She proclaims that “God is not afraid” of LGBT+. Trans woman, lesbian, ex-rock guitarist and author of mystery novels, Anglican church pastor Rachel Mann claims her identity loud and clear, even in her sermons.
If transgender rights are at the center of the “culture wars” currently fueling intellectual and political debates, Rachel Mann has a long history of dealing with the subject. This British-born man was the second trans woman to be ordained by the Church of England in 2005. Now 52, she is an honorary canon at Manchester Cathedral (Northern England), regional dean and member of the Church’s governing synod. “I have broken a glass ceiling and I think it will be easier for the next one”she assures AFP at her home in Bury, in the north of England.
But “in the early years it was very difficult to open the door of the church”, she recalls, a certain emotion in her blue eyes. If the Anglican Church is more open than the Catholic Church on LGBT+ issues, Rachel Mann says she has been described as:“agent of Satan who infiltrated the church to destroy it from within”receiving online insults and even a death threat.
But “I believe that God is not afraid of us”So “accept us, we’re here and we don’t plan to leave”she pleads.
Hard Rock, Tattoos and Lord of the Rings
Educated at a religious school in rural England, she says she was praying for… “wake up like a girl”†“Since the transformation did not take place, I concluded that either God was evil (…) or that he did not exist”she says.
She became an atheist, studied feminist philosophy at university and played as a guitarist in several hard rock bands, a time when she “major major alcohol and drug problems”. But his multiple tattoos, escaping from his shirt with a white collar revealing his function, black overalls and heart-patterned socks, date not from this period but from the past ten years. On the right arm: “Nosce te ipsum” (“know thyself” in Latin) and a quote from the poet William Blake, written in Sindarin, the imaginary language found in the fantasy novel “The Lord of the Rings”.
Breaking the “purple ceiling” of the church
Rachel Mann taught philosophy at Lancaster University. It was at age 26, after she made her transition, that she felt the need to pray, and she believes that only self-acceptance after her transition allowed her to embrace the faith. Her psychologist assured her that she would soon become a man again: “In his world you couldn’t be a Christian and trans”†
Despite the difficulties, she became a priest a year after her friend Sarah Jones, England’s first trans pastor, was ordained just ten years after the first women were ordination in 1994. The Church knew Rachel Mann was trans and accepted it. . But not to complicate matters, she didn’t say she was in a lesbian relationship, even though the Church of England doesn’t condemn it.
“Nobody Knew” that she was trans, she assures with a mischievous and shy smile. Until she published the autobiography “Dazzling Darkness” in 2012. Since then she has written other books, collections of poetry and a mystery novel, “The Gospel of Eve”, set in the milieu of the Anglican Church.
Now it is defined as “an activist” That “not campaigning”although when she presents Mass on BBC public radio, she refers to her trans identity, which remains “very difficult for some listeners”† She is also taking a public stance, writing with other religious leaders to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to protest his refusal to include transgender people in a law aimed at banning conversion therapies that claim to alter sexual orientation.
That is “tiring to be a pioneer”says Rachel Mann, hoping that one day someone will “purple ceiling” of a church that has yet to appoint an LGBT+ bishop.