While in other countries, homosexuals must be discreet in religious settings, this Englishwoman born as a man was the second transgender woman ordained by the Church of England, in 2005. And she claims her identity loud and clear.
Now 52, she is an honorary canon at Manchester Cathedral, a regional dean and a member of the church’s governing synod.
And he is among 13 senior religious leaders who wrote to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this month, asking him to include transgender people in a law aimed at outlawing forced conversion therapy.
“I broke a glass ceiling and I think it will be easier for people to come after,” he tells AFP at his home in Bury, northern England.
But “the first years, opening the door of the Church, it was very hard,” she recalls with a soft voice and a certain emotion in her serene blue eyes, while sitting next to a portrait of Frida Kalho, sipping tea.
More open than the Catholic Church on LGBT+ issues, the Anglican community also has “very rigid ideas”: it has been branded an “agent of satan who infiltrated the church to destroy it from within”, received online insults and even a death threat.
But “I believe that God is not afraid of us”, so “accept us, we are here and we are not going to leave”, he affirms.
– “Anything to cancel myself” –
Educated in a rural religious school in Worcestershire, northwest of London, at the age of 10 she was already praying to “wake up as a girl”.
“Not being transformed, I decided that either God was bad, because he made people like me to laugh at me, or he didn’t exist,” she says.
She became an atheist, studied feminist philosophy at university, lived “the sordid side of life, consuming drugs and alcohol” – “anything to nullify myself” – and played as a guitarist in several hard rock groups.
But his multiple tattoos, which stand out from his shirt with collars covered by a casual black overall accompanied by socks with hearts, do not date from that time: he did them in the last ten years.
On the right arm, “Nosce te ipsum” -know yourself in Latin- and a quote from the poet William Blake written in elvish Sindarin, the imaginary language of the “Lord of the Rings”.
On the left, where he wears his smartwatch, Psalm 139 in Hebrew, which he reads from a thick bible placed on a bedside table, next to the guitar that he still plays in his spare time, which he also plays cricket and watches action movies .
– Purple roof –
She was teaching philosophy at Lancaster University when, at the age of 26, recently transitioned, she felt a sudden need to pray.
“I knelt down and said ‘God, if you’re there, I’m yours,’ and I experienced immense love,” she says, considering that only self-acceptance after her transition allowed her to embrace faith.
His psychologist assured him that he would quickly return to being a man: “in his world you could not be a Christian and trans.”
But she persevered and despite the difficulties, she was ordained a year after her friend Sarah Jones, England’s first transgender priest, ordained just ten years after the first women were ordained in 1994.
The Church knew and had accepted that Rachel was transgender. But, to keep things simple, she didn’t say that she was in a lesbian relationship.
From then on, she became just another reverend: “nobody knew” that she was transgender, she confesses with a mischievous and self-conscious laugh.
Until in 2012 he published the book “Dazzling Darkness” (dazzling darkness) in which he revealed his fight. Since then she has written other books, poetry collections and the provocative thriller “El góspel de Eva”.
Now she defines herself as “an activist” who “does not campaign”, although when she presents the mass on BBC radio she makes references to her transgender identity “very challenging for some listeners”.
She assures that it is “exhausting to be a pioneer”. And he hopes that one day someone will break the “purple ceiling” of a Church that is not yet ready to appoint an LGTB+ bishop.
The entrance Rachel Mann, the pioneering LGBT+ transgender reverend in the Anglican Church was first published in diary TODAY.