Who in your life seems out of God's reach? What mountain does it seem like God will never move? As Jonathan Youssef and Laura Perry discuss how God called her out of her transgender lifestyle, you will be encouraged that even the most difficult situations are not beyond God's power to redeem. He is still working behind the scenes.
This conversation is condensed and adapted from episode 201 of Candid Conversations with Jonathan Youssef. Listen today on your favorite podcast platform or online to hear Laura's incredible story in its entirety.
"Everybody around you is telling you it's real, but you know inside how fake it is."
Jonathan: You mentioned that you tried to be an atheist [as you lived out your transgender lifestyle], but what was it that made you keep saying, "No, I still believe God is real"?
Laura: God kept pursuing me in different ways. It was such a supernatural work. Sometimes He used other people, but other times it was just Him. One time I dreamt that my niece had fallen down the stairs . . . and I felt compelled to pray for her. I hadn't prayed in years. Two days later she fell just like I had seen in the dream. She'd cracked her head open but lived. That was one of those moments where God was speaking to me. The whole time I knew He was real. I think I was just so angry that I didn't want [to follow] Him.
My parents didn't know any of this. All they saw was what the devil wanted them to see, that I was going deeper and deeper into the [transgender] lifestyle. I was about to have chest surgery, and I was praying, "God, I know this wasn't Your will, but I have to do this. Please, spare my life." And I was really genuine. I really didn't want to go to hell. I was begging the Lord to spare my life, and I think He honored that little admission that I needed Him.
I woke up from the surgery and quickly forgot God and my prayer. I thought I was going to ride off into the sunset of freedom as this new male identity. But when I came back to work, one day [my boss, who had helped me plan my surgery trip, confronted me:] "You're depressed; you're not working as hard; you're unmotivated. We want the old you back." I was stunned. I couldn't get it out of my head. I finally had to admit that even though I liked the physical result and was excited to have [a new birth certificate and driver's license] that validated me, the Truth was I really had been depressed because I realized that my surgery hadn't made me a man. Doubt began to creep in: Is this ever going to be real?
Jonathan: Were you looking for acceptance within a particular community? Or was it all an internal struggle for you?
Laura: It was mostly internal. For the first year or two, I was heavily involved in the transgender community. But the more you're involved in that community, the more you're reminded that you are not actually the opposite sex. I was always trying to get rid of everything that reminded me of the Truth, and that included family. Eventually I quit going to the support group meetings because the people were so depressed. They would tell you how glad they were that they transitioned, but when they started talking about their lives, their lives were awful. They always blamed it on the fact that people didn't accept them enough, but really they had all the affirmation they wanted.
People think if they affirm [others in this lifestyle] enough, then they are going to be happy. But it is an extremely nagging hell to live in this internal world where you're living a constant lie. Everybody around you is telling you it's real, but you know inside how fake it is.
I remember getting up some days and thinking, "What is the point of life? There has got to be more than this." But God was just softening me toward the idea of Him.
Eventually, my mom actually asked me to create a website for her Bible study, and I didn't have any interest in the Bible study. But I wanted the work for my portfolio.
Jonathan: Was there an intentionality behind her asking you to do that?
Laura: If my mom had thought of this ten years earlier, it would have been her plan, but no, I didn't realize how much my mom had changed. The night that I came out as transgender—I didn't know this till years later—she had thrown herself on the floor, wept before the Lord, and said, "God, I am tired of trying so hard. I can't fix this." She had this mentality of trying to fix everything for God, and God said, "Finally! I've been waiting for you to admit you can't fix this." She surrendered her life in a different way and let the Holy Spirit begin to transform her.
I remember realizing one day that Mom wasn't trying to fix me anymore. She really had let go. In fact, there were times when she felt tempted to try and fix it again, and the Lord said, "Only one of us is going to work on her. If you want to work on her, I'll go sit down, but if you want Me to work on her, you go sit down, get in the Word, and work on your relationship with Me. I will work on Laura."
Jonathan: Describe what your relationship with God looked like at that point.
Laura: I wasn't really pursuing God, but [one day at work a verse came to me:] "If you deny me before men, I will deny you before the Father." It pierced my heart. God started to reveal Himself to me. And [as I worked on my mom's Bible study website], I started calling my mom every day asking her questions about what she was studying.
Over six months, God used her to reveal Himself to me, and for the first time in my life I began to see that God was trustworthy, that He was faithful. I thought, If God was that faithful to Israel, maybe He'll be faithful to me.
I called Mom one day and said, "All I want is to hear the Word of God." And my mom said, "Well, I've been praying that God would draw you back like a magnet."
God had really answered her prayer. It was like He opened my eyes one day, and the scales fell off. I was curious, too, about what had happened to my mom. I said, "Mom, what's happened to you? Because you're not the mother I grew up with." She told me how she'd been transformed by the Holy Spirit, and I remember thinking I wanted what she had. Because for the first time in my life she was filled with faith, with peace. I went home that night and began to confess my sins, and I really wanted to be cleaned. I kept thinking, "I want God again. Is He done with me?"
Then, at work [God moved me to minister to two people at a bus stop outside.] And I knew that God had sent me. At that moment I said, "God, I'm completely Yours. Whatever You want of my life, I don't care. I just want to be Yours."
The Holy Spirit came on me with such power, I felt like I was being washed from the inside out. . . . I hadn't known this good God, but all of a sudden everything was real, and it was like I'd become alive. . . . I had this hunger for God. I didn't know that the ladies in my mom's Bible study were praying that I would have this ravenous hunger for the Lord.
I told them later, "Y'all don't know how much God answered that prayer."