Wilhelmina Hein was born Willem Hein in the Netherlands in 1947 and emigrated to Australia in 1958 with his family. Discovering a difference about his sexuality and identity at an early age, he grew up in a strict religious atmosphere which had a decisive effect on his coming out. As a teenager he felt the call of God in his life and attended a Pentecostal Bible College in order to prepare for ministry. However, active involvement in ministry was interspersed with the “either/or” of coming out into a gay and more liberal society.
Willem married “because this is what was expected, although there was a deep feeling of care” and continued his ministry at a local pastoral level in the Pentecostal Church. Following what he called a “second coming out” in 1975, his marriage broke down, and in September 1975 Willem discovered MCC in Adelaide, Australia. “I felt like I was home, and that here I could express both my sexuality and gender identity without feeling dirty or made fun of” he said. He was licensed as a clergyperson in 1977 but resigned in 1981 “totally burnt out.” Following four years of healing, spiritual reflection and further education he rejoined the clergy in 1985.
Since that time Rev. Hein has fought extensively for minority rights including effective counseling and surgical intervention for transsexual people. He has served in pastoral roles in Australia and New Zealand, and was District Coordinator for Australia from 1987 to 1991. His work has included pastoral work with the AIDS Council of South Australia, and the founding of Transcare, an MCC work with transsexual/transvestite people from 1976 to 1984.
In July 1991 at General Conference in Phoenix, Arizona Rev. Willem Hein was elected to the Board of Elders of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. He traveled extensively to visit MCCs in Germany, England, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
In 1995, after surgery, Rev. Elder Wilhelmina Hein was re-elected to the UFMCC Board of Elders, becoming the first transsexual elected to that Board. She is well known for undertaking innovative work as an Elder. This included being an onsite counselor for Orientation, traveling to small churches, and sharing the justice elements within UFMCC through reflective process. As a transgendered person she brings a unique perspective to what God might yet do in our communities.
Rev. Hein retired from the Board of Elders in 1997. She has lived in the Netherlands again since 2006 and, in 2009, officially converted to Reform Judaism.
(This biographical statement compiled by Frank Zerilli from MCC General Conference program books 1993 and 1995 with additions by W. Hein.)
Biography Date: April, 2010
MCC | Clergy Activist | Transgender activism | Australia | Netherlands