Transgendered Minister
to Preach, Give Workshop

After struggling with gender issues for decades, ordained minister Eric Swenson had a sex-change operation. Now known as the Reverend Erin Swenson, she will preach and conduct a workshop on transgender issues this week.

The Reverend Erin Swenson, a transgendered Presbyterian minister, will be the guest preacher at the April 26 Protestant worship service. The following day, she will conduct a workshop titled "Transgender: Minding the Body or Embodying the Mind?"

At the worship service, Swenson will speak on the church's acceptance of difference in the New Testament. Her sermon is titled "Join This Chariot." The workshop will allow Swenson to discuss the issues of gender in our culture and describe her experiences of gender and truth in both her family and the church. The workshop is open only to the MHC community, but the worship service is open to all.

Swenson was born male, married, and fathered two daughters, but struggled with gender issues for decades. Swenson was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church before she had a sex-change operation. After completing the surgical procedures to change gender, Swenson asked Presbyterian officials to let her retain the ordination she'd received as Eric Swenson. The church's response marked "the first time that any mainstream church had upheld the ordination of a transsexual Christian minister," according to a Newsweek article on the decision. The magazine quoted Swenson as saying, "I'm no she-male or drag queen, and I don't want to fight society. But I have as much right as anyone to practice my livelihood."

Since 1973, Swenson has served as "pastor and preacher, chaplain at a psychiatric center, instructor and supervisor of seminarians ... and for the past 12 years has also run a private marriage-counseling practice," according to Newsweek.

She is currently writing a biographical novel that aims to help people understand what it's like to grow up transgendered.