A nonbinary priest is now serving openly in the Church of England’s clergy and they say a higher power helped them embrace their gender identity. In an interview with the Liverpool Echo, Bingo Allison, a 36-year-old parent of three, said that although they were raised in a “strongly religious” household where they were taught that being LGBTQ+ was sinful, they’ve since come to regard their identity as a connection to the divine.
“It was a deepening spiritual experience, I properly felt God was guiding me into this new truth about myself,” Allison explained. “One of the things that has kept with my ministry ever since is that transition and coming out can and should be a spiritual experience, as well as an emotional and social and sometimes physical one. There is something beautiful about growing into who we were created to be and growing into our authentic selves.”
Because they grew up in such a repressive and anti-trans environment, Allison recalled, being trans themselves was “so far beyond my imagination” as to be unthinkable. That repression sometimes manifested as queerphobia from Allison themselves — as they put it, “I was definitely in a lot of denial and some of that denial came out in denial of other people’s identities.” But coming out and reframing their thinking changed all that; now, Allison says, their “new way” of thinking has led them to believe LGBTQ+ people are a “blessing to the church.”
Though Allison believes they may be the first nonbinary priest in the Church of England, they’re far from the first trans Christian priest in general. Trans people have been in the clergy for decades, and several have become high-profile religious leaders in recent years. Alexya Salvador became Brazil’s first openly transgender pastor in 2021, and Megan Rohrer became the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s first trans bishop the same year.
“I hope that my installation will remind us that we can love God, love our bodies, love our partners, and love the beautiful diversity of this world,” Rohrer said. “The more the leadership in the church looks like the full diversity of our world, the more the church will be able to speak to all of the people who are out and about around our planet.”
That’s something on which Allison and Rohrer definitely agree, as Allison hopes their position will show gender-diverse youth that they are loved and supported, even in faith communities where LGBTQ+ identities aren’t normally tolerated. “When I’m wearing my collar, it lets children know that is okay,” Allison told the Echo, “and that there is a place in church and the outside world for people like me.”