Last month, Nicole Garcia made history as the first known transgender Latina to serve as pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Ordained on November 23, the minister gave her first sermon at Westview Lutheran Church in Boulder, Colorado on December 1 to a congregation of more than 100.
“As a transgender Latina, I bring a breath of fresh air into all the places I walk into,” the 60-year-old told NBC News.
The Latina’s road to the altar was decades in the making. While she was raised Roman Catholic, she abandoned the church in her 20s. At the time, she was divorced from a woman she had been married to for eight years, dependent on alcohol and angry with God for not being able to “fix” her.
Nearly two decades later, Garcia began accepting herself and embarked on her transition journey. “I’ve always been Nicole. I’ve always been a woman,” she says.
Her 10-year transition was accompanied by a “come-to-Jesus” moment. She found an inclusive space within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a Christian denomination founded in 1988 with more than 4 million followers.
In 2008, Garcia was appointed transgender representative to the national board of directors of ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation, and four years later she applied and was surprised to be accepted into the Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minn.
Garcia’s pastorship comes 13 years after Megan Rohrer became the first-ever trans person to be ordained by the Lutheran church.
“Nobody can question my faith, my devotion to Christ, my devotion to the church,” Garcia told the news site. “That’s why I’m the pastor here. Being trans is secondary.”