Rohrer becomes SFPD's first trans chaplain

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Wednesday January 18, 2017
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The Reverend Dr. Megan Rohrer, the first out trans person to be ordained as a Lutheran minister, is now the first transgender chaplain at the San Francisco Police Department.

Rohrer, who leads Grace Lutheran Church in the Sunset district, was sworn in by acting Police Chief Toney Chaplin during a ceremony held at SFPD's Third Street headquarters Tuesday, January 17.

The SFPD position is voluntary.

Rohrer, 36, who prefers gender-neutral pronouns, will continue at Grace Lutheran and will also continue their work with San Francisco Night Ministry, a network of clergy who go out into the streets to counsel and pray with the homeless.

Around two-dozen people attended the ceremony, including several leaders of the city's transgender community. These included former SFPD Lieutenant Stephan Thorne, the first officer in the department's history to transition while on duty. Thorne, who retired in 2014, transitioned in 1994, 10 years after joining the department.

"I'm excited to be here," Thorne told the Bay Area Reporter. "This is a wonderful thing. It's a wonderful continuation of my legacy. Now trans members of the community have another resource to serve their emotional and spiritual needs."

Theresa Sparks, Mayor Ed Lee's senior adviser for transgender initiatives, was also in attendance.

"This is historical," Sparks told the B.A.R. "Not only for the department but for the community."

Thorne opened the swearing-in ceremony as he spoke from the podium.

"It's my honor and privilege to be here in 2017 to be part of a legacy of tolerance and inclusion at SFPD," he said. "We developed the first law enforcement transgender training program – it's since been used by police in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C."

Rohrer then stepped up and spoke before Chaplin swore them in.

"My greatest hope as a chaplain is to listen to what is needed," Rohrer said. "My body is a body that represents the full diversity of San Francisco and the San Francisco Police Department."

Rohrer acknowledged that in the past they had been subjected to hate crimes and domestic violence, which they did not report.

"I'll be popping up on people's best days and worst days," Rohrer said. "My hope is to listen and to show up – to show up for you is a great honor,"

Rohrer added that they also hoped to inspire other LGBT folks to report crimes when they occur.

Chaplin then stepped up to the podium and performed the swearing-in amidst applause from attendees.

After the ceremony cake was served. "I feel honored," Rohrer told the B.A.R. as they posed for photos. "There's a lot more work to do and a lot more praying to do."