Full text and summary of Paula Stone Williams’ talk titled “I’ve Lived as a Man & a Woman – Here’s What I Learned” at TEDxMileHigh conference.
I was the CEO of a large religious nonprofit, the host of a national television show. I preached in mega churches. I was a successful, well-educated, white American male. The poet and mystic Thomas Merton said, “It’s a difficult thing to climb to the top of the ladder of success only to realize when you get there that your ladder has been leaning against the wrong wall.”
I knew from the time I was three or four years of age I was transgender. In my naivety, I thought I got to choose. I thought a gender fairy would arrive and say, “Okay, the time has come!” But alas, no gender fairy arrived, so I just lived my life. I didn’t hate being a boy. I just knew I wasn’t one. I went to college, got married, had kids, built a career, but the call toward authenticity has all the subtlety of a smoke alarm. And eventually decisions have to be made.
So I came out as transgender and I lost all of my jobs. I had never had a bad review, and I lost every single job. In 21 states, you can’t be fired for being transgender, but in all 50, you can be fired if you’re transgender and you work for a religious corporation. Good to know! It’s not easy being a transgender woman.