Over the last few weeks I have written with joy about my life. But it feels like time to speak about what lies in the shadows. An increasing number of my readers are transgender individuals who have not transitioned, and I want to be transparent about the ongoing difficulties of this transgender life.
As pleased as I am with the new opportunities in my church life, existential pain remains. Occasionally I can still be upended by stories about the denomination of which I was a part. A few dozen people have reached out to me in a positive way, and about 20 have actually met with me. But when I hear about the denomination, it can still trigger thoughts about the thousands of people who have remained silent. To those Evangelicals who are considering transitioning and afraid of losing almost all of your Christian friends, your fears are well founded.
I lost very few non-Evangelical friends. Their love and support has been unwavering. In countless ways these people who claim no special purchase with an evangelical God have been like Jesus to me. I have no explanation other than to know the Spirit dispenses her grace and kindness as she wills.
There has not been one single day in which I have regretted being Paula. It feels natural all day, every day, without exception. But for me, and I can only speak from my own experience, another shadow is that I exist and have my being somewhere in the liminal space between female and male.
Last month a University of Colorado student asked, “Do you feel 100 percent female?” I replied, “I feel 100 percent transgender female.” A few years ago a study was completed with transgender individuals who had not yet received hormone therapy. While processing various sensory stimuli, their brains were monitored by an MRI. The brains were found to function about halfway between those of the control population of cisgender males and females. That sounded about right to me. It seems I do function somewhere between male and female. There is a loneliness in that liminal space.
All other shadows pale, however, in comparison to the impact of transitioning on my family. I’ve thought long and hard about this subject, and I can sum it up in one single paragraph:
It is devastating to finally be the person you truly are and to have the capacity to love your family in the way you always wanted, only to realize it is not this new person they need that kind of love from – it was their dad and husband they needed it from. They accept and treasure the love from this new person, but to them it is, in fact, a new person.
No matter how loving and accepting your family might be, transitioning brings about a fundamental change in family dynamics that is permanent. What do you do with the memories you had with your husband or father? In what part of your heart do you store those memories?
I was called to be Paula. My life was at stake. All my friends and family will testify that I am happier, healthier, and more balanced. But I have paid a price, and my longsuffering family has paid a greater price. That is why I hope that one day researchers will find the cause of gender dysphoria and reverse the condition before it begins.
This is a broken world and through great joy and great sorrow we redeem it as best we can. Love makes the world go round, and that love keeps me on this journey, grateful for the family and friends who have dared to travel with me through the joy and the pain.
And this morning (Wednesday) I feel the need to speak about other shadows, the shadows of a nation divided. I am as stunned by the election results as you, my readers. And to be honest, I am frightened. But I do believe the only ultimate reality is relationships, and the most powerful relationship is love. Love makes the world go round, and we must have hope.