Transitioning to a Woman

Michelle Jansen

As told to Cliff Williams

“I’ve never been more comfortable with myself.”

Edited by Cliff Williams from a recorded and transcribed conversation with Michelle on November 3, 2023. She married Alyssabeth in 2018, and began transitioning in 2021. She was in her early thirties when we talked. Picture: Aly on the left and Michelle on the right.


Michelle grew up in a small rural town in north central Wisconsin called Antigo. “It’s not super secluded, though the nearest town of any real size is at least forty-five minutes away. You saw only a few other people and a whole lot of trees and dirt that potatoes grew in.

“From a very young age, I felt that something was not right. But I didn’t have the vocabulary to put my finger on it. I do know that I was delicate and that I was constantly on the losing side of whatever battle was being fought. In kindergarten, I was diagnosed with a particularly severe case of ADHD, which caused further struggles. 

“Another thing I know is that I was always a lot more comfortable being friends with girls. My best friend in elementary school was a girl until she moved away. She was the only person in school who was nice to me. 

“I also noticed that my demeanor, my bodily movements, were naturally more like that of a young girl. And there were other girl things I was naturally drawn to.

“By all appearances, here was this boy, the smallest kid in the class, who acted girly. He lived in rural northern Wisconsin where being tough was a virtue. If he was not tough, that was embarrassing. And he could get bullied.

“I learned to avoid certain things because I didn’t want to be bullied. My favorite TV shows involved girls, such as Powder Puff Girls. I had a weird feeling when I watched it and felt a great deal of shame. I had no idea why I had these reactions. But I stopped watching it because I was teased when I did so. For other things, too, such as my feminine bodily movements, I said to myself, ‘Don’t do that. It’s girly. You’re going to get teased.’ That kind of avoidance informed a lot of my childhood. I didn’t realize until very recently that that’s not the way most children think. They just do things.”


When Michelle hit puberty, she noticed herself changing in a direction that distressed her. “I looked at girls who were changing and found that my brain was not responding in the way I anticipated, that is, in the way I saw typical teenage boys responding to teenage girls. I responded with an odd sense of jealousy instead. That was a very confusing time for me. I asked myself, ‘Why am I naturally drawn to feminine things? Why do I move girly?’ 

“When the internet became more available, I learned that I was not alone. Suddenly I had a context for what I was feeling.

“I started wearing women’s clothing, always at home, though once at school when there was Opposite Day. Antigo is not a safe place for the queer community. In high school, there were a couple of gay kids, but they knew it was not safe to be known as gay, so they tried their best to hide that part of themselves.

“At first, I told myself wearing women’s clothing was something of a hobby, like something normal boys might occasionally do. But over the next couple of years, I slowly realized that my interest in femininity wasn’t just a hobby. It wasn’t just a small part of my life. I was finding more and more that who I was when presenting in a more feminine fashion was me. I finally admitted to myself that it was who I am.”

Becoming a Christian

In the midst of these changes, Michelle became a Christian, a born again believer. “I experienced God for the first time in my life. I made a definite decision to give my life to Christ.

“The church I was affiliated with was staunchly against even the idea of transgenderism. I met someone in the church who became my mentor. He was, and still is, the closest thing I had to a brother at the time and has been an instrumental part of my life. I told him, very shamefully, about my cross-dressing and transgenderism. During one conversation, he said, ‘I think God may be calling you to give that up.’ (He has since become very supportive of me.)

“As a new Christian, I had started chopping off parts of myself: ‘This is sinful. That is sinful.’ And that is what I did with my transgenderism. I decided that God was calling me to something else, in fact, to Christian ministry. So one night I gathered up my women’s clothing, my makeup, shoes, wigs, and everything else I had accrued, and threw it all away. It had played such an emotional role in my life that I had held onto it. But I bagged it up and got rid of it.

“That is what is known as ‘purging’ in the transgender community. You throw everything away. For close to two years, I remained steadfast in that because I believed God was calling me not to transition. I resisted the urge to engage in presenting as a woman or to give any brain space to thoughts about who I was inside. I tried not to be jealous of the women around me or to think about who I wanted to be.

“But like anything else that is an integral part of yourself, my gender discomfort would not stay away. The struggles came back. The unhappiness with my body and with being perceived as male and everything that came with that perception returned. The internal struggle was awful. I became angry and depressed.

“At the same time, I was convinced that God was calling me to Christian ministry, which I learned about at the Christian college I went to and which meant that I would have to be male-presenting. I had an innate conviction that God was asking me to be male-presenting even though it came with a great deal of suffering and distress. This was my internal experience the whole time I was in college.

“Because I take the Bible seriously, I spent a lot of time in college seeing what the Bible said on LGBTQ issues. I used every tool at my disposal, every methodology that was taught in the Bible classes I took and what little bit of Greek I was able to figure out from my year of Greek classes.

“I didn’t do this so that I could make the Bible say what I wanted it to say, that is, to justify my inner drive toward being a woman. For me, it was a done deal that God was calling me to a lifetime of suffering—to put down my transgenderism—so that I could have a life of ministry among Christians.

“At first I studied what the Bible said about LGBTQ issues very begrudgingly. I was super conservative, because I had grown up in a super conservative town and believed that even being interested in what the bible had to say about those issues was sinful and dangerous.”

Shaken Loose

After Michelle graduated from college, she got a position working in a church. “I thought I had all the answers: ‘I’ve got a biblical studies degree. I know what I’m talking about. I can read a small amount of Greek. I’m better than everybody.’ It was both a haughtiness and a hardness: ‘I know what’s right because I’ve studied certain things.’

“I got a wake up call really quick, because, in my job at the church, I wasn’t just dealing with other students who were ready to get into fights at lunch over whether Calvinism is true. I was dealing with people who were living actual lives, who were suffering, who felt different and unlovable. I had thought I had all the power in the world, given to me by God, to fight these things. But I found myself becoming bewildered and overwhelmed.

“What broke through my hard edges was that one of the volunteers I supervised told me that she was bisexual and in a relationship with a woman. She could not sign the ‘lifestyle expectations agreement’ that people who worked with the church were supposed to sign. Yet she was excited to be working at the church. I didn’t know what to do. I sat still while she cried in front of me.

“That knocked something loose in me. I got back into studying what the Bible said about homosexuality and other LGBTQ issues. I talked to spiritual leaders, read books, and prayed. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t know whether being gay or transgender was wrong. It was not the black and white issue I had been made to believe it was.  I thought, ‘If I have to choose between love and acceptance, or judgment and exclusion, given the uncertainty about the matter, I am going to go with love and acceptance.

“All of this occurred within the context of my settled belief that I was called to be male-presenting forever. None of what I was thinking about had anything to do with my own inner reality. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

A Jolt

Michelle went on like this for several years until 2018, when the church she was working at closed. “The closure was traumatizing. I had been thriving. I loved my job. I saw a wonderful, long-term future. My job seemed secure. I was happy with it, with my ministry, and my church community. Actually, it was more than a job. It was my entire life. I had helped build that church community from its inception some years earlier.

“It was even more jarring because it occurred about two weeks before I was to get married. I had found a marvelous woman at the church, and all of our friends at the church were going to be at the wedding. Then suddenly the church was not there anymore. I was left sitting in my living room applying for jobs and dealing with being on the other side of security in a way I had never felt before.

“I still was male-presenting. But during the next six months, the trauma of losing my job and my church plus getting married while being freshly unemployed knocked something loose in my brain and brought my gender struggles to the forefront.”

Letting Go

Michelle decided to see a therapist. “We examined everything. At first, it was, ‘I think I just like wearing women’s clothes.’ Then it was, ‘I think I’m bi-gender,’ which is a way of saying that you feel that you are two genders at once. Then my inclination toward being transgender reached the point at which it could not be ignored. It felt as though God was allowing me to begin to accept myself as being transgender.

“I found a new church to work at. But I had a growing unhappiness because of my increasingly strong feelings about being transgender. And the feeling I had earlier, that I was doing what God was asking me to do even though it involved suffering, left. It was replaced with a feeling of freedom—the feeling that I needed to let go of the security I felt when being male-presenting. 

“My wife, Aly, knew everything. About six months after we had started dating, I told her about my desire to present as a woman. At that point, that was what I convinced myself was the extent of it. Actually, that is what I was hoping it just was, because the idea of also being transgender was too scary. And telling her was probably the scariest thing I have ever done. I thought she would break up with me. But she didn’t. She responded with a ton of patience and understanding. 

“Aly even taught me how to use makeup and to coordinate outfits and get dressed like a normal woman. And she was the one who helped me accept the fact that I was transgender.

“What prompted this acceptance was a huge argument with her three years after we had been married. I can’t remember what it was about, but she had seen my growing unhappiness and mental deterioration, which was a deep depression. I had even started thinking of suicide as a possible option down the road. I could see that that’s where I ultimately would end up if I did not acknowledge the feminine part of myself.

“Aly said, ‘You need to stop lying to yourself. You’re transgender, and you aren’t happy as a man. You need to admit that you’re happy as a woman.’

“That broke me, and I burst out crying. I really, truly, began to let go of what I had been holding onto for so long—the lie that I was a man. The pain that lie brought me had helped me be compassionate toward others, but it was time now to let it go.”

A Decisive Event

Another event helped put this acceptance into action. “About this time—two years ago, in 2021—I was invited to apply for a ministry position at a different church. It would have been an awesome job, but I was crushed all the way through the application process. If I got the job, I would have had to set aside my plan to transition. I would have had to put my acceptance of being transgender on hold. 

 “During the final interview, I was asked to describe the hardest thing I had ever had to do in ministry. I told them about the woman who had told me she was bisexual and who I had almost kicked off my team for dating a woman. And now, I said in the interview, ‘This woman serves faithfully in the church we were at.’

“Then I told the people who were interviewing me that if I got the job at their church, which had an anti-gay policy, I would submit to the authority of the church on LGBTQ issues even though it would be an internal struggle for me. For the next hour and a half, they tried to get me to say that being gay was wrong. ‘Tell us that and you’ve got the job.’ I said, ‘I can’t in good faith lie to you.’

“I didn’t get the job.

“Applying for that job felt as though it was an Abraham-Isaac test.* Was I willing to follow God’s lead to take a new job even though it meant I would have had to give up the new feelings of freedom, happiness, and relief that I had never felt before, feelings that had come from acceptance of being transgender? Was I willing completely and permanently to deny who I was created inside to be by taking the job? I was swinging the knife down on the transgender life I had started to plan for myself. And God stopped me by denying me the job. I had passed the test—I was ready to follow God’s calling even though it meant suffering by continuing to present as male.

“The fact that I didn’t get the job cemented in me the resolve to transition.”


Michelle started going to her doctor and getting referrals to specialists. “The last day I worked at the church I had been at for over a year was in December of 2021, and the next day was my first day of transitioning on feminine hormones. It was fulfilling to go through puberty a second time as my body adjusted to female levels of estrogen.

“A lot of the transition was waiting—waiting for my hair to grow longer, waiting for my facial features to soften up, waiting for my body shape, including my side profile, to change. There were also leaps forward, such as the eight-hour facial surgery I had this past summer, in 2023, to smooth out parts of my face that had developed in a male way. The surgeons peeled away parts of my face and made adjustments so that it would be softer and more feminine.

“The recovery period from that surgery was long, and the first three days of it were the worst three days of my life. But the surgery was totally worth it.

“Some of my masculine features didn’t change as a result of taking estrogen. For example, my voice is still deep, which drives me absolutely insane. There is a rumbling from deep in the abyss that comes out of my throat every time I open my mouth. 

“At the same time, I am much more comfortable with myself. The first day I was on estrogen, I immediately felt better. It was like wanting a drink of water when all that is available is soda, and then at last you get a drink of water, or watching a show on an old-style television that has static, and then watching the show without static on cable television. This sort of immediate relief isn’t everyone’s experience, but I’m glad it was mine because it comforted many doubts I still had.

“Another way to describe my transition is to say that the disconnect between what I was feeling about myself and what my body looked like had disappeared. That disconnect brought about the gender dysphoria I had been experiencing. Dysphoria is defined as ‘a state of unease or general dissatisfaction with life.’ In my case, it was a dissatisfaction with my masculine body: it didn’t look right, it didn’t sound right, the behavior wasn’t right.

“I experienced the disconnect whenever I saw pictures people took of me having a good time. All I could see were the masculine things—the brow ridge, the broad shoulders, the extremely dimpled chin. Pictures that should have been joyful brought me distress. I know it may sound ridiculous, but that is what I felt. Now I can look at pictures of myself without hating them. There is more harmony between what I feel about myself and what my body looks like. I am a lot happier.”

Michelle and Aly

What was it like for Aly to have someone she saw as her husband become a woman? “My transition is also a transition for Aly. She is in mourning for losing the husband she thought she had when she married me. She is grieving for no longer being married to the person I was with respect to gender. 

“At the same time, Aly encouraged me to transition because she could see that if I did not, my mental decline would continue, which would jeopardize our family.

“There was never any dishonesty or hiding on my part. I shared with her everything that was going on with myself. And she was willing to admit that I was really a woman inside before I was willing to admit it to myself. She fully saw all that was going on.

“Still, Aly is grieving. She needs time to process what has happened, and I need to encourage her to take whatever time she needs. I need to pay attention to what she is feeling. She is also worried I might die because of my transition. Murder rates are much higher for trans people than for the general population.**

“In spite of the big change, we are still best friends. My personality has not changed. There is a lot of hope and positivity. We both love our two girls. One is three and a half, and the other is almost two. The two-year-old was born right after I started transitioning. We have been talking about having another child because our girls are so joyful. There’s nothing marriage-ending going on. I’m feeling positive about it all, and Aly is too. In all fairness, though, some things are hard, and we are working on them. But, overall, we have a beautiful life that we’re happy with. 

“Our three-and-a-half-year-old, who knew me before I transitioned, has taken the transition easily. When I show her pictures of me before I transitioned, she says, ‘I don’t like pictures of you like that. I like you now. I love having two mommies.’ We have done our best not to let my gender ‘stuff’ influence her.”

Living as a Woman

Reaction to Michelle’s transition has been almost uniformly positive. “I had been expecting nothing but hardship and suffering. But I have gotten almost universal acceptance from family and friends. Aly and I are in a wonderful church community that is very encouraging and supportive. They are not worried at all that I am a trans woman. In fact, there are times when they see my unique experience as being healthy for them because they get to learn about other people’s experiences. My transitioning has helped us find the best church community we’ve ever been a part of. That has been enormously satisfying.

“On the downside, I have lost a couple of people who were important to me, one of whom was my best friend for a long time. I have been using the women’s restroom for the last two years and once someone said something negative about it. And sometimes somebody gives me a weird look. They know what is going on, and they don’t see me as a woman. 

“I realize there are going to be people who won’t accept me as a woman. That will be hard. I could sit here and say that I’m tough enough to let that roll off me. Sometimes I am. But other times it is definitely unpleasant. 

“Overall, it feels as though Aly and I are on the right path. I’ve never been more comfortable with myself. I have a feeling of freedom and high potential for the future. We feel secure in our church and community. What we are experiencing is beautiful.”


* Genesis 22:1-18. 

** Nicole Moeder, “Number of trans homicides doubled over 4 years, with gun killings fueling increase: Advocates,” abcNews (October 12, 2022): See also “Transgender people over four times more likely than cisgender people to be victims of violent crime,” UCLA School of Law: Williams Institute (March 23, 2021):

© 2024 by Cliff Williams


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