My wife and I moved to Queenstown, New Zealand in 2001. In an effort to get to know people, she joined Rotary. I ended up going to so many Rotary functions that I thought I had better join her in Rotary. So I joined in 2003. I became the Treasurer in 2004 and was the Shelterbox Champion for our club for many years. At one stage, our club held the world record for the most Shelteboxes purchased in one year by a single club.

I joined the board of Shelterbox New Zealand in around 2010 and was the president of Shelterbox New Zealand from 2012 to 2016.

My wife was the first female president of our club in 2007 and went on to be the second female District Governor of our District 9980 in 2011.

After much soul searching and vacillation, the environment seemed right and we decided it was time for me to come out as Monica.

We decided the date would be March 1st 2016. In advance of the date, I approached the president and the incoming president. The President said that if the members did not accept me, she would resign. Fortunately, she never had to make good on her threat. She agreed to read out a letter that I had written at the next meeting, which was a BBQ. We were not in attendance.

At the BBQ, when the letter was read out, it was first met with stunned silence and then a robust round of applause. Friends, I had confided in before coming out, were very nervous for me. Our part of the country is considered to be quite conservative and a little bit red-neck in places. Many of our Rotary members were retired farmers or had some connection to farming and were expected to be less than welcoming of my transition. This could not have been further from the truth. I was fully supported as a new female member and was even accepted as the next President elect.

I have never had any pushback, snide remarks, underhand comment etc during my time as a TG member or during my time as President.

Since my transition, my mantras have been: “Help make Transgender Normal” and “Go hard or go home!”. So, I have never turned down an opportunity to seek higher office, higher public profile or requests to speak to organisations. The attempted suicide rate amongst TG folk is 41%. That number is not people who have thought about suicide, that number is the number of people who have actually made an attempt. I want young TG people and closeted people to see that if the President of a Rotary Club can be an openly TG person then there is hope….suicide is not the only option.

Traditionally, when a TG person comes out, they lose 50% of their family and 50% of their friends. This is what leads to the isolation and depression; add dysphoria to the mix and that can finally lead to suicide attempts. Striving to make the world a more acceptable place for TG people is something that  I feel I owe the next generation. I don’t want them to start from the same place I did, with no role models, nothing to aspire to and feeling like a total freak. There is a saying “leave the campsite a better place than you found it”…I think all Rotarians understand that in a mainstream way…..we now just need to push the boundaries and expand the thinking! Rotary, as usual, will rise to the challenge! We are no longer dealing with your grandfather’s Rotary!