Oh, The Things I Did Not Know

Oh, The Things I Did Not Know

Who knew I needed to become a woman to become more like Jesus!

Well-educated, successful white men have a power they do not recognize and from which it is difficult to escape. To explain, I am going to limit my comments to the good guys, not the narcissists we see on stage, the rapists who escape unpunished, or the mass murderers. I’m talking about the good fathers, caring husbands and thoughtful leaders we encounter in our ordinary days.

These are men who want to get it right. They do not want to lord it over others, muscle through an agenda, or wire a deal. Still, these good and generous men do not know how much American culture is tilted in their favor, and most are not likely to go through the pain necessary to bring about that awareness. That would require placing themselves in an environment in which they are the minority, and at a distinct disadvantage in being heard. It does happen, but those men are the exception, not the rule.

The problem is exacerbated within the Evangelical church, primarily because their scriptural interpretation leaves only men in power. No wonder the Evangelical church is painfully silent on issues like spousal abuse, equal pay for women, parental leave, racial and social justice, and a plethora of other societal ills. Men know these issues are important, but they do not personally feel the impact. It is hard to muster passion for an issue that does not hinder your own agenda.

I have been a female (or more accurately a transgender female) for a while now, long enough to have been made profoundly aware just how entitled I was. What is even more disconcerting is just how entitled I remain. I brought my cocky confidence with me.

For those who never knew Paul, most will tell you I was one of the good guys, sensitive and thoughtful. I wanted to hire women as senior pastors, and championed their presence on the board of the ministry I directed. And yet, every additional week as Paula makes me increasingly aware how misogynistic I remain. While in some ways I have always been Paula, in others I will always be becoming Paula. It is going to take a while to move beyond my privileged past.

I do not remain close with very many straight white men. There are a thousand reasons; one is because when I am among the more powerful, my default mode is to resurrect my entitlement. I do not find it becoming, nor do female friends who happen to be in the room.

I so wish I had known this sooner. Certainly Cathy tried to tell me – for decades. But through a lifetime of socialization, re-enforcement, and success, I did not hear her. As she watches my “Aha” moments multiply, I imagine it is all she can do to stop from slugging me.

For me, it is humbling, and properly so. I am grateful for the friends and co-workers who gently guide me into deeper awareness of my privilege, and I pray I will be able to repay them for their grace.

Some people are fixated with the causes of gender dysphoria, and whether or not it is right to transition. Frankly, I am tired of that conversation. I am more interested in the fact that transitioning has made me a better person. And who knows, maybe it is even making me a little more like Jesus. Now that would be worth a long conversation.

And so it goes.

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4 thoughts on “Oh, The Things I Did Not Know

  1. Hey Paula, thanks for the post. Your perspective so unique. I can’t help but think God’s hand has been on this (this being your entire life and experience) for all of time and for reasons that will have a far reaching impact. What are the qualities you are having to develop now that draw you more strongly in the image of Christ? What are the aspects of Christ you see embodied in the body of women? I’m hoping for more of your perspective on how women are Christ visible in the world. Thanks.

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    • Jennifer,

      I will be writing more on the subject. The short version – Women are more nurturing, life-giving, and sensitive. It might be cliché, but it’s true. Through them I am learning to listen more and talk less. I am learning the value of truly collaborative thinking, instead of talking over others with my agenda. I no longer sexualize women, but see first their souls, as women often seem to be able to do with men. Those are just a few of the first things that come to mind. It’s a good question. Thanks for asking.

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  2. I love hearing about this awakening you’re going through! I cringe to think of how I acted in the past before I was humbled and forced to be more reflective. Funny to think that with all of the transformation you’ve been through, the personal growth is most dramatic! Thank you for bringing this particular subject to my attention. I’ll never know how many times I have enjoyed the privileges of being white and male. Have I talked over female coworkers as if my views were more valid? How many times was I given the benefit of the doubt by police officers? That job, that house, that grade, that salary, that loan…did I get some kind of unspoken advantage? The answer is undoubtedly “yes”. Being gay gives me a window into what life is like as part of a marginalized group, but I can choose to enjoy straight-white-male privilege by simply “butching it up”. I think that’s why I come out casually even when it’s not necessary. Dealing with subtle distain or even open hostility helps me find more compassion for others who don’t have the luxury of turning it off. It reminds me to check myself! I’d love to hear more about how you navigate life differently as a female and about those “aha moments”. It’s facinating!

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    • Richard,

      I specified that I don’t nurture friendship with many straight white guys nowadays, because I find the gay ones know something about oppression, not being taken seriously, and the like. You are a very mature, sensitive, and thoughtful male. It is my privilege to be your, well, I guess it’s aunt now!

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