Saturday, December 10, 2016

Best Sellers and 2016 Books Lists

Four of my children's books were named in Q Spirit's top 35 LGBTQ Christian Books of 2016.  And two were named best sellers.  See all the books here:

4. “Faithful Families”  by Megan Rohrer and Pamela Ryan
This children’s book reminds kids that God loves them, no matter what their family looks like — even if they have two mommies or two daddies. It was inspired by the many families and children at the child care center of San Francisco’s Grace Lutheran Church, where the author is pastor. 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 is the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran Church. Published by Wilgefortis Press. For more info and a sample page, see First-ever LGBT religious children’s books published.

Mr. Grumpy Christian” by Megan Rohrer.
“Mr. Grumpy Christian” is a kids’ book for LGBTQ families, but adults love it too. The rhyming book affirms:
When a grumpy Christian ruins your day,
“Remember God’s love is here to stay.”
It was written for LGBTQ families to read if they hear Christians telling them that God cannot love them. In the true spirit of Christ, the book goes on to add, “But remember that God’s love extends to grumpy Christians too.” Rohrer wrote the book after meeting a 7-year old-boy who tried to kill himself because a pastor threatened him with hell. It is written for children ages 5 to 10. The author is pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco and the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran Church. Published by Wilgefortis Press. For more info and a sample page, see First-ever LGBT religious children’s books published.

Transgender Children of God” by Megan Rohrer.
Even a child can understand transgender identity with this heartwarming book aimed at kids ages 2 to 8. “Transgender children of God play with both dolls and trucks. No matter what you play with, God will love you,” it begins. The books goes on to proclaim God’s love regardless of what you wear, how you look or how you mix male and female. It also affirms transgender parents, although it can be read by any progressive family of faith. The author is pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco and the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran Church. Published by Wilgefortis/Lulu Press. Available in both paperback and e-book versions. For more info and a sample page, see First-ever LGBT religious children’s books published.

Is It a Boy, a Girl, or Both?” by Megan Rohrer.
Animals have amazing gender diversity created by God and revealed in this new children’s book. It opens with the line, “How do I know who is a boy and who is a girl? God created diverse people and animals.” The rest is a fun safari through the different gender expressions in creation, including pictures of birds, bunnies, koalas, penguins, sea horses, hyenas, chimps, deer, banana slugs, fish and of course people. It ends with an affirmation: “God will love you no matter what. And so will I.” Geared for kids age 8 and up, it is one of the most popular books in the Good News Childrens’ Books series. The author is pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco and the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran Church. Published by Wilgefortis Press. For more info and a sample page, see First-ever LGBT religious children’s books publishedMore info

Friday, December 9, 2016

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

Bay Area grieves Ghost Ship fire victims


Hundreds of people gathered at Oakland's Lake Merritt Monday for a candlelight vigil to mourn the 36 lives lost in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire. Photo: Michael Nugent

Many in the Bay Area are grieving the loss of 36 people, including three who identified as transgender individuals, who died in a fire at an Oakland warehouse known as the Ghost Ship. The space, which had reportedly housed several artists, was the site of an electronic music concert Friday night, December 2, when a three-alarm blaze erupted at 11:32.

Officials are investigating what led to the fire at the Fruitvale district warehouse, which had been the subject of complaints as recently as November.
Cash Askew
One of the victims, Cash Askew, 22, of Oakland, was part of the band Them Are Us Too. Askew recently told journalist Beth Winegarner, "As a young teenager, I was definitely attracted to goth and new wave in part because of the androgyny, and that aesthetic gave me a way to explore my gender expression before I could even come to terms with being transgender."

Recalling Em Bohlka also known as Em B, 33, of Oakland, the East Bay Times reported that Jack Bohlka, Em Bohlka's father, "said on Facebook that his daughter was transitioning from a man to 'becoming a beautiful, happy woman.
Em Bohlka
'She at last was living as she was meant to live. I only wish she had more time to fully enjoy her life,'" he said.

Scout Wolfcave, a friend of fire victim Feral Pines, 29, of Berkeley, told the Times, "For many of her trans community, Feral was a guide and sister in a world of small joys and terrible precarity for trans women. Feral was truly committed to empowering those that the world deems powerless."
Feral Pines 
Gehno Aviance, 43, a gay San Francisco man who often works as a DJ, knew many of the people who died in the fire.

In a Facebook exchange with the Bay Area Reporter , Aviance said, "I am utterly devastated but know that it is my higher mission to work through these feelings and live a life that honors theirs. This means: making more art, helping create non-corporate safe-spaces for artists and art-lovers to commune, loving myself, and helping other heal, to name a few."

Aviance recalled three friends in particular.

Amanda Allen Kershaw, a photographer, "was an incredible human" and "an inspiration to many," he said. She'd spent this last Thanksgiving at the home of Aviance and his husband.

Another friend was Johnny Igaz, a musician, DJ, producer, and historian who went by the name Nackt and was "a loud voice for trans and queer rights," Aviance said.

Igaz was "one of those who knew the roots of the modern sounds we hear today," he said. The last gig Igaz played before the fire was Aviance's Say YES! Party, he said.

Chelsea Faith, 33, who was also known as Cherushii, also DJ'd the Say YES! Party. Faith produced and performed her own music and had a weekly show at Underground SF called "Run the Length of Your Wildness."

Aviance said she was an "incredible soul and artist. ... Her music was some of the best" he'd heard.
Trans people and many others attended a vigil Monday night, December 5, in San Francisco's Castro district.

The Reverend Megan Rohrer, who identifies as transgender, said, "There is a need to create a safe space to mourn and to honor the transgender people who died in the fire."

Ian Stanford, an Episcopal priest, said, "As a trans man I want to call out that trans lives matter. Artists matter. Musicians matter. Children matter. The disabled matter. Mommas matter. All humans matter."
Sister Merry Peter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence choked back tears as she recalled other times of grief: The mass shooting earlier this year at the gay Pulse nightclub in Florida; the November victory of President-elect Donald Trump, who's loaded his administration with people who are anti-LGBT; and the 1978 assassination of gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk.

"I just want to be standing with you tonight," Merry Peter said. "We were just here in June for Orlando. We were here night after night after the election. We were here to remember Harvey with candles and prayers. And now tonight – my heart is breaking that we have to do it again."

Another vigil Monday night was held at Oakland's Lake Merritt.

Micah Estrella said, "I lost my brother Chris in the fire. Knowing he is still with me spiritually is the one thing that has gotten me through it."

Jessica Jarvis, of Richmond, California, said, "This has shaken the entire global rave scene. Tragedy brings people together, at this gathering people are reaching out and hugging strangers."

Officials respond
The Alameda County District Attorney's office has launched a criminal investigation into the fire, which destroyed the warehouse space at 1315 31st Avenue.

"We are committed to bringing every resource to bear to determine what happened here and how such a tragic event could have occurred," Oakland officials said in a news release. "Our priority is to bring closure to this tragedy for the victims' families."

Personnel from the Oakland Fire Department; Oakland Police Department; U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Alameda County Sheriff's Office; and other agencies have been working at the scene of the fire since the weekend.

Many have raised questions about the safety of the building, which was leased by Derick Ion Almena and reportedly was crammed with pianos, rugs, artwork, and other objects, and had a problematic electrical system, no sprinklers, and limited exits. According to media reports, many artists had lived there over the years even though it wasn't zoned for that use. It doesn't appear city agencies had done much to address the hazards.

"The last permitted use of the building was as a warehouse," officials said. On November 13, the city "received complaints of blight and unpermitted interior construction at the building."

On November 17, officials said, "a city building inspector visited the property and verified the blight complaint, but could not gain access to the building to confirm the other complaint regarding unpermitted construction. This is an ongoing investigation."

Darin Ranelletti, interim director of Oakland's planning and building department, didn't respond to an interview request.

Aviance, the DJ who lost friends in the fire, said, "I have many negative feelings come up when I think of how all these deaths could have been prevented, but I will allow the experts to decide and our justice system to make a ruling."

David-Elijah Nahmod and Michael Nugent contributed to this report.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

In the News: NBC

Transgender Community Wants Proper Identification After Deadly Oakland Warehouse Fire

The father of one victim says all communities must become more accepting so "everyone can enjoy a great party or concert in a space that is not a death trap"

Cash Askew, Em Bohkla and Feral Pines
The Oakland warehouse artists' enclave was supposed to be a safe place, emotionally and spiritually, for the artists and free spirits who chose lives off the beaten track. An electronic music party had also attracted many in the transgender community, who had come together on Friday night, as they did regularly, to dance with friends and blow off steam.
But physically, the enclave wasn't safe at all on Friday. A fire ripped through the illegally converted warehouse at 1305 East 31st Avenue in the city's Fruitvale neighborhood, killing at least 36 people.
It's the deadliest blaze in Oakland history, and it counts at least three transgender women among the victims: Cash Askew, 22, of Oakland; Feral Pines, 29, of Berkeley and Em Bohlka, 33, of Oakland.  
The father of one is lamenting how few spaces trans people have to gather safely.
"My heart goes out to the entire trans community who feel as if they must gather in unsafe buildings to experience their community and celebrate their identity," said Jack Bohlka in an Instagram post remembering his daughter, Em. 

Friends and family prefer their new names be used to identify them, instead of the ones they were born with, following commonly accepted tradition in the trans community. And that means authorities are now also dealing with an unorthodox situation; one they said they're willing to comply with, albeit with a few mistakes.

What's in a Name?When Feral Pines was identified as a victim in the fire, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office on Monday first gave her name as Justin Fritz, her birth name. That was corrected later and the sheriff tweeted an apology.
In an interview on Tuesday, Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. J.D. Nelson said the coroner's office is now identifying the victims to the public by the names their families — not their friends — ask for, and will note the legal name, if different, on the official death certificate, which is the law. Alameda County sheriff's Tya Modete added that department was working with an LGBT advocate to report the proper gender identification.
A name means a lot in the trans community, a fact that was known by most, if not all, of the creative, musical and artistic party goers at the warehouse on Friday night.
"It's called 'dead naming,'" Carol Dauley, an audio engineer and past president of Transgender SF said in an interview with NBC Bay Area on Tuesday. "That means their old name no longer exists. It's disrespectful, and in the eyes of the trans community, there is never a good reason to use the old name."
Scout Wolfcave, executive director at the Trans Assistance Project in Portland and a friend to one of the victims, said using the right names and pronouns is especially important for trans people when they die.
"Many in the transgender community don't want to be referred to by the names they were given at birth, because when they transition from one gender to another, they want to make a clean break from the past," Wolfcave wrote on Facebook.
Pastor Megan Rohrer, of Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco, said she appreciated that first responders were taking great pain to get pronouns correct.
"I just want to lift up how great I think that is, that they're taking the time to do their best, even though it's really hard," they said. (Rohrer uses they/their as gender pronouns.)
Rohrer also noted that the LGBT community at large has a long history of holding celebrations in unsafe places on the margins of the community, going back to the days of vice squads patrolling San Francisco.
"The trans community and the LGBT community, when they don't feel safe in other parts of community, often find safety amongst artists," Rohrer said.
And yet the warehouse was beautiful, according to Rohrer, and it seemed to them that it was a great place to have a party: "That's kind of the transgender experience. There's so much beauty and there's so much risk, all the time.

Here are brief portraits of the three women who died in the fire.
Feral Pines: 'Shined in the Sun'Wolfcave was roommates with Pines, who moved to the Bay Area from Indiana and was originally from Connecticut. She graduated from Staples High School in 2005 and attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, where she studied offset lithography, her father said. She had always loved music.
"I had just texted her on Friday, telling her about something I was doing with my daughter that she and I use to do together and I know that she saw it, so that makes me feel better," Pines' sister, Amanda Parry, told News 12 in Connecticut. And in an email, friend Sarah Patterson said that Pines was a "syth genius with impeccable musical taste," who was also an "anti-facist" who was seen taking down swastikas inside the Ghost Ship.
On Facebook, Wolfcave reminisced about being really close with Pines — they loved and hated most of the same things.
"We also all had eerily similar senses of humor and were constantly joking about death, burners, body horror, poop, tiny glasses, gogurt," Wolfcave wrote. "Conversely, there were a few things that Feral and I would always argue about, like ... whether one would rather go to Burning Man or the Gathering of the Juggalos."
Pines moved to California recently and just "blossomed," Wolfcave wrote.
"She went from the comically sad basement dwelling synth collector," Wolfcave wrote, "to a person that shined in the sun, and moved up and down the 1, and took in the fresh air and saw all these fresh possibilities open up before her."
Cash Askew: 'Brilliant, Talented, Unique' StudentAskew, a graduate of Urban High School in San Francisco, was active in the Bay Area music and art scene and was part of a band called Them Are Us Too. "Them" is a preferred pronoun for many in the transgender community instead of "him" or "her."
The band's debut album on Dais Records, Remain, was released in 2015.
"Cash Askew was an absolutely loved and treasured member of the Dais Records family," the label and band's management team said in a statement.
"We were in awe of her talent, her gentle kindness, and her creative momentum," it continued. "Her passing is an excruciating loss that we may never fully process or recover from."
Askew also was a 2008 graduate of the Children's Day School in San Francisco. "She was a brilliant, talented, unique, nonconformist student," Head of School Molly Huffman wrote in a letter, noting that Askew transitioned to female after middle school.
CDS teacher Terry Askhinos wrote a letter to the school remembering Askew as "a gentle, free spirited 13-year-old who always found ways to be an individual, whether it was in her class work, her fiction writing, her fashion, her art, or her political convictions. Cash was always one step ahead of the rest of us and I often held her up as an example to the class of how to make learning a work of art."
Em Bohlka: Beginning her TransitionHer father, Jack Bohlka of Claremont, Calif. took to Instagram to document his child's life.
"Many of you will remember her as Matt. But recently she was transitioning to become a beautiful, happy woman. She took the name Em. I just wish with all my heart that she had more time to live her life as she truly wanted. My heart goes out to the entire trans community who feel as if they must gather in unsafe buildings to experience their community and celebrate their identity. Our communities must become more open and accepting of all people, all identities, so that everyone can enjoy a great party or concert in a space that is not a death trap."
He also told NBC Bay Area in a statement he will be establishing a fund at his local LGBT center in memory of Em, so that more transgender people will be able to become who they truly are, and so that there will be more safe spaces available.”
Donations to the Oakland warehouse fire victims can be made at
NBC's Asher Klein contributed to this report. 

In the News: KGO-TV

Watch the video here

The Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse fire has been described as heartbreaking for the LGBT community. There are at least three transgender people who are been confirmed dead.

Reverend Megan Rohrer is a pastor who is supporting families and friends of some of the transgender people who died in that fire.

So far three have been confirmed, 22-year-old Cash Askew, a musician with the dream pop band "them are us too" and Feral Pines, 29, whose brother told the Los Angeles Times she followed her path and was true to herself. The third transgender person identified was Em Bohlka whose partner, Natalie Jahanbani talked to ABC7 News on the phone.

"The world has a way of being unkind to those who we consider to be the norm and I just don't want one more trans person to die without getting a voice and getting to know who they are," said Rev. Megan Rohrer, transgender pastor.

Click here to donate to the Alameda County Disaster Relief Fund.

I spoke to one parents of a LGBT child who knew one of the victims whose name has been released and she was devastated not only mourning the loss of friends and a beautiful musician but it could have been her child.

Last night, Rev. Rohrer led a vigil in San Francisco requested by the LGBT community. Immediately following the fire, she was called in by the city of Oakland to assist those in the transgender community.

"I want people to know that they can get support whether it's today or in four months when it feels safe enough and all of the cameras have turned off and they feel then can get help in the community," said Rohrer.

In the News: Hoodline

Castro Vigil Honors Trans Victims Of Ghost Ship Fire In Oakland

About 75 people gathered at Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro on Monday night to pay their respects to the lives lost at the Ghost Ship Collective in Oakland this past weekend. So far 36 people are confirmed dead in the blaze.

The vigil was organized by Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer of Grace Lutheran Church in the Sunset District. Rev. Rohrer is the first openly transgender pastor to be installed at a Lutheran congregation.
"There's a need to create a safe space to mourn and to honor the transgender lives who were lost in the fire," Pastor Rohrer said as the vigil got underway. "LGBT people have always been welcomed in artistic communities. Cash Askew, a famous transgender musician who perished at Ghost Ship might have been a big draw to the trans community."
Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer adressing mourners at last night's vigil.
Vigil attendees lit candles and wrote personal messages, which were hung on the railing above the plaza.
Pastor Rohrer, who prefers gender-neutral pronouns, said that they had already spent some time counseling the families, friends and loved ones of those who died at Ghost Ship.

"My heart was stirred by the time I spent with the victim's families," Pastor Rohrer said. "Today we mourn all the victims. We hold in strength all who were lost. We need safe spaces for trans individuals so we can go to the bathroom without fear. So we don't have to fear a change in politicians. Live for those whose lives were cut short—be the light in the deep darkness."

Tracy Garza, a disabled transgender woman, was the next to speak. "This is this the saddest time I can remember here," she said. "I'm seeing some unprecedented things happen across the country—the man coming into the White House has never been a public servant. Most of us are trying to remain optimistic, our community has always been resilient. I am so grateful to those who came for a few minutes to remember the victims of the Oakland fire."

Garza also reiterated the need for safe transgender spaces.
Personal messages hung along the plaza's railing.
Rohrer then introduced Rev. Cameron Partridge and Rev. Ian Stanford. Both are Episcopalian priests as well as transgender men.

"I'm here to honor the creation of safe spaces," Rev. Partridge said. "What can we all do to create safe spaces? Ghost Ship was a place where people were going not only to be creative, but to be safe."
Rev. Stanford led the crowd in prayer. "O Gracious One. We who call you by many names or by none at all. We ask that you stand with us. We ask that you comfort and console us. Bind our voices as one as we come together. In all our diversity we come to you. As a trans man I want to call out that trans lives matter. Artists matter. Musicians matter. Children matter. The disabled matter Mommas matter. All humans matter."

Sister Merry Peter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence fought tears as she spoke. "I want us to remember that we came here for a reason," she said. "Why were our artists, our dancers, our trans folk in a shoddy warehouse? We will have our answers and we will change things for the better."
The Sister then invited everyone to turn to the person nearest them and say, "I am with you." Some people wept as they did so.
Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer and Sister Merry Peter | PHOTO COURTESY OF MONSERRATH ARREOLA
Both Rev. Rohrer and Sister Merry said they hoped this would be the final time the community would have to meet amid tragedy.

"While I mourn the victims there has to be action around affordable housing," said Jordan Gwendolyn Davis, a 31-year-old transgender woman, after the vigil. "A lot of the people who lived in the Ghost Ship were priced out of housing. We need affordable housing and work spaces that are up to code."

Rev. Rohrer suggested that people set up buddy systems so that loved ones can stay informed during emergencies. "Ensure that at least one safe person has a copy of your legal name and your emergency contacts," they said. "So that if God forbid a tragedy happens, they can be identified and mourned with full dignity."

The pastor also said that they were happy that authorities were taking the time to learn the preferred names and genders of the dead before releasing those names to the public.

In the News: San Francisco Chronicle

Vigil in SF mourns transgender victims of Oakland fire Michael Bodley
Updated 10:03 am, Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Photos: Paul Kuroda, Special To The Chronicle

A candlelight vigil was held Monday night in San Francisco for several transgender victims of the Oakland warehouse fire.

Several dozen people gathered at Harvey Milk Plaza at Market and Castro streets to mourn their transgender friends and relatives, most of whose deaths have not yet been confirmed.

Thirty-six bodies have been found in the converted warehouse on 31st Avenue and International Boulevard, where dozens of partyers were trapped when a fire broke out Friday night during an electronic music performance by Golden Donna 100% Silk.

The mourners Monday prayed next to dozens of candles laid out on an ornate tapestry surrounded by homemade signs with names of victims or people still missing. A rainbow-colored ribbon was draped over a railing behind the candles.

“The fire was horrendous,” said the Rev. Cameron Partridge, 43, a priest at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, “and we’re realizing increasingly that there were a number of trans folks there that were part of our community.”

Nobody knows exactly how many of their brethren were killed, said the Rev. Megan Rohrer, a transgender Lutheran pastor in San Francisco, because most people in the community use different names from what’s on their birth certificates, which investigators use to identify victims.
“It’s not known if we will be able to identify all of the individuals,” Rohrer said, adding that “your tears will be my tears.”

Tracy Garza, a board member at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, said the people living in the warehouse community known as the Ghost Ship were there mostly because they had no other affordable place to go where transgender people can live and thrive.

In the News: NBC Bay Area

Vigils in Oakland, SF Honor Victims of Warehouse Fire

Hundreds of people holding lights honored those who died in the Oakland warehouse fire during a vigil Monday night in Oakland's Lake Merritt. Kim Yonenaka reports. (Published Monday, Dec. 5, 2016)
Hundreds of people holding lights honored those who died in the Oakland warehouse fire during a vigil Monday night in Oakland's Lake Merritt.

Those in the crowd embraced each other or held up lights or flowers and said aloud the names of people they lost in the blaze, though some booed the city's mayor when she spoke.
Several people in the crowd had signs offering "free hugs."
Among the attendees were the parents of 35-year-old Travis Hough, who died in the fire. He was there to support one of the performers.
"He worked with troubled kids," Hough's dad said. "Everyone knew him as Mr. Travis. They all loved him."
Attendees were asked to bring flameless candles, glow sticks, flashlights or other lights. Whether they knew someone lost in this fire, or were just touched by the magnitude of this tragedy, the vigil drew a crowd of about 500 people.

"I'm only 15, and I don't know what they are going through," Taylor Nelson said. "I want to say they are in my prayers."

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf spoke at the event, where she was greeted with boos and calls to resign from saddended, angry atendants. Some people have criticized Schaaf, saying she emphasized the warehouse's code violations instead of the city's shortage of affordable housing in the hours following the deadly fire.

"As we move forward right now, our focus has to be on those who we know are lost and those we are going to learn have been lost," the mayor said.

In San Francisco, a tearful crowd remembered the transgender victims of the warehouse fire.
"Some of those members don't have a connection to family," one attendee said. "We are their family; it is our job to hold them up."

The transgender clergy said some members of the community lived in the warehouse. But many were there to see popular transgender performer Cash Askew, the 22-year-old who died in the fire.

Em Bohlka's father said his daughter was there to see the show. In a statement, he said his heart is broken, and it was wonderful to see her becoming who she was meant to be.

It's possible some victims' parents will never know their child died.

Pastor Megan Rohrer said in life many of the transgender victims struggled to feel safe and belong. She said in death, the coroner is respecting who they were.
"It's kind of beautiful," she said. "They are taking time to make sure they're using chosen names and preferred gender pronouns."