Minister knows transgender issues – Meiling Arounnarath, Staff Writer

Chapel Hill – As a 10-year-old, Eric Swenson stuffed toilet paper in his T-shirt to make breasts.

At 60, Erin Swenson talks to churchgoers, college students and others about life as a transgender person.

This weekend, Swenson, the first known mainstream Protestant minister to go from male to female while ordained, will speak at the Church of Reconciliation as part of a weekend conference, “Transgender Experience: Deconstructing Stereotypes, Constructing Identities and Communities.”

“I grew up ‘closeted’ as a transgender person,” Swenson said. “I know what it’s like to live in that closet and having to struggle with those feelings of shame and fear.”

Transgender people are becoming more visible. Rebecca Romijn plays one in the hit TV show “Ugly Betty.” Felicity Huffman starred as one in the 2005 movie “Transamerica.” Newsweek ran a cover story last month.