Transgender priest Reverend Selina McMahon chats to QNews about her fascinating journey and her new role within the Anglican Church in Queensland.
Rev. Selina McMahon didn’t take the typical path to life with the Church.
She was born and raised in Middlesbrough, England before studying astronomy and then becoming a software developer.
However, she tells me in her broad North Yorkshire accent that’s when things changed.
“God got a hold of me and said, ‘Hey, come on, I’ve got a job for you to do,’ but didn’t actually say that it was going to be Ipswich,” she says laughing.
Selina is talking about Ipswich in Queensland where she relocated to after seeing an advert in the UK and wanting a change.
A change is what Selina got, but not entirely what she expected.
When she first arrived she hadn’t transitioned because she had been running from Selina her whole life.
“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,” she says.
“It was only after I came to Australia that I actually thought I was going to end up having to do this anyway.”
The catalyst was a friend transitioning in the UK and Selina feeling that it was “her turn.”
“That was the beginning of like a three-year process of working out how I was going to do it, how I was going to manage it with the parish and with my family.”
After a long process of discussions and support from the Church, Selina transitioned three years ago and within the parish, she was already serving.
Despite a small drop-off of parishioners, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
“Thankfully, broadly speaking, they were happy that actually that the same person that they got used to and got to know and love and maybe was actually still going to be their rector for the forthcoming future, so they stuck with it,” she says.
Some parishioners also felt they could be more open with Selina.
“I had some people come up to me to say ‘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 their wedding but we couldn’t tell you because we didn’t know how you would react’,” she says.
LGBTQIA+ outreach role
Being visible to the church-going community is a key part of Selina’s new role.
She is going to be an LGBTQIA+ outreach officer for the Anglican Church in Southern Queensland.
In the UK a similar position as a Transgender Outreach Officer was established and Selina saw the opportunity for a role that represented the whole LGBTQIA+ community. She just had to convince the Church of its importance.
“[I said] you’ve already got rainbow people in your congregation, you may not know who they are, they are terrified that you find out if you want to actually make them feel a real part of the congregation, there are some of the things you’re going to have to do,” she says.
The role was approved and is part of a new approach from the Church. They are currently undertaking a listening exercise with the LGBTQIA+ community.
The purpose of the exercise is to hear from LGBTQIA+ people who are current or former members of the church to find out about their experiences and understand past wrongdoings. The Church is going to use that exercise to develop a formal apology.
A stand-up act
Not only did Selina not take the typical approach to the church, but she’s also not your typical Reverend.
She is a huge Doctor Who fan and used the show as inspiration for how she told people about her transition.
“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,” she says laughing.
Throughout our chat, she cracks countless jokes so it comes as a surprise but not a shock that she has taken up stand-up comedy.
“There aren’t many transgender clergy who do stand up!” she says, and it’s hard to disagree.
Selina is a one-of-a-kind and there’s no doubt she is and will continue to make a difference to LGBTQIA+ people in the Church and beyond.
If you would like to find out more about the Anglican Church Southern Queensland’s listening exercise, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call Dr Peter Catt on (07) 3835 2239.
Read next: Anglican Church Southern Queensland apology
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