I’ve lived as a man & a woman — here’s what I learned | Paula Stone Williams | TEDxMileHigh
100 Comments


Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney I was the CEO of a large
religious nonprofit, the host of a national television show. I preached in mega churches. I was a successful, well-educated,
white American male. The poet and mystic Thomas Merton said, “It’s a difficult thing to climb
to the top of the ladder of success only to realize when you get there that your ladder has been leaning
against the wrong wall.” (Laughter) I knew from the time was three
or four years of age I was transgender. In my naivety, I thought I got to choose. I thought a gender fairy
would arrive and say, “Okay, the time has come!” But alas, no gender fairy arrived, so I just lived my life. I didn’t hate being a boy. I just knew I wasn’t one. I went to college, got married,
had kids, built a career, but the call toward authenticity
has all the subtlety of a smoke alarm. (Laughter) And eventually decisions have to be made. So I came out as transgender
and I lost all of my jobs. I had never had a bad review, and I lost every single job. In 21 states, you can’t be fired
for being transgender, but in all 50, you can be fired if you’re transgender
and you work for a religious corporation. Good to know! (Laughter) It’s not easy being a transgender woman. People sometimes ask,
“Do you feel 100% like a woman?” And I say, “Well, if you’ve talked
to one transgender person, you’ve talked to exactly one
transgender person. I can’t speak for anybody else.” I feel 100% like a transgender woman. There are things a cisgender woman
knows I will never know. That said, I am learning a lot
about what it means to be a female, and I am learning a lot
about my former gender. (Laughter) I have the unique experience
of having lived life on both sides – (Laughter) and I’m here to tell you:
the differences are massive. (Laughter) (Applause) So, I’ll start with the small stuff – like the pockets on women’s jeans. (Laughter) What! (Cheers) (Applause) (Laughter) I can’t put a phone in there. (Laughter) Paper clip, maybe. (Laughter) Or the sizing of women’s clothing. Do the numbers mean anything? (Laughter) What is a double zero? (Laughter) And ladies, I doubt
you’ve thought about this, but do you know there is never
a time in the life of a male that he has to worry about whether or not an article of his clothing is accidentally
going to drop into the toilet? Not a long sweater, not a belt, nothing. Never even a passing thought. (Laughter) Now, I get my hair cut
about half as often as I used to, but it costs tens times as much. (Laughter) So, I can go on vacation
or I can get my hair cut. I cannot do both. (Laughter) I keep bumping into gender
differences everywhere I go! Sometimes literally. I’m walking down the hallway
and I just bump into it. There’s nothing in the way,
and I just bump into it. I think, “What’s that about?” And I know it’s going to leave a bruise because now that my skin is thinner
I have bruises absolutely everywhere. How I experience my sexuality
is profoundly different. It’s less visual and more holistic; less of a body experience
and more of a being experience. I cannot count the number of times
I’ve said to Cathy, my former wife, “I am so, so sorry!” (Laughter) I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. There is no way a well-educated
white male can understand how much the culture
is tilted in his favor. There’s no way he can understand it
because it’s all he’s ever known, and all he ever will know. And conversely, there’s no way that a woman
can understand the full import of that because being a female
is all she’s ever known. She might have an inkling that she’s
working twice as hard for half as much, but she has no idea how much harder it is for her than it is
for the guy in the Brooks Brothers jacket in the office across the hall. I know! I was that guy! And I thought I was one of the good guys, sensitive to women, egalitarian. Then came the first time
I ever flew as a female. Now, I’ve flown over 2.3 million miles
with American Airlines. I know my way around an airplane. And American was great
through my transition, but that does not mean
their passengers were. The first time I flew as Paula,
I was going from Denver to Charlotte, and I got on the plane
and there was stuff in my seat. So, I picked it up to put my stuff down,
and a guy said, “That’s my stuff.” I said, “Okay, but it’s in my seat. So, I’ll just hold it for you
until you find your seat, and then I’ll give it to you.” He said, “Lady, that is my seat!” I said, “Actually, it’s not.
It’s my seat.” (Laughter) “1D, 1D. But I’ll be glad to hold your stuff
until you find your seat.” He said, “What do I have
to tell you? That is my seat!” I said, “Yeah, it’s not.” (Laughter) At which point the guy behind me said, “Lady, would you take
your effing argument elsewhere so I can get in the airplane?” I was absolutely stunned! I had never been treated
like that as a male. I would have said,
“I believe that’s my seat,” and the guy immediately
would have looked at his boarding pass and said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” I know that because
it happened all the time! The flight attendant
took our boarding passes. She said to the guy,
“Sir, you’re in 1C. She’s in 1D.” I put his stuff down in 1C,
he said not one single word, and of course you know
who was next to me in 1F. (Laughter). Mister “would you take
your effing argument elsewhere.” (Laughter) So, my friend Karen,
who works for American, came on the plane
to give the pilot his paperwork. She left and waved goodbye. When I got to Charlotte, she called me. She said, “Paula, what happened? You were as white as a sheet!” I told her and she said, “Yeah. Welcome to the world of women!” (Laughter) Now, the truth is I will not live
long enough to lose my male privilege. I brought it with me when I transitioned. (Laughter) A lot of decades of being a man. But that doesn’t mean
I don’t see my power diminishing. Let me tell you
another thing I’ve observed. Apparently, since I became a female,
I have become stupid. (Laughter) Yeah, I guess it’s the loss of
testosterone and the arrival of estrogen that has caused me to lose the brain cells necessary to be a fully
functioning adult human. (Laughter) Either that or I’m as smart as I ever was, it’s just now I’m constantly
being subjected to mansplaining. (Laughter) (Applause) So, I was in my local Denver bike shop
and a young summer employee said, “Can I help?” And I said, “Yeah. Can the frame of an older
Gary Fisher mountain bike start to flex and bend enough
that it causes the rear break to rub?” He said, “Well, disk breaks
need regular adjustments.” I said, “I know that, and in fact I do
my reg break adjustments.” He said, “Oh, well,
then your rotor’s bent.” I said, “Yeah, my rotor is not bent.
I know a bent rotor.” With condescension, he said,
“Well, what do you want me to do?” I said, “You could answer my question.” (Laughter) At which point Kyle, the manager
of the shop, stepped in. He’s such a sweetheart. He said, “I think you’re probably right. Let me ask you a question: Do you only get a chirp coming
from that rear break when you’re pulling hard uphill?” I said, “Yes, exactly!” He said, “Yeah, that’s frame fatigue.” I wanted to fall at the feet of Kyle
and call him blessed! (Laughter) Someone was taking me seriously! This happens all the time now. I have to go three
or four rounds with someone before I get a direct answer! And there’s a deeper issue: the more you’re treated as if
you don’t know what you’re talking about, the more you begin to question whether or not you do in fact
know what you’re talking about, right? (Applause) I understand the woman’s tendency
to doubt herself. Do you ever notice if a woman
is in a meeting with a group of men, and she knows she’s right, she apologizes for it? She says, “I’m sorry,
but I don’t think those numbers add up.” You know, you don’t have
to apologize for being right. (Cheers) (Applause) Since I’m new to this gender,
I asked my good friend Jen. I said, “What are women
looking for in men?” She said, “Women are looking for men
who will honor our uniqueness, who will realize our gifting
is not lesser, it’s not weaker, it’s just different, it is in fact more comprehensive
and it’s essential.” Now, of course there are men
who do honor women, lots of them, like my good friend
and fellow pastor, Mark, who always draws out the best in me and then seems to take pleasure
in watching me lead. We need more men like Mark, who are willing to honor
and empower women. I know I’m going to keep bumping into
additional differences on this journey, but let me leave you with this. To the women, I offer my heartfelt thanks. I often feel like an interloper, a late arrival to the serious
work of womanhood, but you show me grace and great mercy. I want you to know you are
far more capable than you realize, you are more powerful than you know and you reflect the best parts
of what it means to be fully human. And to you guys who are probably feeling more than
a little bit uncomfortable right now – (Laughter) I do understand. I never thought I had privilege, but I did. And so do you. What can you do? You can believe us when we tell you that we might,
we might have equality, but we do not have equity. It is not a level playing field,
it never has been. You can be a part of the solution
by elevating us to equal footing. You uniquely have that power. And to all of us, do you know who I think about a lot? I think about my brown-skinned daughter, and my brown-skinned daughter-in-law. What do they know that I’m clueless about? What do any of us really know about
the shoes in which we have never walked? It’s hard being a woman,
it’s hard being a transgender woman. As a man, I just didn’t know
what I didn’t know. Would I do it all again? Of course I would, because the call toward authenticity
is sacred, it’s holy, it’s for the greater good. For 45 years, my father
was a fundamentalist pastor. My mother is even more conservative – (Laughter) When I came out as transgender,
they rejected me. I thought I would never
speak to them again. Last January, I took a chance
and called my dad on his birthday, and he took my call. We talked for about a half hour,
and about a month later, I asked if I could come for a visit,
and they said yes. And last spring, I had a delightfully
redemptive three-hour visit with them. I’ve met with them twice since. But that day, toward the end
of the conversation, that first day, my father said a number
of precious things. As I stood to go – he said – (Applause) As I stood to go, he said, “Paula” – He called me Paula – (Applause) He said, “Paula, I don’t understand this, but I am willing to try.” My father is 93 years old, and he’s willing to try. What more could I ask? I hugged him so tightly. One man willing to give up his power
because he knew what he knew, that he loved his child, and he was willing to do
whatever it takes to honor the journey of another. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers)

100 thoughts on “I’ve lived as a man & a woman — here’s what I learned | Paula Stone Williams | TEDxMileHigh

  1. This woman really made me cry, byt not in a bad way, she made me feel so happy to be able to hear her; she oppened my eyes and really showed me something I never asked to but wanted to listen somehow. Thank you.

  2. This was beautiful. Thanks Paula, it takes someone who has seen both sides to know and tell us what we are all missing.

  3. Thank you, Paula, for pointing those things out and for your thought provoking anecdotes. Your talk should be required viewing in grade schools and high schools. We need to start sensitizing people, who have been brought up de-sensitized, somewhere! Your experience with your parents is one we can all relate to, in one way or another! I had tears in my eyeglasses!

  4. Thank you for sharing such intimate feelings on a public platform, where so many of us would not be willing to do so.

  5. Almost every time while in public a female will say “I’m sorry” maybe for passing by me in a store isle. They never touched or bumped me not even my cart. When this happens I’ll often say “for what?” OM gosh, if the female is in her 50s/60s the confusion and a few times emotion they respond with is very telling. It hits a nerve, one many don’t acknowledge, about their “place” in their world. They are fully aware they have accepted being 2nd class, they don’t like it, but participate in the arrangement and have done so their whole lives. Sadly they will say something like “for bumping you”. When I push them and tell them they didn’t, for the most part the next reaction is confusion with some huffy “how dare you” attitude creeping into their voice. It’s easy to get walked on if you willingly play the roll of door mat.

  6. Every parent that loves their child unconditionally will try understand their child’s issues. No matter what. I don’t begin to judge anyone that cannot. But, parents want to have a connection to their children.

  7. To all the people who say male privilege and all this leftist uni neuronal shits, please whatch the documentary "2006 self made man" were a woman live like a man for 18 months, and all of you can really see a cientific experiment and not a transformer saying ironical thinks all the time.

  8. Thank you, Paula Stone Williams. In your journey, you have truly come to know some of the dilemmas woman and girls face.

  9. This is the most inspirational video ever! I am now 67 and always wondered "what is it about me that makes men treat me so rudely"? It is so good to know it is not just me!

  10. What does living as a women even mean? A trans women is not a women and will never know what it is like. They never have periods

  11. I enjoyed this video, agree with most of the talking points. I dissagree about me having privilege and "man-splaining" but appreciate that I could watch this video and hear what she had to say👍

  12. Fabuloussssssssss When people can see the intellect of an articulate person … you forget about gender at all

  13. Honestly, even as a cis woman, I never noticed much of a difference in how I was treated. It was only when she mentioned apologizing for being right that I realized maybe there was one.

  14. I almost cried when she said 'he called me paula'
    It's past midnight and I should be sleeping. Wasn't expecting this to be so good. Watched til the end.

  15. This is the first time that I have ever had anyone explain exactly how it is for a woman in a mans world. I always knew that I had to work harder and be better than a man in order to be equal, sadly the financial gain never reflected my success in work. It seems to be the same story after 40 years especially in the UK.

  16. The airline seat anecdote is utter nonsense. If you believe that nobody argues with men “because privilege” whenever there’s a seat or ticket issue/discrepancy then you are knowingly ignoring reality, along with the experiences of men. My goodness, a man was infamously dragged off of a United Airlines flight. Any time I witnessed an altercation on a plane, a woman was usually the aggressor. I too am a million miler with American Airlines and in my observation over the years, when there are conflicts, men are not exempt from the aggression of other passengers or crew in these kinds of cases. Paula may have experienced incredulity at her seat assignment , but her anecdote seems contrived or at least an anomaly in comparison to real life. People are generally more polite and conflict-averse when dealing with women, and less so when dealing with men. When a woman is receiving aggression it’s almost always from another woman. Sorry but this just seems like Paula is preaching what she thinks the crowd wants to hear,

  17. I create impactful spreadsheets. They are complex as I know almost every aspect of excel and utilize them. My boss's boss used to ask me to send him the spreadsheets I was working on. I felt great the first time because I thought "He is going to be impressed and may have me present this to our group and we can all benefit!" He would then send them to one of my male counterparts who would change it up and present it to the group as his own. This happened twice and now I don't share anything I am doing with anyone. I use them for my own benefit. It creates a resentment within me toward those male employees. This is the world we live in. It is still happening today. The main reason I cannot wait to retire is that I cannot wait to not play this game anymore. I am tired. Good luck future girls! I hope you are treated as equals one day but we still have a loooong way to go.

  18. “Trans people aren’t like normal people” Bruh look at *her*, she’s so intelligent, wise, and funny and she seems super successful. I’m very happy for her and her transition/position

  19. Paula, I totally understand what you are living. My brother shames me for not asking the repairman to explain why I need a new air conditioner unit. He does not understand the repairman is not going to explain exactly the problem to me. My brother does not understand this because the repairman always explain to him……..

  20. 5:10 Being a male/ female is all he/ she’s ever known, so true, even for every single person, with the background, family , education, we are all trapped inside our heads, and the world we experience are all we could ever know… good thing to think about

  21. When this white all-american male stands before GOD ALMIGHTY, he will be addressed by his birth name and GOD will inquire, "why did you change my creation? You had absolutely no right to do that." He will be held accountable, as we all will.

  22. From the title I didn't expect much, at the start I enjoyed her humour but as the speech continued, the more serious it got and the things said are so valuable and precious that everyone should hear them. Thank you for sharing

  23. I think it may be his attitude. I am a woman and have not found this to be true. In fact many doors have been open to me because I am a woman. And men have been great for the most part. And please don't say "we" and "us" because you are not a woman.

  24. It hurt so much when she mentioned doubting your own intellect. Im not that old but I've been underestimated by so many boys I had projects with. They never listened and never expected anything useful to come out of my mouth. Now I am still insecure over my own intellect. Being told by Paula that it is an actual thing that exists.. felt so freeing

  25. The other day, some girls from my classroom were talking about a certain doctor they visited that literary touched their boobs pretending to do a physical exam. One of them told us that she left the doctor’s office in tears.
    I was like: “Why didn’t you go to the police?”
    All the girls agreed: “Is not as easy as it looks.”
    I couldn’t understand why. I was SO pissed. I was so full of feelings (confusion, shame, hate) I just cried.
    But I guess I’m not a woman to understand that situation fully.
    Why the world is that freaked up?

  26. This is golden… Literally one of the best TED´s I have ever seen, well done, Paula! Keep going, you are STRONG and UNIQUE and AMAZING!

  27. Personally, as a 5'2 woman, men are actually VERY nice to me on flights, I've flown a many times and have never put my own carry on up in the bins myself. A kind stranger man has always offered to do it for me.

  28. Speaking of "authenticity" *how is it being authentic or absolutely true to your own self, by mutilating disfiguring and rearranging your god given body and natural organs to become something you are not devinely designed to be?

  29. Yea I no longer ask people for things when I need something done, I demand. Thats the fastest way to get things done with out a long drawn out argument 😑 And if they refuse or delay me any longer I ask for the manager.

  30. having an easy life experience as a a particular man has no bearing on the experiences of all men. Still not buying the privilege thing

  31. This woman is such a wonderful story teller 🤗💜 just the way she is expressive when she talks….it’s just so captivating and beautiful. It makes me really happy.

  32. My mother told me when I was little: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything." This is one of those cases where no comment is a necessary one.

  33. people who 'mansplain' generally aren't doing it because you're a woman. they do it to EVERYONE even their friends. that's just how they talk. but then because you're a woman you assumed he was doing it because you were a woman. I think it's more that you're now paying attention to condescending people where as before you'd shrug it off. but maybe not. I'm not you and I wasn't there.

    to clarify, I AM ONE OF THESE PEOPLE. I'm just annoying. it's not sexism.

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