The Reverend Erin K. Swenson, Th.M., Ph.D., was ordained as Eric Karl Swenson in 1973 by the Presbytery of Atlanta, which was then a part of the southern Presbyterian Church in the U.S. Twenty-three years later in 1996, after completing a gender transition from male to female, that ordination was upheld by the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, PCUSA, making Erin the first known mainstream minister to transition from male to female while remaining in ordained office.
Erin continues to practice active ministry as a psychotherapist/marriage and family therapist with a specialty in gender identity at her office in Decatur, working primarily with gender identity issues. She travels nationally and internationally presenting to conferences, churches, organizations, seminaries, and universities. Her Monday evening gender support group has been serving the Atlanta transgender community for over twenty years.
She continues to maintain warm and supportive relationships with her ex-spouse and their two grown daughters, as well the rest of her family, in the wake of her 1995/96 gender transition.
Erin’s favorite leisure activities are reading, writing, and training for triathlon.
The lives of transgender and gender non-conforming people have become a modern battleground. It is unfortunate that courageous people who take great risks to live in the world authentically should become the topic of such heated debate. We only want to live with the best expression of who we are. There is no intent to harm or dissemble, simply to live and work in our communities without fear or disrespect. (Swenson, E., 2016)
Blake, J. (1996, October 23). Presbyterians vote to keep transsexual minister in fold. The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Blake, J. (2000, July 9). Swenson: Fighting an inner war and winning. The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Cumming, D. (1995, September 2). Seeking Acceptance: The Rev. Eric Karl Swenson’s search for self ultimately led to a gender change. Now, Erin Katrina Swenson is asking the Presbyterian Church to accept her ministry. The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Holcomb, T. (1996, July 16). Groundbreaker for ALTA: Group clears player who had sex change. The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
McKinnon, J. (2003, January 21). Transgender minister visits local churches: Presbyterian cleric invited by members concerned by slaying of Eddie “Gwen” Araujo, Jr. The Oakland Tribune.
Pedersen, D. (1996, November 2) Crossing over: can a transsexual minister retain her ordination? Newsweek.
Schulte, E. (2007, March 13). Empathetic with Stanton: An interfaith service gathers those who support transgender people. St. Petersburg Times.
Swenson, E. (2010, March 9). Becoming myself: A transgender pastor’s story. Christian Century.