One of the oldest churches in Massachusetts is breaking new ground with the selection of its first openly transgender minister.
“The folks in the congregation have been so warm and welcoming,” said Reverend Otto O’Connor.
At just 32-years-old, O’Connor may not seem to some to be a traditional minister – but it’s not his age that makes his unanimous selection this summer as Settled Minister of the First Parish in Malden Unitarian Universalist Church so unique.
“So I identified as a lesbian before that, and transitioned to being a man, a transgender man,” said O’Connor.
O’Connor is the first openly transgender minister in the centuries old parish, and one of the first of any religious group in Massachusetts.
“I think in a time when transgender people are being barred from being in the military, it’s says something to have a person who is out and openly transgender lead a religious community,” said O’Connor.
O’Connor says the church is known for its support of LGBTQ rights and the First Parish has several worshipers who are LGBTQ.
Mason Dunn, the executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition says it’s incredibly important for people who are transgender to see others like them in leadership roles.
“To say that we are here in these spaces, we are your neighbors, we are your friends, we are your pastors, it’s so important to have that visibility,” Dunn said.
The reaction around Malden has been generally one of support, which is not a surprise.
“I would be more surprised if it were a Catholic church or a Lutheran church or a mosque,” said Conor from Malden.
“I think that’s really great, I have a lot of friends who are transgender and I think it’s really accessible, it allows more people to feel comfortable going,” said Malden resident Ariel Wolff.
O’Connor will lead his first service on Revere Beach on Sunday, and then will have his first service at the church on Sept 10.