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Local pastor shares her memoir with Longmont Public Library

Reverend Dr. Paula Stone Williams to speak on her memoir through the library's Authors We Love series.

Longmont Public Library's Authors We Love series is hosting its first in-person event in the for the season with local pastor and international speaker Reverend Dr. Paula Stone Williams on July 26.

Williams will discuss her new memoir, As a Woman: What I Learned About Power, Sex and the Patriarchy After I Transitioned. The memoir is about Williams' journey through faith and transitioning, but also spends several chapters examining gender and equity, as well as the nature of religion and religious behavior. 

“The overwhelming majority of the book is about the hero’s journey each of us are called to,” Williams said. “I feel like this book is really for anyone that feels stuck and trying to figure out what their next step is in life. The overall theme is finding courage to step through the dark night of the soul and onto the road of trials.”

The section of Williams’ memoir that addresses gender equity focuses on the privilege of men and the need to be aware of it. 

“The thing I want men to understand more than anything else is that they begin life closer to the finish line than anybody else, and educated white men especially. The whole world has been created for them and they may not even be aware of it,” Williams said. “I really want men to understand that and I want women to understand the severity of it.”

Williams is part of the co-pastoring team at Left Hand Church, which meets at Longmont United Church of Christ every Sunday. She is one of the regular preaching pastors, speaking two out of three Sundays each month. Williams is a pastoral counselor and international speaker on gender equity, LGBTQ advocacy and religious tolerance.

“Left Hand Church is my grounding. I believe religious fellowships have a purpose in teaching us how to be human together,” Williams said. “If you’re (religious and) not part of a local group, you’re not availing yourself of that opportunity to learn how to get along as a community.”

From the ministry and speaking engagements to her memoir, Williams is very open about her path from Evangelical minister to international speaker and advocate for gender equity and LGBTQ issues. 

“It’s a pretty wild journey. It’s not a common journey for most trans people, and I think it’s wonderful that I’m in a position to speak on gender equity. One, there’s no way a well-educated white man can really understand the world is weighted in his favor, and that is a marvelous format for me because the fact that I’m transgender is sort of incidental,” she said. “People that wouldn’t come to a talk on what it means to be transgender are happy to come to a talk on gender and equity and in the process learn a little bit about what being transgender means.”

Born in 1951 in an Evangelical Christian household, with a fundamentalist Christian pastor for a father, Williams knew from a very early age that she was transgender even if she didn’t have the words for it until much later. 

“It frightened me so much, I decided to follow my father’s footsteps into the Christian ministry, which my brother had done before me. In part because it appealed to me, but also because it felt like a safer place for me to deny what I knew was my truth and I did not have the resources to deal with it.”

Williams would go on to be a successful religious leader and Evangelical Christian pastor with a denomination of 7,000 churches nationwide, CEO of a large Christian non-profit, as well as an editor for a national Christian magazine. The call to transition, to live her truth, didn’t dissipate and she would eventually face the call directly. 

Answering that call led to the loss of all her jobs within seven days, along with difficulties with her family. Williams lost her pension as well, which she estimated would have been nearly $750,000 after several decades, but the call was so strong she couldn’t deny her truth anymore.

Williams separated from her wife and went through difficulties with her children as well, though they would eventually come back around. Her son, a pastor at a church in Brooklyn, would eventually join her for a TEDtalk on the subject.

“I exploded our family narrative and that is a difficult thing to deal with. Our family has always been committed to the truth. We’ve always said that the authority in our family was never mom or dad, but the truth,” Williams said. “So we could always use the truth to frame a conversation, and we kept talking through all this and found our way back together.”

After outright rejection by the Evangelical world she knew prior to transitioning, Williams kept her faith. She had received her doctorate as a pastoral counselor a few years before the transition and that helped lead her to joining the pastor team at Denver Highlands Church. That church and two others, including one that her son ministered in Brooklyn, led to the formation of Left Hand Church in Longmont.

Williams' speaking career has included TED talks, including TEDWomen and TEDxMileHigh. She speaks to corporations and universities around the world on gender inequity.  Her TED talks have drawn in more than six million views and she has been interviewed by Colorado Public Radio, National Public Radio, Good Morning America, and publications like the Washington Post and Denver Post, and has now published her first book. 

Williams was one of the speakers at President Biden’s Inaugural Prayer Service. She has also been working with the Biden Administration to navigate trans rights issues alongside Dr. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Williams was approached by an agent about writing a book, which she took some time to consider. The agent worked with Williams to put together a proposal and eventually started work with publishing house Simon & Schuster. After dozens of edits, the book was completed and an audiobook was recorded with a sound engineer based out of Nederland. 

“I’m very pleased with the way it turned out, and it wasn’t an easy thing to do. It’s a very raw and open book, and having your life lived in front of the world is not easy,” Williams said. “I don’t think writing a memoir is for the faint of heart if you really want to get it right. If you truly believe the truth will set you free it will, but it will make you miserable first.”

As A Woman released June 1 and has been optioned by Los Angeles-based Cannonball Studios to develop into a limited television series. Williams will be involved in developing the series along with the production company. 

The event will be hosted at the Longmont City Council Chambers in the Longmont Civic Center on July 26, 7-8 p.m. The event is free to the public and registration is requiredAs A Woman is available for purchase online or at Barbed Wire Books.

“I hope people come and listen to the story, because story touches our hearts. We’re a story-based species, we don’t sleep without dreaming and we don’t dream in mathematical equations, we dream in stories and narratives,” Williams said. “I think it's an opportunity for people to hear a narrative that will resonate with their own story and will cause them to think a little differently about that story. Hopefully they’ll come away inspired with some ideas about where they are being called on their journey.”