Tranny Regret

Do transsexuals get a second chance in the great gender-identity sweepstakes?

Calvary Chapel, South Florida's largest megachurch, claiming about 18,000 Protestant congregants, has no formal program for the sexually broken, but it provides biblical counseling to those who need it, Pastor Fidel Gomez says. But neither he nor Pastor Bob Coy would comment on Michael Berke or on the church's view of transgenderism.

The success of Calvary comes largely from the charisma of Coy, a former cocaine dealer, gambler, and Las Vegas strip-club manager turned successful evangelical minister. It was Coy's background that convinced Michelle she had come to the right place.

She landed in the pews of Calvary after some emotional lows that stemmed from a strained relationship with her roommate. Balentine had a new boyfriend, an evangelical Christian, who moved in.

Michael Berke became Michelle in 2003
C. Stiles
Michael Berke became Michelle in 2003
A year and a half later — after an evangelical intervention — Michael reemerged.
Courtesy of Michael Berke
A year and a half later — after an evangelical intervention — Michael reemerged.

"He was staying here all the time," Berke says. "And I got booted out of the whole picture. He was turning Rachael against me. At that time, my behavior... I was off-the-wall. I was in and out of the hospital. Cutting. Suicide attempts. Living with me at that time must have been hell."

Balentine says that Berke became obsessive about the relationship.

All the old issues seemed to be resurfacing, and by then, the only thing Berke hadn't tried was God. Michelle thought it might allow her and Rachael to become close again, never imagining she'd have to give up her identity.

"I had read in the Bible that God loves me no matter what," Berke says. "So I'm like, cool, I can be a Christian transsexual."

Berke took a liking to both Pastor Bob and Pastor Gomez. Michelle loved their uplifting spiritual message, and she wanted to get more involved. After a handful of church services, Berke approached the pulpit to say a prayer and accept Jesus. Then she attended her first "deep faith" class for neophyte Christians. A classmate told her that deacon Craig Houston wanted to have a word with her.

Houston asked Michelle about herself, and she told him she dreamed of falling in love and having a family. "Do you believe in some sort of creation and order in the universe?" Berke remembers Houston asking. Yes. Next question: "Well, if there is order in the universe and some sort of creator, how could that creator make mistakes?"

At the church bookstore, Berke purchased Psychology Debunked, by Lisa and Ryan Bazler. It asserted that problems like Berke's were not mental disorders but the absence of God in one's life. Berke was shown a video of Sy Rogers, a former transsexual and homosexual turned husband, dad, and successful talk-show host, speaker, and musician, and Berke thought about becoming the next Rogers.

The church people were encouraging. "They were so very, very nice to me," Berke says. "I was almost overwhelmed with how much attention they were giving me. I just wanted to do what they suggested. I believed what they were telling me, and I fell into the whole born-again thing."

Michelle stopped wearing makeup and cut off all her hair, even though the brow lift had left Berke's bald head with a thin rainbow of a scar from ear to ear. For two weeks, she wore giant T-shirts to concealed her 36-D's. There was no money for implant removal. The transition had left Berke $80,000 in debt, forcing her to file for bankruptcy.

Then, in what felt like a miracle, the church agreed to pay for the removal of Michelle's implants. A surgeon friend of Pastor Bob's (Berke can't recall the name) had an immediate opening, and, just like that, Michelle was Michael again.

He wasn't thrilled with the results. He still had some breast tissue from the hormones, he says lifting his shirt. "I'm left with this," he says. "He didn't suck out any of the extra fat cells that I had developed from hormonal treatments."

He continued to attend Calvary for several months but eventually lost interest. He still liked listening to the uplifting sermons of Pastor Bob, but after reading the Bible and coming to a greater understanding of what was required of Christians, Berke balked.

"I couldn't get myself to believe that a guy rose from the dead," he says, shaking his head.

Upon reflection, the argument that had been so compelling about God not making mistakes all of a sudden rang hollow. What about people born with three chromosomes or both a penis and a vagina?

The depression came back, and Berke became a hermit. He missed his old clothes, his shopping sprees, and all the attention Michelle used to get. He knew how superficial it all was, though, and he didn't like the idea of growing old as a woman and losing his good looks. He still wanted to start a healthy relationship with a woman, which seemed more possible as a man.

Balentine had moved out by then, and another man had moved in. But he and Berke weren't getting along. Berke tried to kick his new roommate out of the house, and it ended in a fight, with Berke punching his fist through the other man's television set. After that, Berke took a bunch of pills. Before losing consciousness, he called 911.

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3 comments
Nick3039959030
Nick3039959030

THey ever say what happened to the Balentine chick 

Nick3039959030
Nick3039959030

THey ever say what became of the Balentine chick? 

 
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