Joy Everingham, from Canterbury, Kent, spent years secretly applying lipstick and wearing women’s clothes before finally coming out as transgender three years ago.
After receiving the full support of senior church leaders, the 46-year-old broke the news to her parishioners in a notice handed out before a service.
The mother-of-two has since been living full-time as a woman, and 18 months ago started taking cross-sex hormones.
Joy 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.