Monday, October 10, 2016

In the News: San Francisco Chronicle

Transgender pastor preaches to the choir with love

October 9, 2016 Updated: October 9, 2016 12:00pm

Rev. Megan Rohrer leads the Singers of the Street, a drop in homeless choir that meets every Monday.
Media: Erin Brethauer 
The voices intertwine like vines, three strands of harmony wrapping around words that make you cry if you think too hard about them and the people standing there singing them. But you don’t see tears on the Rev. Megan Rohrer’s face as she conducts this weekly session of Singers of the Street.

What you see is what you get pretty much most of the time the pastor talks: a smile so bright it seems to match the glow of the stained glass windows of the church she’s in.

Rohrer spends every Monday leading this little choir of mostly homeless people in song. And if there’s one thing that helps define Rohrer’s mission in life as one of the only transgender ministers in the nation, this may be it. In her — Rohrer, 36, prefers the pronoun “they,” but doesn’t quibble with occasional desires for conventional reference — role as pastor of the Grace Lutheran Church in the outer Sunset District of San Francisco, Rohrer is all about social justice and celebrating differences. About nurturing the goodness at the core of everyone’s soul. Corny stuff. But real.

“I’m going home, quiet-like, some still day, I’m going home,” Rohrer sings with the choir, left hand arcing up and down to conduct the musical flow. “It’s not far, just close by, through an open door...”
Most of the nine people in front of her don’t have the home they’re singing about. But for those moments they get to have with Rohrer every Monday, they’ll tell you they feel like they have something close to one — and it’s because of the radiant minister standing in front of them in a worn T-shirt and blue jeans.

“We love Megan,” says Kent Hollek, 62, who’d slept the night before on Van Ness Boulevard and carefully stashed his suitcase in a corner of the choir practice room. “She steers us. She guides us. I can’t think of anyone else like her.”
The choir gig actually comes with one of Rohrer’s other jobs in addition to her role at Grace Lutheran. She is executive director of the Welcome ministry, which works with the impoverished all over San Francisco and holds the Singers of the Street practices at First Congregational Church on Polk Street. Having other gigs is nothing new for Rohrer, who seems to be in perpetual motion writing children’s books, helping the homeless with everything from eyeglasses to music, leading garden projects for the community.

And this is all in addition to being a pastor who was born a girl in South Dakota, figured out early she was gender-neutral, and took charge of Grace Lutheran in 2014. That same year, she was honored by the Dalai Lama for her compassionate works.

“My motto is try everything,” Rohrer says. “If it doesn’t work, don’t mention you did that. If it does work, do it some more.” She says this with one of her trademark laughs. And she means it. In the most sincere way possible.

See a short film with Pastor Megan Rohrer and the homeless choir at The Regulars is a weekly photo and video column by Erin Brethauer that offers a glimpse into the lives of ordinary people in the Bay Area, caught in routine activities of modern urban life. If you know a regular, email

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

In the News: Beyond Chron

Celebrating Compton’s 50th: Vanguard Revisited, W/ Rev. Megan Rohrer

by on September 6, 2016

Reverend Megan Rohrer
Reverend Megan Rohrer
If you missed the prior events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the August 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria riots in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, don’t despair. On Thursday, September 8, the Tenderloin Museum hosts Reverend Megan Rohrer, who will honor the historic legacy of Vanguard, San Francisco’s first gay liberation group.

In 2011, Rohrer and historian Joey Plaster created a remarkable work of public history: Vanguard Revisited, which introduced the history of the 1960s radical queer-youth organization Vanguard to contemporary queer homeless youth, who created their own art and poetry zine in conversation with essays and themes from the original Vanguard newsletter. The new zine also featured archival materials, a historical narrative and writings from urban ministers and youth organizers.

The storytelling project Temporal Cities will attend the event to share and record LGBTQ stories. Listen to a piece of oral history in their rotary phone, or type your own memories on a real typewriter.
Temporal Cities is a public art project that examines the experience of living in the Tenderloin through the stories of its residents. For more information about the project, visit

For the 50th Anniversary Compton’s Commemoration, a second issue of the Vanguard Revisited zine will be released with new materials by the original authors and editors. For the Tenderloin Museum program, Rohrer will describe the initial process leading up to Vanguard Revisited and will discuss its legacy. Rohrer is the pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco and is a nationally recognized leader on issues of homelessness, gender, sexuality and faith.

The Compton’s riot is only a part of the Tenderloin’s GLBT legacy. The Tenderloin was the geographic center of the city’s emerging GLBT movement from the 1940’s through the 1960’s, a story on display at the Tenderloin Museum.

Temporal Cities will be stationed inside the Museum during the event, collecting stories related to the LGBTQ experience in the Tenderloin. Temporal Cities is a public art project that examines the experience of living in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, through the stories of its residents. The piece combines analog slide projection and interactive storytelling; a projected image mounted on the street attracts passersby to the installation, where they are encouraged to share a personal story that took place nearby. In collecting and archiving these stories, artists Lizzy Brooks and Radka Pulliam are building a nuanced map that explores the changing nature of the city and our collective ideas of permanence.
Here is the ticket information.
Randy Shaw details the Tenderloin’s GBLT history in The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

Monday, July 25, 2016

In the News: Hoodline

Tenderloin, GLBT Museums Host Events For 50th Anniversary Of Compton's Cafeteria Riot

One evening in August 1966, the Tenderloin's transgender community had had enough. After years of being marginalized by society and harassed by the police, a riot ensued at Gene Compton's Cafeteria, a favorite late-night hangout spot at 101 Taylor St.

The exact date of the Compton's Cafeteria Riot has been lost to time, and it saw much less publicity than New York's Stonewall riots, three years later. But San Francisco's queer and transgender community has not forgotten, and the Tenderloin Museum and the GLBT Historical Society will be honoring the riot's 50th anniversary with a series of special events running now through mid-September.
One of many Gene Compton's Cafeterias locations in the Bay Area.
Photo: Source unknown
The two organizations have teamed with veterans of the riot, as well as performers, historians, filmmakers and artists. Their events will honor not just the riot itself, but how life has changed over the past few decades for queer and transgender people.
To kick off the series, the Tenderloin Museum is hosting a queer history walking tour and reception at their Eddy Street location this Thursday, from 6-8:30pm. The $5 tour, led by drag performer and Castro District tour guide Cruzin d'Loo, will focus on both the riot and overall LGBTQ history in the Tenderloin. The tour will end at 7pm, just in time to join a free public reception at the Tenderloin Museum.
Other events in the series include a discussion with Felicia Elizondo, who participated in the riot and was the Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal of the 2015 San Francisco Pride Parade, and a screening at the Roxie Theater of Screaming Queens, an Emmy Award-winning documentary that helped elevate the forgotten riot into public consciousness.


Tenderloin Queer History Walking Tour & Kickoff ReceptionDate: 6-8:30pm Thursday, July 28thLocation: Tenderloin Museum, 398 Eddy St.Tour: $5Reception: Free and open to the public
Starting at the Tenderloin Museum at 6pm, Cruzin d'Loo (the drag alter-ego of performer Kevin Wisney) will give an hour long walking tour of the LGBTQ history of the Tenderloin, centering on the Compton's Cafeteria Riot that took place at the now-famous intersection of Turk and Taylor Streets. The tour will return to the museum at 7:00pm. for a kickoff reception. Trans historian and award-winning documentary filmmaker Susan Stryker and original "screaming queen" Felicia Elizondo will speak briefly to mark the occasion.


Cruising the Tenderloin in the 1960s: A Talk by Felicia ElizondoDate: 7-9pm Thursday, August 4thLocation: GLBT Historical Society Museum, 4127 18th St.Admission: $5; free for members
Felicia Elizondo, a self-described "Mexican spitfire, screaming queen, pioneer, legend, icon, diva, 29-year survivor of AIDS and Vietnam veteran" was one of the transgender participants in the 1966 Compton's Cafeteria Riot. In 2015, she was named Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal of the San Francisco Pride Parade. In this special multimedia presentation, she explores San Francisco's Tenderloin District in the 1960s to explain how the Compton's Cafeteria Riot was a defining moment in the struggle by a diverse gay and trans community to claim public lives and become who they were meant to be, paving the way for future generations.

Compton's 50th Anniversary Art Launch & Artist TalkDate: 7-9pm Tuesday, August 16thAddress: GLBT Historical Society Museum, 4127 18th St.
Admission: $5; free for members
Launch party and artist conversation for Compton's 50th anniversary works by ceramic artist Nicki Green and interdisciplinary artist Chris Vargas, commissioned by the GLBT Historical Society. Green is producing a limited-edition signature coffee mug referencing both Compton's Cafeteria and the riot itself, while Vargas is hand-screening a numbered set of commemorative T-shirts from his own design. In conversation, the artists will discuss their creative processes and the relationship between trans history and art. Both works will be available for a limited time exclusively at the GLBT History Museum and the Tenderloin Museum.
Green is a trans-disciplinary artist whose work focuses on craft processes that document history and create legacy for marginalized communities. She has exhibited her work nationally, notably at the Leslie-Lohman Museum in New York City and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Vargas is an artist whose work deploys humor and performance in conjunction with mainstream idioms to explore the complex ways that queer and trans people negotiate spaces for themselves within historical and institutional memory and popular culture. Vargas also serves as executive director of MOTHA: The Museum of Transgender Hirstory and Art.

Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's CafeteriaDate: 7-9pm Thursday, August 18thAddress: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St.Tickets: $12
Cosponsored by the Tenderloin Museum and the GLBT History Museum, a special 10th anniversary showing of the Emmy Award-winning 2006 documentary Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria, followed by a Q&A with directors Susan Stryker and Victor Silverman. The film uncovered and popularized the then-forgotten 1966 riot at Compton's.

Susan Stryker is associate professor of gender and women's studies and former director of the Institute for LGBT Studies at the University of Arizona. A leader in the field of transgender studies, she is the author of many articles and several books on transgender and queer topics, most recently Transgender History (Seal Press 2008). She won a Lambda Literary Award for the anthology The Transgender Studies Reader (Routledge 2006).

Victor Silverman is an award-winning filmmaker, historian and author. His current film, Getting High, is a provocative, feature-length documentary about his family's collision with drugs and alcohol set against a backdrop of American society's bitter conflicts around the "war on drugs." Silverman's latest book, coauthored with poet Laurie Glover, is California: On the Road Histories (Interlink, 2012).


Sex Work in the Tenderloin: Then and NowDate: 7-9pm Thursday, September 1stLocation: GLBT Historical Society Museum, 4127 18th St.
Admission: $5; free for members

A panel discussion exploring how trans lives and sex work have changed in the last half-century in one of San Francisco's most dynamic neighborhoods. Speakers include Tamara Ching, a Compton's veteran and longtime advocate for trans and sex worker rights, and several advocates with St. James Infirmary, which since 1999 has provided free, confidential, nonjudgmental medical and social services for current and former sex workers of all genders.

Vanguard Revisited With Rev. Megan RohrerDate: 6-8:30pm Thursday, September 8th
Location: Tenderloin Museum, 
398 Eddy St.
Admission: Free and open to the public
In 2011, Megan Rohrer and historian Joey Plaster created a remarkable work of public history: Vanguard Revisited, which introduced the history of the 1960s radical queer-youth organization Vanguard to contemporary queer homeless youth, who created their own art and poetry zine in conversation with essays and themes from the original Vanguard newsletter. The new zine also featured archival materials, a historical narrative and writings from urban ministers and youth organizers.
For the 50th anniversary of the Compton's riots, a second issue of the Vanguard Revisited zine will be released, with new materials by the original authors and editors. For the Tenderloin Museum program, Rohrer will describe the initial process leading up to Vanguard Revisited and will discuss its legacy. Rohrer is the pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco and is a nationally recognized leader on issues of homelessness, gender, sexuality and faith.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

In the News: San Francisco Bay Times

Sister Dana sez, “Now that Pride is over, are we supposed to feel shame? Just kidding! Pride is every day!”

Sister-Dana2Sister Dana sez, “Now that Pride is over, are we supposed to feel shame? Just kidding! Pride is every day!”

Sister Dana thoroughly enjoyed being the rainbow nun in the San Francisco Bay Times contingent #099 of the Parade. Our contingent included board members and volunteers of the RAINBOW HONOR WALK organization, highlighting legendary LGBT community leaders represented in the sidewalk plaques installed in the Castro neighborhood, where Rainbow Honor Walk founder David Perry rode as well. I was on the top of the double-decker bus with the OAKLAND INTERFAITH GOSPEL CHOIR. Joining our team were city officials, such as Oakland City Councilmember at-Large and San Francisco Bay Times columnist Rebecca Kaplan and her wife, Pamela Rosin. Sister Dana loved blowing kisses to the crowd and flashing peace & love signs—and receiving the same back from those loving people! I even got four seconds of fame on the KOFY-TV broadcast!

Just before the City came to dismantle the Orlando victims’ memorial in the Castro, several of us SISTERS OF PERPETUAL INDULGENCE held a CLOSING RITUAL AT THE ORLANDO MEMORIAL on the corner of 18th and Castro—known back in the day as Hibernia Beach. “I hate to see it go, as we are still raw from this act of violence, but the recent accidental fire has made it necessary for it to be dismantled,” said Castro Business District executive director Andrea Aiello. The memorial went up immediately after the shooting two weeks prior, which claimed the lives of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Sister Merry Peter acted as host for the ceremony, which drew close to a hundred people. Cleansing sage and smudge were distributed by Sisters, ministers, and leaders. As the majority of the Orlando people murdered were Latinx, it was appropriate that Ruben Martinez of  INSTITUTO DE LA RAZA open the circle in Spanish, with translation following in English. Rev. Megan Rohrer from Grace Lutheran (wearing a rainbow t-shirt with the punny phrase: “This is the gay that the Lord has made” proudly emblazoned) invited the community to share from their hearts (words, song, movement). Politicians, community leaders, and ministers were all invited to join in.
The next day, several of us Sisters and our friends assembled in Pink Triangle Park in the Castro to be led by Sister Kitty Catalyst in a First Friday Darshan Parade down Market Street—offering ritual blessing, love, and peace in the gayborhood....

Thursday, June 30, 2016

In the News: Hoodline

You Have Your Own Dancing To Do': A Farewell To The Castro's Orlando Memorial

A group of about 100 people gathered at last night for a solemn, heartfelt and often emotional final farewell to the 49 LGBT people who were murdered on June 12th at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 
Led by Sister Merry Peter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and Pastor Megan Rohrer of Grace Lutheran Church, the evening culminated in the reverential removal of the dozens of flowers, photographs, votive candles, rainbow flags and other mementos that had been placed in front of the Bank of America building at 18th & Castro streets.
The memorial's removal comes after candles left at the site caused a small fire on Monday morning. While the fire was put out quickly and caused no structural damage, the Castro CBD decided the memorial needed to be taken down for safety reasons—but not before a final farewell from the community.
Sister of Perpetual Indulgence's Merry Peter beginning the blessing ceremony.
photo: steven bracco/hoodline
The service opened with an invocation from Sister Merry. "Let's have a moment of silence for Orlando, for Istanbul, for Syria and for the Bayview," the Sister said. "We are coming together as a community who built this memorial that is a focus for our grieving. It's time to open the space to joy."
"We want to make sure that before we take [the memorial] down, we get it out," Pastor Rohrer, the first openly transgender leader to be installed in a Lutheran congregation, told the assembly. "We must live our lives for remembrance—that all who wonder if their lives matter are ensured that their lives are sacred."
Rohrer held up 49 small signs, one for each of the 49 people killed in Orlando. The crowd applauded as each sign was held up one by one, and randomly handed to various attendees.
"Queer lives matter," stated one sign.
"We're here, we're queer, get used to it," said another.
"Gun control is a gay issue," stated a third.
Pastor Rohrer then invited mourners to step up and speak if they were moved to do so.
Jerry Skittles said that three of his cousins, all of whom were planning on attending SF Pride this year, had died at Pulse. "They couldn't come, and now they're up there, watching over us with Pride," he said.
"Don't judge me because the Lord made me just like he made you," said Thelma Flores.
"Be kinder to each other," said Jaime Miranda. "Have each other's back."
Volunteers and blessing attendees help clean up the memorial.
photo: steven bracco/hoodline
Openly gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose district includes the Castro, did not address the crowd. He stood quietly in the background, his eyes welling up with tears.
"This memorial was completely organic from the community," Wiener told Hoodline after the ceremony. "It's only fitting that we bless it and that we preserve it for posterity, so that we always remember Orlando."
The hour-long service concluded with a final invocation from Sister Merry, who asked the mourners to join her in a brief shout, for the purpose of letting go of anger and grief.
"I release you," the Sister said. "You have your own dancing to do."
The mourners were invited to take any mementos from the memorial which moved them. The rest were collected by the GLBT Historical Society.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

In the News: San Francisco Bay Times

Thousands Rally for Orlando Massacre Vigil in the Castro

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By Dennis McMillan

Thousands gathered in the streets and on sidewalks near the Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro in front of a stage on a flatbed truck to respond to the worst mass shooting ever in America’s history, and the worst loss of lives on our soil since 9-11. A total of 49 died and 53 patrons were wounded in the Orlando, Florida gay nightclub, Pulse, during Latin Night.

Two Drag Kings known as Momma’s Boyz opened the Castro vigil singing a mournful “Freedom” song to a tearful crowd. But the energy changed to anger and resolve when speakers took the podium. Supervisor Scott Wiener said, “We’re here today to recommit ourselves to the fight, to honor the survivors, to send good energy to the families and friends who have been left behind.”

Supervisor David Campos said, “As a gay Latino man, it is not shocking to me that the worst mass shooting in the history of this country would target the queer community.” He added, “We want our leaders to think of queer people of color not just when there’s a massacre, but every single day.” As many of the speakers stated, he emphasized 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.”

Approximately two-thirds of the Orlando victims were Latino. Lito Sandoval, SF Latino Democratic Club president, noted, “Latino leaders were not contacted [for the vigil]. We had to reach out.” He stressed, “Acts like this don’t make me want to back down. They make me want to continue to fight.”
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Among the many Muslims speaking at the rally was a Muslim doctor from San Francisco General Hospital, Suzanne Barakat, M.D. saying, “As a physician, I see these tragedies as symptoms of a deeper illness, a disease of the soul that goes by different names.”

Former Assemblyman and former Supervisor Tom Ammiano joked that NRA was an acronym for “National Real A-holes.” He made several fun-loving ribald jokes, but ended seriously, saying, “We are still here. We are still strong. We are still fighting, and we’re not going to live in fear!”
“We’ve known gun violence before,” shouted Pastor Megan Rohrer. “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 … streets.”

“There’s a lot of heartache, but we are coming together to create some type of solidarity, not only in San Francisco but also beyond ourselves,” said Dyke March organizer Rosa M. Hernandez.

Sister Merry Peter and Sister Roma of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence led the crowd in a recitation call and response, asking everyone to lift up their candles and repeat each time, “We shine our light on you!”
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Mayor Ed Lee spoke through a few boos from the audience, “We’re here in unity so we can stop this violence, and San Francisco must lead the way. Hatred will not drive out hatred, and darkness will not drive out the dark.” He concluded, “This is a stark reminder that violence still threatens our LGBT community.”

Toney Chaplin, Interim Police Chief who was recently appointed after Chief Greg Suhr resigned, said, “The NRA is a powerful group, but I am staring at a more powerful group.” He added, “We need to get this legislation in place to change the gun laws in this country.” He noted that San Francisco Police have increased patrols in the Castro and elsewhere. And they promise to really step up security at the San Francisco Pride Parade and Celebration.

Members of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus closed the vigil by singing “We Are a Gentle, Angry People,” with SFGMC Director Dr. Timothy Seelig leading the crowd in the familiar Holly Near protest song. Then they sang “We Shall Overcome” and closed with an old Irish blessing ending with “May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Following the rally in the Castro, people marched peacefully but defiantly to City Hall, which was appropriately lit in the rainbow colors. The names of murdered victims were read aloud. After the rally, many left their candles burning on a statue of Abraham Lincoln at City Hall. So appropriate, as Lincoln was murdered for civil rights.

To support the victims and their families, please go to

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,