For All That Shall Be…

There is never a point at which you find your “authentic self.”  If authenticity is a destination, then you get there when you die.  I have little interest in the destination of authenticity, but I am committed to the journey.

I have recently been settling into myself in a way that feels more and more comfortable. This body is my body, and it feels like I’ve had it forever.  It is a good feeling, and this week, a helpful feeling.  When your soul is all stirred up, It is good to feel at home in your body.

Last week several people heard me mentioned in the credits of the NPR Radiolab series, Gonads.  Those who receive the Radiolab newsletter also found a paragraph devoted to me and my TEDxMileHigh talk.

I did a two and a half hour interview with Radiolab that was not used for the series.  I thought it was the best interview I have ever done.  Molly Webster knows how to ask the right questions.  They did not share their reason for not using the interview.  I have no plans to ask, but I do have my suspicions.  They have a lot more to do with me than with Rachael Cusick or Molly Webster at Radiolab.

I thought the series on human reproduction and development was brilliant.  It included amazing scientific information on a plethora of issues related to human reproduction.  I particularly enjoyed the segments on how our bodies become gendered, and what it means to be intersex.

As I said, I do have my suspicions about why they chose not to use my interview.  It was not because the interview was lousy.  I know when I’ve blown an interview and I did not blow the interview.  It was something else.  And again, my thoughts are mine and mine alone.  They say more about me than about the folks at Radiolab.

I think the science related to the cause of gender dysphoria is a lot less definable, and therefore a lot less compelling, than the science behind the other subjects profiled in the series.  When it comes to the reason we are transgender, we just don’t know what we don’t know.

There are indications the cause is prenatal, and indications it is genetic, but the studies have been too small to be definitive.  I do not want to write about causes of gender dysphoria.  I want to write about how it feels to have such a difficult diagnosis when we do not know where it comes from, where it resides in the body, or what brought it about.

Last week I was talking with two good friends who are gay.  Both said if they could go back and change their sexual identity, they would not do so.  There might have been a time in their adolescence they would have thought about it, but not in their adult lives.  I do not share their feelings.

I would love it if I could have avoided putting my family through the hell they have experienced. I know they prefer the current reality to me being dead, but really?  Those are the only options?  In my case, I’m afraid they were.

The pain I feel about the grief I have caused waxes and wanes.  No one in my family holds it over me.  To the contrary, they have been wonderfully supportive.  The pain is more internal.  Seems to me it’s not okay for one person’s authentic living to negatively affect another person’s authentic living.

If I controlled the universe, I would have made sure I was born a female.  If the only option was to have been born a male, then I would made myself comfortable in that body.  Heaven knows I tried for enough decades.

But I do not control the universe, so I must play the hand I have been dealt.  I play it with as much integrity as I can muster, and occasionally I become angry that we don’t even know the bleeping reason I am this way.

My son Jonathan and I are working on a presentation we will do together in a significant venue later in the fall.  We’ll be able to tell you about it next month.  But the first draft of our talk is due next Monday, so I’ve been working on it at the same time I have been writing this blog.

For the talk we are giving, we are using portions of his upcoming book, She’s My Dad.  The book is raw, and beautiful, and redemptive, and effing hard for me to read. But here’s the thing.  Most suffering does not have a clear cause.  It just is.  No one did anything wrong.  No one is at fault.  We are so focused on assigning blame in our culture that we forget most suffering is existential, and existential suffering must be born with a measure of grace.

I will never know the reason I am transgender, and I will never fully understand why my family has to suffer so.  It is what it is.  But I do try to proceed with a measure of grace, and on my better days I can repeat the words Dag Hammarskjold penned shortly before his death:

“For all that has been, thanks.  For all that shall be, yes.”


9 thoughts on “For All That Shall Be…

  1. You are one of my favorite human beings on this planet. Like Oprah, I admire your voice. They may not have aired your interview, but I believe your voice was heard. If you had been born female you would still be one of my favorite humans, it’s your spirit that resonates with me. Thank you for sharing your journey, it’s nice to have light on the path.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interviews and media are funny things and don’t feel to off put by whatever happened. You have altered my perceptions and many others through your sharing. The ripple effect will affect millions in the end. So chin up. As my mother and father and other loved ones have often said to me “we love you just the way you are” .


  3. Wise and familiar and instructive words for this mom whose 24 yo trans son is nearly a year into his transition. Such profound grief yet transformation and tangible grace in this journey of mine. You continue to be a helpful guide. Thank you, Paula!


  4. Very beautifully said Paula. I know, as a gay person who came out in his 40’s, if I could have changed it, I would. Not because I don’t like me, because I have really come to like Dave Ellis. That is saying a great deal. It is because of the pain it caused those I loved. Enough said. Keep writing! Keep speaking! You are ministering to a world of hurt and you are so needed my dear friend.


  5. I came across your TED Talk today, and am so very thankful that I did. Striving for an authentic existence is a beautiful, painful endeavor. The alternative can appear to be beautiful, but, in reality, is far more painful, and unsustainable. You offer such an amazing perspective to the world, and despite your wishes that you could have a magic power to change your circumstances, you serve an increasingly important purpose for individuals and families (like my own) who are navigating the complexities of gender, and the importance of grace in accepting people for who they are. Thank you, Paula. ❤


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