That sense of accomplishment did not last. At 6 feet tall with big, manly hands and a masculine voice, Wenman struggled to “pass” as a woman and dreaded being in public. One stranger’s weird look would provoke days of anguish in Wenman, and kids terrified him— these little ones gaped at him with brazenness. “Rather than feeling liberated, I felt like a criminal. I was getting more and more paranoid.”
Outwardly, Wenman volunteered weekly with the transgender community, marched in LGBT/feminist parades, giggled with fellow trans “sisters” at local bars, and preached that gender is a psychological construct. Inwardly, he was an emotional wreck. His chronic depression began affecting his work performance, and in February 2009, after 28 years of employment, he lost his job. Just as suicide began sounding sweeter than life, Wenman decided to find a church. He found a conservative independent Baptist church, where he realized: “I’ve been warring against my soul. I was transgressing against God, imprisoned by guilt and shame.”
After 17 years living as a woman, Wenman, now 60, has detransitioned back into a man: He clips his white hair short, wears plaid shirts and slacks from the men’s department, and prays for a wife. Since his surgery is irreparable, he wonders if marriage is possible and mourns that he’ll never enjoy the cuddles of his own children.
So when he hears stories of husbands who come out as transgender and leave their families, Wenman grieves: “I want to shake them and scream, ‘You don’t know what you’re doing! You’re giving your family up for something that’s not real!’... But I also know how powerful that feeling is because I went through it. It’s almost demonic.” Yet not impossible to overcome, Wenman said, quoting John 8:32: “The truth shall set you free.”
Like most little girls, KathyGrace Duncan formed her earliest image of women through her mother. What she saw was weak, vulnerable, abused. Whenever her father mistreated her mother, her mother would slip into Duncan’s room to cry. As she listened to her mother sob, the little girl thought, “She’s female and I’m female, but I don’t want to be like her.” Duncan’s parents were distant with her, but her father showered attention on her baby brother. She concluded, “I need to be a boy in order to get affection and affirmation.”
As a child Duncan fantasized about taking women like Jaclyn Smith out on dates. Unlike her father, she would rescue women from distress, buy them gifts, make them feel special—all the things she didn’t get and wanted. By 16, Duncan was ready to be that perfect gentleman. She cut her hair short and feathered, wore two shirts to hide her late-bloomer’s chest, and took girls out on dates to parks and fairs. Duncan didn’t tell her dates she was a girl.