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

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

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)


  1. Victoria Wenn says:

    Well done Paula for a brilliant talk. I wish you well on your continued journey and thank you for your bravery and honesty x

  2. koayogi says:

    Finally my life makes sense.

  3. leaf walker says:

    Pocket in jeans is for a watch. Both can wear and use them.

  4. 6668528 says:

    Mmm… as a woman, I never feel treated like this. Maybe it's a question of where you live.

  5. Keto Lisa says:

    The lie from the enemy of humanity is just that! A lie. You may not be content as a man or woman, but you are what you are…unless you are a true angrodenous person. This person is clearly a man. This is NOT a woman. I am a woman, and I refuse to accept that this dude is one of me! Sorry but NOWAY!

  6. MADE IN THE USA God Bless America says:

    Great well rehearsed speech… However, you can never "honor" GOD and live as a trans person. Bottomline, GOD will forgive sin but, you must turn away from it.

  7. tayla alien says:

    she is such a sweetheart, you can feel it in the way she talks

  8. Jerome Munchel says:

    Wow! Powerful and impactful! Thank you Paula!

  9. Heidi Webb says:

    Not sure why I clicked on this video. I believe now, it was a gift! Thank you! I’ve always felt as though I’m defending myself constantly! Now I understand why!

  10. Tee Carr says:

    How much do I like this woman!!?!! 👍🏻💕🌷💕👍🏻

  11. Michelle Kryszon says:

    Love it!

  12. Mel3 says:

    I liked the video right when she mentioned our small pockets!!!

  13. David Sibley says:

    Sorry, I don't buy it. I see a huge amount of female privilege, women-explaining, etc. I think men are very reluctant to have a dispute with a woman.

  14. Volvican says:

    What an excellent talk. Thank you for being an advocate for truth.

  15. JBO2493 says:

    He’s not talking from ‘both sides’ he’s talking from the perspective of a male/trans female. If he were as ‘privileged’ as he likes to say he was as a ‘white male,’ he’d never‘ve converted to being a woman in the hopes of a ‘better life.’ No human, male or female, gives up REAL privilege without a fight.

  16. MaryLove says:

    What a beautiful talk. This one really got to me, brought me to tears. I can not begin to understand the complexities of transexuality. However, Paula is a living testimony to how unequal we still are. Love all the fighting beautiful women out there <3

  17. Dayna Winer says:

    Classy x

  18. Jenny J says:

    Thank you. Such an amazing perspective. My favorite “You don’t have to apologize for being right”. And, the pockets!

  19. Roessling52 says:

    He brings up many good gender points but God doesn't make mistakes, regardless of what he added or cut off he is still a man!

  20. nomirodin says:

    wrong, you lived you life as a man, and a cross dresser. i could be wrong though

  21. why you mad says:

    Have you had a child had a period or menopause your not a woman

  22. Nancy Hooper says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences!! May someone struggling watch this and feel understood and validated. Much respect from a mom!

  23. Akon Onuk says:

    Loved watching this. So many lessons to take out of it. Thank you for sharing your story. 😊

  24. RandomNexus ThatSillyFiccer says:

    Excellent! Thank you, Paula, for sharing some of your journey!

  25. Somethin Aint Right Here says:

    I bet you didn’t learn you’re a lunatic. good luck in life but please stop promoting this as if it’s normal

  26. Ogra Gaming says:

    Did u all lose your mind, or what?! ''She'' should be in a mental hospital away from society.

  27. Ogra Gaming says:

    Gender should not matter – what matters in competency.

  28. Ogra Gaming says:

    Equal opportunity – no equal outcome!!!!!!!

  29. Stacey Troffer says:

    PAULA, I may possibly love you. ❤️❤️

  30. Johnny Appleseed says:


  31. Trey Mansfield says:

    I'm a white straight male and while I was watching this and I tried to keep an open mind but I couldn't understand her experiences. I didn't agree with most of what she said but I did get a bit out of it. If you want to know more where I'm coming from watch Warren's farrels Ted talk he explains it really well.

  32. Jen TV says:

    This is important !

  33. Fried Phoenix says:

    Gosh, this was beautiful! Thank you, Paula! <3

  34. Andrea Crews says:

    But I can appreciate the effort you have given to be a woman but please don’t think we as woman don’t feel confident or intelligent or stand our ground! Just bc a woman may to appear weak to you! We as real woman don’t know what it’s like to be a man. AND DO NOT CARE TO BE! Real woman are stronger than any man will ever know! And while you’re at your attempt as a woman, go through a pregnancy and a child birth. What only REAL WOMAN CAN DO! You think you are speaking for us ! You are not!

  35. Timothy Kemp says:

    The irony of all of this, is that she truly doesn't know how women are treated by men because the men she's dealing with, most likely treat her like a man trying to pass them self off as a women but failing.There's a big difference.

  36. Bonnie Erickson says:

    "I just didnt know what I didn't know." Every human should entertain this every day for just a few minutes. What do you know that you know? What do you know that you don't know? What do you not even know that you don't know? Once we sit in the humble quietude of this, ALL hardcore, stubborn "belief" must give way to seeking truth. Please be willing to admit "I don't know" as the more standard answer to life's questions…it just might stop wars based on belief and consensus…

  37. Dear Sybersue says:

    Awesome Paula! You're a very strong woman to be able to share all of what you have gone through. hugs xo ❤

  38. Mark Nash says:

    Mental illness is what it is

  39. Gloria Kirkpatrick says:

    One of the best and most insightful talks, delivered with much love and laughter. You are a wonderful spokesperson Paula.

  40. Literally Wah? says:

    This female looks weird she’s a little to tall a bit muscular with a deep voice and very structured face I can’t put my finger on it something fishy here 🤨🧐

  41. PHOTOART says:

    It still looks and acts like a man.

  42. Uncle Matt says:

    What is this abomination!?

  43. Balboa Baggins says:

    Jesus Christ you're delusional. In reality women have never in history had it easier than right now.

  44. Hildebeast Clinton says:

    You’ve lived as a man, who injects estrodial and wears women’s clothes.

  45. Just Someone says:

    It's hard to be women and male, but in a competition. Being a male is worst.

  46. Oliver's Odyssey says:

    I love this woman so much! 💕💕💕💕💕

  47. Armelle Cornette says:


  48. Amanda Pérez says:

    one of the best talk <3

  49. Adeline Shen says:

    Absolutely powerful.
    To honor the journey of another

  50. Stan Peterson says:

    I have deep pockets,….sadly, they’re empty.

  51. Stan Peterson says:

    I think he said “Paul, ah, I don’t understand, but I’m willing to try”.
    Still nice though.

  52. Chulos Vanzzini says:

    how can you know that your not a boy if you've never been a girl?

  53. Avidelux says:

    11:08 yep, more nice guys….

  54. qikese says:

    Paula is trying hard to relate, but what she doesn’t realize is that there’s a good chance she’s not passing for a cis-woman with these guys (I certainly knew right away) which means the way she’s being treated is far more likely due to her being trans than anything else. I know that sucks hard and I know almost no one here will say it, but it’s the truth.

    Also, as a cis-woman, we’re only victims if we choose to be victims. The whiny woman bit is an embarrassment to our gender.

  55. Abby T says:

    This makes me feel seen. Thank you

  56. BeSaltandLight says:

    As I pulled out of the bay in a drive-through oil change, a man pulled his vehicle directly across the opening on the street. He could see me, a woman. I rolled down my window and said, "You're blocking my way out." "It's OK," he replied, "I'll just be a minute." And he strolled toward the convenience store next to the oil change. The male, 21 year old, 130 pound pony-tailed oil change clerk came out of the bay and said, "Move your car, dude." Immediately, the man APOLOGIZED to the CLERK and RAN back to his car and moved it. Welcome to the world of microaggressions.

  57. Ca11MeZed says:

    10:29 – 10:49 That’s not what she actually believes, it’s just what she was told by society, and she was just regurgitating it because it ‘sounds’ good on paper. Thing is, that shows the exact opposite of uniqueness because she couldn’t come up with a response of her own.

    This is exactly why that old adage of “girls don’t know what they want” exists. She couldn’t think for herself to come up with an actual response.

  58. ted kaczynski says:

    right, males don't have seat disagreements.

  59. Granny Rocks TV says:

    Thank you for this video and for your compassion for everyone.

  60. Yuri Sucupira says:

    Even though I agree with pretty much everything in this speech, there are 2 things tremendously wrong in it: [1] it describes society as a place where women's problems are solely caused by men; [2] it describes women as "the best part of what it means to be fully human" (11:39). This is not the way towards "equity".

  61. smack dabular says:

    Not biased at all. Didn't he say he was never a boy ?

  62. OGSpaceCadet says:

    He still hasn't lived as a woman. Men cannot be women, no matter how many hormones they choke down or what they chop off. Biology doesn't work that way, period. He's lived as a man and a man acting female, but he hasn't lived a single moment as a woman, it's physically impossible.

  63. Em S says:

    <3 There is one book that I love, it's about body positivity and it's SO uplifting! It's called ''The art of accepting your flaws: Body positivity. Love Yourself: Your guide to loving your perfectly imperfect body'' by author Florence Mitchell. It's available on Kindle on Amazon. I highly recommend it to everyone

  64. zzzut says:

    He hasn't missed one cliché.

  65. G F says:

    Brave!! I tip my hat!

  66. Pretty fish tank Pretty fish tank says:

    Unless you have had a period every month for most of your life , you have no experience of being a woman. Trans women are just that trans💋

  67. Layah White says:

    Hmmmmm…. was hats her opinion!

  68. Ed says:

    She walked the politically correct Marxist line flawlessly, offending no one and speaking the platitudes of her new chosen religion (the cult of social justice) to absolute perfection! The trouble is, not everyone believes – in fact most never will.

  69. ABC1232622 says:

    I enjoyed this but I was hoping for some positive changes

  70. Angiela says:

    Thank you Paula Stone Williams for this wonderful talk….

  71. infernal artfices says:

    Are all men like Mark pastors?

  72. Cristina Aviles says:

    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.

  73. A Viewer says:

    You're STILL a male, perv.

  74. Ja Series says:

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

  75. AuberJean 68 says:

    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!

  76. O Medina says:

    Thank you Paula.

  77. JackBauer137 says:

    It's an unfortunate reality but there will forever be double standards between the genders.

  78. Nyla says:

    Thank you for pointing out that we don't get real pockets!!!!!!!

  79. Melanie Wallace says:

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

  80. goldfishgames says:

    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.

  81. Karen Chapman says:

    Thank you for your inspiring courage, Paula Stone Williams. Thank you.

  82. Jon Smith says:

    So the gist is it’s fine to be a victim if you’re a woman

  83. Courson says:

    His story from when he was a man going through the changes we all feel inspired me greatly, what a brilliant speaker.

  84. Leslie Hannah says:

    Every parent that loves their child

  85. Leslie Hannah says:

    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.

  86. Rhea303 says:

    No, I will never get used to this.

  87. Samantha V. Gaspar says:

    Amazing. Almost two years later but amazing. I did cry at the end.

  88. N says:

    Pay a visit to the doctor and he will tell you which way to go.

  89. pau pastor padillo says:

    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.

  90. Fran Pinzow says:

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

  91. Lee Williams says:

    JUST WOW!!!!

  92. Diana Hill says:

    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!

  93. Jane lane says:

    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

  94. Kyle Kuehne says:

    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👍

  95. Frankie Roberts says:

    Can i love this instead of like

  96. Yes ItisReallyMe says:

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

  97. D90Girl says:

    And then we have Jessica Yaniv 🤡

  98. Grace Purcell says:

    Paula, I just want to give you a huge hug!! Thank you fr this talk.

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