David Weekley knew he was male in spite of his female body. Over 35 years ago he underwent a physical transition from female to male then pursued a vocation as a Methodist minister. Through all those years only a select few people knew about his transition and past. His children were unaware (he and his wife adopted) as were his congregation and church leadership. But then he determined he needed to tell his story–first to loved ones, then the bishop, and finally his congregation. His book, In from the Wilderness, opens with the moment of David’s (and his wife Deborah’s) public announcement to their congregation in Portland, OR, and then pulls back to reveal David’s odyssey from childhood until that day and beyond with the consequences that followed.
Reading the book I continually felt the urgency to share history–our history–the transgender, bisexual, queer, lesbian, gay queer collective and individual histories. We are a people with a past, and reading of David’s hero’s journey to pursue authenticity for himself as man and member of the clergy, immersed me into the history of the 1970’s in the US and the singular steps by transsexuals males at that time. Added to the mix David shares about the complications of romance and marriage as a trans man and a clergy man. His is also an autobiography of faith and his steadfast pursuit to be the man he felt called to be. He chose to remain silent for many years regarding his own experiences (a necessary step in order to retain his position during a time when LGBT folks were not fully welcomed or affirm,) yet he grew into a strong advocate for LGBTQ inclusion within the United Methodist Church.
Mixing narrative with sermons, David tells his story and the story of a religious institution chronically struggling over the “gay issue” which by extension affected many other types of queer folk. David helps explore some of these challenges providing outsiders a rare glimpse into the workings of church politics.
But the strength of the book is David’s story and the process he and his family took in coming out to the congregation capturing that bold, audacious moment when he did it. In the LGBTQ movement we benefit from our elders and their stories. David Weekley’s personal account pulls back the curtain on a special time in history that many have not heard much about–female to male transsexual narratives in the 1970’s.
Regardless if you are religious or not, transgender/transsexual or or not, David Weekley’s book is well worth reading–a slice of history validated and a life celebrated.
In from the Wilderness–Sherman: She-r-man, 125 pages, Wipf and Stock Publishers. Forward by Virginia Ramey Mollencott. Regularly $18.00 available on-line for $14.40