Editor's Note: This is Part 3 in a Christian Post series on how Christians should respond to transgenderism. Part 3 will look at the testimonies of two former transgender persons in separate stories. Read Part 1, Part 2 and the first testimony for Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.
Jeffrey Johnston, a Maine native who used to be known as "Janelle," said that when it comes to ministering to transgender people "it's all about the love of God."
Raped at age 9 by one of his father's employees, a strong sexual confusion beset a young Jeffrey and set him on a dark and troubled path toward all kinds of relational dysfunction, addiction and heartache.
He was raped for about two more years until his parents divorced and he moved out of the house with his mom and sister. He was then no longer around the man that worked for his dad, so he could no longer be violated. But the trauma and confusion intensified.
He left home at 17 and moved to Portland, Maine, where he visited a gay bar and met some transgender individuals, initially thinking that they were biologically female. As he describes in the documentary "TranZformed," he found himself having these thoughts going through his mind — believing that God had made a mistake, and that indeed he was a woman trapped in a man's body.
"Between the age of 9 and 17 I had a lot of confusion going on in my mind," Johnston recalled. "I kept asking myself why do I like other boys?"
"Well, when you're that young and you're being raped that's all you know about sex. That's all I knew about sex."
While living in Portland, he would be raped again by four men repeatedly, two of whom he knew, compounding the gender confusion even more.
As time passed he became more convinced that he was a woman. He was introduced to an endocrinologist and when he was 18 he began a two-year hormone regimen, which was the recommended length of time before any doctor would consider any kind of surgical procedure to alter his body.
Johnston started living as "Janelle," a transgender woman, and changed all of his legal documents to correspond with his life as a woman. He would eventually undergo surgery to receive breast implants, got a nose job, and had silicone injected into his lips and cheeks.
He mentioned in the interview with CP that although his parents had taken him to a Pentecostal church for a time when he was a boy, in his youth and young adulthood he had no grid for the spiritual things or influences around him that affected him mentally.
After two years of hormones he moved from Portland to Boston, Massachusetts. He had no job prospects but another transgender friend helped him get a job as a stripper.
"It's not something I'm proud of but I did for over 20-something years," Johnston recounted.
"And when you subject yourself to that lifestyle of drugs, alcohol and prostitution usually fall hand-in-hand."
This was Johnston's life from age 19 to 41.
Johnston, now 53, remembers that when the Twin Towers were struck on 9/11 he was at a particularly dark place in his life where he was hooked on crack cocaine, powder cocaine, Oxycontin, heroin, and methadone. He was going to a methadone clinic daily.
While on a bus on the way to the clinic on one particular day around this time, he started crying uncontrollably and he didn't know why. These crying episodes on the bus persisted for a few days and not long after that he got into an argument with a female friend of his and she pushed him head-first down a flight of stairs.
"It was so bad there at the foot of the stairs I was gnarled and twisted up," Johnston recalled.
And then something he describes as supernatural happened. Something came over Johnston and miraculously untwisted his body and he somehow felt no pain.
"All of a sudden I had this thought in my mind that God had to have been with me," he said, and he managed to get home. But the pain from the injuries he had sustained began setting in so he went to the emergency room.
After signing himself in he noticed that he was the only one there in the waiting room. Banged up and bruised, he stumbled over to an adjacent room to get a wheelchair and when he returned to the waiting area he saw a little old man and little old lady, who he believes were angels.
The little woman came over and put her hand on his shoulder and asked him "Honey, do you know Jesus?"
"And at that point in time in my life I just lied to her and said 'Oh yeah, I know him well," Johnston said with a laugh, when in truth he "did not have a clue."
"I just knew he was someone who died on a cross for sin."
The woman smiled and said "Thank you," turned around and sat down. Johnston never saw her or the old man again.
He saw the doctor, left the hospital and returned home. Everywhere he walked in his apartment he heard a still small voice say to him over and over again "Do you know Jesus? Do you know Jesus?"
Whether he was in the bathroom, the kitchen, or the living room he could not escape this nagging voice.
The voice persisted for a week but Johnston kept ignoring it.
Yet he finally relented and made a deal, saying: "This is what I'll do. I'll turn the Christian TV channel on ... and I'll watch [a show he had heard about] and I'll learn about Jesus." He remembers asking himself if he really knew Christ or knew of Him, and upon asking himself that question, the still small voice fell silent.
By this point in his life, Johnston was in such poor health and in so much pain and torment that he needed a drink of methadone in order to function in life. A thought came to his mind one day during this season that perhaps he might have sold his soul to the devil and felt this voice might be God.
"I said, 'Well, if you can just help me God, [help me] get through these next three days.'" He could not return to the methadone clinic for these three days because of an issue with a breach in his contract, he said.
Johnston made it through those three days. But it got bad, as he experienced numerous physical convulsions and severe muscle spasms in his legs.
"I must have had a demon at that point in my life because the enemy knew that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me," Johnston said.
The spiritual warfare was fierce. He recounted an occasion where "this spirit had me turning my head fiercely to the left, then fiercely to the right. And I'd start growling like a wolf. I'd be lying on my back and my back would arch up — it was just awful."
So Johnston started talking to God and turned on the Christian TV channel as he had promised he would do and the pastor who was ministering said: "Even if you are lying there in your bed, get right up out of your bed and put your hand on the TV and say this prayer with us."
"I thought, Oh my God, he's talking to me," Johnston said.
He then repented of his sins and asked the Holy Spirit to come and live inside him. He did this for three days in a row and didn't feel anything different.
But God had heard his sincere prayers and was about to manifest His presence in a powerful way.
A short time after he had prayed at the behest of the minister on television, Johnston told CP he felt the hand of God come upon his right shoulder, "and He pulled my entire life in front of my face."
In what he describes as an open vision occurring on film one would use in a 35 mm camera, God showed Johnston his entire life — from coming out of his mother's womb to the 41 years he lived — everything that he ever did, everything that happened to him.
While in the vision, God said to him, "Honey, this is you growing, developing and changing."
When the vision reached the point Johnston had gotten the fake breasts and multiple cosmetic procedures, He said: "Honey, this isn't you. This is what the devil has done to you."
"I was so flabbergasted that He called me 'Honey,'" Johnston said, noting that he sat there on the edge of his bed awestruck that God would "take the time out of His day to talk to me" out of all the billions of people in the world.
But in that moment, he tangibly felt the love of God more than he ever had before.
God would continue to speak to Johnston in visions, and his experiences have informed his prayers for transgender people.