A transgender minister has made history in Australia as the first openly trans person to be inducted into a mainstream church.
Reverend Josephine “Jo” Inkpin was already a priest when she came out to her Anglican community four years ago, making her Australia’s first ever transgender church leader.
She broke barriers once more this month as the new minister of the Pitt Street Uniting Church in Sydney – and she couldn’t be happier to lead her congregation.
“There were tears of joy, a lot of joy in coming home really, I think,” she told ABC News.
The theologian and justice activist is married to fellow reverend Penny Jones, and the pair previously served together as Anglican priests in the UK.
It wasn’t until 2017 when they were living and working in Australia that the reverend felt comfortable enough to come out to the parish her wife was a rector at. Four years on, the decision has been life changing.
“I don’t want to be in a sort of fixed position to define myself and paint myself into a box,” Inkpin said, “but I understand myself as female, a deep spiritual sense of what I am.”
Although Sydney’s Anglican diocese has long been known for its conservatism, she’s found a home with the LGBT-inclusive Pitt Street Uniting Church, which describes itself as a “safe space” for queer people.
“Wherever you are on your faith journey, wherever you have come from, wherever you are going to, whatever you believe, whatever you do not believe, you are welcome here,” the church assures worshipers.
Inkpin says being accepted by her parishioners has been a blessing.
“I know how much for myself, just to know there is someone like me, what a difference it makes,” she said. “To see ourselves represented in public space is really huge.”
Looking to the future, Reverend Inkpin is optimistic about her place in the religious community.
“The Uniting Church has a little work to do, but it’s got that diversity, I think. It knows you have to listen to the people themselves,” she said.
“What I am hoping is that I’ll have the freedom — not just to be a transgender person, a visible transgender person — to enter more freely into other things, rather than having to fight in church battles.”