Jonathan Williams was only three months into pastoring his conservative evangelical church plant when his father, also a pastor, came out as transgender. Paul became Paula and was immediately ousted from her community. Jonathan struggled, thinking: What is the right thing to do when a family member comes out as transgender? Torn between supporting Paula and her journey and his church’s position on transgender issues, Jonathan spiraled into drinking and depression.
“There is no handbook. There’s no You-Tube video,” he writes in the new dual memoir, She’s My Dad: A Father’s Transition and a Son’s Redemption.
“Behind everyone’s coming-out party there is a family who is weeping, drinking too much, and googling what exactly it means to be transgender.” Jonathan Williams and Paula Stone Williams have shared their story with The New York Times and in two popular TedTalk videos. Now they share it in their new book, She’s My Dad: A Father’s Transition and a Son’s Redemption.
At the intersection of faith and sexuality, their personal story explores the ongoing theological evolution surrounding transgender rights and advocacy in the church. Jonathan speaks of his family’s continuing evolution and the meaning of remaining loyal to one’s father even when she is no longer a man.
Jonathan and Paula’s unflinching and eye-opening account during Paula’s transition demonstrate how even in the most affirming families, the transition of a loved one can be followed by feelings of loss, confusion, and anger.
This is the story of the long road to reconciliation and acceptance of Paula as well as Jonathan’s church’s journey to becoming one of the first fully LGBTQ-affirming evangelical churches in America.
Paula writes, “Though the call to authenticity can be difficult, it is holy.” Jonathan and Paula continue to speak on gender equity and to explore the realities and complexities of gender transition.
She’s My Dad: A Father’s Transition and a Son’s Redemption is available through Westminster John Knox Press and other retailers.