How an out trans reverend is creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ churchgoers

Reverend Selina McMahon advocated for an LGBTQ+ outreach officer to help make queer members of the congregation feel welcome and recognised.

Photograph of Anglican Church Southern Queensland clergy members which includes a trans reverend
Image: Facebook: Anglican Church Southern Queensland

Since coming out as trans, Reverend Selina McMahon of the Anglican Church in Southern Queensland has been using her position of power to make LGBTQ+ churchgoers feel more comfortable in her church community.

When she first moved to Australia and stepped into the position of Reverend, Selina had not yet begun to transition. She said, “I’ve cross-dressed ever since I was a teenager, but I never ever believed I would transition because I didn’t feel confident enough or brave enough.”

After being inspired by her friend who decided to transition, Selina bravely communicated her identity with church leadership. She received support and encouragement to begin her transition journey while continuing to serve the church. The reaction from most of her parishioners was overwhelmingly positive, and Selina now leads her congregation as a proud trans woman.

Without clear gestures of solidarity, queer people are more likely to remain closeted in traditionally religious spaces. Just by being a visible force of trans-positive energy, McMahon has already changed the dynamic within her church community.

She remembers one of her congregation members approaching her and sharing, “We didn’t tell you but our granddaughter married another woman a week or two ago. That’s why we weren’t at church because we went to the wedding but we couldn’t tell you because we didn’t know how you would react.”

Interactions like this made McMahon want to open the conversation for more LGBTQ+ community members and allies who want to offer support.

Shortly after coming into the role, McMahon advocated for an LGBTQ+ outreach officer. In campaigning for this position, she emphasised that visible changes like this are essential in making queer members of the congregation feel welcome and recognised.

She also established a space for current and former LGBTQ+ church community members to share their feelings and past experiences with the church. After reviewing their accounts, the church will formally acknowledge their past wrongdoings and formally apologise to the community.

Reverend McMahon did not always plan on leading a church congregation in Australia. She was born in Middlesbrough, England, studied astronomy and had a career as a software developer before she felt called to ministry.

Now, she is able to live as her full authentic self and be a force of good, who gets to educate church members about LGBTQ+ identities. When explaining her transition to people who are less familiar with trans identities, the reverend draws inspiration from her favourite show, Doctor Who.



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Un post condiviso da Doctor Who (@bbcdoctorwho)

She told QNews, “You know the whole idea of regeneration the same person but a different cover and the phrases that I’ve used in my transition speech, sometimes I just basically plagiarised [from Doctor Who] them because they actually were quite appropriate.”

Just by opening these conversations, the Queensland Church is setting a valuable example to other congregations.

Last year, transgender and non-binary Episcopal priests held a meeting addressing the fact that while churches are gradually becoming more accepting of gay, lesbian, and bisexual identities, most have a lot of work to do when it comes to understanding and embracing trans and genderqueer identities.

During the meeting, Reverend Rowan Larson, a non-binary priest from Massachusetts who advocates for trans identities gave a presentation on queer identities and terminology, and pointed to places in the Bible where Jesus seemed to support breaking away from the gender binary.

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