CHICAGO — Pamela Lightsey’s worn many hats in her life: Sister, mother, wife, and soldier — all of it before she discovered herself in her 30s.

Lightsey, the Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at Meadville Lombard Theological School in downtown Chicago, is writing her third book, drawing on her intersectionality of being a black woman, a Christian minister, a mother, a queer lesbian who lived in the closet for years and a U.S. Army Veteran.

She enlisted in the late 1970s as a private in the signal corps.

“The military really gave me a sense of my capacity to do things as human being. as a human being,” she said. “Not ‘Oh you do that well as a woman.’ No. Soldier. ‘Soldier you’re going to do this, you’re going to do that.’”

She got out of the military when she was pregnant with her first child and began working for the U.S. government as a civilian.

She saw the world and in that time, she began to see herself.

“Being all the things, a wife, a civil servant, a soldier — I’d been all those things. Twenty-eight and divorce gave me the opportunity to figure out who I was,” she said.

Today, her identity is authentically hers.

“I can preach. I preach really good. I was on a really good preaching circuit before I came out,” she said. “Once I came out—all that dried up. … for a while. And then it shifted to me being in a more affirming spaces. It’s much fuller for me being my authentic self. … I’m insisting on living as the person God made me.”

Lightsey is on sabbatical while she writes her third book.  You can catch her sermons at Urban Village Church in Hyde Park/Woodlawn.