LEBANON - About 40 people heard the Rev. David Weekley speak on his experiences as a transgendered man Saturday at the First United Methodist Church in Lebanon.
The "reconciling" movement between the national United Methodist Church and its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members began in the early 1980s, but Weekley is one of only two openly transgendered UMC ministers in the United States.
After showing a video prepared by a Lutheran group featuring a handful of that denomination's transgendered members, Weekley gave a short biographical talk before taking questions from the audience.
In 1972, Weekley underwent his first surgery and by 1975 had completed the process of becoming a man.
He was ordained in the Methodist church in 1982, but did not reveal to his Portland congregation until 2009 that he was a transgendered male.
Since then he has spoken frequently about the subject.
He has also served congregations in Corvallis, Salem and Forest Grove, and in Shoshone and Richfield, Idaho.
An audience member asked about the medical cost of being a transgendered man.
Weekley said that hormone replacement therapy continues the duration of the person's life, so that cost never goes away.
Surprisingly, when Weekley underwent his gender reassignment surgeries in the 1970s, his Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance covered it.
"They didn't know what it was," he explained. Now such surgery is considered "elective," a term with which Weekley strongly disagrees.
"Now they say it is not life threatening, which is an absolute lie," Weekley said to audience applause.
He noted that there is a much higher suicide rate among those who are unable to live their lives in the gender with which they identify.
When asked if he was concerned about giving the talk in Lebanon, considered by many to be a conservative community, talk leader and local church member Marilyn Belcher interjected, "I was."
Belcher even talked with the Lebanon Police Department, going over possible negative scenarios, none of which came to be.
Weekley answered simply, yes, he was concerned. However, he was no more concerned about the Lebanon audience than any other audience, including those in Portland.
He said he has received death threats in recent years, and he makes a security plan for wherever he is speaking.
Another person asked Weekley about his family. His wife, Deborah, who was in attendance, said she knew his history at the time of their marriage. She said she is proud to be his wife and has wanted him to live openly since the day they married.
She said their five children, who were conceived through artificial insemination, learned of their father's history as young adults.
It was more upsetting for the kids to learn that they were not their dad's biological children, she said, than the fact he was assigned the gender of female at birth.