A university chaplain who is undergoing a transitioning process to become a woman has become the first transgender minister to be ordained by the Methodist Church in the U.K.
Joy Everingham, a chaplain at the University of Kent Canterbury, had spent decades wearing women's clothes before deciding to come out as transgender three years ago.
After receiving the full support of senior church leaders, the 46-year-old chaplain had announced his decision to transition into a woman in a notice handed out before a service.
"People sat down and started reading [my letter on transition], and then I could see them looking up and around," Everingham said.
"I was scared to death, but people kept coming up to me and saying 'well done.' A couple of people didn't speak to me for a bit, but they had to work it out for themselves. I was expecting it to be a long hard trek to justify who I was, but it's not been like that," he added.
Everingham said that he had become a Christian at age 15 and married his best friend, Ruth, when he was 19.
For eight years, his wife did not know that he had been hiding clothes in the loft and continuing to dress as a woman.
After the birth of their first son, Everingham traveled to Leeds on a secret trip to a transgender club, where he realized that his desire to become a woman "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," he said, according to Kent Online.
When the chaplain told his wife about his secret, she said that she was prepared to help him explore his identity, but she contended that "she wouldn't stick around'" if he transitioned to a woman.
The couple had donated all of Everingham's female clothes shortly after the birth of their second son in 2002, but that decision led to his bouts of depression.
Everingham had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, but he continued to suppress his gender identity for fear of losing his wife.
Ruth had become more accepting of his feelings after she heard a radio DJ reveal his decision to transition into a woman on air.
Everingham, who started working as a minister at St. Peter's Methodist Church in Canterbury in 2014, has started taking cross-sex hormones and has since been living full-time as a woman.
The chaplain said that he does not know whether his wife is still attracted to him sexually, but he contended that they are still in love and are still best friends.
He had set up the Canterbury Trans Network to help people explore their gender in a "safe space." The group meets every other Wednesday at the University of Kent and is attended by up to 30 people.