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. In his 2011 book, In From the Wilderness: Sherman, (She-r-Man), he notes that from his 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.” During adolescence David met key supportive adults, and in 1972 began meeting with a medical team, undergoing the battery of medical, psychiatric, and socialization tests necessary for transgender surgery and then underwent the surgeries themselves. 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. Weekley’s sense of isolation began to ease after he explored 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 raising children. 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 and 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 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, and following months of preparation, David told his story to them in a sermon on August 30, 2009. The congregation responded with resounding support. He became one of the only 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 has presented workshops at a number of colleges and universities, state training events, hospital health conferences, faith communities, and lgbtqi organizations. Dr. Weekley published his personal story in, In From the Wilderness: Sherman, (She-r-man) (Wipf & Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 2011). In relation to the lgbtqi 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 reading, writing and sharing spiritual autobiography. David completed this work and graduated 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 21 years, have a blended family that includes five adult children. The Rev. Dr. Weekley continues to work, write, speak, and engage in other 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 St. Nicholas United Methodist Church in Hull, Massachusetts. 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 2017)
Biography Date: August, 2012
Methodist (UMC, United Methodist Church) | Author/editor | Clergy Activist | Ordination/clergy | Transgender activism