This moving and unforgettable memoir of a transgender pastor’s transition from male to female is an “audacious, gripping, and profoundly real journey that speaks to the mind, heart, and soul” (Joshua J. Dickson, director of Faith Based Initiatives, Biden Campaign)—perfect for fans of Redefining Realness and There Is Room for You.
As a father of three, married to a wonderful woman, and holding several prominent jobs within the Christian community, Dr. Paula Stone Williams made the life-changing decision to physically transition from male to female at the age of sixty. Almost instantly, her power and influence in the evangelical world disappeared and her family had to grapple with intense feelings of loss and confusion.
Feeling utterly alone after being expelled from the evangelical churches she had once spearheaded, Paula struggled to create a new safe space for herself where she could reconcile her faith, her identity, and her desire to be a leader. Much to her surprise, the key to her new career as a woman came with a deeper awareness of the inequities she had overlooked before her transition. Where her opinions were once celebrated and amplified, now she found herself sidelined and ignored. New questions emerged. Why are women’s opinions devalued in favor of men’s? Why does love and intimacy feel so different? And, was it possible to find a new spirituality in her own image?
In As a Woman, Paula’s “critical questions about gender, personhood, and place are relevant to anyone. Her writing insightfully reveals aspects of our gender socialization and culture that often go unexamined, but that need to be talked about, challenged, and changed” (Soraya Chemaly, author of Rage Becomes Her) in order to fully understand what it means to be male, female, and simply, human.
In this earnest, empathetic debut, Williams aims to bridge her Christian faith with her transgender identity as she reconciles these aspects of her life. Raised by a pastor father and emotionally volatile mother, her path in ministry was all but preordained. Early on, she was ambivalent about her assigned (male) gender. "I did not dislike being a boy," she recalls, and she felt she was meant to be a girl. She married her college sweetheart, Cathy, in 1972, and moved up in the evangelical church, raising three children and becoming CEO of the Orchard Group, a "church planting" ministry. But the call to transition was impossible to ignore, so she began hormone therapy. Her transition was met by a harsh rejection from the Orchard Group and eventually a divorce from Cathy. After making her living as part of an institution built on condemning LGBTQ individuals, she discovered that the authority she enjoyed as a straight white man was unavailable to her as a trans lesbian. She did manage, though, to carve out new leadership roles in affirming churches and continues to work as a pastor. While she examines her new perspective with humility and grace, Williams's observations about patriarchy won't come as revelations to most women and LGBTQ readers. Those haunted by evangelical culture will find much to ponder in this story.