In the early morning hours the bedroom in which I sleep is bathed in light as the sun peeks over Indian Mountain. I reach for the drawer of the bedside table and grope for the eyeshade that might afford another hour’s sleep. I’m always amazed how much light can sneak through the cracks in closed blinds. It doesn’t take a lot of light to dispel darkness. The light always wins.
Since I transitioned, the light has been bright. The number and scope of discoveries I have made is beyond anything I had envisioned.
I knew I would be rejected by my religious heritage, though I was not aware how complete it would be. I knew there would be some loss of privilege, and fewer job opportunities. Back then, all of the coming disruption was seen through a glass darkly. In the light of day, it has been disturbingly enlightening. It is always disarming when light dispels darkness.
The single most difficult reality is how my transition affected my family. But I don’t get to write about that. They do. My son’s book, She’s My Dad, will be published by Westminster John Knox this coming November. I wrote a few thousand words for the book, but it is Jonathan’s memoir, and it is raw and beautiful.
The second most disturbing reality is how I have been treated by evangelicalism. But I knew that would not go well. Last year I was one of eight or nine people interviewed for a booklet published this month by the Human Rights Campaign entitled Coming Home to Evangelicalism and to Self. https://www.hrc.org/resources/coming-home-to-evangelicalism-and-to-self It is the last in a series the HRC has been publishing about religion and the LGBTQ community.
I had forgotten I was interviewed, but when the booklet came out, the evangelical world made sure I was reminded of my part in it. With news releases and nasty emails, they continued their campaign of bigotry. I have become accustomed to the vilification. I expect it. But I was not expecting the third most disturbing discovery of transitioning.
I had no idea how privileged I was. I am pleased beyond measure that my TEDxMileHigh talk passed one million views last week, because I have a lot of work to do. I had no shortage of illustrative material for the talk, because virtually every single day I am confronted with misogynistic condescension. Sometimes it is overt and obvious. More often it is subtle and difficult to articulate.
I was recently at a Modern Market restaurant in Colorado with my former wife and granddaughters. The lack of communication from the inadequately educated workers was a problem as they started to give one granddaughter food to which she is very allergic. When Cathy and I attempted to speak with the young manager about the problem, it became readily apparent the problem began with the manager. He spoke over the top of us repeatedly, never listening to a word we said.
I became exasperated and raised my voice, at which point he called me a “hysterical female ” and made additional extremely misogynistic comments. I was livid and did not back down. In the first year after transitioning, I was always stunned and rendered speechless when I was treated so disrespectfully. Not anymore.
Almost as frustrating are those times when the misogyny is subtle. When I arrived at my hotel in Asheville last week, I was given a room bordering a busy interstate highway. I went to the front desk and said, “I’m surprised you would put a Lifetime Platinum member in a room you know is noisy,” and asked to be moved. The male at the desk said, “Some Platinum members prefer the highway side.” That is the kind of subtle misogyny to which I have grown accustomed, a male not wanting to be called out by a female.
The truth is that when I was a man I never had a hotel desk clerk ever suggest Platinum members would prefer the noisier side of a hotel. It would have been absurd to suggest such a thing. There would have been a quick apology, accompanied by a comment about someone else having blocked off the rooms without paying attention to the elite status of guests. I know, because it happened fairly often. I let the hotel comment slide, because the desk clerk was otherwise respectful.
The misogyny is troubling enough. But here is what is more troubling: While I know I was never like the restaurant manager, I wonder how many times I behaved like the hotel desk clerk? How many times did I use an implausible explanation to a woman because, as a male, I did not want to lose face?
I’d better live a long time, because I have a lot for which I need to make up.
6 thoughts on “Three Revelations”
Thank you for the validation.
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All issues are relative to ones situation. I have not blatantly experienced the misogyny and loss of male privileged but I know I have in more subtle ways. My primary issue has been the loneliness, the loss of friends and wife of 30 years. I’ve also come to the realization that I will in all probably not see my parents alive again in this life because of my transition.
Anyway, I enjoy your blog Paula, thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts with us.
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I’m so sorry for your losses, Terri. Hopefully they will come around. Isn’t it crazy how hung up people get on things like this? I’ll never understand it. I admire your courage and strength. I hope you have some people in your life who really support you. I do.
Paula, this is such important work you are doing. Thank you.
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Oh thank God Paula you are my friend. You are helping this white gay male of privilege be much more aware of women in our world. I am so sorry for how culture and especially the church has treated women and how men, especially from our former religious tribe, continue to do so. Keep preaching the word. Your prophetic voice is so needed.
Love you much,
Reverend David E Ellis
Erlanger Christian Church (DOC)
Erlanger, KY 41018
Congratulations on your 1,000,000 mark! That is how I became acquainted with you and I love reading your blogs.
All I can say in response to this one is yes, yes, yes. Men don’t understand why some women (like me) get so upset by these “little things.” It’s because they aren’t little things!; they represent a reality that few validate but that is so very, very oppressive and depressing. That is why your voice is so important. Even many women don’t realize what is going on here, but you do because you have something to compare it to. So thank you for speaking “Truth to Power”, as they say. Love you!
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