KIRSTY Mabbott is a United Reformed Church Minister at St David's Church in Bettws. The minister also identifies herself as queer- an umbrella term to describe individuals who don’t identify as straight and/or who have a non-normative gender identity, or as a political affiliation - and uses the pronouns "ze" (instead of she) and "hir" (instead of her).

Ze shared her story with ESTEL FARELL-ROIG

“I AM 34, but I often get mistaken for significantly younger. I was born in Bromsgrove, in Hereford, and I grew up in Birmingham.

If I look back at photos, I used to like to dress up a lot when I was little – in lots of very bizarre outfits. My family encouraged me to do this. Those outfits were a freedom to be anything and imagine yourself being anyone.

I recognise that I grew up under section 28, which was the governmental paper that said that homosexuality could not be promoted in any way by any institution of the country. It could not be talked about in schools, for example.

For myself, this mean it was quite difficult. I would look around my female friends, all of whom were getting boyfriends and getting excited over boys and I didn’t understand it.

My childhood and teenage years were very up and down. My dad was very ill when I was growing up, which put pressure on the family.

I started going to church with a friend when I was 11 and, at 15, a group of my friends were going to a Bible camp.

My parents are Christians, but not in the going to church sense, and I can remember it took me four weeks to build up the courage and say ‘all my friends are going to this camp and I want to go’.

Other people worry about telling their parents about a house party, I was worried about a Bible camp.

They said yes.

Going to that camp made a big impact in my life. I met all those young people who were passionate about Jesus and thought about how their faith impacted their lives. It was a real eye opener.

On the first Sunday night there, we had this reflective type worship and I had an experience.

I don’t think it is realistic to have experiences all the time, but there are key points in your life you have them. That experience was a real realisation that this was what God wanted for me and that, who I was, was ok with God.

At 15, I was very confused about a lot of things. I struggled with accepting I was ok because I have not been thin for most of my life.

I was overweight as a teenager and got bad skin.

I had a best friend who came about because we both liked Star Trek. What I recognise now is that I was very deeply attracted to her for a long time.

I never told her. I didn’t know how to formalise it on my own head. Growing up when you didn’t see portrayals of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people on the TV, you didn’t hear about and it wasn’t talked about, meant that you didn’t know how to comprehend what you were feeling.

I remember when Queer as Folk came out on the television – it was a show set in Manchester looking at the lives of queer people. I remember seeing the billboards and being very intrigued. I had heard that word queer and knew it meant something risky, so I really wanted to see it.

My mum said I could watch it and I remember finishing the first episode and thinking that my world had been blown open.

When I went to University in York, I wanted to run away from everything as far away as possible. I wanted to leave Birmingham. Now, 15 years later, I can say what I was running away from was myself – but at the time I wasn’t able to formulate it as that.

I didn’t know who I was. I knew I wasn’t like a lot of my friends, which was difficult. Going to university helped but I got in a relationship just before going to university that wasn’t healthy.

I did English and American literature to be an English teacher.

It was because of my sister and her friends that I went to the United Reformed Church (URC). They went to the youth group there and they said I may make some friends there. I went along and got involved, it gave me a space where I was accepted.

By this point in time I was already having peculiar things done to my hair. I already had a number of piercings and tattoos.

I did it because it made me feel better, it was like putting a mask on – what people would then notice is my hair. It means that, when you go out, you can be bolder and braver. I covered them up a lot of the time because they weren’t acceptable.

Within church circles, my appearance always opens up conversations. If I tell someone on the streets I am a church minister, they then take a double look – which is great. It is about breaking those perceptions.

Part of the theology I have a big interest in is queer theology – how do we look at the Bible in a queer way and how does that affect our faith. That is why I had my two Eves tattooed in my arm.

When I joined the URC, from day one, people kept telling me I had a calling to the ministry. We played that game for quite some years, because it is scary to think that actually somebody else has plans for your life.

In 2008, while I was working as a youth and children’s family worker for the URC, the ministry there challenged me and asked why I didn’t want to be a minister. I said I didn’t want to give up my life to the church.

He introduced to me the concept of church related community work as a minister. Basically, our remit is different from a regular church minister. We do slightly different training.

Our remit is not only to look after the congregation and preach on a Sunday, my prime remit is to do ministry in the community – which can take a lot of formats, such as running a food bank.

In 2011, I moved to Manchester to train to become a minister with the United Reformed Church and, in 2015, I moved to Newport because I felt that is here is where God wanted me to be.

Part of my remit here is to say LGBT people are as much part of God’s creation as you – and there is nothing wrong with us and we are fully loved.

The church is on a journey – the same as society. I do believe things are changing within church. However, the church moves slightly slower than society, which sometimes is very frustrating.

But those conversations are happening. People don’t want to be hurtful, but sometimes it takes time to reconcile faith and practice.”