Transgender pastor Paula Williams says coming out cost her everything - 'I lost my power'

09 October 2019 - 07:03 By Cebelihle Bhengu
Transgender pastor Paula Williams on Tuesday told Red Table Talk that transitioning into a woman cost everything.
Transgender pastor Paula Williams on Tuesday told Red Table Talk that transitioning into a woman cost everything.
Image: Instagram/Jada Pinkett Smith

Renowned transgender pastor Paula Williams' living her truth may have given her some relief, but it came at a huge cost. She lost everything, from marriage, status as a respected pastor to privilege as a man then. Williams was speaking on Red Table Talk with Jada Pinkett-Smith.

She said she knew when she was about three years old that she was trapped in a body she did not belong in, but fear of the unknown delayed her from coming out.

Delaying the transition

“I was like, well, a gender fairy will arrive and I will get to choose what I am, a girl, and of course it didn't happen. I didn't hate being a boy, I just knew I wasn't one, but the longer life went, I was like I don't want to do this to my family.”

Transitioning from Paul to Paula was more than the outside appearance, it was a calling, she said. A calling she cried about, questioned and resisted for decades, almost breaking her. 

Losing his wife

As Paul, he was married with three children, two biological and one adopted.

His wife at the time was the first person to whom he made the big reveal, resulting in the end of their marriage. “I would like to have remained married but what makes this so tragic is you're lesbian and she is not. That I think was the realisation that she needs to be true to herself as well and she is not attracted to women. It has been devastating.”

Children losing their dad

The transition also affected the children the couple had together. Jana Williams, who was also a guest on the show, said the process was difficult for her but she found comfort in seeing how happy it made Paul at the time. “When are you ever ready to see your father dressed up as a woman with make-up? She was showing us her clothes and I was truly excited for her because I could see she was glowing.

“But she was not my dad, so that was hard.”

Losing the church

Before coming out, Paula knew to expect some changes but did not have an understanding of the magnitude of the loss. “I didn't know how bad it was going to be. I thought, well I'd have to leave my jobs and so I wanted to tell the organisations I was a part of and one I had been with for 35 years.”

A week after coming out, everything was lost. “I was gone from all of my jobs within seven days. I lost the church, I lost a lot of my friends, I lost my pension, I lost everything.”

Due to to being alienated from the church she had been associated with, Paula started her own, all-inclusive church in Colorado last year.