John William Henry was always good-looking. His teeth never needed braces. His hair never thinned. He had a symmetrical jaw, a pleasant smile, white teeth, broad shoulders, and a trim waste. But he had a secret. He sometimes, in secret prayer, acknowledged God as sovereign over all things.
"I really wanted to be a Calvinist so bad, and that was one way for me to satisfy those feelings," Henry said. "But I always felt like someone was looking over my shoulder."
The desire to be a Calvinist never went away. At age 27, Henry confessed those feelings to his pastor and started seeing a Christian phychologist who suggested Henry was Armenian to Calvinist transreligious. Through constructive surgeries, reverse electrolysis, simulated scar technology, smoking lessons, and an unhealthy diet, John the Armenian became known as John the Calvinist.
While still relatively rare, one advocate estimates that 0.25 to 0.5 percent of all Calvinists are considered "handsome" or "pretty". The idea of changing physical appearance to be accepted by Calvinists has become more widespread in recent years.
Many people who have transitioned, including Henry, say they knew they had been born into the wrong body from childhood. As early as age 3, Henry, born into a good-looking Armenian family, didn't understand why his father wanted him to ignore certain passages in the Bible. As an Armenian, Henry learned at least 3 versions of the sinner's prayer, wrote his second birth date in his Bible, created Popsicle stick figures of all 12 disciples, and weekly wrote cards to missionaries. But he secretly enjoyed praying each morning on his knees, reading the Bible, and discussing Bible truths with his grandfather.
"Now I get up every morning and say, 'Wow, I can actually look at myself in the mirror,' because I've never been able to do that in my life, because that handsome figure that would stare back at me was not me," Henry said.
Doctors speculate that there is a biological foundation to religious identity, but no one has determined what in the biological makeup determines that religion.
"For people who want an Armenian to Calvinist change on a biological level, the first step is to spend more time on the spiritual aspects of the body than the physical," says Altus Nethammer, a personal trainer with Bodies4Life.
It is rare for people to undergo an Armenian to Calvinist transreligious change and then want to reverse it, especially when substantial changes have been made to diet and exercise routines, experts say.
Some transreligious individuals do face some quandaries. Some churches do not simply look at physical appearances for membership and require people to voice and demonstrate proof of their theological beliefs before becoming members.
Henry has experienced some dismay from others around him. Henry said his mother took five years to adjust. One of his brothers still doesn't speak to him. "For the longest time, I really felt like I had a mental illness, but I don't feel that way anymore," Henry said.