The anti-transgender rhetoric has gotten worse lately, including the vitriol directed at me. I receive far more positive comments, emails, and texts than negative ones, but the nasty rhetoric has been on the increase.
The vast majority of those negative comments come from evangelical Christians. I never repeat their contents to anyone– not Cathy, not my best friends, not my co-pastors, not anyone. I do not want to dignify the words by giving them space in the ether.
The most egregious are texts. My phone number used to be listed on our RLT Pathways website. Because of a significant rise in the number of unwanted texts, I removed my phone number from the website, but not before anti-trans activists shared it among themselves and used it to send group texts on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, and most recently, Father’s Day. Some come as individual texts. Others come from groups. All have the same hate-filled messages, all from people who claim to love Jesus.
What do I make of this? As a Christian magazine editor-at-large, I was accustomed to negative letters long before I transitioned. I took a positive view of women in ministry, which was not always well received in my denomination. But those messages bear little resemblance to the ones I receive now.
Since Jonathan and I had a feature article written about us in the New York Times in 2017, the attacks haveincreased. After my first TED Talk, they reached a crescendo. That talk, which has now had over 5 million views, has had over 13,000 comments. While the majority are positive, thousands are not. Do not read them. I don’t. Nothing good comes from bringing that kind of hatred into your mind.
As I watched the January 6 hearings this week, I thought of those brave souls like Shaye Moss and Rusty Bowers who have experienced one hundred times the vitriol I have experienced, just because they did their jobs. I don’t think most people understand what it is like to be frightened every time you see a stranger at your door, or look at messages on your phone, or the inbox of your email.
Even though I get a lot of support, I have to admit I am tired of the attacks.. Bishop Gene Robinson and I both gave keynote addresses at a conference several years ago. Backstage after my session he said something I will not forget. Talking about the attacks we had received, Bishop Robinson said, “Be careful Paula, these attacks, they accumulate, they accumulate.”
And so, they do. I do not want or need your sympathy. What I need is your prayers, prayers that I will be wise, that I will know how best to protect myself, that I will be able to keep weathering the attacks. I would much rather people attack me than vulnerable trans kids. I have plenty of privilege I brought with me into this gender. I can use that privilege to store up reserves so I can continue to fight the good fight.
And I will continue to fight, because this is the thing. The call toward authenticity is sacred, and holy, and for the greater good. By boldly and courageously living openly and authentically, maybe we can spare the next generation the kind of hatred we are receiving today.
We know where the hatred is coming from. It is coming from white evangelicals. That is sad, but true. We know the truth of it. Their attacks are based in the fear of losing power. They know America is changing. They know their narrative is no longer the American narrative. The American narrative is far more diverse, generous, compassionate, and less fearful than their narrative. Change is coming. Maybe it won’t arrive fast enough for me to escape the barrage of hate mail, but hopefully future generations can be spared.
For now, all I ask is your prayers – for justice and equality, for strength to endure. I ask strength for my church, my queer friends, and my grandchildren, who hate seeing me attacked just as they despise the hatred directed at them. Like all of us, they long for a more equitable world.
Yes, I did say I received nasty messages on Father’s Day. But I also heard from all three of my children, thanking me for being their father, for loving them to the best of my ability. Cathy spent the day with me, in honor of my fatherhood. I spent my day affirmed and loved, because I have a family that loves me and each other well. That is how we build a better future.
Haters will hate, but love wins.