Saturday, June 24, 2017

In the News: NBC Bay Area

Controversy is brewing with the Trans March in San Francisco even before activists hit the streets Friday. Jean Elle reports.
(Published Friday, June 23, 2017)

In the News: SFist

Trans March Facing Controversy For Asking Participants Not To Speak To Or Thank Cops

Photo: Thomas Hawk
San Francisco's 14th Annual Trans March will take place today with Dolores Park events beginning at 3 p.m. and the actual march commencing at 6 p.m. Obviously, as with any major event in San Francisco where people will be walking down major thoroughfares, members of the San Francisco Police Department will be providing security.
NBC Bay Area reports that a since-removed guideline posted by organizers of this year's Trans March advised participants:
" enforcement is generally hostile towards trans people, particularly those who are black and brown. From harassment and abuse to violence and outright murder, law enforcement has not been a friend to our communities and many of our allies. Do not talk to them. Do not take selfies with them. Do not high-five them. Do not thank them."
Following backlash, organizers have amended the march's guidelines and deleted any mention of instructions on how to interact (or not) with members of law enforcement.
"For the officers who volunteer at the Trans March because they are LGBTQ, because they want to support their own community, it means the world to them," said San Francisco Police Department chaplain and transgender pastor Meghan Rohrer, speaking to NBC Bay Area.
In fact, the Trans March's own Flickr page features a gallery of past marches and includes photos of participants smiling and posing with members of the SFPD, including at least one trans officer.
The Trans March's guidelines page allows for users to comment and it appears a number of people left reactions to the "no high-fiving cops" rule. Some are in support of the guideline, other's disagree.
Coy A. Meza writes, "when you say not to be friendly to cops. I for one have had many Transgender friends in the police force including Miss T. Sparks (Theresa Sparks) who openly served at the head of the police commission. I find your wording a bit of a hate speech against one's own. I agree with the rest of your guidelines, Just not the one enforcing the divisions in our community, I am sure its ok to say hi or thank someone for at that time keeping cars from running you over."
On the other side of the issue: "If the police want to be respected, they need to show that they deserve it first. Respect for the community they claim to serve is worthless if it's held dependent on praise. By all means, civility is a reasonable policy, but no, saying bad things about violent institutions like policing in the United States is not 'hate speech,'" wrote user tin.
The march's board of directors were too swamped with preparations for today's event to respond to media requests for a quote. At last year's march, several politicians including Mayor Ed Lee and then-Senator Mark Leno were booed from the stage as they tried to address the crowd.
"I'm tired of people using our community as a prop. A political prop. I'm tired of politicians coming here for five minutes and doing a sound bite and running off. But do they really care about us? Wiener is against homelessness. A lot of trans are suffering from being homeless," explained journalist and marcher Ashley Love, at last year's Trans March.
As for this year's Pride celebrations, Rohrer is hoping the community can come together.
"We need all the colors of the rainbow at our Pride celebrations, even the blue," said Rohrer.

Thanks @sfpd for all you will do to keep  safe this year. You can't have a rainbow without the blue!
For some historical context as to why some members of the trans community might not be big fans of the SFPD, here's a Bay Area Reporter article on the anniversary of the 1966 Compton Cafeteria Riot, when trans women and gay men fought back against police harassment and brutality towards their communities. The riot is believed to be "the first known instance of collective militant queer resistance to police harassment in U.S. history."
Here's some info we put together about a documentary about the Compton's Cafeteria Riot, called Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria.
Obviously, this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the tense and sometimes violent history between members of the LGBTQ community and members of law enforcement. For its part, the SFPD is currently home to several gay, lesbian, and trans officers, an official LGBTQQI Resource Guide, and it runs an LGBT Community Advisory Forum.
Meanwhile, this week's historic SF Weekly cover story focuses on San Francisco's long trans history and the city's sanctioning of a part of the Tenderloin as the nation's first official transgender neighborhood in the United States. That area is now officially called Compton's TLGB District.
Security in general has been ramped up for this weekend's Pride festivities. The SFPD have issued bag size restrictions and inspections, as well as a statement that read, "There will be a significant police presence during Pride activities, with both uniformed and plainclothes officers on duty to monitor public events."

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

Pride 2017: Trans pastor and police chaplain helps others

There's a trans pastor in San Francisco who has fostered change by ministering to a congregation in the Outer Sunset, an area of the city not known for its wealth of LGBTQ institutions.
The Reverend Megan Rohrer is the first out transgender person to lead a Lutheran congregation. Currently the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, Rohrer has created an environment where all people – LGBT and otherwise – can worship together in a spirit of unity, harmony and joy.
Rohrer, 36, who prefers gender-neutral pronouns, was also sworn in earlier this year as a volunteer chaplain for the San Francisco Police Department and prays with the homeless as part of their work with the San Francisco Night Ministry.
The reverend is always ready to serve their community at a moment's notice. Within 24 hours of last December's fire at Oakland's Ghost Ship warehouse, which killed 36 people, Rohrer rushed to the East Bay to console survivors and to comfort the loved ones of those who perished. The following night Rohrer organized a memorial service at Harvey Milk Plaza for the transgender and gender non-conforming victims of the fire. (At least three people who died were transgender people.)
Rohrer recently spoke to the Bay Area Reporter about their own faith journey and their commitment to community service. It's a story that began in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Rohrer came out in college, and recalls that they had to move off campus after the death of Matthew Shepard due to safety concerns.
Shepard was a gay Wyoming college student who was beaten and tied to a fence post in 1998. His murder made national headlines and brought attention to anti-gay hate crimes. A federal hate crime law, signed by President Barack Obama in 2009, bears his name, as well as the name of James Byrd Jr., an African-American man who was dragged to death by three white men a few months before Shepard's murder.
"I moved to Berkeley in 2001 to go to seminary and began working as the executive director of Welcome, serving the chronically homeless in the Polk Gulch that June," Rohrer recalled. "Eating with the homeless and sleeping out on the streets for a week each year, I fed the homeless for 12 years, before Welcome's work transitioned to finding creative ways to patch holes in San Francisco's continuum of care.
"Called by Grace Lutheran, in the Sunset district, the congregation sees my advocacy work with Welcome as the mission of our church," Rohrer added.
When Rohrer's homeless advocacy first began, they were not yet identifying as transgender.
"When I was ordained as a pastor, in 2006, I identified as genderqueer," Rohrer said. "The idea of the transgender umbrella had not been named yet. Back then the only medical options for transitioning were to choose to either look like Ken or Barbie. Neither of those options seemed like a good fit for me."
Rohrer noted the changes brought about by the Obama administration – as well as lawsuits filed by private citizens – that made it possible for transgender people to "choose their own adventure," as Rohrer refers to it.
During the Obama years, the administration issued guidance directed at protecting trans students, which the Trump administration has since rescinded.
"As someone who always wanted to be a parent, many of my medical choices were also closely linked to my own fertility decisions," Rohrer said. "Now that my wife, Laurel Rohrer, and I have two beautiful children that we are adopting, my future choices may look different than my current choices. The beauty of pastor robes is that my uniform does not change when I change my space on the gender spectrum."

SFPD chaplain
The pastor addressed the significance of having an out trans person do the kind of spiritual work they do, including becoming a police chaplain. Rohrer said that Captain Teresa Ewins, a lesbian who oversees the Tenderloin station, encouraged them to become a chaplain.
"Particularly so that the LGBTQ members of the SFPD would know for certain that they could utilize the chaplains for self-care and support," Rohrer said. "In light of the guidelines released by the Trans March against being kind to police officers, the timing of my swearing in could not be more important."
Last year, Mayor Ed Lee and gay officials then-state Senator Mark Leno and then-Supervisor Scott Wiener were heckled and booed off the stage at the Trans March. This year, organizers said elected officials would not be speaking from the stage at the event.
Rohrer elaborated on the changes for this year's Trans March, scheduled for Friday, June 25.
"This year's Trans March guidelines go so far as forbidding trans people from saying kind things to the SFPD as they support marchers," Rohrer said. "I know many LGBTQ officers who volunteer to work at the Trans March, Dyke March, and Pride parade, particularly so they can support their community."
According to the Trans March's guidelines, "Law enforcement is generally hostile towards trans people, particular [sic] those who are black and brown. From harassment and abuse to violence and outright murder, law enforcement has not be [sic] a friend to our communities and many of our allies. Do not talk to them. Do not take selfies with them. Do not high five them. Do not thank them," the statement reads.
Trans March organizer Danielle Castro told the B.A.R. that the guideline was "for the safety of the community."
Asked about the possibility of LGBT SFPD members wanting to be involved with the march, Castro said, "Everyone is welcome to come. We just don't want an issue with our attendees being arrested."
Rohrer said that no one from the Trans March has contacted them to participate. But they and their family will be marching in Sunday's Pride parade.
"The kids, Laurel, and I will be marching in the Pride parade with the police contingent. I'll be in police blues with my clergy collar," Rohrer said.
Rohrer added that they want community members to know that they need not be afraid to ask for help.
"Beyond the care that I provide for members of the SFPD, I hope that the existence of a transgender SFPD chaplain can encourage at least one person to seek safety from domestic violence, to report a hate crime, or to learn more about the burden first responders carry on our behalf," Rohrer said.
When speaking with Rohrer, many might notice that they always specify that they are "openly transgender." The B.A.R. asked about the significance of the word "openly."
"There have been countless transgender people throughout history, most we will never know about because they live authentically in the world without need of disclosing their genital history to strangers," Rohrer said. "Some individuals, like me, disclose their transgender status in order to educate and advocate. Instead of saying I'm the first transgender person to do something, I say the first 'openly' transgender, to honor those who live non-disclosing lives. Their contributions are just as valuable."
Rohrer also addressed their preference for gender-neutral pronouns.
"For some, gender-neutral pronouns name a space of defiance, living intentionally in the middle or outside of the gender spectrum," they said. "As a pastor, working a very public job, gender-neutral pronouns give me the space I need to make choices about my health and body privately. When and how I choose to identify as male, female or both, is less important to me than helping people live with hope, kindness and faith."
Rohrer has indeed brought change to the LGBT community, and to the lives of transgender people themselves, many of whom are finding welcoming homes in faith communities for the first time.
"Part of the reason I'm so open about both my faith and my trans status is because I regularly get emails and social media messages from people who say that they decided not to kill themselves after they read about me," Rohrer said. "These messages are humbling and far too much of a weight for one person to carry, perhaps this is why I work so hard to support and mentor others. Sometimes the greatest things we can do is be ourselves proudly and publicly."

For information on Grace Lutheran Church, visit

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors honored LGBT residents for Pride Month at its meeting Tuesday, June 20. Each supervisor selected a person or group to recognize. From left are: District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai, art curator Melonie Green, San Francisco Cultural Affairs Director Tom DeCaigny, trans pastor Megan Rohrer, drag queen Juanita More!, community leader Rick Johnson, clerk of the board Angela Calvillo, art curator Melorra Green, activist Jesus Barragan, District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, and District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen. Other honorees, not pictured, included API Equality Northern California, Josue Arguello, and the San Francisco Fire Department's ResQ group, which was represented by Keith Baraka and Nicol Juratovac.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

Remembering Pulse victims


Over 100 people gathered at 18th and Castro streets in San Francisco Monday, June 12 to mark one year since the tragic mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida that took the lives of 49 people. The Reverend Megan Rohrer was one of several speakers at the event. Another remembrance took place at Skylawn Memorial Park in San Mateo. Names of the victims were read at both Bay Area events.

Photo: Rick Gerharter

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

SF Castro remembers Orlando nightclub shooting victims on one year anniversary

Dozens of people gathered in San Francisco’s Castro District Monday, June 12, 2017 to remember the 49 lives that were lost one year from the date in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. The shooting shook the Orlando community as well as the LGBTQ community around the country, occurring on Latin night during Pride month. Cities around the world have shown support and solidarity for those affected and have started the #HonorThemWithAction campaign, urging people to take action to uproot the hatred that feeds bullying, harassment, discrimination, and violence. Photos by Sarahbeth Maney/Special to S.F. Examiner.

Pastor Megan Rohrer speaks during the one-year memorial of the Pulse nightclub shooting, held in the Castro District, on Monday, June 12, 2017. (Sarahbeth Maney/Special to S.F. Examiner)

In the News: KTVU

San Francisco remembers the Pulse nightclub massacre

- At the one year mark of the Pulse nightclub massacre, a national campaign seeks to turn sorrow into tangible action.

Organized as #HONORTHEMWITHACTION, people gathered in cities across the country, including in San Francisco's Castro district.

"Out of the bars and into the streets," shouted Pastor Megan Rohrer of the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, addressing a crowd of about 100 at 18th Street and Castro Street.
It was a timely chant, considering local bars were full of cheering basketball fans watching the Warriors win the championship.

The mood at the vigil was distinctly darker, with the microphone passed around, so people could ready the Pulse victim's names aloud.

Many of their voices shook with emotion, and tears were evident in the crowd.
"Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old," was a name with special resonance for Orlando transplant Donnie Plungis.

"Pulse was never my favorite club, it was my first gay club, but never my favorite club," Plungis told the gathering.

Before moving to San Francisco two years ago, Plungis went to Pulse many times with his friend Leinonen, known as "Drew."

"What I wouldn't do to randomly bump into him on a dance floor again," Plungis said sadly.
Drew and his boyfriend Juan Guerrero were among the victims of Omar Mateen, the 29 year old gunman killed by SWAT officers.

"Drew and his boyfriend died with 47 others as a victim of a system that does not care about each other," declared Plungis.

The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history happened in the middle of Pride Month, and turned the nightclub, a haven, into a horror.

On that day a year ago, 10,000 people spontaneously gathered in San Francisco.
In the year since, LGBTQ leaders say the climate has only worsened. 

"People expressing whatever hatred and fear they had in their heart, expressing it outwardly and violently and that creates an unsafe environment for all of us," vigil organizer Joanie Juster told KTVU.

The response, Juster says, should be to take action, and push back against hate and discrimination and violence in any way possible.

As the vigil concluded, participants wrote personal pledges on post-it notes and left them on a bulletin board.

They also came to the microphone, to voice their pledge aloud.

"Honor them with action can take many forms," explained Juster. "Running for office, or simply being kind to each other, protecting someone who's being bullied, or teaching a child to be open and accepting, everyone can take some action."