Transgender Faith Leaders Create Welcoming Communities

GLAAD’s Religion, Faith, and Values Program is highlighting the achievements of trans faith leaders in this Transgender Awareness Week. Each of these faith leaders, including Rev. Dr. Erin Swenson in the Presbyterian Church (USA), have worked tirelessly to make our religious traditions more open and welcoming spaces for all people.

“We need to educate people about the enormous trials transgender people face in American society, trials that when not addressed put all of us in jeopardy,” Swenson said. “Those of us on any given day who appear too feminine or too masculine, too heavy or too skinny, too old or too sickly, know how vulnerable we are to our cultures perceptions of normalcy. However, rather than seeing our vulnerability as connecting us to transgender people, we often turn away from our transgender sisters and brothers as the ultimate outsiders.”

Rev. Dr. Erin Swenson

From GLAAD:

In 1996, Rev. Erin Swenson became the first Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister to retain her ordination after transitioning. In 1999, she co-founded the Southern Association for Gender Education, Inc. (SAGE), an organization dedicated to providing education and resources to colleges, universities, medical groups, and faith organizations. With her background in pastoral counseling, in 2003, Erin became the chair of the Health Ministries Committee of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta.

Swenson is the author of Pastoral Care in Transgender Experience (pdf) and recorded a message for Transgender Day of Remembrance in 2007.

Rev. David Weekley

Rev. David Weekley, also featured in GLAAD’s article, recorded a video for the I AM: Trans People Speak project. After serving as a United Methodist Pastor for nearly 30 years, Weekley came out to his congregation. In this video he shares the struggles of this journey and his experience of hope as things get better.