The Rev. Dr. David Weekley was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1951. He graduated from Cleveland State University (B.A. cum laude in psychology) and completed graduate studies in the phenomenology of religion at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. While a student at Miami University David felt called to explore the Christian faith although the Church did not understand or welcome transgender persons. David became a member of the Oxford United Methodist Church in 1979 on Profession of Faith.
In his first book, published in 2011, In From the Wilderness: Sherman, (She-r-Man), David notes that from earliest recollection he knew he was “different.” “While I viewed myself as a little boy, the rest of the world saw me as a little girl.” As a child David did not know how to express this experience, but during adolescence David met key supportive adults who listened and then helped to locate professional resources, In 1972 David began meeting with a medical team, undergoing the battery of medical, psychiatric, and socialization tests and processes necessary for transgender surgery. David underwent the surgeries themselves beginning in 1974. In 1975 at the age of 24, he had completed medical transition.
Having always experienced life as an outsider, he discovered that his newly acquired identity, freeing in so many aspects, continued to exact an enormous price in terms of social isolation. Medical standards for transgender persons at that time urged people not to reveal a transgender history for the sake of safety and future successful life. David’s sense of isolation began to ease after he moved from his hometown, explored Christianity, and later joined The United Methodist Church. Always a person of faith, he was not raised in a faith community, and he reveled in the newfound sense of solidarity he discovered within the church. Over time as an ordained clergy, however, this sense of isolation resurfaced.
In response to an experienced call to ordained ministry, Dr. Weekley enrolled in seminary at Boston University School of Theology in 1980. There he married and, following graduation and ordination in 1982, started ministry in the local church and raising a family. But the code of silence that his clergy profession required—and his inability to discuss important issues related to his transgender identity with his wife—took a toll. After serving churches from 1982-1994, vowing to become "the best pastor" he could possibly be as a witness to the effectiveness of transgender clergy, his marriage collapsed. But Dr. Weekley continued to long for a chance to share his personal story, in his words, to “come in from the wilderness,” and to work more closely with and on behalf of transgender and non-binary people.
For more than two decades Weekley pastored congregations in Idaho and Oregon, including Salem, Corvallis, Forest Grove, Montavilla and then Epworth UMC in Portland. Inspired by Japanese-Americans in this congregation who told their stories of internment during World War II and the healing they had experienced sharing these stories; and following months of preparation, David told his story to the Epworth congregation in a sermon on August 30, 2009. The congregation responded with resounding support. David became one of only two openly transgender clergy serving in The United Methodist Church. Following this event Rev. Weekley appeared on ABC News, CBS Early News and several radio programs. He presented workshops at a number of colleges and universities, state training events, hospital health conferences, faith communities, and lgbtqia+ organizations. In relation to the lgbtqia+ community. Rev. Weekley belongs to several organizations advocating for the full inclusion and rights of transgender and other marginalized people.
Rev. Weekley returned to Boston University School of Theology in 2012 to begin research and coursework on a Doctoral degree. His area of interest for this project was the development of a retreat with and for transgender and gender non-conforming persons. The focus of the retreat was writing and sharing spiritual autobiography. David completed this work and graduated from Boston University in May 2016. His second book, “Retreating Forward: A Spiritual Practice with Transgender Persons” was published March 31, 2017 (Wipf & Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon) and is based on this work. David and Deborah, his spouse and life-partner of 27 years, have a blended family that includes five adult children. The Rev. Dr. Weekley continues to work, write, speak, and engage in acts of advocacy on behalf of transgender and gender non-conforming persons. He currently remains the only openly-out transgender elder appointed to a United Methodist Church, serving Rose City Park United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon. David continues to develop retreats and other spiritual practices and events for and with the transgender community.
(This biographical statement taken from a biographical statement provided by David Weekley and a book review in Bostonia: The Alumni Magazine of Boston University, 2011 with updates by Weekley in May 2023)
Biography Date: August, 2012; rev. 2023
Methodist (UMC, United Methodist Church) | Author/editor | Clergy Activist | Ordination/clergy | Trans activism
“Rev. David Weekley | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed June 06, 2023, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/david-weekley.