Genderqueer Church of England priest Bingo Allison said their religious journey completely changed their previously conservative outlook on life. (YouTube/Bingo Allison)
A Church of England priest has opened up about the journey to discovering their non-binary identity as a person of faith.
Bingo Allison says they were guided by God to discover their authentic self.
Bingo is, to their knowledge, the first openly non-binary priest to be ordained in the Church of England, and hopes to show LGBTQ+ youth in Liverpool they have a place in the church through their work.
They grew up in a “strongly religious” household and says the only time gay people were mentioned was when queerness was described as a “sinful thing”. Bingo has spoken openly about how they were raised to believe being queer wasn’t sinful but acting on it was.
Throughout the parent-of-three’s religious journey, Bingo met “amazing and faithful” LGBTQ+ Christians, and they realised such people are a “blessing to the church”.
They told the Liverpool Echo this was a turning point in their life as they wanted to distance themselves from their previous traditional, conservative view of the world.
“My views used to be very traditional and very conservative certainly,” Bingo said. “Some might call them bigoted and there was a lot of ignorance and a lot of ‘othering’.”
“I didn’t take the time to learn from other people’s experiences. I was definitely in a lot of denial and some of that denial came out in denial of other people’s identities.”
Then, seven years ago, they said “everything suddenly clicked” after they came across the term genderqueer. They considered holding off exploring their gender identity while finishing their vicar training with the Church of England, but said this was more difficult than they originally thought.
Bingo Allison said one of the “biggest things” in their work is being a visual representation in their local community in Liverpool. (YouTube/Bingo Allison)
“It was a lot harder than I thought having come out to myself to then remain in the closet,” Bingo said. “There were definitely lots of times before when I kind of questioned my identity but growing up in a more conservative form of Christianity meant that it was just so far beyond my imagination.
They added: “I didn’t know any trans people, and I think I probably met two gay people in my life. So it was like another planet almost to me.
“There were a few times when I really questioned things. But because I didn’t really have the vocabulary to describe my experience it just kind of didn’t go anywhere.”
But one evening, Bingo wrote an essay about God’s creation of the earth, citing how a passage in Genesis uses terms from ‘maleness to femaleness’ rather than men and women. They realised they “might need to run [their] life upside down” as a result.
“It was a deepening spiritual experience, I properly felt God was guiding me into this new truth about myself,” they said.
“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.”
The non-binary priest now works to help children not just in their work through the Church of England but also in local secular queer youth groups.
They said one of the “biggest things” is being a visual representation in the local Liverpool community, visiting schools, doing assemblies and “making a huge difference in normalising it for children”.
“When I’m wearing my collar it lets children know that is okay and that there is a place in church and the outside world for people like me,” Bingo said.