Hope Flowing Through Words
This week, while purging my computer of unneeded files, I came across a “making of” documentary about a television show of which I was an executive producer back in 2003. I had not seen the show in over a decade. It unearthed emotions.
As I have chronicled my journey from Paul to Paula, I have promised to be honest and authentic. I have not talked much about my family, and I have edited a few nasty messages from the comments section, but outside of that I have written about the story as it has unfolded. Lately the posts have been tough to write. You might be tired of the hard ones. I am.
This past week one of the human beings with whom I am closest said while they enjoy hanging with Paula, this whole thing has been brutal. That word, brutal, is etched on my soul. People who love me still suffer.
These people understand the life I was living was not sustainable. As one of them reminded me recently, “Trust me. I was there. You were not going to make it.”
For a long time, only three people knew what I faced. They also know how close I came to losing my life. All three have to remind me every now and again just how bad it was. I used every ounce of energy I had keeping it together in my work and with my friends and acquaintances. They had no idea anything was wrong. That is because I saved my despair for when I got home, or for my therapist’s office, or phone calls with my close friend. Those three knew that to save my own life, I would have to bring pain to others. When it comes to gender dysphoria, there are no good choices.
Which brings me back to the television show. As I watched Paul talk with the producers about making the show, and watched Paul explain to the crew how the show came to be, I missed the guy I saw on screen. Like so many of you, I missed his sense of humor and calm confidence. I missed his ease in front of a crowd. I missed his voice.
Please understand, I do not miss living as Paul. What had been a nuisance in my twenties and thirties became horribly difficult in my late forties and unbearable after that. The pain accumulates. But I miss what Paul was able to accomplish in the world, and who he was to his family and friends.
My family and friends lost so much, especially my family. They lost friends and co-workers and even other family members. In some ways, their losses were worse than mine. And they never had a chance to memorialize Paul. We often use the word “passing” when we refer to someone who has died. In my case, passing is the word that best describes the loss of Paul. Paul passed on and no one had a chance to publicly grieve. Not my family, not my friends, not even me.
Early on I would have dismissed the idea of needing a memorial service for Paul. “I’m still the same person!” I protested. But watching that documentary, it is obvious I am not the same person, as most of my family and friends continually remind me. Is it too late to publicly grieve? I don’t know. Nothing about this is easy, not for anybody.
So, how do we move forward? Without grace, not well. So I write in the hope grace will increase. I write to light the fires of hope within. I write to give voice to the pain felt by others. I write so evangelicals will stop pretending life is not complicated and moral choices are easy. I write so transgender souls a step or two behind me can navigate through this minefield with caution. I write because I refuse to live in silence and fear. I write to honor those who have dared to travel this rocky road with me. I write because hope flows through words.
I write because I agree with the words of Emily Dickinson. A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day.
And so it goes.