On Wednesday, October 10, IUP welcomed Paula Stone Williams for
an event called “Is Life Really Easier for Men?” Stone Williams can speak to this because she is a transgender woman, having lived as both a man and a woman.
The event was introduced by Theresa Smith, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at IUP. Smith was excited by the large audience and thanked the sponsors for the event, including: S.A.C.R.E.D., the President’s Office, the Provost’s Office, the
College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean’s Office, Women’s and Gender Studies, LGBTQ Studies, and all the departments of CHSS: Anthropology,
Economics, English, Foreign Languages, Geography, History, Journalism, Philosophy, Political Science, Religious Studies, and Sociology.
Smith then turned it over to Alison Downie of the Religious Studies Department, saying that, “Every day in her classes, Dr. Smith makes learning and free speech happen.” Downie introduced Paula Stone Williams (who has her Doctor of Ministry degree in
Pastor Care) as the Pastor of Preaching and Worship at Left Hand Church in Longmont, Colorado; and president of RLT Pathways, where she provides individual pastoral counseling, ministerial coaching, and church consultation. Lastly, Downie highlighted
the many high-profile organizations that have featured Stone Williams, including the New York Times, Denver Post, NPR’s Radiolab, Radio New Zealand, Colorado Public Radio, the Huffington Post, and TEDxMileHigh.
Stone Williams began her talk by noting that she first knew
she was transgender at the age of three or four. She highlighted the career she had established as a man, including serving as CEO of a religious nonprofit for 35 years, editor-at-large of a magazine, and a preacher at mega churches. She explained
that she lost all of those jobs in just seven days.
Stone Williams said that there is no way that an educated white male can understand how much the world has been tilted in his favor because that is all he knows. She told several anecdotes of how her life had changed when she identified as a woman. One
of the most humorous and upsetting incidents involved a man sitting in her assigned seat on a plane. He argued with her, declining to relinquish the seat until another man showed annoyance. A flight attendant intervened and got the man to move out
of Stone Williams’ seat. Stone Williams said this had never happened to her as a man.
Among the most effective qualities of Stone Williams’ speech
was that she knew her facts. She offered prepared statistics to support everything she said during the speech, and, during the long question and answer segment, she was able to answer every question but one with statistics. She also welcomed those
in attendance to e-mail her with any questions, offering to share the peer-reviewed studies from which she cited.
One of the biggest takeaways from the talk was that white men in power should invite women into the conversation. They should understand their privilege as males and let women and minorities speak first. They should give women their due and not take credit.
And they should hire mothers and not use that as an excuse.
For more information on and writings from Paula Stone Williams, please visit her website.
—Shane Sedlemeyer, IUP graduate student