Just Collateral Damage

That was quite a week.  It began with me preparing a sermon about doubt being an essential part of faith. I rode my mountain bike Monday and Tuesday, and ran on Wednesday and Thursday.  The most exciting thing that happened was a couple of rattlesnakes on the trail.  Then Thursday came.

I survived the morning, profoundly changed by the courage I saw in Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. But then the afternoon happened, and I realized the truth.  The Republican Senators had not seen Dr. Ford.  Not really.  If the tables had been turned, I’m not so sure the Democrats would have either.  The focus was not on Dr. Ford.  It was on the locus of control.  Who held the power?

It was a Monday, December 16, when I was summoned by email to a meeting with the executive committee of the board of directors of the ministry I had directed for more than two decades.  I was to meet them at a hotel at the Denver airport two days later.  We met in one of their rooms, where Cathy and I sat on a couch looking up at them, as they all sat in the desk chairs they had brought from their rooms.  For a couple of hours I talked about my gender identity.  They were warm and cordial, as they had always been.

Afterwards we went to dinner at the Ruby Tuesday’s next door.  We laughed and talked about our families and ministries.  When we left, Cathy asked how I thought it had gone. I told her I trusted those men.  I would be given the time I had requested to wind down my ministry.  Except, I wasn’t.

Thirty-six hours later I was called and told that if I was willing to resign immediately, I would be given a severance.  If I did not resign and word got out that I was transgender, there were no guarantees I would receive anything.

I had been with the ministry for 35 years.  I had never had a bad review, but I was given no other option.  There was no law stopping them from letting me go.  If you work for a religious corporation, there are no laws protecting you from being fired in any state.

I have never written specifically about that day.  It was traumatic.  When I saw the confidence of the Republican Senators last Thursday, I realized the truth.  It did not matter what Dr. Ford said.  Their minds were already made up.  It did not matter what I said in the hotel at the Denver airport that night.  One way or the other, my employment was already over. I could not admit I was transgender and expect to survive.

I imagined how Dr. Ford might feel, realizing her heartfelt words did not matter in the hearts of those powerful men.  They were doing what they thought they had to do.

And what did both groups of men “have” to do.  They “had” to preserve the power of their tribe, because they felt the integrity of the tribe was at stake.  In one case the Republican Party.  In the other case, the ministry I had once directed.  The humanity of a single person was secondary to the integrity of the tribe.  And that was all right, because their tribe was the group that was really looking out for the best interest of all people.  They were sure of that.  And sometimes a single person has to be sacrificed for the good of all, right?

The Republican lawmakers held no ill will toward Dr. Ford.  Our board held no ill will toward me.  We were collateral damage.  Minds were already made up before either one of us spoke. She would not be believed.  White men seem to have a hard time believing that one in three women in America has been sexually abused.

For me the problem was not that I would not be believed.  The problem was that being transgender was unacceptable to the tribe.  You’ll get a nice severance.  But the work you have loved for 35 years will be taken from you. It’s sad, but necessary.

Yes, I was triggered last Thursday.  I wept and wept for hours.  The memory of that week in December is vividly lodged in my hippocampus.  It is a scar now, no longer an open wound.  But Thursday brought the memories back to the forefront.  It was obvious the same was true for Dr. Ford.

The Republicans will do what they will do this coming Friday, just as our board did what they chose to do less than 36 hours after hearing from me.  No hard feelings though.  It’s just collateral damage.  The work our tribe does is important.  When it’s all said and done, we’re saving America.  Right, Paula?  Right, Dr. Ford?

17 thoughts on “Just Collateral Damage

  1. AsI read your blog, I thought of my own molestation in a Christian College and how while I listened to Dr. Ford and read your story I would never get any justice; I would never feel whole again; it’s all about a tribe that believes they are right no matter who they hurt and how they do it. Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. My usual is to Like a post when it speaks to me as a way of indicating my thanks and support for the author. A star just seems inadequate to the weight of what you have shared. I have see that scenario so many times, too many times. I am just so glad that you have come through it, and there may be scars, but you are a shining example of God’s grace. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Expounding more your tribe reference, the Republican Senator that requested the FBI investigation clearly noted on CBS Sixty minutes, that he was not running for another term, but if he were to run, there was no way he would have called for the investigation. Clearly, bluntly, decisively no way he would have gone in that direction. I believe this is relating back to his tribe and loyalty to said tribe. Without the loyalty he was able to make a decision that would clearly upset his tribe.


  4. Oh Paula. This piece is so woven with the subtext of deep deep pain. The absolute betrayal of collateral damage. May you look after yourself and practice deep self care and be surrounded by people who love you.
    This has been a hard week for all women.
    With love
    Anne-Marie Clulow

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Yow. So much pain, so much feeling unseen, unvalued. the maintenance of the institution at the expense of those it supposedly serves. I am one of the therapists who has had a highly triggered group of clients. And why wouldn’t they/I be.

    Peace and healing to all, including the pushers through. May their eyes be opened.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have precious little sorrow left. I am mostly just angry. I am slowly becoming conditioned to rage just seeing that tantrum-toddler-in-a-man’s-body’s photograph. And my incident happened over thirty years ago as well. I can’t even imagine how painful it must be to experience all of this so much closer. I am so sorry you were forced into that horrible choice, while at the same time incredibly grateful, because you have taken that pain and shaped it — and continue to shape it — into something truly amazing. You don’t know me and we will likely never meet in person, but I am one of the many you have touched by being who you are. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Dare I say that my heart was broken, my faith in justice extinguished, my belief that silence was safer locked into place with the outcome of Anita Hill’s testimony and degradation in 1991. It is punishing to hope things had changed. So I decided I could not be fooled again to hope that Senators would do the right thing again Lindsey Graham rant just rips at a woman’s soul. But I commend Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford for their courage under fire. They have sacrificed much to tell their stories under such vicious attacks.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The state of affairs feels so sad and hopeless some days. I’m hopeful good people prevail. If nothing else, you’ve both shone a little light into corner they had wished to keep dark. And you’ve both acted in what you know is true and just.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It is horrifying watching this unfold. My heart goes out to Dr Ford. I could not stop watching the hearing and the self-interest and closing of ranks which was on display at the highest levels of government. And still it gets worse with today’s Trump rally.
    I am sorry for your pain. I am grateful for your empathy and insight and ability to communicate this so clearly.


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