When Ted decided to make the transition to male, he knew he wanted to tell his meeting, but didn’t want a flood of questions. That’s when the meeting stepped up.
So I was living in Sacramento when I first started thinking about transition to male and I knew I wasn’t going to start that process until I moved back to Virginia anyway because I wanted to have a more established community and my family around me for that, so it wasn’t until about 2001 that I was able to really start the process of transitioning.
How I Told My Quaker Meeting I’m Transgender
My name is Ted Heck. I go to Richmond (VA) Friends Meeting and I’m a transgender health services coordinator for the state.
It was just a matter of being my full self and I knew that Quakers would value that, even if some might struggle with it a little or be a little uncomfortable, I knew it would be valued. I think knowing that gave me sort of a foundation and support for being able to move forward.
Asking the Meeting for Support
When I figured out my timeline for beginning transition, I realized that I was going to need to find a way to tell people without having to explain it to every single person, so I asked for a clearness committee. I was pretty specific when I asked for this that I wanted the committee to help me figure out how to tell meeting. Even though I spelled it out pretty specifically, there was still some confusion among the people that I asked to be on the committee. They thought I wanted help in deciding whether to transition or not. So our first conversation was, “Nope, that’s settled. There’s no question about whether that’s happening. It’s definitely happening. What I really need help with is figuring out how to tell everybody.”
How We Told the Meeting
After sitting with that for a little while, we came up with a great strategy which was for me to write a letter that would go in the newsletter and it would be part of a longer piece from the clearness committee inviting people to contact them if there were questions so that I didn’t get all the questions. So that really went very well. I felt very supported and people did reach out to me but it wasn’t in a way that was overwhelming and people were really supportive and just really great about it. There was one individual that I later found out was uncomfortable with it and he brought his concern to Ministry and Worship and Ministry and Worship told him that it was his problem. So that was great. But anyway, I think that most trans folks do not have the experience that I had and I’m really grateful to have been so supported.
A Minute of Support
Richmond Meeting recently finally got around to doing a minute that is deliberately welcoming to transgender people. It’s interesting because I wouldn’t have thought that it would have mattered that much, but once it was happening and we were actually talking about it in the meeting, I realized that it actually did matter. It’s one thing to know that people are supportive but to have it explicitly stated in an official way and then to know that people want to take further steps to publicize that the meeting is supportive beyond just the meeting community, it really makes a difference. When there’s so many places in the world where you either feel unwelcome or you feel uncertain about whether you’re welcome, it’s really important to have space like that, and to have that as part of my monthly meeting is really important.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.
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- How can meetings best support a Friend who needs to make a sensitive announcement? Have you ever had to tell your entire meeting community something that felt scary or vulnerable?
- Ted says that his meeting publishing a transgender-friendly minute was important because, “when there’s so many places in the world where you either feel unwelcome or you feel uncertain about whether you’re welcome, it’s really important to have space like that, and to have that as part of my monthly meeting is really important.” How does your meeting make sure that people know that they are welcome?