LGBT of Walworth County fills void, educates community

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Andrea Anderson
Monday, March 17, 2014

ELKHORN — Three years ago, a local high school student came out to friends, family, and teammates.

Two weeks later, the coach asked the student to shower in a different room than the others.

Shortly after that, Jody Lynn Rendall created LGBT of Walworth County.

“That just hit home to me on so many levels,” Rendall said of the student she knew.

The incident made her ask why no one was advocating for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders in the community.

Recognizing the community's void, Rendall in 2011 created LGBT of Walworth County. The organization has grown and has potential to gain non-profit status.

LGBT of Walworth County is based in Elkhorn and is focused on supporting and advocating for the lesbian, gender, bisexual, transgender community by providing information and resources, monthly meetings, movie nights, and future support groups and seminars.

Rendall, 62, of Lake Geneva, came out as a transgender woman in 2008.

As a child growing up in a rural town outside of Chicago, Rendall said her peers physically and verbally harassed her because of her feminine presentation.

Some of her earliest childhood memories are of her thinking she was in the wrong body.

“Some people would say I was born male,” Rendall said. “No, as far as I'm concerned, I was born female and I just happened to end up in a male body.”

What really determines who you are is what is in your heart and mind, Rendall said.

For 57 years, Rendall was a man in the public's eye.

After retiring in 2006 from Big Foot High School, Walworth, where she was a physics teacher, she took a year to decide if she was going to make the transition from David Rendall to Jody.

“Whatever years I have left, I am going to be a woman, the woman I was meant to be, and I'm going to do whatever I can to function in this world that way,” Rendall said as she described the thoughts that went through her head that day. “So far, I'd say it has worked out.”

Jody's wife, Beth, knew Rendall was transgender about 10 years into their marriage. Beth found female clothes in a closet at their home. Jody thought the marriage was over, but it wasn't.

“She was supportive,” Rendall said. “If you've ever heard of unconditional love, that's how she feels towards me.”

The couple met at Carroll University, Waukesha, in the 1970s. They celebrated their 40th anniversary in January.

Rendall calls herself a trans-advocate, someone who wants to work on being a spokesperson for the community. She speaks to counselors, educators, and students across the state about the LGBT community and the importance of acceptance and creating a safe community for students.

She, area educators, and members of LGBT of Walworth County are working on putting together a community-wide youth leadership conference on bullying.

The organization also will host a Christmas in July with a Yuletide Christmas party. A final date, time, and other details have yet to be determined. Food and beverages will be provided, and "Make the Yuletide Gay" will be played, Rendall said. All events are open to the public.

County residents have been supportive of LGBT of Walworth County, Rendall said.

At Elkhorn's Oktoberfest last year, several people came up to the organizations booth and said they were happy to have the resource in the county, Rendall said.

"I have been an educator for 37 plus years, and I firmly believe one of the keys to eliminating conflict is for people to be able to sit down and have a meaningful dialogue with one another."

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