Advance Magazine
Spring 2024

The Long Road Home

Just as in some portions of the Bible that deal with humanity’s sin, this article contains adult themes. Although we endeavored to tell  Flavio’s story with discretion, it may not be suitable for all readers.

Abandoned by his mother, Flavio was raised by abusive foster parents. In his tragedy of a home life, Flavio chose the wrong road spiritually and morally,  living for 30 years as a woman. Flavio was lost, but God patiently waited for him to take the road that would lead home.

Flavio remembers the day his family life ruptured. He was five years old, the oldest of three children, and his single mother led him and his siblings to the home of a nanny in their town of Coruripe on Brazil’s northeastern coast. As a young woman, Flavio’s mom chafed at the responsibility of having three children. She found a job that paid for their 24/7 care, and she set off to pursue the life she wanted to live.

Rejection and abuse

Their new nanny, “Grandma,” as Flavio’s mother called her, cared nothing for the children. Her husband was even worse. He was involved in an Afro-Brazilian religion called Candomblé that was entrenched in occultic powers that gave Flavio nightmares. The nanny herself was a witch whom people paid to cast spells and say incantations. In this poisonous environment, her husband daily sent Flavio and his siblings onto the streets to beg. They learned to survive by cleaning cars and windshields at traffic lights or selling peanuts that a kind lady gave them. If they didn’t bring in enough money, they were beaten when they got home.

Sometimes he beat them for no reason at all.

To make it worse, when Flavio was six or seven, one of the nanny’s teenage sons began interacting with him inappropriately but forbade him to tell anyone. Flavio didn’t like it, but in time he began to enjoy the attention. In his confusion and hunger for love, Flavio sought similar relationships.

Life went on in an agonizing route of survival, but Flavio was growing up. By the time he was 10 years old, he stood up to his foster family’s abuses and said he would call the police. The nanny decided it was time they found another home. So she took the children to their aunt and uncle’s home, but their uncle didn’t want them either. Despite years of abuse and rejection, in this season Flavio experienced his first evidence that God cared for him.

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Flavio (right) with Alda and Aurelio's family.

Life on the street

On the street, Flavio had met a caring woman who gave him food and allowed him to work for her family. This woman and her husband, Alda and Aurelio, were Christians and invited Flavio to live with them. The next several years started a beautiful new stage in Flavio’s life. They gave him his first birthday party, where he felt showered with love. Best of all, he attended their church where God planted seeds of the gospel.

Although this couple was his anchor, Flavio had given free rein to his improper feelings for so long that he didn’t want to give them up. In Brazil and in other places, sexual perversion is often tied to demonic activity. Flavio’s former home life poisioned his mind, convincing him of a lie: that he was really meant to be a girl. Alda and Aurelio tried to correct and put restrictions on him, but Flavio wouldn’t listen. By age 14, he rebelled and ventured out on his own, ready to pursue self-focused desires … just as his mother had done.

Flavio began calling himself Flavia to reflect a feminine identity. His desire to live as a girl led him to seamy neighborhoods where he felt free to live his lifestyle. Once Flavio plunged into this world, he fell into increasing slavery to it. He took hormone pills and injections and styled his hair like a woman. Flavio enjoyed hairstyling so much that he moved to Rio de Janeiro for an opportunity to train in this field. It would be good, honest work, but it only led him into the most degrading period of his life.

Once in Rio, his training opportunity fell through. Seeing no other option, he entered the world of prostitution. Flavio reasoned in his heart that it was only for a season. Sadly, it became his pattern for over 20 years. He earned enough money to receive silicone injections to make him look like a woman. Eventually, a friend put Flavio in contact with someone who took him to Spain. Flavio wanted to start a new life, but without a spiritual change in his heart, he only became a greater prisoner to his lifestyle.

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Flavio as the prodigal son, "Flavia."

A powerful delusion

For Flavio, the delusion of the trans life was its addiction to the admiration and praise of people who saw him as a beautiful young woman. The lifestyle promised happiness, but it left him completely empty and insecure. Flavio moved from town to town across Spain going from one relationship to another that left him abused and disillusioned. God seemed far from Flavio during these years, but in His amazing grace, the Lord protected him in this underworld. Yet Flavio refused to respond to that grace. God had only one recourse: tough love.

The Prodigal Son

Eventually, Flavio was infected with tuberculosis. God was warning Flavio, but still he didn’t listen. After recovering, he entered into another disastrous relationship that left him distraught. One day in 2015, Flavio had a strange sense God was searching for him. During a walk, he came across a Baptist church in his city of Valladolid. Attending the service, he asked to speak to the pastor and his wife. He felt it was time to give his life totally to Christ. The entire church rallied around him, patiently pouring love into his life. Very soon, they began raising money for Flavio to have silicone-injection removal so he could look like a man again.

Deeply rooted sin patterns die hard. After spending years in physical transition, the spiritual transition was too much for him; he wasn’t ready. Just as he had with Alda and Aurelio, Flavio turned away from the only real love he ever received. Like the Prodigal Son, he took his newfound spiritual treasure and fled, putting himself into another dark stage of life filled with more sin and abuse. God’s tough love grew firmer still. Flavio experienced a stroke that left his face sagging, forcing him to be on medication permanently.

This time, Flavio came to his senses. On March 8, 2020, he determined once and for all to leave his old life and live a new life pleasing to the Lord. He gave away his large wardrobe and jewelry. He deleted his old contacts and changed his phone number to cut himself off from temptation.

Agape love

Returning to his church in Valladolid, Flavio received open-armed acceptance. He also renewed his contact with BMM missionary Kent Albright. Kent and Belén’s church in Salamanca and Flavio’s church were two of only four independent Baptist churches in the region. Earlier, Pastor Santiago from Valladolid asked Kent to talk with Flavio because Kent and his wife, Belén, had someone in their church who had been in this lifestyle.

Once again, Kent encouraged Flavio in his new Christian life. As time went on, Pastor Santiago also asked Kent to help Flavio write out his testimony, which Flavio was very open to do. Because of his childhood, Flavio never finished grade school and hardly knew how to write or even tell a complete story. Through interviews with Flavio, Kent pieced together the story, which he published for him as the book de Flavia a Flavio (From Flavia to Flavio).

Kent, Belén, and the Valladolid church have all stood beside Flavio helping him transform his heart and mind in Christ. They are helping him raise the thousands of dollars needed to finally remove the silicone to restore him to the image of his God-given gender. Yet nothing could change him from the man God made him to be. Flavio still has problems in his life, but he is learning to cast them onto his Savior and find His help to endure.

Unstoppable testimony

Flavio now makes a living solely as a hairdresser. He earns far less money than before, but it’s a sacrifice he willingly makes. He has been such a vocal witness for Christ that he has been fired from eight jobs (though he is learning how to be more astute with his words). Several people in the transgender movement have severely attacked him for his witness, but he will not back down from sharing the truth. Deep down, he always knew that he was really a man, and he hopes by his testimony to set others free. By God’s grace, his mother in Brazil now knows the truth through Flavio’s witness and has become a born-again follower of Christ. In January 2024, Flavio was accepted as a student at a BMM-founded Bible college in Brazil, where he plans to study the Bible. He is raising money for his expenses and hopes to move to Brazil in July.

In his book, Flavio wrote, “Although I now live very humbly—almost all my belongings could be carried in a backpack—I am completely delighted and satisfied … I am His for having bought me from the ‘sin market’ of this world … Since I have no way to recompense His great gift of forgiveness for my many sins … I want to dedicate every minute of this ‘new life’ to what He wants to do in me and with me.”

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