She Showed Up
By all outward appearances it was a successful life. I ran a growing nonprofit, served as an editor of a venerable magazine, taught courses at colleges and seminaries, preached in the rotation at two megachurches, hosted a national television program, wrote a few books and did a lot of other stuff befitting a Renaissance person at the turn of the Millennium.
But my life was not my own. It was handed to me in the cradle, developed in Sunday School, honed in Bible college, and encouraged by a lot of good people who would have panicked if they had encountered the real me. How do I know? Because they panicked when they encountered the real me.
A few years ago my long-term therapist said, “This one thing remains. It is time to find someone who specializes in its treatment.” In my first session with my new therapist someone in the room said, “I don’t think I want to transition to live as a female, but I do think I need to go on hormones.” I looked around and no one was there but the two of us, so I knew the person talking must’ve been me. A threshold had been crossed. Two years later I was on spironolactone to block testosterone and estradiol to give my body the estrogen it craved. My physician said, “Your body has great estrogen receptors. It’s been screaming for this stuff.” I had heard the screams since adolescence.
So, in the summer of my 63rd year I became Paula. I did not want my descendants to come to my grave and read, “Here lies someone who never showed up.” I decided to show up.
I knew a lot of people in the church. In the four months after I incorporated Paul into Paula, exactly 18 of those people got in touch to show their support. (Many more got in touch, but not to show support.) I’ve met face-to-face with 8 of the 18. Eighteen of the maybe 6,000 church people I spent four decades getting to know. Doing the math, it seems I have heard encouraging words from roughly three tenths of one percent of the people in my Christian Church world. As I said, I had good reason to keep the real me under wraps.
I have received some messages that were well meaning, but not exactly encouraging. One minister of a large church wrote, “I have to be honest. I would have preferred that you kept this private to your grave.” Another said, “It’s a shame you can’t have a memorial service for Paul, then just disappear.” There were a number of responses along those lines. These were all good people, overwhelmed, afraid maybe, concerned for me in their own way.
I find it ironic that I received a decidedly different response from my friends who are not affiliated with the church. Every single one of those people has chosen to accept the new me. Every. Single. One. I will let you draw your own conclusions.
In spite of the upheaval of the last year, my life is good. I am calmer, happier, no longer depressed. I still have my moments, particularly early in the morning. Poet Fleur Adcock wrote, “It is 5 A.M. All the worse things come stalking in and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse and worse.” When those moments arrive I know I am abiding in fear, not hope. Fortunately a good cup of tea and a bowl of Cheerios and I am back in the land of hope, ready to begin a new day as me, Paula Stone Williams, pilgrim on the human journey, recipient of grace, Ambassador-at-Large in The Kingdom of Showing Up. All things considered, it is a good kingdom in which to dwell.
15 thoughts on “She Showed Up”
I know you don’t know me but I work with some of those people you worked with who “refuse” to know who you really are. Part of why I am here is that I truly believe being true to one’s self is the most Christian thing one could do. You’ve done it and it sounds like you are peaceful inside about it even if it is big and scary and 5,980 or so former Christian friends have reveald a lack of REAL Christianity towards you. I’ve always believe Jesus was an honest and real man. I believe that he strived. We all strive. Striving is easier if we are honest. Hang in there! Be strong – you are good and beautiful!
How do Christians comprehend the inner life of another human being? How many have committed horrendous acts against others, but because it is hidden, they can be seen as “righteous”, while those who strive to lead an honest and righteous life are seen as failing some test that makes them worthy.
Sure, we are all self-absorbed and see others through the prism of our own life and values. But, what do we value ??
Your stats are telling and sad.
I am so happy to read this post this morning. It brings me deep hope. Thank you for choosing to live in this truth. What you are choosing is NOT for the faint of heart. I am honored to call you my friend! Jen
I heard you preach once and have read your articles for a number of years. I never came to your blog until you made your announcement this summer. I started following it specifically because, as a Christian, I think we need to listen carefully to the stories of others to be reminded that living the human life is a difficult thing and, while I believe that there are principles ordained by God for us to follow, the actual living of those principles is a little more complex. I knew of you before and I know you better now. I don’t pretend to understand your journey, but I appreciate your transparency and vulnerability. God bless.
I think as A Christian we have a moral compass and that moral compass does not have a transgendered point. As you have written you have had 63 years to work through this we are only a few months in. The announcement is unsettling at best for me! I am trying to apply grace liberally and not throw away truth at the same time.
Such a good point about the difference between a few months and 63 years. Learning to be okay with not having all the answers is a step that needs to be taken in order to not run people away while you think through something.
As Christians we have a moral obligation not to judge. The outside world needs us to set Christ-like examples for them to follow if we expect them to choose the life with Christ that we so try to convince them they must have. I believe those Christians who judge do as much damage, if not more than they accuse you of doing because they choose to place themselves above you. God made us in His image; is this His physical appearance or His spiritual appearance? We are to love our fellow man, no matter how he lives his life.
My heart hurts for what you have gone through all of your life, and it hurts more now because those who have professed love for you for so many of those years, now choose to judge and condemn you. This sure doesn’t look like love to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel like love either.
I feel the same for you today as I always did. You are my Christian sibling, and I still call you my friend. I am thankful God continues to use you, even though He may be using you in a different capacity now. God Bless RMB
Amen Ruthie. You forgot to mention that judging makes us feel superior, sort of like the Pharisees and Sadducees. Additionally it places us first; now where is it that those who are now first end up?
Each moment is a gift. You and I have shared some great ones, but they might have been better for me than you because of the discomfort of being less than you could have been in those moments. Now, that is past. You are a new being. Appreciate each moment now with those who cherish the time with you moment by moment. That is all we have. As another individual who was alone much of the time, in spite of contact with hundreds, no thousands, said, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” In other words, in the new translation, put on your New Balance or Saucony shoes. Enjoy those moments with those of us who are walking with you, spiritually, if not physically. Tell us about the Colorado mountains and we’ll tell you about the terrain where we are.
For me in Vietnam, each morning was Thanksgiving. I hope that in this time of your life, Paula, that each morning can become Thanksgiving.
Thank you for opening my eyes. Yes, even someone who’s been out as gay for almost two decades has something to learn about “showing up”. That’s a brilliant way to put it. Thanks for revealing that you sometimes feel afraid, but that you choose to live in hope anyway. To the people who would rather you “just disappear”, I say, “When you close your mind to growth, you are the one who is disappearing.”
Thank you for showing up Paula.
Hello old friend… I have missed you, Cathy and family. Even though you are far from NY, I would love to talk once in awhile. Lets update our contact info. email
Your brother & friend in Him-
Luke 10:27-28 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
It all starts here. It’s impossible to live and love if you don’t love yourself.
Showing up one day at a time!
Thank you for being you Paula and opening my eyes and heart.
So glad you are feeling better since showing up! You are so brave and filled with such talent that this new road through the dark woods will be just another challenge for you to handle and then share some wonderful insight with all of us. Keep showing up everyday and keep receiving God’s abundant grace as you keep moving along the journey like the good strong pilgrim that you are and all will be fine! Trust!
Thank you for the encouragement and the love you spread. I have only been following your blog for a few months but have found you to be inspiring and your words encourage me to walk closer with our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.
Christians who are so quick to judge really worry me. Last week I picked up a long time friend of my (now in College) children and drove her to her college. She had told her parents that she was a lesbian and they immediately disowned and abandoned her. I do not doubt that many Christian parents would do likewise. Her family is Muslim. Is it just me or is it sad that many Christians seem to hold values in common with fundamental Muslims?