Ten Lessons

Ten Lessons

Last week I wrote about my first full year as Paula. This week I write about a few of the most salient lessons of the past 12 months:

  1. Coming out faster is preferable to coming out more slowly. There were over 6,500 page views on the day I announced my transition. The hate mail was mean-spirited, but before long the firestorm settled down. People are busy. They move on.
  1. You cannot discern which friends will stick around and which friends will leave, but you can be sure a lot more will leave than will stick around. I also realized a number of people would see me once, and never again. If they wanted to maintain a relationship with me, everyone had little choice but to transition with me. For many it was too much to handle. It’s all right. I just have to let them go.
  1. No one is going to understand how much you suffered before you transitioned, or understand how staggering your losses have been since, so don’t try to explain it. Just say with Dag Hammarskjold, “For all that has been, thanks. For all that shall be, yes.”
  1. Being Paula has been the easiest part of the past year. Living as a female has been very natural, every minute of every single day, without exception. It has been quite a confirmation of the reality I am transgender.
  1. This journey has both broadened and deepened my faith. My strongest and most ardent supporters have been very wise and knowledgeable Christians. Their bold discipleship and passion for justice have stoked the fires of faith within my own heart and soul. I owe them a debt of gratitude.
  1. I will always be a third sex. In spite of my height, I am usually able to make my way in the world without people realizing I was ever a male. That has allowed me to enter the world of women in ways I never would have imagined. It also makes me realize the many ways in which I will never know what it feels like to be a natal female. That is something I grieve.
  1. It is hard to know when to tell people you are trans. Who deserves to know? Who does not? I’m pretty sure the agent at the American Airlines counter does not need to know. But what about my dentist, or the leaders at my church? It’s harder to figure out than you might imagine.
  1. Sometimes I have doubted myself. Time is a great healer and I forget how much I struggled before my transition. Yet I live in the midst of great existential losses. One of my therapists said, “Your doubts are understandable. I have been a therapist a long time and I have never had a client go through the unjust losses you have experienced. This was hard before so many people made it unnecessarily harder.”
  1. You never get over how much this affects your family. I knew my transition would be difficult for them, but I underestimated how hard it would be. They have shown incredible mercy, unending grace and great love. They still suffer, and I am aware of their suffering every single day. I never get used to it and it is never okay.
  1. I have learned Rilke is right when he says, “Winning does not tempt that man. This is how he grows, by being defeated decisively, by constantly greater beings.” The defeats have been humbling, but necessary. Living well means living with ever-increasing consciousness, learning to say yes to what is. I was called to say yes to my true self. When you answer a call, you pay a price. Every sage, prophet and poet knows that. It is the cost of living authentically. And, I believe, it is the only decent way to live.

And so it goes…

9 thoughts on “Ten Lessons

  1. I appreciate your gift of thoughtful writing and spiritual insight. It’s rich, beautiful, and resonant, even if borne out of an experience different than mine. Thank you for sharing your uplifting words.


  2. Thank you Paula for sharing such private feelings. I am certain you have suffered terribly for so long and I am sure it continues perhaps in different ways but still causing you pain. I pray you get some relief and some comfort along the way in your journey through life. You have great insight and talent in expressing all of this and therefore you continue to give to others. Keep it going!


  3. Outstanding! You are so right. Those who loved you before will continue to love you. There is pain in transition of any kind. I am grateful you are my friend. I wish I had risk knowing you more in college but I just never thought the handsome talented Paul Williams would have wanted to be friends with the nobody David Ellis. How wrong I was. See the conclusions we make when we lack confidence. Continue to generate these wonderful stories that will change lives. Blessings & Love, Dave.


  4. Thank you again for sharing your lessons and your life. Your lessons have also been been incredibly instructive for us, your friends. For me, invaluable.


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