Selena Little, who might just be Michigan’s first out African American transgender evangelist, is making her presence known at pulpits across the state.
As a member of the ministerial team at Whosoever Ministry United Church of Christ in Grosse Pointe Farms, Little is thriving.
“She’s exceptional,” said Rev. Dr. Selma Massey, the pastor of Whosoever. “I think that for too long we have forgotten about the transgender community and she gives an opportunity to be educated and be informed so we can put our arms around the transgender community and not leave anyone behind. With Selena telling her story then others will be encouraged to revisit the idea of knowing God.”
Little tells the story of when she first began her transition from male to female in the early ‘70s.
“I was about 16,” Little recalled. “Before then it was illegal, unless you had an entertainer’s license, for a man to dress in women’s clothes. So when the law changed than it made it a little easier for me.”
Though she had support at home, Little’s friends at school failed to embrace her as she changed her physical appearance.
“I knew that God doesn’t make mistakes. He knows exactly what he’s doing. So I always said when he came to create me, even before I was in my mother’s womb, he would need someone who was transgender to help people.”
– Selena Little
“My friends didn’t agree with my transition,” Little said. “All of them knew I was gay but there was something about my transition that they didn’t grasp. So it made it difficult for me to go to school. I dropped out in the 11th grade, though I later went back to get my GED.”
While living authentically as a woman, Little married a man in 1974.
“I met him in Buffalo, New York and he eventually came here and asked my mother and father if he could marry me,” Little said. “They said yes. My father got him a job at Chrysler and we stayed married a couple years until drugs intervened.”
By the late ‘70s, Little was performing in drag shows and as a female impersonator in local nightclubs. She met Phil, who Little describes as a “butch lesbian,” “a stud,” and the two had a sexual encounter.
“I thought it was the nastiest thing in the world,” Little said about having sex as two women. “It was like I had sinned before God. I felt dirty. I had a lot of bad feelings about that. But something touched me and said she was pregnant. So Phil asked me to get married.”
Living as a man once again, Little married and adopted Phil’s daughter.
“Then we had two more children. So we had three children total,” Little said.
Little worked at General Motors to support the family. Fast forward a decade or so and the marriage, Little said, was in trouble.
“Now that the kids had gotten older, Phil felt some kind of way about going back to her old life and I felt some kind of way about going back to my old life,” said Little. “So I went back to being Selena.”
Initially, Little tried to hide her transition from the children.
“I used to sneak out of the house and rent a hotel for the weekend and perform,” Little said. “Then my oldest daughter came to me one day and said, ‘Dad, you don’t have to get a hotel to do what you want to do. We saw pictures of you and you are so beautiful.’ We cried and I was so overwhelmed with joy because I realized that what I had believed was true. Love conquered all. It was really scary. I really didn’t know how my children were going to react to my new life, and I was so correct. Love conquers all.”
Reconnecting with Her Faith
In addition to performing in clubs, Little got a job at Technicolor where she stayed for 22 years.
“It was the late ‘80s and I started my transition all over again while I was at Technicolor,” she said. “It was very good to me.”
While still working at Technicolor, Little began reconnecting with her faith.
“I’ve always had a desire to be in ministry but I didn’t know how it would fit with my being transgender, because of what the world thinks,” Little said. “But I decided to step out on faith and become more involved. I was led to go to a place called Full Truth Fellowship of Christ Church.”
In 2012, Little was ordained an evangelist by Pastor Ronchele Andres.
“It meant that God had a special purpose for me,” Little said. “I’ve always wondered why would he create me the way that he did. It was very baffling to me because I loved him so much. I knew that God doesn’t make mistakes. He knows exactly what he’s doing. So I always said when he came to create me, even before I was in my mother’s womb, he would need someone who was transgender to help people. He created us all for his purpose and that’s how I feel about me. When I was ordained it meant the world to me.”
Today, Little has six grandchildren and one great grandchild.
“The grandchildren call me papa,” Little explained. “Some people look at us a little strange but that’s what I want them to call me because that’s what I am to them.”