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  • 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 -