What A Difference A Patch Makes – Pt 1

What A Difference A Patch Makes

I was four and nothing if not optimistic. I just knew the day would arrive when I got to choose my gender. I had no doubt about what gender I would choose. I was just waiting for Selection Day to arrive so I could announce to the universe I was a girl.

Alas, there was no Selection Day. I tried to tell my mother, but she shushed me before my words could find air. I was a boy, and I’d better get used to it. My father was an Evangelical pastor and if my “ridiculous notion I was a girl” continued we could all be ruined.

So I kept it to myself. For decades I swallowed my voice and buried my heart. I married, had children, and became a pastor myself, a very successful pastor. I rose through the ranks to become one of the most influential leaders in our denomination. Occasionally I’d steal off into a corner of the local library to read Jan Morris’s Conundrum, or one of the awful clinical texts about transvestism. (Could there be an uglier word?) But mostly, I just sped through life, numbing myself through ambitious activity.

Only my wife knew what I had chosen to keep private. I finally told a good friend, then my psychotherapist. And so it remained until I finally spoke the name I had refused to say. In The Soul Lives Contented David White writes,

The soul lives contented by listening

If it wants to change into the beauty of terrifying shapes it tries to speak

That is why you will not sing, frightened as you are of who might join with you

The voice hesitant and her hand trembling in the dark for yours

She touches your faces and says your name in the same instant

The one you refused to say, over and over, the one you refused to say

In the spring of 2012 I spoke my name. I applied a .1mg patch of estradiol and took 150 mg of spironolactone and began the most harrowing, challenging, difficult journey of my life. I lost all of my jobs – CEO of one of the nation’s largest church planting organizations; editor-at-large of a 150-year-old leadership magazine; adjunct positions at two seminaries; preaching positions at two influential megachurches; guest preaching slots in three of the 10 largest churches in America. Within one year I went from sought after leader to unemployable pariah. All because I dared speak the name I had refused to say, the name I would have chosen had there ever been a Selection Day. All because I dared tell the world what my soul had known all along – I was Paula.

(This is the first of 12 columns in which Paula Stone Williams will share her recent journey from Paul to Paula. The author of seven books and two eBooks, you can read more of Paula’s writing at rebelstorytellers.com and paulastonewilliams.com.)

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