by Nombulelo Ngqayizivele Khumalo
As a South African queer person, the month of June is a very significant time. In South Africa, it is popularly known as Youth Month, a month dedicated to young people and includes celebrations on the 16th of June (Youth Day), a day in which South Africans remember and honor the youth that was ambushed by the apartheid regime police in Soweto on 16 June 1976. On this day over 500 youths were killed in the Soweto uprising. June celebrations in South Africa also coincide with Pride month around the world. The month of June was chosen for LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. As a result, many pride events are held during this month to recognize the impact LGBT people have had in the world.
Since the first breath of air that I gasped filling my lungs with life, it opened many doors of possibilities and certainty of being destined for bigger things in life. I was no ordinary child nor am I an ordinary adult. The ingredients that came together in creating and molding the woman that I am today are discipline, love, care, respect, culture, strong-will, determination, self-love and prayer. I am born and bred in one of the most historically rich and friendliest townships in KwaZulu Natal, Kwa-Mashu. Fortunately, I grew up in a family that was financially able. My parents were not rich but could afford the best education and the best schools for me. My mother always told me that education was the one thing that no one will ever be able to take away from me. I took it upon myself to adopt education in all spheres of life, be it academics, social sciences, history and most importantly street culture.
My first love is performing arts. I am crazy about the arts, especially Dramatic Arts. Hence, I studied at the Durban University of Technology and obtained a Diploma in Dramatic Arts and Television Studies. The script is my King, the stage my throne and I will forever reign in the entertainment world. I am an actress. At some point, I acted every day of my working life. Nevertheless, I drew a very clear line between my profession and my personal life. In my personal life, I am not an actress. I’m as real as they come. I am passionate and self-motivated. My mind is my greatest possession. I sometimes trip over my thoughts as my mind builds castles over split seconds and for me that is the beauty of a creative mind.
The arts industry is sometimes very unstable and inconsistent. At a certain point in my life, I needed financial stability and that is when an opportunity of teaching drama in a high school availed itself. I saw it fit and convenient. It seemed like a responsible decision to make, of securing and calculating my tomorrow. In that space of education, I then had to study further to get an aligned qualification. I studied PGCE (Post-Graduate Certificate in Education) through the University of South Africa. Soon after that, greener pastures availed themselves. I got employed by one of the biggest municipalities in the country, eThekwini Municipality, where I worked in Customer Service in the Education Unit.
In my time, serving in that post I incorporated all that I had studied to make my work effective. I used dramatic arts to educate the community I was serving. The corporate world kept me happy as I was doing what I loved and enjoyed. Yet again in the midst of my happiness, there had been a void in my heart that felt like I wasn’t where I was supposed to be and I was certain that God had bigger plans for me. I also wanted to repay Him for the gift of life. It was in the year 2013 where the dots all connected. God stripped me of all the things and people I thought were of deep value to me, all that I ever thought my life dependent on was removed and in that space, it was just me and God “face to face.” I knew there and then that my life was complete and I was content with just the presence of God in my life, and for that, I vowed to serve Him till the end of time.
It was never easy leaving the glitz, glamour and the lavish lifestyle I lived, not to mention the salary and authority that came with my position at work. However, my calling and desire to serve God was too deep and superseded all my hesitations. After starting to actively preach and serve in my church, the Methodist Church in South Africa. I slowly I started feeling in place again and the void was filled.
As a person I strongly believe in the power of education, that is why it was critical that I left everything behind and went to a Theological Institution. In a matter of fact, Seminary training in the Methodist is an important requirement. I was then sent to Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg (this is the only Methodist Training Centre in Africa.) and 2016 to 2018 were my years of being equipped with sound theology and a bittersweet process of formation. That particular time of my life was a time of growth in all entities.
Answering the calling of word and sacrament at this point and time was crucial for me. God had a very clever way of putting me in different spaces to equip me for this very time of serving Him. My life story is similar to the biblical story in the old testament of the prophet Jonah; the point being that you can never run away from God. He will bring you to the space he wants you to be in. In my case, I was born Intersexed, but I identify as a lesbian, that is who I am. I then studied drama, aiding my communication skills and a major confidence booster. Soon after that, I found myself in the educational sphere where I had to bite a huge chunk of knowledge, chew on it, break it down and simplify it for learners. Finally, the municipality gave me the experience of working and interacting with people from all walks of life, working together focusing on a common goal of servanthood as I was in customer service. Now as I am trailing in a journey to my priesthood, I realize that I needed to be in all these spaces so they can equip me for an effective ministry in the 21stcentury.
The timing is also revolutionary, as I am in an era where society is judgmental and non-accepting to the LGBTQIA+ community. So much hate and condemnation are directed to my fellow queer brothers and sister. Much of the discrimination is from “Christians” and apparently rooted in the bible. This is absolute blasphemy, and it is wrongly interpreting the text. This could be for various reasons and to fulfil individual personal agendas. The scriptures are very clear about a few things. The first being that all men are made in the image of God and He declared men perfect. Secondly is that of the greatest commandment of all; love one another as I have loved you (John 15;12). That was and still is God’s mandate that we spread love and unity to all people. My mission is to make sure that all queer people know they are also rightful heirs of the kingdom of God. After all, we are all human beings before we are sexual beings.
This is my journey, and some people have it smooth but I am not expecting mine to be smooth, as this is not just a regular priesthood journey but this is a phenomenon of a journey to a queer priesthood.
Peace, Love & Mercy!