know that I’d never truly been saved and filled with the spirit of God. I didn’t know that I’d never known Jesus. And so what I ha-, what I knew is that religion wasn’t the answer.

But, um, as, like God was pursuing me this whole time and my parents were praying and they had lots of people praying with them. And this began to be a supernatural miracle that just unfolded that no one could have, um, seen coming. And really when I look back, I, I’ve attributed various programs and different things that had an influence on me, my mom ended up having a great influence on me. Um, but really there were lots of things that got used.

The, the one was profound, so my mom had had this, um, you know, like I said she was so stressed out so burned out. But as she really began to surrender her life more to the control of the Holy Spirit, let Him work in her life, and she really surrendered me into, into God’s hands and just really began to trust the Lord, and she quit trying to fix me, quit focusing on my sin and let the Lord shine His light into her own heart so she began to be transformed. One day the Lord opened my eyes to how much my mom had been transformed and that’s when I knew the gospel was true.

It was like, wow, Christ is alive because I could see that, after 40, 50 years of her trying to fix herself all of a sudden my mom was changing. And when I saw the peace and the faith in my mom, and again God used many, many, many other things so it’s not like if someone doesn’t have that relationship with their child right now and God brought this back and forth all the time. There were times I’d cut them off, and I’d come back, and I’d cut them off and I’d come back. So just the power of prayer. God did what no one could do and He radically transformed my life.

John: What an inspiring conversation. And what a statement there from Laura Perry Smalts on today’s Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. The work of God is so apparent in her life.

Jim: Yeah, what Laura shared has the power to change lives and her story about the painful effects of medical transition, sexual transition supports the truths that we see in the Bible. We read in Psalm 139 that God knit us together in our mother’s womb and that includes gender. He doesn’t make mistakes. Uh, no matter how many times we’re told that lie, that supporting medical transition is loving, uh, we have to remember stories like Laura’s and the truths Dr. Meeker shared. People struggling with gender identity confusion need love and help. But not through medical transition.

Many of them are hurting. In fact the data is amazing. About 85% of preteen and teens with gender confusion will self-correct by the age of 19. So the point is, leave them alone. They need to be seen, heard and loved with the truth. And next time Dr. Meeker and Laura will share more about what we can do to help others with gender confusion as Laura will talk more about her own story.

Uh, we still won’t be able to cover her whole journey but it’s in her book Transgender to Transformed: A Story of Transition That Will Truly Set You Free. And I wanna encourage you to get a copy. Uh, as you’ve heard this conversation today about a troubling issue in the culture, it reminds us of the challenges families are facing around the nation. And when families are weakened, when we stray from our Christian values, our country becomes broken. But you can help strengthen America and it starts with the family.

Help save America’s families by joining our friends of the family membership drive. We’re praying for 1000 people to join our community of monthly sustainers who care deeply about the family. So please become a member of friends of Focus on the Family today with a gift of any amount. And we’ll say thanks by sending you Laura’s book, Transgender to Transformed.

John: Yeah, we appreciate your monthly pledge and if you’re not in the spot to do that, uh, please consider a one-time gift of any amount. Uh, we’d still be happy to send the book to you. Our number, uh, to donate and request the book is 800 the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or donate and request the book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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Cover of the book Transgender to Transformed by Laura Perry

Transgender to Transformed: A Story of Transition That Will Truly Set You Free

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