By Paula Stone Williams
We are often defined by names, titles, gender. I am Rev. Dr. Paula Stone Williams. I was a national Evangelical leader in a large Christian denomination. I preached in some of the biggest megachurches in America. I had a pretty sterling reputation, but then I transitioned. Everything I spent decades building was gone in a week.
As you grow older sometimes a path no longer feels like an option. It calls relentlessly toward the elusive land of authenticity that is always just over the horizon. You have built kingdoms, slain dragons, saved the world, but is time to go home, even if you've never been there before. It is time to walk through the door of the place that looks like it has been expecting you.
Paul became Paula. I spent a lot of money and devoted a great deal of energy to add an "a" to my name. I am happier, more peaceful. Close friends say I am a better person. (I am not sure how I feel about that. Was I really that bad before?) I am comfortable in my own skin, as though I have finally come into my self. But the storm of my transition has left a road full of boulders and branches.
I did not realize how many people saw me as a strong, gentle male presence. I have left them fatherless. They grieve my passing. Like George Bailey in "It's A Wonderful Life," I protest "Hey! I am still here." But they cannot see me. I want to scream, "Don't you get it. Paul was never here." But they saw what they saw and they are sad, angry, hurt. They feel abandoned. I must respect their grief.
Nothing about transitioning is easy, but then a call almost never comes as a moment of, "Oh joy!" It more often arrives with a terrified, "Oh no!" You ignore a call at your own peril. This was a call that demanded attention, water breaking, contractions every minute. So I answered it. That is what I chose to do with my one fragile and precious life. I'll let you know how it turns out.
For 35 years I worked with the Orchard Group, a church planting ministry in New York. For most of that time I was Chairman and CEO. For 12 years I served as a weekly columnist and Editor-At-Large for Christian Standard, a leadership magazine. I was also a teaching pastor for two megachurches. Those responsibilities ended when I transitioned to live as Paula.
I currently serve as a pastoral counselor, church and non-profit consultant, writer and speaker.
I am a runner, hiker, and avid mountain biker. The first two are relatively safe. The third, not so much. Still, I pedal. Cathy and I have been together for 42 years. She is a retired public school teacher and a practicing psychotherapist. We have three children and five grandchildren.
You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.