Posted by Martha Spear
Photo of Claire Slingerland’s reinstallation
June is traditionally called Pride month, or commonly “Gay Pride month.”  This is an annual celebration of the fierce joy of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, transitioning, non-binary, a-sexual, intersex or “other,” some of the wonderful variety of sexualities that makes up our human community. A good old catch-all adjective from my days as a young activist in the 1980’s and 90’s is “queer,” which is a word I am comfortable calling myself.
To celebrate this year’s Pride month, I spoke with three transgender Rotarian ladies to ask about their experiences and their relationship with Rotary. All three are white and from three different Western countries.  Each of these Rotarians transitioned from being born in a male body to living as their true female selves.
Monica Mulholland, from New Zealand’s District 9980 wrote in her blog: “When I decided to come out, I had a coffee meet up with the [Rotary Club] President and vice-President. I showed them some photos of me as Monica. The President said that if the club would not accept me then she would resign.  It was agreed that I would write a letter to the club explaining the situation which would be read out at the next meeting. It was a BBQ meeting which I did not attend. The letter was read out, and there was a round of applause. It was plain sailing after that.” Monica has been with the same female-bodied person since she was 19 and in her male body.
Claire Slingerland (see photo of reinstallation ceremony,) a self-described transwoman from District 1570 in The Netherlands, spoke about her coming out story in this video.  Her family, close friends and club rallied around her when she came out. ”I’m a proud Rotarian,” says Claire, “and when I told the members of my club of my true gender identity, they gave me a warm welcome and reinstalled me as a female member. Later on, I was happy to find out Rotary has an active international LGBT+ community.”
Transgender people can be gay, straight or otherwise oriented.
Ellie Krug from Minnesota, USA, in District 5950, is the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change (Stepladder Press), Ellie is heterosexual, but did not always identify that way, as she navigated her own maturing along the complicated path to her truth.
It’s not all peaches and cream, from Rotary meetings to a life-threatening human rights crisis.  Monica wrote, “some people [in Rotary meetings] now talk over me who would never have talked over me as a guy!”  Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual November 20th event commemorating those who have been murdered by people with transphobia.  Claire says, “in the past ten years more than 3,300 trans people have been murdered … a human tragedy that we need to pay attention to … This has to stop. We as Rotarians can help to make an inclusive society where everybody can be themselves.”
My thanks to these three brave and gracious Rotarian women for talking with me for this article.  I am not transgender myself, but a cisgender (born female) white woman.  I believe that trans people are excruciatingly at risk, and that risk is something we can mitigate with immediate patience and persistence.  Visibility and education, like this article, will help.  Rotary’s welcoming stance is a wonderful thing for human rights.
You can reach the Rotary LGBT Fellowship at