My Journey as a Transgender Quaker

After decades of depression and despair, an unexpected question changed everything for Chloe Schwenke, then known as Stephen: “Do you think you might be a woman?” Chloe’s journey began, and her Quaker meeting learned along with her.

Content warning: suicide
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Jon Watts

Jon Watts

Jon Watts launched and directed the QuakerSpeak project for its first 6 seasons. Keep up to date with Jon’s work at his website.

15 thoughts on “My Journey as a Transgender Quaker

  1. Brava, Chloe! This sharing is so important. I am sure that at least one person will be saved by this episode. Thank you for doing it.

  2. Chloe and my path crossed first in high school when she was Stephen. Our paths again crossed as Chloe grew into, and became, who she is. I have read her lovely and powerful book . . . and follow her through Facebook. She has been, and continues to be, an inspiration, and a moral mirror in which to gaze. This sharing allowed me to know her even more deeply. Bless you, Chloe.

  3. This is what all Quaker Speaks should always strive to be; enlightening, moving, reassuring, and accepting. Thank you, Chloe, for sharing your story. Peace to you and your Quaker family.

  4. Thank you for sharing your very personal story, Chloe. It’s so wonderful that your spiritual community was so loving and nurturing on your journey. You are also surrounded by an amazing family. What a blessing!

  5. Thanks Chloe…you’ve proven that there is tolerance…leading to acceptance and eventually love.
    So Buddhist…so Quaker.

  6. There are a lot more Quakers to be educated ! I wish there were a way to follow Chloe’s story
    from where Quaker Speak leaves off to today.

  7. Chloe’s story is very touching, and also an example of how others can lovingly respond to someone dealing with challenges.
    I grew up before “transgender” was a choice or even known about by anyone I knew.
    I have questions: What does it mean “to behave like a girl”? I have two older brothers whom I admired and always followed and behaved so far as I knew, the way they did. I also played with dolls, and doll furniture, while we all played with teddy bears and a bears’ house. What does it mean to “behave like a boy”? I do not see any difference. I was always happy to be a girl, although I knew I was a tomboy! The happiest thing in my life was to be a mother. Does it matter if you are a boy or a girl? Or is this identification with a particular gender a matter of hormones and hormone balance? I think I would have been just as happy to be boy, but never particularly wanted to be one, as I was happy being a girl. I do not see much difference in behavior. We all played with little cars and trucks, we all rode bicycles and played baseball, studied the stars, had snakes and pollywogs in aquariums, it is hard for me to understand why gender should matter so much. Both boys and girls can wear their hair short or long if they choose, wear jeans. That I see the genders very much the same, makes it difficult for me to understand why anyone would want to change. I do not mind if anyone changes, it is just a mystery to me why anyone would!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story Chloe and for Quaker Speak giving space for many beautiful, different voices. I am trans/gender queer and also have been on a powerful, scary, but incredibly freeing journey of coming into my true self. I always prayed for self love and never realized that it would mean something so physical–letting myself wear the clothes I feel confident in, using a name and pronouns that actually named who I am, and having a hair cut I feel good about. Coming out within the Quaker community has had it’s ups and downs, but what I’ve found overall is that most people are willing to learn. Sending you so many rainbows, sparkles, and good energy from California! I’m so grateful for your story and that you kept your promise with your friend and didn’t end your life because you are such an awesome person and you being you is a huge gift in this world!!

  9. This video is a timely gift, thank you Chloe and Quaker Speak.
    Gender identity is a rising issue within our meeting.
    Chloe has given me encouragement to raise this issue directly, and trust in the process.

  10. Bravo, Chloe! You have been blessed with a supportive Quaker community. I am inspired by your courage.

    My granddaughter (9 years old) is transgender. She has known since she was 4 years old and lives with supportive parents and school system (CA). Our culture is becoming more informed and accepting; however, there is much work to do, myths to dispel and education is key! I live in Michigan and currently working with professionals to support the LGBTQ community.

    Thank you for your story.

  11. Chloe’s story spoke to me. I didn’t know that I was a man until I was almost 39 years old. I had problems with depression and felt like I was pretending to be something I was not even though I didn’t know what that was. I felt like a piece of me was missing until I found my manhood. I have also struggled with thoughts of suicide. I still do sometimes.

    I told some of my story in an article I wrote with R. Scott Miller called “Transforming Prejudice into Love,” which was in the September, 2012 issue of Friends Journal.

  12. Thank you, Chloe, for telling this chapter of your story so tenderly. And fully. It helps me understand my daughter’s story just a little bit better as she has been reticent about the depression and suicidal thinking before she came to recognize that she HAD to transition. She is so much happier now, though still a “loner” by nature, it seems. But she seems to know herself and to be whole now – at last. And best friends with her former partner with whom she had over twenty years of history before she began transitioning with the support of immediate family and good friends. We are blessed to have her, and now to know a bit of your story, too.

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