This week’s article is by guest-contributor and Highlander, Paula Williams.

It was my privilege to present a keynote address at the 2017 Gay Christian Network Conference. The response of the 1400 attendees was overwhelming. They expressed such appreciation.

Your shadows shorten when you stop hiding. In my later years as a male, it always felt like sunset with long thin shadows falling off my wrong body as the sun slipped behind the mountains. In the darkest hours, I was too exhausted to cast shadows, even in a full moon.

The effects of hiding accumulate, even when the hiding is an outgrowth of love for your family. You do not want to explode their narrative. For land’s sake, you don’t even want to explode the narratives in which you are only a bit player. Life is capricious enough without having a husband, father, boss or friend confound things further by changing genders. But there comes a time when you realize you have no choice in these matters. You will either die or become so diminished you can no longer be counted upon, or possibly even found.

Later, after you are alive again, you realize how perilous the journey was, your life hanging by a thread. No wonder people listened for the engine to turn off when you came into the garage. But then you forget those perilous days because the order of misery tucked inside misery gets lost in the remembering. Eventually, life resumes, and if you can take in its lesson, you have more wisdom, grace, and power than before. You have been blessed through your trials.

But back to the GCN Conference. All weekend people came to express thanks for my message. I asked each person to tell me a little about themselves. As I might have expected, these people were survivors. Their very presence was a testament to the tenacity of their souls and resilience in their hearts. I had spoken to a room full of walking wounded.

Of course, I have always preached to a room full of walking wounded. What made this room different was that these people dared to be open about their wounds. And then they moved beyond them, no longer ensnared by a narrative kept silent. For such integrity and courage, they were rejected by their families and their home churches. Yet they wore their hard-fought character on their faces and carried wisdom in their eyes. I wept for these people who heard me speak the words they would have spoken if only they could have found them. I had offered words that caused them to say, “Yes, yes, that is my story!”

It was an honor.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why the evangelical world is frightened by these precious beings. If Jesus had wandered onto earth this past Friday, I think there’s a fair chance he would have been in Pittsburgh at the GCN Conference, listening to my message, without judgment. (Well, he might have had a suggestion or two about my stories from the Gospels. I mean, he was there and all.)

I am sorry I did not speak up sooner on behalf of these courageous souls. For too many years I was hiding in the shadows, an entitled part of the majority, a privileged person attuned to the suffering within my own soul, but deaf to the suffering around me.

But this is not a time for regret. Work must be done. There is a world waiting for good news. I can’t wait to attend next year’s conference, January 25-28, 2018, in Denver! GCN in the same city as my church family. Now there’s a reason for a standing ovation!

And so it goes,