In honor of June being Pride Month, I’m sharing these wise, strong, and moving words from a colleague out west. Her name is Paula Stone Williams. I’ve edited lightly to help this read easily for those who don’t know Paula or her life story. I hope you find this as moving and inspiring as I do.
Today I will take you on a little journey into the life of a transgender woman. It will not be what you might imagine.
My day is rather like the average day of any female who lives in a nice house in a small town in the foothills of the Rockies. I ride the trails on my mountain bike or pedal the roads on my touring bike. If it’s Monday, I go for a long run. If it’s Tuesday, I see counseling clients throughout the day and enjoy staff meeting and a relaxing lunch with my co-pastors at Left Hand Church.
Saturdays are a little different. I sleep in, mow the lawn, run for 45 minutes, then head to church where we set up for services while the worship team practices their set. After church a bunch of us go to dinner before I head home to watch Saturday Night Live. Yep, pretty simple, the ordinary life of a woman in one of the nicer locales on planet earth. And oh yes, I forgot to mention, absolutely no one, ever, treats me as anything other than the tall white woman I am. Which is what makes me forgetful.
A wedding invitation came in the mail the other day. It excluded me. I have been informed I should not attend a few weddings and other milestone events in the past couple of years. I was even disinvited from my high school reunion. Until these social slights occur, I forget there are these peculiar spaces from which I am excluded.
I also forget about the troll-driven venues on which I am vilified. Then a friend reminds me, “Have you seen the 3,000 YouTube comments about your TED talk?!” I tell them no, I have not seen them. I have no masochistic tendencies.
Last month I turned down an invitation to speak at a Christian university where I was asked to share the stage with a second speaker who believes, “being transgender is not a thing.” The school was shocked when I declined their invitation. I asked if an African-American speaker would be inclined to share the stage with a person who said being black, “wasn’t a thing.” I don’t think they got it.
Of course the truth is that every single day I interact with these people. I see them at the grocery store, the corner Starbucks, the local shopping center. They have no idea they are talking with a transgender woman. They talk and laugh and joke like I am a normal human.
I sometimes want to reveal that I am transgender, but I never do. I figure it is already hard enough for them to get up in the morning and have to be who they are. We’re all just trying to get by.
If you tend to see me favorably, as most of my readers do, you need not lose sleep over my experience. It is what it is. I rarely take it personally. My life is rich and full and filled with committed people, including people of faith, whose generosity knows no bounds.
I feel sorry for those who are afflicted with Hardening of the Categories. It can be cured, but first you have to want to get well, and a lot of people have no interest in getting well. They are happy living inside their self-imposed quarantine.
You know, those folks could go ahead and send their invitations. They need not worry. I am not inclined to go where I am not wanted. I get the lay of the land. I know I am not welcome in only one kind of place in America, evangelical spaces.
Of course, it does seem kinda ironic that every last evangelical website opens with the tagline, “Where Everyone Is Welcome.”
People are strange.
Paula’s original post may be found on her blog at: https://paulastonewilliams.com/2018/06/05/4731/