Read David’s Memoir: In from the Wilderness, Sherman: She-r-man
The stories of transgender people reach back to the beginnings of recorded history. At this particular point in time the psychiatric, medical, and secular worlds are beginning to appreciate the authenticity of Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual, and Queer people. Sadly, many Christian churches and denominations continue to oppress and vilify the LGTBQ community.
In from the Wilderness is the story of a transgender man who has been an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church since 1984 and has quietly served his congregations for twenty-eight years before sharing his story and spiritual journey with his congregation, denomination, and the world.
This is the story of David Weekley, a Christian, an ordained minister, a loving husband and father—a human being. It is his challenge to his denomination and to all Christians and spiritual seekers to consider the truth of gender identity and sexual orientation as God given gifts, to be celebrated and embraced among all other gifts.
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In from the Wilderness–Sherman: She-r-man, 125 pages, Wipf and Stock Publishers. By David E. Weekley. Forward by Virginia Ramey Mollencott.
Reviews of In from the Wilderness
Engaging and educating, In from the Wilderness opens our hearts and minds and connects us all on a profound universal level. Filled with strength, courage, and honesty, David’s candid story of unconditional love and acceptance is an inspiration so vital to our beautifully diverse human journey.
Harold W. Becker
Author and Founder
of The Love Foundation, Inc.
Questions about whether a transgender pastor can have a successful ministry have been resoundingly answered in the affirmative in this story of three decades of effective and inspiring pastoral ministry, while keeping secret from the church and society his gender reassignment surgery. Remarkable—courageous— encouraging!
Bishop Calvin D. McConnell
United Methodist Church, Ret.
From the time David was appointed my pastor in the 1980s, to the compelling revelation of his challenging circumstances, he has sustained his integrity, his courageous, creative, inclusive ministry and hope-filled spirit. His personal story offers liberation to others trapped, either in their bodies or in gender roles defined by society.
Velma Duell McConnell
Lay Pastoral Care
David Weekley shares his wilderness journey in this warm and honest autobiography. In the wilderness (both past and present), David has encountered deep loneliness, powerful mentoring and friendship, unbearable pain, and profound joy. Through it all, he has journeyed with a courage that will inspire courage in his readers. As a teenager, David could not speak of himself as “I” but only as “i.” He gradually learned to honor himself and to form deep and honest relationships, which have shaped his powerful and compassionate ministry with others. Thank you, David!
Mary Elizabeth Moore
On a Sunday morning in 2009, Weekley donned his vestments and cross and prepared to deliver a sermon, much as he had nearly every week since being ordained a Methodist minister 28 years earlier. But this Sunday, as he recounts in his new memoir, was to be different: he would reveal his secret. Confronting a packed church, he announced, “I am a transsexual man.”Weekley’s book recounts the journey—both physical and spiritual—that brought him to that morning.
He provides scant details of his Midwestern childhood, but from his earliest recollection, he says, he knew he was different. “While I viewed myself as a little boy, the rest of the world saw me as a little girl.” (It’s telling that nowhere in his book does he mention the female name he was given at birth). He writes obliquely of “a truly horrific adolescence and early young adulthood as many people, peer groups, and institutions tried to force me into an identity I could never own.”
Help comes in the form of several enlightened adults, whose support and acceptance become a lifeline for the teenager. Weekley begins meeting with a medical team, undergoing the battery of medical, psychiatric, and socialization tests necessary for transgender surgery and then the surgeries themselves. By the time he is 24, he has physically become a man.
But the book’s real power comes from its description of the emotional tightrope he finds himself walking after his sex change. Having always felt like an outsider, he discovers that his newly acquired sexual identity exacts an enormous price. His medical team urges him not to reveal himself as a transgender person.
Weekley’s despair begins to ease after he joins the Methodist Church. Always a believer, he was not raised in a church-going family. He revels in the newfound sense of community he discovers within the church. And yet his sense of isolation persists. He describes arriving at BU in fall 1980 to pursue a graduate divinity degree, full of optimism that turns to chagrin when he discovers he is “unable to risk sharing my personal journey” because of the conservative political climate at the time.
He falls in love with a woman he meets at BU, and they marry and raise a family. But the code of silence that his profession requires—and his inability to discuss his transgender identity with his wife—begins to take a toll. The marriage collapses and Weekley continues to long for a chance to share his personal story, in his words, to “come in from the wilderness.”
Emboldened by a happy second marriage, the author musters the courage to reveal his transgender identity to his congregation, despite the fact that the Methodist Church “continues to officially reject LGTBQ people.” Readers will feel a sense of relief—and elation—in the author’s description of his congregation’s reaction and the “spiritual and emotional healing” it brings.
Bostonia Book Reviews
Boston University Alumni
FTM transition 35 years ago. Review: In from the Wilderness
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.
Actor, Playwright, Activist
Valued and inspirational NEVER BLEND IN contributor, David E. Weekley is an ordained United Methodist clergy. He received his BA in Psychology from Cleveland State University in 1976 and entered seminary at Boston University School of Theology, where he earned an MDiv in 1982. He has served churches in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference for twenty-eight years.
He has just published an incredibly valuable book of his own, In from the Wilderness.
The Rev. David Weekley: “I am very positive about sharing my story, because I believe it is the best way to help educate our society about transgender persons; there is so much misinformation out there, and fear, that it seems imperative to become active. Because some segments of the Church are responsible for a portion of this misinformation and fear, it seems even more critical for others to hear a positive and personal faith story from a transgender person.”
THANK YOU TO DAVID AND TO HIS DEVOTED AND EQUALLY INSPIRATIONAL WIFE DEBORAH FOR ENHANCING MY LIFE, FOR LIVING AUTHENTICALLY AND WITH COURAGE.
MY LIFE IS RICHER THROUGH KNOWING YOU BOTH.
David E . Watters