Dear Reader

Dear Reader,

Now I have gotten the responses I expected. A lot of you from the church world are really, really angry. You have made that clear. You are “disgusted,” “embarrassed” and above all else, sad. Some of you are sad for what my family and I have been through. Most of you are sad I have disappointed you. Today’s blog is for you.

Here is the truth. I will leave you alone. I will not try to return to your world. No one has to visit my blog. If you like, you can block it on your computer. I think we will both be happier.

But the subject is not going away. People like me are in your church right now. They are struggling and feeling hopeless. Almost half are considering ending their lives. I have heard from them. There are far more than you think. They love their church, but few are offering them any real hope. They are likely to either lose their own lives or lose most everything else. I know you would like them to go away, or you would like them all to be flamboyant cross dressers or drag queens you feel you can easily dismiss. But they are not. They are good people trying hard to be better people. You can pretend they are not there, but most of the developed world has come to realize it is time to let them live in some semblance of peace.

Time magazine recently suggested we have reached the tipping point on transgender issues. Just about every professional medical society in the world sees Gender Dysphoria as a legitimate diagnosis. Even the DSM V declassified it as a disorder. You can believe all these people are wrong if you like. It’s up to you.  But I would ask you to think about one thing.  In the rearview mirror, prejudice looks pretty ugly, from Galileo being placed under house arrest for his belief in a sun-centered solar system, to African-American people being forced to the back of the bus, to women not being given the right to vote.  Unfortunately the church was the culprit in the first, and complicit in the latter two.  Hardening of the categories is a dangerous illness.

My guess is that most of you will be furious with me for a while, and then you will forget about me, shaking your head when someone brings up my name. It’s all right. I knew that would happen when I chose to come out. And you will not take the time to really study what it means to be transgender because, well, you have more important things to do. Most people probably feel that way.

It’s not that I do not understand your anger. I was a person of influence. People trusted me. You feel I broke that trust and you are afraid my influence might remain among people who are more vulnerable. I understand where you are coming from, and I respect your right to see life as you feel God has led you to see it. Obviously, I see it differently.

So, let’s simply part ways. You don’t try to contact me, and I won’t try to contact you. I will build a new life, and you will go on with yours. And the world will go on turning.

Paula

PS.  For those who choose to remain, I will continue to write a weekly column.

Copyright c 2014 Paula S. Williams. This document is not to be reproduced or conveyed in any media, neither print nor electronic, without express, written permission of the author.

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Any More Clarity?

Any More Clarity?

Today I am going to answer a few more of your questions.

Since going public with this news, how have people responded?

I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received. It has been amazing and life sustaining. I am embarrassed to say I did not expect it. It has been a source of great encouragement.

One of the more surprising revelations has been the discovery of how many people saw me as a father figure. I had no idea. This news has taken many of them to a difficult place. Can they trust what they learned from me about being a man? Who am I to them now? These are difficult questions, and I wish I could be of more direct help.

Do you plan to continue working within the Christian church movement?

I have worked with Christian churches my entire life.  It is in my DNA.  However, every church and organization with which I served has chosen to end their work relationship with me.  I am still called to that work, however, so I will find a place in which to do it.  It pains me greatly that it will not be in the movement I love so much.

Some have suggested you are “advocating for something,” or “trying to justify yourself.” Are you, in fact, trying to justify yourself?

I did not see those accusations coming and I have been surprised. All I have wanted to do is explain a very difficult reality. That is what I have always done. I am an explainer, one who takes complicated material and makes it understandable to a broader audience. I have absolutely no expectation I will convince anyone of anything.

People tend to make up their own minds about these types of issues. Most choose to get on the cultural bandwagon that travels through their neck of the woods. If it is supportive of trans people, they are supportive. If it is not, they are not. Life is complicated. We can only personally study so many issues. On some subjects, particularly those we are inclined to see as esoteric, we let someone else decide for us. Do I believe this subject is esoteric?  No.  Do I wish everyone would study it for themselves?  Yes.  But most will not and I understand.

Do you have any more clarity about how you plan to proceed?

Yes, I do have more clarity. I have decided that moving forward authentically means moving forward as Paula. I am integrating Paul into Paula.  I know legions will disagree. I am sorry. As I said before, I do appreciate the advice of people who have not walked a mile in my shoes. But they have not walked a mile in my shoes. If the life I have lived is not enough to convince people this decision is all right, there is nothing I can say or do that will convince them otherwise.

How do you feel about the days ahead?

I pray I can move forward with wisdom and grace, and find the strength to speak the words of Dag Hammarskjold – “For all that has been, thanks. For all that shall be, yes.”

Copyright c 2014 Paula S. Williams. This document is not to be reproduced or conveyed in any media, neither print nor electronic, without express, written permission of the author.

 

Answering Some of Your Questions

 Answering Some of Your Questions

Your responses to the revelation I am transgender continue to move me so deeply – for their depth, love, concern, openness, integrity.  I cannot tell you how sustaining they are in these difficult times.   I have posted every comment and hope to be able to continue to do so. A number of people have contacted me in other ways to show their support and ask additional questions. In today’s blog I will attempt to answer some of your questions.

Why did you choose to write this information on your blog?

I kept this information private for a very long time.  As it began to take a toll I could no longer bear, I knew some people had to be told.  Unfortunately, over the past six months the information leaked out and began to work its way through the rumor mill.  Information coming back to me was very inaccurate.  After consulting with wise friends, I decided to tell the story accurately.  I had to believe the truth would set me free, though I knew it was likely to make me miserable first.

What do you hope comes from telling the story?

The truth is hard to tell and the truth is hard to tell.  That’s not a misprint.  I’ll explain. First, it is hard to tell others such deeply personal truth.  It is the hardest thing I have ever done.  Second, the truth is hard to discern when it comes to the subject of Gender Dysphoria.  So much misinformation abounds.  What is it?  What does God think about it?  How should we respond to those who are transgender?  These are difficult questions.  Whatever conclusions one might reach, it is definitely time to talk about it.  Outside the church the conversation has been going on for quite some time.  Inside the church, not so much.  I do hope out of my struggle a conversation will begin.

We care about you, but we are having a hard time putting our arms around this. What can we do?

Last week a respected friend wrote these words:

“What I often reflect on is how little I can truly deeply understand or feel what you have and are going through. It is not that I don’t want to understand. I just realize I have nothing to connect to. I can read (your document) and understand at just a mental objective level. I can accept it. But the experience is totally foreign. And that is not something I’ve ever encountered at this level. So I keep trying to empathize and go beyond understanding. It is still eluding me. Please don’t hear any of that as rejection, fear, being uncomfortable, etc. It is just the farthest outside my experience.”

My friend has expressed the sentiments of many. I have lived with this for 60 years. I have had ample time to process the information, yet I am still sometimes baffled by it. I spent years reading, going to therapy, praying and pondering as I tried to put my arms around what it meant. So I certainly understand how difficult it is for others to comprehend or accept.

Are there any resources you would recommend?

A good place to begin is Lana Wachowski’s speech at last year’s HRC banquet, easily accessible on YouTube. Lana and her brother directed the Matrix movies, among others. The 25-minute speech is informative and interesting. There are a number of books available on the subject, but the quality is spotty. I’d recommend beginning with Jennifer Boylan’s autobiography, She’s Not There.   Another good place to begin is the book, Transgender 101:  A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue.

How do you believe God sees you?

I believe God sees me as God sees you – as a precious being made in God’s image. If you are asking what God thinks about me being trans, well, you are asking the wrong person. You’ll have to ask God.

I believe authentic living demands discerning God’s will in difficult circumstances. Sometimes scripture speaks directly to those circumstances, but often things are not all that clear. We are left to our own accumulated wisdom. Several people have expressed their conviction this is a moral issue, and anyone who transitions to live as the opposite gender is living in sin. They often cite Genesis, but as I wrote in the original post, Genesis does not explain the plethora of intersex conditions. Every single day decisions are made in hospitals about naming the gender of infants born with ambiguous genitalia. I am afraid quoting Genesis is not going to satisfy those physicians, the parents, and especially those infants as they grow into adulthood. Humans are not always clearly male or female. This is a messy and imperfect world and the truth is that Gender Dysphoria is complex.

Those of us who are transgender are always grateful for people who come into our lives to support us and puzzle with us. We are not particularly interested in the advice of those who believe they can easily dispense with the issue in a paragraph or two. Humans are quick to reject, and even exterminate, people or things that do not fit into neatly defined categories. When we are frightened, hardening of the categories is a visceral response. But as higher beings, made in God’s image, we are invited to wonder over perplexing mysteries, not categorize and condemn them. Sometimes what is called for is a holy, anguished, “I don’t know.”

So, what are you going to do?

I don’t know.

Is that a holy, anguished, “I don’t know?”

I don’t know if it is holy, but I do know it is anguished.

And so it goes.

Copyright c 2014 Paul S. Williams. This document is not to be reproduced or conveyed in any media, neither print nor electronic, without express, written permission of the author.