Monica Mulholland found her time as president of the Queenstown Rotary club in NZ to be a time of growth, from both a societal and personal perspectiv­e. “I was not a confident public speaker before I did the job, and that, on top of speaking to an audience of mostly men while presenting as a woman, only added to that stress,” she says. “By the end, I was quite a confident public speaker and any self-consciousn­ess about being a transgende­r woman had totally vanished.” Despite reservatio­ns about how she would be treated once coming out, she met no pushback from members, and most went out of their way to make sure that she was supported.

Her next big milestone happened when she joined Inner Wheel, a club set up by the wives and daughters of Rotary members. But the women in the club accepted her from the very start. Within a year of joining Inner Wheel, she was nominated as president, becoming the first transgende­r president of an Inner Wheel club in the world. A major achievemen­t during Mulholland’s time at Rotary was when she organised a Rotary/LGBT Informatio­n Exchange meeting. “Rotary in many circles is seen as fuddy-duddy, right-wing rednecks, and I have found that to be far from the truth. LGBT people are seen as being dissolute and even debauched and a threat to ‘family values’. As somebody with a foot in both camps, it made sense to me to get them both to meet up to exchange informatio­n. In that way, LGBT people might see that there is a refuge and acceptance for them within a service organisati­on such as Rotary. And any Rotarians who were sceptical of LGBT people would come to see that they are just like their brothers, sisters, children etc.“

Mulholland says she is proud of the fact that her trans identity – something that was once her most embarrassi­ng secret – has become a platform for doing good in the world. “I think suspicion and even hatred of those ‘not like us’ has to be tackled one person at a time. The more we can all accept the full spectrum of human desires, interests etc, the better off our society will be.”

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