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To change society, come out to family, friends, Zambian says

(Aussi disponible en français)

Anna, a queer activist from Zambia, discusses the importance of LGBTI people coming out to their families and friends as a crucial step toward recognition of human rights for LGBTI people by society overall:

Rainbow colors of sarongs in Jamaica (Photo by Steven Gruber courtesy of Pinterest)
Rainbow colors on display on clothes lines. (Photo by Steven Gruber courtesy of Pinterest)

Revolution in the family

I’m going to be honest: I’ve given up on the idea that in my lifetime the Zambian government will make radical policy changes to recognize and protect the human rights of LGBTI Zambians. However, I haven’t given up on social change.

I genuinely believe that if we, the LGBTI community, make an effort we can impact the mindsets and attitudes of the people in our lives: our family and friends.

Personal example: Before I came out, my family members were either indifferent or hostile towards queer people. Now, my two siblings have actually taken an interest in queer equality and participate in activism in their own way. My mother is also far less hostile and much less disgusted even though she still thinks I’m going to hell. In fact, she went from saying that we are evil people that will destroy society to thinking that it’s really none of her business what we all do with our lives. It’s not a happy ending, but it’s progress.

I believe in education and in opening people’s hearts, and this is what I did with my family members. I’ve simply been talking to them. I try not to be too argumentative (because it will make them defensive and close down discussion). I present facts. I appeal to their humanity and common sense. I hear them out. I challenge them. They challenge me. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we agree to disagree.

What would happen if every queer person in Zambia was having these conversations with their family or friends?

Now, I understand it’s not easy. I’m very lucky that my family didn’t disown me, beat me, or turn me over to the police. Sadly, this is the reality for most LGBTI Zambians.

But I think we need to try because this is our only hope of turning our country around.

What do you think? Is it possible to have these conversations? Are Zambian families too conservative for these kinds of discussion? What’s stopping you? Are you afraid that one conversation would make you lose everything? Have you tried and failed? Share your thoughts and experiences.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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