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Out in the Bay

Meet the USA’s first transgender bishop

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Bishop Megan Rohrer broke bread for Communion during their installation ceremony September 11 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
Photo by Gooch
Courtesy of Bay Area Reporter
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Bishop Megan Rohrer breaks bread for Communion during their installation ceremony September 11 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

As LGBTQ History Month closes, meet someone who very recently made history: Reverend Dr. Megan Rohrer, the first openly transgender bishop in a major Christian denomination, installed Sept. 11 as a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Bishop Rohrer now oversees nearly 200 congregations in California and Nevada. They spoke with Out in the Bay about their faith journey; about moving away from fear towards greater acceptance, love, and hope; and about the significance of the Sierra Pacific Synod electing its first transgender bishop.

“If a trans person can be a bishop,” Rohrer told us, “that means there’s nobody – literally no type of body – that can’t be a faithful person, can’t be a leader in the church, can’t be someone who prays in the pews or receives communion at our altar.”

While working in a shelter for abused children 20 years ago, a South Dakota six-year-old told Rohrer that he had attempted suicide 12 times because “he had heard from a pulpit” that he might be “bad,” and he thought he’d rather die than get “so bad” that he’d go to hell.

That “twisted my heart,” said Rohrer, inspiring their move to Berkeley, Calif. in 2001 to study theology and become a pastor, so that the pulpit would have one more voice offering messages of love rather than fear. Rohrer relieves stress by roller-skating with their family at San Francisco’s Church of 8 Wheels, a former Catholic church reborn as a disco roller rink.

Click these links to learn more about Bishop Megan Rohrer, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its Sierra Pacific Synod serving central and northern California and Nevada.

Please help us keep bringing queer air to your ears. Out in the Bay is an independent non-profit production. Your gift will help keep LGBTQ voices and stories coming to you and others who might not be able to give. (Donate tabs on our website will take you to a Media Alliance interface. Media Alliance is our non-proft 501(c)3 fiscal agent. Your gift will be earmarked for Out in the Bay.)

This episode was produced by Kendra Klang; audio engineering and editing by host Eric Jansen.

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Eric Jansen is a long-time broadcaster and print journalist. A former news anchor, producer and reporter at KQED FM, San Francisco; KLIV AM, San Jose; and Minnesota Public Radio, Eric's award-winning reports have been heard on many NPR programs and PRI's Marketplace. His print work has been in The Mercury News, The Business Journal, and LGBTQ magazines Genre and The Advocate, among other publications. He co-produced the June 2007 PBS documentary Why We Sing!, about LGBTQ choruses and their role in the civil rights fight.