Wednesday, June 22, 2016

In the News: West Hawaii Today

About Town:
Event provides free health, vision services
The Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity is partnering with Project Vision Hawaii, the Kailua-Kona Lions Club and Pastor Megan Rohrer from Welcome Ministry in San Francisco to hold a Kona vision event.
Planned from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 25 at the Old Kona Airport Makaeo Events Pavilion, the event will serve homeless and low-income people. Attendees will have the opportunity to receive free vision screening, glasses, blood pressure, blood sugar, and HIV screening, free meals and haircuts. The free glasses will be ordered for attendees and later distributed by LCHT’s HERO Ministry.
Info: 329-5733, konalutheranchurch.com.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

In the News: Mondoweiss

As San Francisco mourns Orlando, Trump pulls Clinton his way
US Politics Wilson Dizard on June 14, 2016

As San Francisco mourns Orlando, Trump pulls Clinton his way

US Politics
on
- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/06/francisco-orlando-clinton/#sthash.zwrO6zNQ.dpuf

 “Love” was the word I heard most often Sunday in San Francisco from people mourning the deadliest mass shooting in American history, which took the lives of at least 49 at a gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando early Sunday morning. In a phone call to 911, the shooter, now dead, declared allegiance to the Islamic State, police say.

“God is love,” said one man, Daniel Borysewicz, a hospice pastor.

“Muslims are about love and the sanctity of life just like Christians, just like Buddhists, all different types of people who look on the side of love. Because God is love, no matter how you wrap him up, or her or wrap them up. It’s a matter of…God is love..and the love that we share with human beings is the connection we have with God because that’s how God manifests in our lives. It is the love we share with each other.”

Another man, a Latino gay rights activist, said love was the foundation of the unity marginalized groups need to show in the face of hatred.

“Love is love,” said Salvador Tovar. “We’re going to stand united. Muslims, Christians, Catholics, Atheists, everyone here. We’re standing together for our brothers and sisters whose lives were taken. Regardless of your religion, regardless of your sexual identity, regardless if you are straight, gay, bisexual, love is love.”

I asked: “What would you say to Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders right now?”

“Love is love,” he said. “We’re going to stand equal. Or they will take us one by one.”

Both men, members of the city’s LGBT community, rallied and marched with thousands of others down Market Street on Sunday night, a show of defiance and unity against anti-gay bigotry and gun violence itself. In the speeches by local politicians, activists and parents of gun violence victims, Islamophobia, homophobia and the National Rifle Association were San Francisco’s common enemy, not Islam or Muslims. Thousands cheered when David Campos, a gay city council member, said the community would not respond with bigotry towards Muslims.

The gruesome, hours long attack in Orlando, which police say was carried out by Omar Mateen, 29, an American of Afghan descent, was the work of a man who had a history of abusive behavior against his former wife and others. His father maintains that his son, who died in the attack, hated gay people and became enraged seeing two men kissing in front of his family. A security guard, his former coworkers call him unhinged, racist and sexist, NBC reports. He made disturbing statements to colleagues about Islam, but you’d probably think Mateen was a jerk no matter what religion he claimed to follow.

Eric Hubert, 94, a member of Grace Episcopal Church, said he didn’t blame Islam for this kind of killing.

“This is an American craziness,” he observed, adding that “Abraham is father to us all.”

With a history of angry outbursts, Mateen was the kind of guy who San Franciscans say should not have been able to legally purchase the semi-automatic assault weapon he used to slay dozens of people. There are already legal remedies that might stop this kind of massacre. California has started experimenting with a “Gun Violence Restraining Order,” or GVRO, that allows families or law enforcement to request courts issue GVROs on individuals who are threaten to harm themselves or others. Law enforcement then can take the weapons away.

But no such law exists in Florida, and there are minimal restrictions to gun ownership. So here I am writing about 49 people who were alive on Saturday, and had no idea they wouldn’t live to see the sun rise on Sunday.

By Monday, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Stonewall Jackson and George McClellan of American politics (both losers, in their own special ways) were duking it out in one of the first major battles of what promises to be an election season full of them. Although Clinton paid lip service to rejecting Islamophobia, her proposal for what to do about people like Mateen were similar to Trump’s.

In an interview with NPR‘s Steve Inskeep, Clinton laid out a “number of proposals to tackle this issue of self-radicalization.” They include “working with Silicon Valley to prevent online radicalization” and “creating more integrated intelligence use among all levels of law enforcement,” pulling from foreign and domestic sources, and, in her Trumpiest statement yet, the creation of a “broader database” of suspicious individuals.

Federal authorities reportedly interviewed Mateen several times about his flirtations with political violence, but never found evidence enough to charge him with anything.

Clinton’s targets for increased surveillance, and restrictions on owning a gun, would include “people who have expressed the kind of admiration and allegiance to terrorism.” Muslim communities across the United States have experienced what it’s like to be spied on, and Clinton’s proposals suggest nothing more than more surveillance. In New York City’s surveillance scheme for Muslims and mosques, a young man’s deciding not to drink was reason enough for suspicion. To Arab American leaders in the city, that kind of distrust did nothing but breed distrust with law enforcement.

Many might argue that he shouldn’t have been able to buy a gun because he was a despicable abuser of his wife. Instead of saying that, something based on known facts, Clinton is talking fluent Beltway-speak for: “We need to expand the surveillance state. There will be more money for that when I’m president.”

Trump, meanwhile, has said that we need to get “tough and smart” and that he would have a lot of “systems” to keep track of Muslims, and a total ban on Muslim coming into the United States. They’re a nightmarish cartoon drawn in childish crayon colors, but that’s just a less politically savvy way of saying what Clinton did. Expand the powers of the government and all will be well. In San Francisco, however, the emphasis was on love, not suspicion.

Mikail Ali, a Deputy Chief for Special Operations, addressed reporters about security for the next pride event. The local news reporters watched eagerly for signs that Ali might give their viewers something to worry about. Police circled Harvey Milk Plaza, named after San Francisco’s first openly gay city council member.

As the local news crews packed up and moved on, I asked Ali if they been threats against Muslims over the attack.

“We have not. We’re here and we’re also present at a mosque here in the city to make sure nothing adverse happens,” he said. “We’re passing by each one.”

I asked Ali if he was a Muslim himself.

“By coincidence, yes,” he said.

“How you and other Muslim officers dealing with this talk of surveilling Muslim communities?” I asked.

“We’re not even having that discussion right now,” he said. “We’re discussing having a discussion about supporting a community that is mourning and addressing whatever might develop as a result of this investigation.”

Meanwhile, on Twitter, Trump, who poses in pictures with cops regularly, was selling followers and potential voters on his prescient hot takes on Islam.

“Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism,” he tweeted Sunday. “I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”

He also called on Obama to resign for not using the term “radical Islam.”

“Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”

So that’s the Donald for you. But Clinton, in the same interview where she promised to work with Silicon Valley (translation “generous information technology contracts for lucky techies”), also lost her first verbal battle to Trump, in an election where words really matter.

Trump wants to break down the barrier he sees in political correctness run amok. Like the Environmental Protection Agency keeping lead out of your children’s blood, political correctness when practiced by politicians helps keep racial slurs out of your children’s ears. It’s a thin membrane, and it’s fraying.

Her words show that Trump himself might be able to drag her to the right.

Clinton lost when she said responded to Trump’s criticism of Obama for not saying “radical Islamic terrorism.” And she lost badly, as Trump would say.

Clinton also lost an important rhetorical battle with Trump on Sunday morning. Using the term “radical Islam” or any combination of the words

“It matters what we do, not what we say,” Clinton proclaimed.

Tell that to anyone who has ever had “raghead” shouted at them from a passing car, and they’ll tell you the words we say matter, too. They’re deeds in their own right.

“Whether you call it radical jihadism or radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I’m happy to say either. But that’s not the point. The point is Trump goes way too far,” she said.

Now that Sanders is out, Clinton is free to pivot away from the party’s left and start using terms like “radical Islamism.” Trump is pushing Clinton to inch to the right, prompting her call to expand surveillance of Americans. Why not use the term “radical Islamism” or “jihadism.” But this is the language of Fox News. It’s his language. Trump has Clinton talking like Trump does, and Clinton doesn’t think that matters that much.

“I have been hitting Obama and Crooked Hillary hard on not using the term Radical Islamic Terror. Hillary just broke-said she would now use!” he tweeted Monday morning.

If Clinton and Trump are going to reap the whirlwind this year in a dramatic political war for the soul of America, while Bernie Sanders stands nearby watching, then Clinton just lost the first battle. She lost because she suggested expanding the surveillance state, just as Trump does. She also failed to grasp the importance of not sticking the words “radical” and “Islam” and “jihadist” all around a sentence. It’s that kind of thing, repeated billions of times, that fertilizes the soil of society to grow the noxious weed that is Islamophobia.

In order to really mend the Democratic party, Clinton needs to stop just talking about Muslims, but rather take a line from Sanders and start speaking to Muslims themselves. That happened naturally with Sanders, with surrogates like Linda Sarsour acting as advocates for his campaign. Clinton might have a harder time gaining their trust, after treating them as a political liability in 2000, handing back cash to Muslims after getting cold feet about whether they supported Hamas or not, Electronic Intifada reports.

The rally in the Castro district on Sunday had a prominent Muslim voice. Suzanne Barakat, a Muslim doctor living in San Francisco, spoke at the Castro street rally. In 2015, she lost her brother, Deah, then 23, and two other relatives, Yusor Abu-Salha, Razan Abu-Salha to an angry white man with a gun in North Carolina. She and other members of the Muslim community consider it an attack motivated by hatred of Muslims.

“I am a physician at San Francisco General Hospital, a Syrian American and a Muslim,” Barakat began. “I work with colleagues, family members and serve with love patients who identify as members of the LGBT community. I know from first hand the pain and alienation that many of them experience. These tragedies are coming to us far too frequently. As a physician, I see them as symptom of a deeper illness: hatred, cruelty, intolerance. The cure for it is the medicine of love, kindness and compassion.”

“We are one people, who share the values of humanity and the shared values of the sanctity of life, and the freedom to live as we see fit. We reject your hatred, and we assert our love,” she said to cheers. “I pray and hope that as a nation we follow the example set by you here today.”
Love is one weapon to defeat bigotry, but so is passion and presence in public of the maligned. One member of the Christian clergy present Sunday called the thousands gathered at Harvey Milk Plaza to become more involved in confronting hatred.

“Out of the bars and into the streets!” proclaimed Megan Rohrer, pastor of Grace Lutheran Evangelical Church in San Francisco, to loud cheers from the audience, repeating a call to march made in San Francisco by gay rights activists decades before.

Rohrer added a 2016 twist, in calling for interfaith cooperation.

“We have also come out of our churches and into the streets! Out of our temples and into the streets! Out of our mosques and into the streets!”


- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/06/francisco-orlando-clinton/#sthash.zwrO6zNQ.dpuf







Monday, June 13, 2016

In the News: South Florida Gay News


San Francisco Stands With Orlando

SFGN Admin | David-Elijah Nahmod

Hundreds gathered in San Francisco's gay-centric Castro District to mourn the loss of LGBT life in Orlando. The vigil tool place at 8 p.m. on June 12, the day news of the mass shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub made headlines.

The vigil was supposed to take place at Harvey Milk Plaza at the corner of Castro and Market Streets, but so many people showed up that the vigil stretched across the street into Jane Warner Plaza, a small parklet named after the late San Francisco police officer Jane Warner, who was a lesbian.

People wiped away tears and held candles as the speakers took to the stage.

Openly gay San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents the Castro District said that guns were "a disease."

"The country is awash in guns," Wiener said, speaking from the podium. "I'm angry. We are here to recommit the fight to end anti-LGBT violence and to force congress to do something about the damn guns."

Supervisor David Campos, who is also gay, represents San Francisco's primarily Latin Mission District. "It's a very difficult day," Campos said. "As a gay Latino man this is shocking to me – we must make sure that the Latino community is not forgotten in all of this."

Most of the victims at Pulse were LGBT Latinos.

"We've gotten complacent," Campos continued. "People of color are often marginalized within the LGBT community. We don't want to be remembered just when we're massacred. We want to be remembered every day."
Campos reminded the crowd that Congress did nothing after school children were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Pastor Megan Rohrer, the first openly transgender pastor to be ordained as the leader of a Lutheran congregation, also addressed the mourners.

"We are Queer, we are fabulous, we are beautiful," the Pastor shouted. "We must act up and stand up. Out of the bars and into the streets. Out of the churches and into the streets!"

"The NRA is a powerful group," said San Francisco's interim police chief Toney Chaplin. "I'm looking at a more powerful group. Get out and vote! If you see something suspicious, say something!

San Francisco resident Sal Navarrette, who is gay, spoke to SFGN. "The hate that's out there saddens me," he said. "I don't want people who hate to make me fearful. I want them to know they're uniting us."
Brandy Jane Rose, a 22-year-old transwoman, said that the killings in Orlando would not make her fearful of attending San Francisco Pride in two weeks.

"I cannot not give a shit anymore," she said. "The fight is not over. We cannot back down. We cannot let them win."

The vigil concluded with the mourners singing the Civil Rights anthem We Shall Overcome, which was followed by a march down Market Street to San Francisco City Hall.
David-Elijah Nahmod is SFGN’s correspondent in San Francisco.

In the News: Hoodline:

'We Must Remember Orlando': Thousands Attend Vigil For Massacre Victims, March To City Hall

“We’ve known gun violence before,” shouted Pastor Megan Rohrer to the thousands of people who gathered last night in the Castro to mourn the 50 people killed at an Orlando nightclub over the weekend. “Angry people of faith are not the majority. We are queer. We are transgender. We are fabulous, we are faithful. We must stand up. We must vote ... until everyone is safe in bathrooms, in churches, and in the fucking streets.”

The crowds at the vigil were so large that community members spilled out into the streets surrounding Harvey Milk Plaza, amassing along Castro Street just south of Market. An SFPD officer at the event estimated that 10,000 people were in attendance, though that number has not yet been confirmed by authorities.
Thousands gathered at Harvey Milk Plaza and on Castro Street in solidarity.
Photo: Nuala Sawyer/Hoodline
A diverse group of community organizers and politicians spoke to the crowd, many of whom were still reeling with grief, shock, and anger from a tragedy that had occurred just 21 hours earlier.

Sister Roma and Sister Mary Peter from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence accompanied Pastor Rohrer on stage for a religious perspective on the shooting. The Sisters called upon spiritual leaders across the country to “speak with compassion and love for all,” before wishing that current and future leaders have the “courage to end this cycle of mass violence and reject the politics of hate.”
Many held candles at the vigil. Photo: Nuala Sawyer/Hoodline
Local politicians who spoke at the event included Mayor Ed Lee, Senator Mark Leno, Supervisor Scott Wiener, and Supervisor David Campos. Campos, who is gay and Latino, spoke passionately on the struggles of queer people of color. "As a gay Latino man, it is not shocking to me that the biggest mass shooting would target the queer community, and also the Latino community," he stated.

“The thing about [the LGBT Latino] community is we are resilient," Campos said. "We have been through tough times, we are sticking together, and we are gonna keep fighting to make sure that this community is not forgotten.”
Photo: Nuala Sawyer/Hoodline
Campos railed against a sense of complacency in the queer community, in light of the recent legalization of gay marriage across the country. "We all have to recommit ourselves to the work that remains," he said. "We want our leaders to think of queer people of color not just when there's a massacre, but every single day." 

Like many of the other speakers, Campos expressed opposition to Islamophobia and xenophobia. “We are all in this together. I know that targeting the Muslim community is simply wrong, and we’re going to speak out against it."
Hundreds marched to City Hall. Photo: Shane Downing/Hoodline
“We need to be together. We need to carry on with the love our family and friends, our allies, lovers, whatever. We need to carry on. We need to battle,” said Latino Democratic Club president Lito Sandoval, who also stated that he and members of his community had to ask to attend and speak at the vigil, because they had not initially been invited. “Latino leaders were not contacted; we had to reach out.”
While, as Sandoval said, “the attack was on queer and Latino communities,” the crowd at the vigil was diverse. 

“Look around you, this is your community," Sandoval said. "We need to choose inclusiveness, choose love, choose each other, choose integrity, choose solidarity, and not allow us to erase each other. None of us are free until all of us are free."

Mayor Ed Lee also spoke at the vigil, amidst both boos and applause from the crowd. "Hatred will not drive out hatred, and darkness will not drive out the dark," he said. "I join you all to make sure that we lead the way, and keep our LGBTQ community safe."
Many marched to, and gathered at, a rainbow-lit City Hall following the vigil. Photo: Noah Whiteman/Hoodline
In addition to politicians, interim Police Chief Toney Chaplin, who was recently appointed after Chief Greg Suhr resigned, spoke briefly to attendees. "The NRA is a powerful group, but I am staring at a more powerful group," he said, drawing cheers from the crowd. 

Chaplin encouraged those in attendance to get out and vote for politicians who support gun control laws. “Get out there and go show your support for folks. We need to get this legislation in place to change the gun laws in this country,” he said.

But the largest applause from the crowd was reserved for Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who opened his speech with the simple phrase "Fuck the NRA." Joking that the organization's moniker stands for "national real assholes," Ammiano's speech was filled with humor, but also powerful messages. "Is that a gun in your pocket?" he asked the crowd. "Because I'm not happy to see you."
The crowd began to march, peacefully, to City Hall.
Photo: Randall Sarafa/Hoodline
Shortly before 9pm, the SF Gay Men's Chorus led the crowd in song. As the speeches ended, hundreds of peaceful marchers slowly began to flow down Market Street towards City Hall. Although traffic was halted, drivers encouraged marchers with honks of solidarity.

Upon reaching City Hall, the mood remained somber as the names of victims were read aloud. “We must remember Orlando,” said one organizer. Before heading home, many left their candles, still lit, beneath the backdrop of City Hall's rainbow lights.
Marchers leave behind candles on a statue of Abraham Lincoln at City Hall.
Photo: Noah Whiteman/Hoodline
“We must remain strong and vigilant in the face of such hatred," said San Francisco Pride in a statement. "We must be good to one another, we must speak up for one another, and most importantly we must look out for one another."

“As members of the LGBTQ community, as Americans, and as those who believe in freedom and the rule of law, we must continue undeterred in our quest for full and equal rights for everyone. We are unbowed and unbroken by this attack, and will continue on in the memory of those who lost their lives for simply expressing their true selves.”
"We Must Remember Orlando." Photo: Shane Downing/Hoodline

Friday, May 20, 2016

In the News: Hoodline

Faith-Based Meetup Distributes PB&Js To The Castro's Hungry

“We can’t cure homelessness,” said Pastor Megan Rohrer. “But we can still be present and be visible out in our community. That was a big part of why we wanted to start having these gatherings.”

Rohrer helps to organize the San Francisco Faithful LGBTQ Meetup. The group comes together weekly for everything from bison walks in Golden Gate Park to wine tastings to wonton-making demos. But its most visible contribution is on Sunday afternoons, when members make 150 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and distribute them to the Castro’s homeless. 

“It’s an opportunity for us to wear matching T-shirts, to let people know that people of faith are LGBT, and that we can be doing good things,” said Rohrer, who was the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran church. Rohrer has been an advocate for homeless LGBT San Franciscans for more than 15 years.

“We really wanted to make it a safe space for anybody of any faith to do good work,” said James Rowley, who co-organizes the Meetup with Rohrer. Within a few days of creating the group, over 75 people had signed up; about 12 people turn out for any given meeting. 

The group decided to distribute PB&J "because it’s nutritious, it doesn’t spoil, and we can give [the homeless] two or three of them and leave them with them, whether they’re sleeping on the side of the street or we have a conversation with them.”

The nutrition is particularly important for homeless people who are HIV-positive. "They need protein, and a lot of the ways that they can get really sick is if their muscles kind waste away,” Rohrer said. “We wanted to make sure that there was a lot of protein, but also to respect the crunchy lesbians who also wanted something vegan.”

The group gets most of its supplies—bread, peanut butter, jelly, sandwich bags, hand wipes—from Grace, although the Meetup is not affiliated with the congregation. “It’s not costly, peanut butter and jelly,” Rohrer said.

The Meetup group gathers inside St. Francis Church, located right across from the Safeway on Market Street, on Sunday afternoons. “We walk up from the Safeway at Church Sr. and then we go all the way down to Castro and 18th. By then we’re usually out of sandwiches,” Rohrer said.

"That neighborhood has more homeless people than other parts of town, because San Francisco figures out how they’re going to divide up homeless services based on police districts," Rohrer said. “The neighborhood that gets the most complaints on the non-emergency police number gets the most homeless resources for that month.”

“The reason why we start at Church Street is because that’s the dividing line between four different police districts. A lot of people gather in that neighborhood because instead of getting pushed along too far, [police will] say, ‘Cross the street, that’s the other police district, and then they’ll have to deal with you.’”

Rohrer and Rowley say this area also attracts a lot of LGBT homeless people, who want to be near the company and safety of fellow LGBT individuals. 

However, not every sandwich is given to the homeless. If the group gets to 18th Street and still has sandwiches, they head to Dolores Park. According to Rowley, mothers with fussy children have stopped members of the group and asked for a sandwich. “We’ve stopped a couple of tantrums at 4 in the afternoon,” said Rohrer, laughing. 

“The whole event is two hours: an hour to make [the sandwiches], an hour to give [them] out to people, and then we spend an hour having a drink together at Harvey’s,” Rowley said. “We’re not preachy.”

Rohrer is no stranger to the neighborhood’s homeless population. The transgender pastor goes out from 10pm to 4am with other local pastors about three times a month, as part of the city’s night ministries. “When I go out, I usually walk through the Castro, so I know a lot of their names and their stories and what they look like when they’re not wanting to be talked to. So I usually can give a little heads-up.” 

“With all the hate-filled rhetoric that’s happening in our world right now,” Rohrer said, “it feels good to have a positive outlet. What I’ve noticed working with the homeless in San Francisco is that whenever there’s homophobia or transphobia in other parts of the country, we get more LGBT homeless folk in San Francisco. They think 'At least they won’t discriminate against me there, even if I can’t afford the housing.'"

“We’re trying to think of ways, particularly as people of faith, that if there are people that get kicked out of their homes or churches that are not being supportive of LGBT folks in other parts of the country, ways that we can care for our community and make it so that they don’t have to get to the rock-bottom lowest space before they’re able to figure out their housing situation,” Rohrer said.  
Photo: Shane Downing/Hoodline
If you’re around the neighborhood on Sunday afternoons between 2-4pm and you see a group of people passing out sandwiches and wearing blue t-shirts that say “Live Generously” on them, don’t be confused. The Meetup is always looking for new members.

“We’re trying to get other people involved,” Rowley said, “to get together, go out to Harvey’s afterwards, and have a good time.”

“It’s fun to be in the Castro and just kind of hang out,” said Rohrer. “It’s something that we can do that’s portable, that’s gonna help people, and that’s not gonna get people in trouble.”

The San Francisco Faithful LGBTQ Meetup's next peanut butter and jelly gathering will be this Sunday, May 22nd. Check out the group's Meetup page for a list of events.

Monday, May 16, 2016

In the News: Impact Magazine

First-Ever LGBTQ Religious Children’s Books Now Available!

Rohrer, Faithful Families - 400 px
A page from “Faithful Families”
LGBTQ-affirming religious books for kids are available for the first time ever with the launch of the Good News Children’s Book Series this spring.
Books such as “Faithful Families” remind children that God loves them, no matter what their family looks like — even if they have two mommies or two daddies.
Mr. Grumpy Christian” is for LGBTQ families to read if they hear Christians telling them that God cannot love them.
Transgender Children of God” affirms transgender parents and children by declaring that God will love us no matter what we wear, who we love or how we identify.
What to Wear to Church” was written with transgender children in mind, while the gender diversity of God’s creation is affirmed in “Is it a Boy, Girl or Both?”
The books are published by Wilgefortis Press as a project of Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco. All nine books in the series so far are written byMegan Rohrer, pastor at Grace Lutheran and the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran church.
Megan Rohrer
Megan Rohrer
Not every book in the series specifically addresses LGBTQ themes, but each one is promoted as “a safe book for reconciling churches and diverse families.”
Aimed at children from pre-school up to age 12, each book expresses God’s all-inclusive love with simple language and beautiful pictures by a variety of illustrators.
“My thought with these books is that as a collection they could help kids know that they are loved no matter what they wear, who they love and no matter what others tell them about it,” Rohrer told the Jesus in Love Blog.
The books grew naturally out of the ministry at Grace Lutheran. “A longtime welcoming congregation located in San Francisco, with a transgender pastor, we knew that our children’s books had the ability to be full of the grace that our congregation was named after,” Rohrer explained.
The first nine books were published quickly in February and March so they would be ready to use as prizes for the congregation’s Easter Egg Hunt.
“The children who received them over Easter were really excited and loved getting something they could take home with them from the service,” Rohrer said.
The books delighted adults in the church too. “Many wished they had books like this when they were younger,” Rohrer said.
Faithful Families” was inspired by the many families and children at the church’s Grace Infant Child Care Center. Rohrer co-wrote it with Pamela Ryan, director of the center for more than 30 years. It is illustrated by Ihnatovich Maryia and aimed at children up to 8 years old.
Rohrer wrote “Mr. Grumpy Christian” after meeting a 7-year old-boy who tried to kill himself because a pastor threatened him with hell. It is suitable for LGBTQ families who face hostility from other Christians. Children ages 5 to 10 are the target audience. The rhyming book affirms:
When a grumpy Christian ruins your day,
Remember God’s love is here to stay.
In the true spirit of Christ, the book goes on to add, “But remember that God’s love extends to grumpy Christians too.”
What to Wear to Church” reminds children that God will always love them no matter what clothes they wear. The illustrations were designed from a photo of Rohrer’s real-life grandmother, who inspired the story.
“‘What to Wear to Church’ is a short book for toddlers that I imagine my grandma reading to me if she knew I was going to grow up to be transgender,” Rohrer said. It is illustrated by Daren Drda.
Is it a Boy, Girl or Both?” is one of the series’ most popular books with children. Pictures of animals illustrate the point that God’s creation includes many kinds of gender expression.  It is geared to children up to 8 years old. After exploring everything from koalas and penguins to banana slugs, the book concludes:
But, no matter your favorite color,
what your body looks like,
if you have a baby or not,
if you are in charge,
if you are a girl, boy, both or do not know,
or how any of these things change in the future,
God will love you no matter what.
And so will I.
Others in the series of Good News Children’s Books include “Church Bugs,” “Jesus’ Family,” “The Parable of the Succulent” and “The Children’s Crumbs.”
“We even have a book on the Holocaust that has some of my favorite illustrations of the series,” Rohrer said. “Never Again” was inspired by Rohrer’s wife Laurel, whose relatives who were killed in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Illustrations are by Eugene Ivanov.
Wilgefortis Press works with a variety of artists to illustrate the Good News Children’s Books. “We gave the artists the story and creative license to illustrate,” Rohrer explained.
Rohrer received a master of divinity degree from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and is currently a candidate for the doctorate of ministry degree there. Rohrer created Wilgefortis Press to publish books about queer, disability and poverty issues. Other books by Rohrer include “Queerly Lutheran” and “Letters for My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect.”
Rohrer was an art major at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD before switching to religion. That artistic training will be put to use when Rohrer serves as both writer and illustrator of the next book in the series. It addresses how hard it is to come to church for the first time by telling the story of a dog coming to church.
The Good News Children’s Books are published as both ebooks and paperbacks, and are available on Amazon.com (see links below for quick ordering). Discounts on paperbacks ordered directly from the church are available by contacting pastor@gracesf.com.

This post is part of the Artists series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series profiles artists who use lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and queer spiritual and religious imagery. It also highlights great queer artists from history, with an emphasis on their spiritual lives.
Cherry-KittredgeKITTREDGE CHERRY is a lesbian Christian author who writes regularly about LGBT spirituality and the arts for the Jesus in Love Blog. She was ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches and served as its national ecumenical officer, advocating for LGBT rights at the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches. She holds degrees in religion, journalism and art history. Her most recent book is The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision.  (Read IMPACT’s review of her book here).




Thursday, November 19, 2015

In the News: San Francisco Magazine

 an excerpt from San Francisco Magazine's December Women in Power Issue  - See more at: http://www.modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/saluting-37-soldiers-of-social-change#sthash.rWFIoj0n.dpuf


One soundbyte from any presidential debate makes it clear: The country is divided as never before. From abortion to immigration to racial injustice, the clashes are fierce and the stakes are high. And if we are a society at war with itself, those pictured here are the battle-hardened commanders on the front lines. “There’s a historic consciousness in the Bay Area of the fights that have happened here,” says Celeste Faison, cofounder of the BlackOut Collective, an Oakland-based black activist group.

Within the past five years, the Bay Area has become ground zero not only for pervasive local issues like discrimination in tech and housing abuses but also for national causes like Black Lives Matter, transgender rights, and reproductive justice. Though these movements encompass all genders, an outsize number of those leading the charge are women. They organize grassroots and big-picture efforts, from advocating for groundbreaking legislation to teaching underprivileged kids to code.

Throughout the ranks, there’s the sense of a common goal. “Activists today are attracted to an intersectional framework,” says Samara Azam-Yu, co–executive director of the reproductive justice organization Access. “We’re not just about abortion or housing or immigration anymore. We’re interested in every issue and how they overlap.” The movements’ leaders include doctors, lawyers, doulas, engineers, pastors, and a self-professed “diva and screaming queen.” They’ve found strength in diversity, says Theresa Sparks, executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission: “These people represent every element of our culture in San Francisco.” Whether taking to the streets or to social media, they’re shaping the future of our society.



One soundbyte from any presidential debate makes it clear: The country is divided as never before. From abortion to immigration to racial injustice, the clashes are fierce and the stakes are high. And if we are a society at war with itself, those pictured here are the battle-hardened commanders on the front lines. “There’s a historic consciousness in the Bay Area of the fights that have happened here,” says Celeste Faison, cofounder of the BlackOut Collective, an Oakland-based black activist group.
Within the past five years, the Bay Area has become ground zero not only for pervasive local issues like discrimination in tech and housing abuses but also for national causes like Black Lives Matter, transgender rights, and reproductive justice. Though these movements encompass all genders, an outsize number of those leading the charge are women. They organize grassroots and big-picture efforts, from advocating for groundbreaking legislation to teaching underprivileged kids to code.
Throughout the ranks, there’s the sense of a common goal. “Activists today are attracted to an intersectional framework,” says Samara Azam-Yu, co–executive director of the reproductive justice organization Access. “We’re not just about abortion or housing or immigration anymore. We’re interested in every issue and how they overlap.” The movements’ leaders include doctors, lawyers, doulas, engineers, pastors, and a self-professed “diva and screaming queen.” They’ve found strength in diversity, says Theresa Sparks, executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission: “These people represent every element of our culture in San Francisco.” Whether taking to the streets or to social media, they’re shaping the future of our society.
- See more at: http://www.modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/saluting-37-soldiers-of-social-change#sthash.rWFIoj0n.dpuf
THE CAUSE: TRANSGENDER RIGHTS  “Fifteen years ago, a trans person couldn’t walk around the city without being the object of ridicule, discrimination, or violence. That’s different now. This year alone, San Francisco is contributing over $1.5 million to transgender programs. We’re doing more than any other city in the country.” —Theresa Sparks

Theresa Sparks, executive director, San Francisco Human Rights Commission
Before leading the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, Theresa Sparks served as CEO of Good Vibrations and then as a commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission. "One common thread over the last 20 years is that I have the privilege of serving the good people of San Francisco,” says Sparks. “These positions have allowed me to give back to this great city a small amount of all it has given me." 
Janetta Johnson, executive director at the Transgender, Gender-Variant, and Intersex Justice Project
The TGI Justice Project serves low-income transgender women of color who are in prison, formerly incarcerated, or targeted by the police. Recently, Johnson survived three years in federal prison, and has dedicated herself to limiting the recidivism rate in the transgender community by developing new interventions and strategies.
Clair Farley, associate director of economic development at the San Francisco LGBT Center
At San Francisco's LGBT Center, Clair Farley helped build the nation’s first ever LGBT-specific economic development department from the ground up. The center has a small-business program for those interested in entrepreneurship, as well as employment services to connect LGBT individuals to employers in the Bay Area. “We try to look at our work holistically, with an emphasis on social and economic justice,” says Farley.
Rev. Megan Rohrer, pastor at Grace Lutheran Church
The first openly transgender Lutheran pastor ordained in the United States, Reverend Rohrer currently serves as executive director of Welcome, a nonprofit that has worked with San Francisco homeless since 1996. Many of those Welcome serves identify as LGBT, and Rohrer says the organization is teaming up with Project Homeless Connect to study the needs of LGBTQ people who are homeless. Through Welcome and ministerial work, Rohrer says she works “to use the power I have to advance the rights and basic survival needs of my kin in the LGBT community who continue to struggle to find affordable housing, sobriety support, educational opportunities, and jobs.”

JoAnne Keatley, director of the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at UCSF
“I look for what’s fresh and current in the field of trans healthcare,” says JoAnne Keatley, director of the UCSF Center of Excellence for Transgender Health (CoD). She has developed numerous healthcare and service programs for the transgender community in San Francisco, as well as several federally funded research and HIV-prevention projects. During Keatley's tenure, the CoD has begun to explore access to gender-affirming healthcare on a national level.
Nikki Calma, program supervisor for Trans Thrive
Trans Thrive is a drop-in center by and for the transgender community in San Francisco. The center, a program of the Asian & Pacific Wellness Center, offers everything from HIV prevention to counseling and health services. “We use a holistic approach,” says Calma, aka Tita Aida. “We want to address the issues that people here immediately need: housing, employment, healthcare, social support, and HIV testing.”
Felicia Flames, transgender pioneer and activist
Better known as Felicia Flames, activist and icon Felicia Elizondo has been fighting for transgender rights for well over 50 years. “I’m a Mexican spitfire, a screaming queen, and a diva,” says Flames, a 29-year surveyor of AIDS and a Vietnam veteran. Flames, 69, participated in the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots of 1966, a turning point in the LGBT movement and one of the first recorded riots over violence against the transgender community. “The people who started the cafeteria riots and Stonewall were transgender people of color,” says Flames. “We need to remember who sacrificed their lives. We went through a lot to get where we are now.” 
- See more at: http://www.modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/saluting-37-soldiers-of-social-change#sthash.rWFIoj0n.dpuf