New Book Tackles Complexity of Gender Transition in Family of Evangelical Pastors
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.
Praise for She’s My Dad:
“Jonathan Williams manages to honestly capture the pain and heartbreak he felt during his parent’s transition without discounting the reality of Paula’s identity. As someone who has dealt with family rejection, I kept waiting for the moment when the suffering of these two people would be pitted against each other—when we’d be forced to see one of them as the bad guy. Instead, Jonathan and Paula work together to show us a reality in which two people in difficult circumstances can journey through pain and toward a new relationship.”
— Austen Hartke, Author of Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians
“She’s My Dad is the missing link in the LGBTQ+ narrative….Written with gut-wrenching honesty and a raw vulnerability that exposes both deep pain and deep compassion, this gripping memoir of love and loss reveals the heartache and the beauty of navigating life when a family member comes out. A much-welcomed addition to the library of LGBTQ+ resources!”
— Amber Cantorna, National Speaker, Leader, and Author of Refocusing My Family and Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians
“This is a story often overlooked, and one we need to hear. Jonathan Williams takes us all the way through his vulnerable and painful coming-to-terms and out the other side into the light of a Christianity of radical love and inclusion—the vision Jesus had in mind all along! For anyone seeking to understand the broader picture of a family in transition, this is well worth the read.”
— Susan Cottrell, Founder, FreedHearts.org, and Author of “Mom, I’m Gay”: Loving Your LGBTQ Child and Strengthening Your Faith