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Isitabane of faith: an auto-ethnographic exploration of Isitabane lived reality in the Shembe Faith Tradition.

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(queer people) experience discrimination, isolation, exclusion and homophobic attacks due to their sexual orientation and gender identity in the South African contexts. LGBTIQA+ voices are made invisible and silenced through the use of Bible scriptures, culture, and tradition embedded in patriarchal systems. The aim of this study is to explore the lived reality of isitabane within the independent Shembe faith tradition, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This study looks at the embodied experience of a queer persons within the African Independent Church (the Nazareth Baptist Church) through narrative and explores the experience of participants who witnessed her navigating her journey as a queer individual in the hetero-patriarchal church in KwaZulu-Natal. The researcher shares her experience and tells how she came to understand herself as a queer within this church, and how faith people responded to this identity. The study focuses on six snapshot themes and extracts six dominant themes (understanding lesbian sexuality as rejection of men rather than women attraction, a link between male violence and lesbian sexuality, a link between faith-heterosexuality and reproduction, a human being cannot be ditched, queer bodies and dress, and naming) from these snapshot themes and interview discussions, which form a significant part of the lived reality or embodied experience of isitabane identity within the independent Shembe faith tradition. Queer theory was used in this study, which took a phenomenological approach to explore the lived reality of isitabane within the independent Shembe faith tradition. The findings of this study challenge the essentialist perspective of ideological notions of gender and sexuality in association with sex assigned at birth. Findings suggest that the independent Shembe faith tradition and other African Independent Churches ought to be engaged in a contextual bible study, which may assist the church in reworking its vocabulary, policies, and related theories, in order to enable it to collectively engage and negotiate gender and sexual identities, as well as issues pertaining gender and sexuality in a life-affirming way. This will assist many silenced queer voices to be heard. Participants emphasise the oppression, isolation, discrimination, hate crime, hate speech, and homophobic attacks experienced by queer people within South African contexts, especially within its religious landscape, due to their gender identity and sexual orientation.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.