University chaplain has become the Methodist Church’s first transgender minister after hiding her true identity for more than four decades.
Joy Everingham, 46, spent years secretly applying lipstick and wearing women’s clothes before finally coming out three years ago.
She first announced that she planned to transition while training to become a minister, before becoming ordained last summer.
It is the first time a transgender person has been appointed as a minister in the church with the church’s knowledge.
The mother-of-two from Canterbury, Kent, says she first knew she was different aged just five, and ‘didn’t fit in with everyone else’.
She said: “I wasn’t like the boys, I was always more like the girls.
“My dad used to joke ‘I’ve got three kids, one of each’, so I was obviously different – I couldn’t hide it.
“I went through my teenage years trying to be as boyish as possible. It always felt really disjointed, so I hid.
“If I’d admitted how I really felt at secondary school I think I would have been beaten with sticks.
“I’d put make-up on, put my mum’s shoes on. It was liberating, but at the same time I felt dirty, and I felt wrong.
“I felt like I was the only person in the world who was like that.”
Aged 15, Joy became a Christian, which she says was life-changing.
Four years later, she started dating her best friend of six years, Ruth, and the pair married when she was 22.
For eight years, Ruth was oblivious to the secret life her husband was living, unaware he was hiding clothes in the loft and continuing to dress as a woman.
But shortly after the birth of their first son, Joy, 27, travelled to Leeds on a secret trip to a transgender club, and it proved to be a defining moment in her journey.
She added: “It made me realise it wasn’t going to go away. I felt so at ease with myself. I felt normal.
“Coming back to the hotel that night I was thinking ‘I don’t want to take ‘me’ off’.
“I didn’t want to go back to being what I what was. I knew I had to tell Ruth.
“We were sitting in bed and said ‘I’ve got something to tell you’.
“I started crying and couldn’t breathe – it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
“Ruth was convinced I was either having an affair, or I was gay, it was obviously a bit of a shock.
“I thought she was going to leave me, or kick me out, but she said ‘I’ve got to think about this’.”
Much to Joy’s relief, Ruth was prepared to help her explore her identity, but she said she would leave if Joy transitioned.
After the birth of the couple’s second son in 2002, they decided Joy would live full-time as a man and all of her clothes were taken to a charity shop.