Walt Heyer: When I came to the realization that the surgery and the hormones, none of that actually changed me. I mean, that was-
Jim Daly: Huh.
Walt: … just a point where, wait a minute, I’m not even a woman. I’m out here with a new birth record, I’ve had all these hormones and surgeries put in my body, and none of it actually was capable of changing me. Made me realize what a lie I had been living.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Isn’t that a really powerful statement? Uh, that’s Walt Heyer and he shares about his struggle with gender confusion on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. We also have Kathy Grace Duncan joining us. Now this is an important topic, but it’s not going to be appropriate for younger listeners and we’re going to be examining transgenderism and how this issue is reshaping concepts of identity in our society. Your host is Focus president Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim: Uh, John, this is one of the most difficult issues, uh, for Christian families to navigate today because it has become such a social dynamic and, uh, you know, for many Christians, we don’t know what it is. We’re not well educated about this issue of transgenderedism and yet, college campuses, they are going to the nth degree to tell incoming freshmen what it means and how you need to talk to people and what pronoun needs to be used, etc. On the other side of culture, there’s a building momentum pushing towards this normalization and acceptance. And so our goal is to equip people, Christians particularly, and we know some non-Christians are listening too, and we hope to equip everybody with more knowledge about this topic, the way that people have suffered through these situations and come out on the other side embracing God, and that’s the story of our two guests today.
John: Mm-hmm. And they are Walt Heyer and Kathy Grace Duncan and they’ve joined us in the studio. Walt identified as a transgender woman for eight years. Uh, he now has a passion to help others who regret gender change. Uh, he’s an author and a speaker who travels extensively to share his story of redemption at conferences, churches, and universities. And Kathy Grace identified as a man for 11 years and, uh, she’s active in the Changed movement and volunteers with Portland Fellowship, a ministry center that helps men and women discover Bible-based freedom from unwanted same sex desires and relationships.
Jim: Uh, Walt and Kathy Grace, welcome to Focus on the Family.
Kathy Grace Duncan: Thank you.
Walt: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Jim: It’s really good to have you and we’re going to get to your amazing stories in just a minute, but, first, uh, give us a general understanding of this term transgender. Ag- again, as we said in the setup there, I don’t think, in the Christian community, it’s not our day-to-day activity. We’re not really oriented to the language and even to that part of the culture. So, what does transgender mean?
Walt: The term transgender is kind of an interesting word and, over the, the last several years, I’ve come to understand that, actually, no one really transgenders. You know, that would suggest that they can actually change from one gender to the other, but I tried it for eight years and you really can’t change. You can change your appearance and make yourself look different, but you don’t actually transgender. But the term is to help people, uh, kind of shape this umbrella term around people who struggle with their identity. For whatever reason, they’re not comfortable with who they are. They’re struggling, and, uh, so this term has sort of been used to, uh, help put the focus on how do we address this issue, how do we help them, how do we come alongside them, how do we help them understand that this part of their life, most likely, over a period of time, they’re going to regret or have, uh, as Kathy Grace and I have found out, you’re going to want to revert back and come to where the Lord-
Walt: … uh, has redeemed your life.
Jim: Yeah, and we’re going to, again, we’re going to unfold that. Kathy Grace, uh, describe the transgender revolution. What is happening? You heard a couple of examples from John and I, uh, but wh- what’s going on in the culture? What is the revolution about? What does this do for them in terms of gaining support within the culture?
Kathy Grace: Well, it’s interesting because, for a while, they, they rejected the T part of LGBT ’cause they didn’t feel like that really represented them, but I think, by inviting them in, it gives them a bigger community. It gives them more power, you know, because it is a growing thing. It is a growing culture.
Kathy Grace: And, uh, it seems to me that there’s two … there’s gender dysphoria and then there’s transgender and the gender dysphoria is the one that goes way back, you know, where you start at a really young age and, um, you know, you grow up feeling, you know, that you’ve been born into the wrong body pretty much your whole life. And then I feel like the transgender movement is those kids that, when they reach puberty, they’re like, “Oh, maybe I should be the opposite sex,” and so they dive into that. And I’m seeing that mostly among girls, though it happens, you know, with boys. And, you know, then there’s the older people, like, uh, we were talking earlier about, the person who’s 30 and, all of a sudden, he says, “Well, I, I decide I want to be a woman.” And, in my mind, I wonder, have you struggled with that this whole time but now the culture says it’s okay to express that and so he feels the freedom to go, “Oh, and by the way, I want a to be a girl,” because I, I think if he was talked to, you know, and asked the questions, he’s probably felt that way for a really long time-
Kathy Grace: … but he didn’t want to display it because it wasn’t okay.
Jim: Right. And that sometimes is the argument the other side makes is that, if there weren’t these maybe even religious constraints on the culture, these hard rules about gender, then people wouldn’t feel guilty and things can be accepted and everything’s normative. How would you respond, Walt, I’ll ask you first-
Jim: … and I’ll come to you, Kathy Grace, for an answer as well, but how would you respond to that, that, you know, these are the constraints of a Judeo-Christian culture that hasn’t matured in their sexual, uh, m- maturity, they just haven’t come alive now? How would you say this?
Walt: Yeah, I think this is so interesting because, underneath that umbrella, the word transgenderism or transgender identity, what we really haven’t unpacked and talked about enough, I don’t think. I’ve done a few articles about it, but underneath that whole spectrum that they talk about are so many other things. I think what’s important is like, when I work with people, and I have for 10 years, I sit down with them and try to identify what the actual issue is that they’re struggling with. And when, when they realize that maybe they were sexually abused or they were emotionally abused or they were physically abused or they were addicted to pornography and they got involved in these sexual fetish disorders or just wanted to identify as a different person, like I did because I was sexually abused, which, in the people I work with, is, you know, a very high percentage. Up to 40% of the people I work with have been sexually abused. So what’s so interesting is that, if we can sit down and have this conversation, whether Christian or not, and they begin to identify these things that happened in their life, and I always say what we want to find out is what happened that caused you to not like who you are? And, in that moment, that person then opens this up and we start to unpack it and they begin to feel, “Oh, okay, now I know why I feel this way,” and then, at that point, the person can kind of begin to come back and realize they don’t need to act out as a transgender person because they have a different terminology to place it under.
Jim: Right. You know, one thing I’m sensitive to, um, you know, getting to know people in the LGBTQ community, uh, no one’s beyond the reach of God-
Jim: … and you’re evidence of that. And I think, so often, for those of us in the Christian community that have never struggled in this way, and perhaps we’ve struggled with heterosexual attractions outside of God’s design for us, etc., but we’re so quick to judge those that are in this dilemma, uh, their sexual understanding and God’s plan for them. And first of all, why do you think that is, being Christians and coming from this background, and then, secondly, what’s a better way to behave?
Walt: Yeah (laughs). Those are great questions. You know, as you approach people who are struggling in this way … because I, I went to a church as Laura and signed in as Laura, thinking, you know, “I’m going to be cool in this church,” and signed in as Laura Jensen, gave my address and phone number and listened to the message that Sunday and went home that afternoon, and then I looked out of my front window and I saw the pastor who gave the message coming to my house, and I thought, “Oh, he’s going to welcome me into the church,” ’cause he had my address and phone number. And so, he knocked on the door and he came in and he said, “We don’t want your kind in our church,” and I actually smiled, you know. I thought, “Wow, are you kidding me?” And I looked at him and I said, “Okay, what kind do you want in your church?” And so, he was like dumbfounded. So this was sort of the, a real moment for me that I’ve carried with me, and I think people have this feeling, they want to reject anything that you can’t control and so, you know, this thing is so out of control. But I think what I have been advocating is that we need to look at everybody, regardless of who they are, through the eyes of Christ and understand that, if you look through the eyes of Christ, you see someone who can be redeemed and restored.
Walt: And so I, I’ve always asked pastors and leaders in churches to sit down with the people who they are afraid of or who are messy people and ask them the questions that I ask, “Why are you struggling? What has caused this to happen?”-
Walt: … and get to know them as Pastor Jeff Farrar did for me. He spent a lot of time sort of looking at my heart-
Walt: … to see where my heart was.
Jim: Well, and he’s a great example and we’re going to get to that and, uh-
Walt: But but so I think it’s so important to look at each person through the eyes of Christ and realize they can be redeemed and restored to Christ if we walk with them.
Jim: Kathy Grace, what do you think?
Kathy Grace: Well, I think, too, that it becomes a big deal because people have a lack of understanding and they think that this is all a choice and, yes, it is, but, no, it isn’t. It’s an unconscious choice. They’re making this choice from that place of pain, from that place of wanting to escape, because who they are has been so hurt and it’s so unsafe, you know, or they feel that they, they will be hated. And it’s understanding that homosexuality, transgender, all those, uh, sexual identities are actually a place of brokenness and we’re seeing the fruit of that place of brokenness. And so, if you can look at them rather than … take the sin label off and look at them this, right here, is because it’s pain and it’s brokenness-
Kathy Grace: … and we need to address the brokenness before we can address the identity issues.
Jim: Yeah. And I, I so agree. Let me ask you, starting with that more science-based, uh, question, Walt, um, you say that no one can prove transgenderism actually exists-
Jim: … now, again, some are going to, “Wait a minute. That’s wrong.”
Walt: Yeah, yeah.
Jim: Let’s blow by that, let’s put political correctness aside for a minute-
Jim: … what do you mean by that?
Walt: Yeah. Well, the truth is that you, biologically, you can’t change a man to a woman, scientifically, you can’t change a man to a woman, hormonally, you can’t change a man into a woman.
Jim: But let me ask you there, because some people attempt to, uh, introduce hormones into their body to do things, but it doesn’t change fundamentally what you are biologically, correct?
Walt: Yeah, there’s internal morphology that doesn’t change. The only thing you can do through surgery and hormones is to neuter someone, but you can’t change them to another gender.
Jim: Walt let’s, let’s get into the stories now. I think we’re ready. We’ve done enough of the background. Um, you’ve talked about even having surgical, uh, alteration, but let’s take you back to four, five, six years old, I believe-
Jim: … after reading your story
Jim: … you had a relationship with your grandmother, and you point to that as the beginning. Take it from there.
Walt: Yeah. I, I think one of the things that’s so interesting about this topic is that you do a whole lot more soul searching years beyond the times that they started and you, you, sort of looking back, in hindsight, you get to see what actually happened and what occurred. And, and, for me, being, uh, my grandmother was a seamstress. She made dresses for ladies. That’s how she earned an income. She was very poor. And I got curious about, you know, her making dresses and, and I made some indication to her that I wanted a dress and so she made me a purple chiffon evening dress, just for my little four-year-old body. And then what I didn’t realize that I can share with you today, that looking back at this, what I realize is the second she put that purple dress on me and started affirming me, what really came through was she was actually saying there was something wrong with Walt. And so, you can’t affirm somebody in a different gender without, at the very same time, saying there’s something wrong with you the way you really are.
Jim: Take us forward then, okay, this, like you said, it seems somewhat innocent. I mean, I would-
Jim: … I would raise my eyebrow about it, but I get it. I know what your grandmother was trying to do.
Jim: Wh- what happened subsequently to build on this foundation of, “I don’t know who I am now?”
Walt: Yeah. Well, going to sleep at night after wearing the dress and, keep in mind, this was a secret my parents didn’t know about that we were doing for the first couple of years, they only learned later, but when I would have those weekends with Grandma where I cross-dressed and I would go to bed at night and I would think about that purple dress and think about, “Wow, I wonder what it would be like …” You start to really fantasize. You start to dream, this becomes a dreamworld and, and it becomes an obsession, and this great desire continues to build. So for two and a half years, it was a secret, but what’s so interesting is how this really overwhelms you to the point to where you have such a strong desire to fulfill this dream and desire to change genders.
Jim: Yeah. In that context, uh, describe what you were thinking or feeling in the years leading up to your surgery then? What, what were these, uh, additional experiences that drove you to that major decision that you were going to alter your physical-
Jim: … being to accommodate this feeling inside of you?
Walt: Again, it’s the reflection back where I learned most of this. I didn’t know it at the time, but I think it’s instructive for us to, to know that one of the things that happened early on, as, uh, when I was about seven years old, as a result of the purple dress, my Uncle Fred, uh, found out about me wearing a purple dress and Uncle Fred decided that I was fair game to be sexually abused and so what’s … again, this is so … the consequences, I, I keep wanting to use that word ’cause we need to have that, you know, in our head. It needs to rent space in us to realize there are consequences. So, had it not been for the purple dress, my uncle never would have sexually molested me. It never would’ve happened.
Walt: So you have the consequence, which looked benign, of wearing a purple dress, and then feeling that there was something wrong with Walt that carried on for several years, and then to be sexually abused just because of the purple dress, then, later on, I had this extra baggage that I carried with me. And I, I learned, later on, that one of the things I believe, and I, I just believe deep down inside me that I wanted my genitalia removed not so much to become a female but as protection against ever being sexually abused again.
Jim: Oh, my goodness. Yeah.
Walt: This became my way of being unattractive to being sexually abused-
Walt: … like I was. So I … and I had other people share the same story with me, that they, they actually changed genders not because they wanted to be another, uh, gender but as a way to protect them from ever being sexually abused again.
Jim: Again, to be honest, I’ve never even thought of something like that-
Jim: … ’cause it’s, you know, it’s not the world I live in and that, that’s so sad.
Walt: Yeah, you sort of live in this world that is all fantasy-
Walt: … and then you realize later on, after you’ve gone through surgery and took hormones, you lose your career, you lose your family, and you go through (laughs) this, and then you realize, well, you know, you really couldn’t change anyway, that, you know, they can’t change you.
Jim: And that’s what’s so hard in the culture right now is you’re, we’re almost forbidden to talk about it in that context because it, it … nobody wants to see this as an ailment, a confusion, a disorder. Uh, Kathy Grace, let me come your direction and talk about your story. Um, wh- wh-, how old were you when you started to feel different? What kind of affirmation were you looking for? What happened to you that, you know, caused a deep wound in your heart, your soul?
Kathy Grace: Sure. So, m- my story is different than Walt’s. Um, I didn’t have anybody dressing me. For me, it was always there that I should’ve been a boy. So, before I-
Jim: What, how, how did that manifest itself though?
Kathy Grace: Um, well, I think it came from beliefs. You know, as I watched my interaction between my dad and my mom and, again, this came years later as I sorted it out with the Lord, when I said yes to Him, going back to being a woman, I discovered that, you know, my dad was abusive. He was verbally and emotionally abusive to my mom, and so he would cut her down, um, you know, pretty much daily as far as who she was and what she looked like and, you know, and so, in my little mind, I watched that and that told me that women were hated, women were vulnerable, they were weak. And then I watched my mom respond to that abuse-
Kathy Grace: … and she responded as though she was hated and she was weak and she was vulnerable. So in my little mind, I realized, “Oh, if my mom is my example, then that means I’m weak and vulnerable and, you know, I can be hated,” and I was like, “I don’t want that.”
Kathy Grace: “I don’t want to be that. But, yet if I can’t be a woman, then I have to be a man and, in being a man, there’s the example of my dad (laughs) and I don’t want to be that either.” And so, I made this vow that I would be the man my dad wasn’t.
Jim: So, you could live up to that standard-
Kathy Grace: Mm-hmm.
Jim: … in your mind.
Kathy Grace: And I could rescue women.
Jim: Wow. I mean, think of that. There’s some nobility in that, but, again, uh, it’s born out of this tremendous confusion-
Kathy Grace: Mm-hmm.
Jim: … and, and dysfunction within your family, to be bold about it. You, in fact, uh, began to develop an imagination as a young girl about that. Describe what took place for you, as, uh, you know, kind of a kid that has a normal imagination, but how did you apply it?
Kathy Grace: Sure. Uh, so I would imagine riding my tricycle over to pick my girlfriend, you know, and this was before kindergarten, and we were going to get married. And in my little mind, I, somehow, I knew that that needed to be kept a secret because my parents wanted a little girl, but there wasn’t an affirmation for this little girl, you know. I didn’t feel loved. And so, to be this boy was a lot safer, and so I would play the hero. I was the fireman. I was the cowboy. I was the police officer coming to somebody’s rescue and it was always a woman’s rescue.
Jim: Becoming a teenager, this became, you know, no longer imagination. You began to change in terms of how you dressed, etc. Describe that for the listeners.
Kathy Grace: Sure. So, I became friends with a neighbor boy. My parents had a rental and they rented to a family and they had a neighbor boy and he was two years younger than me and so we began to hang out. And my first affirmation, as far as becoming a boy, was good is when I shared with him, you know, “I, I really want to become a boy.” He’s like, “Ah, that’s awesome.” You know, and, and if you think about it, what did he know? He was 10 (laughing).
Jim: Oh, man, yeah.
Kathy Grace: But, you know, but he affirmed that and I was like, “Okay, I am on the right path.” And so he and I would go places and, you know, I was raised in a small town and so we would go outside to the next town over and then we’d go roller skating and I would skate with girls and we would say we were cousins. And then, as I got into high school, um, I started dating women. So, basically, I started acting out being a man-
Kathy Grace: … and identifying as a man ’cause I, I hated being a woman, absolutely hated being a woman.
Jim: Yeah, I can’t imagine the energy that you had to keep, uh, putting into this investment of dual characters, I mean, constantly thinking, “Who am I supposed to be right now?”
Kathy Grace: Mm-hmm.
Jim: And I think maybe this is the place to, uh, end and we’ll come back next time, but I do want to ask this final question and get both of your responses just so, as we end today, we’re very concrete about what you experienced. And, again, some people are going to say, well, your conscience, your lack of commitment to the movement, your lack of commitment to your own new identity, you know, being born a girl but wanting to be a man, your lack of commitment is what drew you back and, you know, you may have used religion to get there. I don’t mean to be sounding harsh, but I want to hear your answers to this. You know what the critics say. They probably write you all the time. Uh, how do you respond to that kind of thing, having gone through it and finding a relationship with Christ, which we’re going to get into next time, ’cause that’s the beauty of transition, right?
Jim: That’s the true transition-
Kathy Grace: Right.
Jim: … right, accepting Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, and you both have lived now decades in a relationship with Jesus. But how, how do you defend that position, to say, “No, it wasn’t that. I was fully committed, but my eyes were opened?”
Walt: Well, it is a pretty big commitment to start cutting body parts off and taking hormones and-
Jim: Yeah, who could question that, Walt?
Walt: Yeah, you know-
Walt: … and changing your birth record, leaving your family, abandoning your career, um, and you’re totally devoted to changing this whole identity and living out this life in a different persona. But I think what, it wasn’t anything more than realizing … when I came to the realization that the surgery and the hormones, none of that actually changed me. I mean, that was-
Walt: … just a point where, wait a minute, I’m not even a woman. I’m out here with a new birth record, I’ve had all these hormones and surgeries put in my body, and none of it actually was capable of changing me made me realize what a lie I had been living and I felt I needed to get real with who I was and stop living in this phony persona. And that’s what I said to myself, that I’m living out a lie and I don’t need to do this. I don’t need to continue to acting out as if I’m somebody who I’m really not. And it was that just knowledge that I really wasn’t a woman that made it absolutely lock solid I had to go back and be Walt.
Jim: Uh, Kathy Grace, how about you?
Kathy Grace: So, for me, um, I had no regrets. I liked living as a man. For me, it was like I was headlong into this lifestyle. I had no, no im- … you know, I didn’t want to go back to being a woman ’cause there was such deep self-hatred of being a woman that there was no desire to go back to being a woman. But, you know, as I continued to go to church and learn about Jesus and, when He called me, you know, there was four years in there where He wooed me and then, when He called me out, I said yes. I wanted that relationship that I had begged Him for more than living as a man.
Kathy Grace: And so that’s what called me out was the love of Jesus.
Jim: Yeah. Kathy Grace, I mean, if there’s anything, from both you and Walt’s testimony so far that people have heard, it’s exactly that, Jesus is in your corner no matter what circumstance you’re in, right?
Kathy Grace: Right.
Jim: If you’re heterosexual and you’re out of control, if you’re homosexual or any of the LGBTQ-
Jim: … uh, components, I mean, Jesus wants you with Him-
Kathy Grace: Yeah.
Jim: … and that’s the extension of hope and love and grace and peace that the Christian message is all about. It’s not about what has eaten you from the inside.
Kathy Grace: Right.
Jim: It’s how to, how to get healthy and better in that regard.
Walt: Yeah, and He wants all of you. He doesn’t just want your sexuality or your transgender.
Jim: Right (laughs).
Walt: He wants all of you and He can and will redeem you and you will just be thrilled with a new life in Christ.
Jim: Yeah, and I’m so glad we’re ending here on day one because I want to make sure we have a message of hope for people. And if you’re willing, I think you will be, let’s come back next time and continue the discussion and get more detail from you about how that true transition occurred, uh, moving from death to life in Christ. Can we do that?
Kathy Grace: Yes, absolutely.
Walt: Thank you so much.
Jim: Let’s do that. And, uh, for our listeners, I hope you’ll join us next time as we continue the story ’cause it doesn’t end here. God has done something miraculous for Walt and Kathy Grace and He can do the same thing for you whatever challenges, uh, you’re facing. And we have lots of follow-up resources, John, on this topic particularly, including a book by Vaughan Roberts called Talking Points: Transgender. Uh, this is a great resource that compares the Christian worldview with the gender confusion that is so prevalent in our culture today. And we also have several articles at our website that I know, uh, people are going to find helpful. Uh, we have lots of resources. If Focus is anything, it’s a resource house for you and I want you to tap into it to better equip yourself, uh, to engage in this dialogue in a loving and kind way. And I want to reemphasize that, John, the way the Christian community approaches this, we’ve done it for 40, 50 years in a way that I, I don’t think was very productive. I understand it as a Christian, but I think we have to remember no one is beyond the reach of God.
John: Well, that’s right and, uh, we want to help you, uh, get a better understanding of these complex issues. We’ll send a copy of Vaughan Roberts’ book when you make a donation of any amount to Focus on the Family today. That’ll be our way of saying thank you for, uh, supporting this ministry and helping us help families and individuals who are hurting all across the world. Donate today when you call 800-232-6459, that’s 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, or visit focusonthefamily.com/broadcast for details. Next time, we’ll hear part two of these powerful stories of transformation.
Walt: I was broken by having gone through this procedure, having taken hormones, and having believed that going through this transition to a different gender was my salvation when, in fact, the salvation is actually in Jesus Christ.