The story of my life with the sexual minorities in Polokwane

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CHAPTER 2 The story of my life with the sexual minorities in Polokwane

Introduction

Theologians and mission practitioners are now joining the sexualities minorities in the arena where the hegemonic position of heteronormativity in the society is challenged. This happens as they engage meaningfully with their local communities seeking for ways to transform the current status quo. I concur with Marcella Althaus-Reid that today, there is a generation of Liberation Theologians who are producing a rich reflection on issues of sexuality, ideology and culture (Althaus-Reid 2016:15). Their reflections are often visible in their life stories and experiences with the sexual minorities and their local communities. For that reason, I have used in this chapter the dimension of the person centred identification to tell the story of my experiences during my insertion into the community of Polokwane. I then aligned the same story with the second sub-question outlined in chapter one of this study. The whole process in this chapter followed the story telling approach. I therefore applied that approach here with an understanding that everyday lives involves an active, unconscious, process by which presented information is combined with relevant pre-understanding of the subject(Ezzy 2002:6).
On the other hand my pre-understanding of issues related to heteronormativity also played a pivotal role in the narrative. That pre-understanding guided the process of data collection during this stage. I was as a result, in a better position of knowing what information to look for and the possible sources which could provide it. In addition to listening to the stories, it was also during this stage that I conducted the systematic study using the individual interviews, focus group interviews and observations. The findings gained through these data collection techniques and some stories told as I was in the community are presented in Chapter 3 of this study. In the next section I first presents the importance of listening to other people’s stories in order to tell ours in a more trustworthy manner.

The importance of listening to other people’s stories

The formulation of my story is therefore, built on the stories of the sexual minorities, ordinary members of the community and also some black Pentecostal Christians in Polokwane. Their stories were critical in this narrative because the story of an individual person is not complete without those of others (Lee 1995:7-8). This understanding was also emphasised by Taylor and Bogdan (1984:7) when asserting that:
By observing people in their everyday lives, listening to them talking about what was in their minds, and looking at the documents they produce, the qualitative researcher obtains first-hand knowledge of social life unfiltered through concepts, operational definitions, and rating scales.
It was against this backdrop that Kotze and Kotze (2001:41), Meylahn (2011:141) and Schenck, Nel and Louw (2010:81) also showed that there is no single story that can claim to represent the stories of the entire society. Nevertheless, in each individual story, common themes applicable to other stories can be delineated. Therefore, in my presentation of the story here, I was not oblivious that each story deserves to be treated with respect and according to its own merits. I thus, present my story in this chapter taking into cognisance all these factors. Before presenting my story I will first locate the geographical area of Polokwane. Thereafter I will present my autobiography which is linked to my person centred identification process in Polokwane.

The geographical settings of Polokwane

Polokwane is the capital city of the Limpopo province. The area is situated about 320 kilometres north of the famous city of Johannesburg. Although the area has some considerable infrastructural developments, it is still predominately rural. There are a number of villages including Ga-Maboi, Makotopong and Sengatane closer to the city. It also has three major Townships nearby which are called Seshego, Mankweng and Lebowakgomo. In addition, Polokwane is predominated by the Sepedi, Xitsonga, Tshivenda, IsiNdebele, English and Afrikaans speaking people.
The migrants from the neighbouring countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are also found in the city. There are also some other few foreign nationals coming from Somalia, Nigeria and India. There is therefore, in the city a combination of cultures, traditions and different religious practices. These again, influenced the perceptions about homosexuality and heteronormativity. Most people still hold the common view of homosexuality as an un-African, un- Christian and un-natural. Consequently, heteronormativity is generally accepted as something good by both the black Pentecostal Christians and the entire community. I will now turn to the geographical settings of the Polokwane area, below is the map showing the area of Polokwane.
Figure5: The map showing the area of Polokwane and some surrounding areas:
Source: (www.google.co.za 2017)

My journey with the sexual minorities in Polokwane

My journey with the sexual minorities in Polokwane started in 2004 after completing my pastoral training at the Nicholas Bhengu Theological College (NBTC)28 in Mayerton, Gauteng Province (GP). My main focus within my congregation and
28 The NBTC is a seminary institution of the AOG name after Rev Nicholas Bhengu who was the founder of the Assemblies of God Movement. The movement is one of the biggest black Pentecostal black Pentecostal Christians in the Southern Africa. The seminary presented the theological training for the AOG pastors who were in the process of going to fulltime pastoral ministry. The curriculum of the training was designed in line with the Pentecostal tradition ministering to the community were people’s spiritual lives and their need to be receive Christ as their personal saviour. I was not primarily concerned about their social challenges, as a matter of fact, the realities of the sexual minorities were not regarded at all. I was taught from my religious upbringing within the black Pentecostal Christian congregation that homosexuality was a sin against God. The only remedy for homosexuals was to repent and ask God for forgiveness. This understanding therefore, shaped my views of the sexual minorities and also guided how I related to them.
It was during the time of insertion and community ministry in Polokwane however, that my views were gradually transformed. Amongst other things, the stories of the black Pentecostal Christians who did not know how to relate to their homosexual children, some LGBTI members of our congregation who felt that they were not welcomed in the congregation, spouses who discovered that their partners where having sexual affairs with others of their same-sex and they were looking for answers from the black Pentecostal Christians influenced the transformation. Again, there were some stories told which indicated the oppressive elements of heteronormativity which the sexual minorities were grappling with. These stories had an impact in the understanding of the mission of God in the lives of the sexual minorities. I am therefore, presenting my autobiography in the next section so that I can clearly show how my aground and upbringing influenced my journey.

READ  General criticism and justification

My autobiography

I used my autobiography here as an introduction of my story. The autobiography can also help in locating my position in the narrative. It further points to the journey that contributed in my current position regarding the subject. It is also undisputable that people’s attitudes towards the sexual minorities are influenced by their childhood’s experiences as Kritzinger pointed out (2008:77). Although Kritzinger was not particularly referring to attitudes towards the sexual minorities, but to the society in general, his understanding can be applicable in the context of this study. In the next section therefore, I will present my autobiography. It shows amongst other things how my early childhood experiences shaped by current views regarding heteronormativity and the mission of the black Pentecostal Christians.

My early childhood years

I was born in Tzaneen, a small town in the Limpopo province of South Africa. My parents were members of a local Pentecostal congregation. As children we then followed them and attended the same congregation. My parents often stressed the importance of personal experience where one accept the Lord Jesus as personal saviour. On the other hand however, issues related to sex and sexuality were rarely discussed. Whenever my parents and other elderly community members warn against engaging in pre-marital sex they used figure of speech. It was often through an indirect speech that the message was conveyed. The common saying that was often used was the Xitsonga metaphor which can be understood in English to be saying that one should not play with members of the opposite sex. The saying was understood and interpreted to mean that young boys and girls should not engage in sexual activities.
Another common trend which also marked my youth days in both my local community and the black Pentecostal Christian circles was similar to what is understood now as the policed sexuality29. This trend manifested amongst other things by an exaggerated manner of warning the youths against sexual immorality, fornication and promiscuity. This warning was often given by the elderly people in our black Pentecostal Christian congregations as well in the community. The elderly people in the congregation did not trust us as young people in regard to matters of sexuality. Our behaviours were always extremely monitored. On the other hand however, the policing of sexuality30 was to an extent that the youth could eventually be scared to enter into healthy relationships with members of the opposite sex. Even mere friendships between boys and girls were always viewed with suspicion. Therefore, as young boys we were always conscious of not associating with girls in our community. The assumptions that dominated were that sexual activities could only happen between members of the opposite sex. The elderly people did not consider the possibilities of same-sex relationships happening amongst us.
However, as a result of these policing of as youth we grew up more closely to members of our own sex. We did not want to be labelled to be promiscuous because of playing with girls. As the result, that has led to the ambiguity of the relationships that were common between us as young boys. Now in retrospect, some of the relationships then were suspicious. Although they were never labelled as homosexuals, it would have been difficult to distinguish if our relationships were just homo-sociality31, homoeroticism32 or homosexuality33. Some of these relationships which happened under the disguise of friendships were even stretched further. Amongst other things, we visited each other as boys at our homes and sometimes overnighting. The bonding was sometimes so strong that the term friendship could not correctly define what was happening amongst the boys.
Although there was no evidence showing that these relationships were not as our parents or our culture deemed it were. The possibility of a disguised homo-sociality34 cannot be utterly overruled. Looking back now I still remember that some of these relationships were indeed same-sex sexual relationships. Because of the heteronormativity in my community, people often took it for granted that boys could not engage in same–sex practices. Moreover, emphasis continued to be made on the dangers of heterosexual pre-marital acts. That was done without being bothered to address the possibility of homosexual activities. I therefore, concluded that my community was conservative when coming to sexual issues. This was also made evident by the reluctance of open discussions about sex and sexual issues. Sexuality and precisely homosexuality was often associated with the concept of taboo35. I recall when my sister asked my mother about a man we saw when visiting another village. She wanted to know why that particular man was having gestures resembling a feminine character. In her response my mother told her that what she was asking was taboo.

Chapter 1  Introduction
1.1. Orientation to the study
1.2 The statement of the problem
1.3 The research question
1.4 The relevance of the study
1.5 Limitations of the study
1.6 Literature review
1.7 The research design
1.8 The research methodology
1.9 Sampling method
1.10 Data collection techniques
1.11 The profile of the focus group participants
1.12 The research instrument
1.13 Data analysis
1.14 Definition of key concepts
1.15 Ethical considerations
1.16 Chapters outline
Chapter 2  The story of my life with the sexual minorities in Polokwane
2.1 Introduction
2.2 My autobiography
2.3 Aligning with the person centred identification process
2.4 Mission with the sexual minorities in Polokwane
2.5 The systematic study about the position of heteronormativity in Polokwane
2.6 Conclusion
Chapter 3  The research findings
3.1 Introduction
3.2 The Summary of the interview questions
3.3 The views regarding heteronormativity within the black Pentecostal Christian’s circles in Polokwane
3.4 Experiences of heteronormativity within the black Pentecostal Christian’s circles in Polokwane
3.5 Heteronormativity within the black Pentecostal congregations in Polokwane
3.6 The causes of heteronormativity within the black Pentecostal Christians in Polokwane
3.7 The perceptions about the sexual minorities in Polokwane
3.8 The position of God regarding heteronormativity
3.9 What needed to be done regarding heteronormativity in Polokwane?
3.10 The summary of the research findings
3.11 The significance of the research findings
Chapter 4  Heteronormativity in the light of theology
4.1 Introduction
4.2 The encounter between God and the marginalised
4.3 The persistent questions
4.4 The refocused lenses of re-reading the Bible
4.5 The re-reading the parable of the Good Samaritan
4.6 Conclusion
Chapter 5  Mission as going out to see the good in the lives of the sexual minorities
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Contrasting the old and the new mission praxis
5.3 The implementation strategy
5.4 Applying the SMART principle
5.5 Redefining the mission praxis of the black Pentecostal Christians in Polokwane
5.7 Conclusion
5.8 Recommendations
Bibliography
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