I grew up in Ohio and Kentucky but spent most of my working life on Long Island, one of the few remaining places in America where the accent is as thick as the salt air. Though Long Island is indeed an island, most of its 3.5 million inhabitants think of themselves as living on a peninsula. After all, the East River is so narrow and dirty you could almost walk across it. People who live on peninsulas tend to have an insular mentality. They are independent folk who filter pretty much everything through the lens available in their neck of the woods.
There are also virtual peninsulas. I grew up and spent most of my life on one. It was a denomination that said it was not a denomination, though it looked suspiciously like one. As denominations go it was pretty healthy. With no hierarchy to control the growth, things actually grew, particularly new churches and megachurches.
I led a church planting organization on my peninsula. We grew a lot over the years, both financially and in the number and size of the churches we planted. I also served as editor-at-large of a leadership magazine. I taught graduate courses, spoke for conferences, hosted a national television show, and did lots of other stuff that would appeal to a Renaissance-type person. All in all, it was a good ride.
But I kinda set myself adrift from the peninsula this past December when I chose to come out as transgender. It is not that I wanted to be set adrift, but sometimes we do not have a choice in these matters. I made public what had been private. Poet Mark Nepo says the two best ways to grow are by being broken or willfully shedding. It is usually a mix of both—which pretty much describes my journey over the past eight months. Two weeks ago I took it to another level and outed myself to the world on my personal blog, paulstonewilliams.com. It’s had about 5,000 page views, so I’m thinkin’ the word is pretty much out.
In this blog I will write about being transgender. (As a former editor, I dislike the word—seems it should be transgendered—but I don’t make the rules about these things.) Still, being trans is hardly the only thing defining me. I managed to accomplish a lot of stuff, though I have a suspicion much of what I have done may be forgotten. My obituary won’t say, “Church Planter and Editor Dies.” It’ll say, “Transgender Pastor Dies.” I’m good with it.
Richard Rohr says there comes a time when you either live authentically or you die. That is mostly what this blog will be about—living authentically. It’ll be about believing the truth sets you free, though it is likely to make you miserable first. It will be about how we handle the suffering we all eventually know. It’ll be about the church, because I love it, even though it felt it pretty much had to kick me out.
So I look forward to interacting with you. I hope you find my writing engaging and not pedantic, thought provoking and not inflammatory, and most of all, genuine. We’ll see how it goes.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Giuseppe Milo