Africa

Stories of LGBTI love, hate, coming out and hope in Botswana

The LGBTI group LeGaBiBo of Botswana has published a short book of stories about the experiences of LGBTI people in that southern African nation — stories of love, hate, coming out and hope, exploring the “lived experiences of LGBTI persons in our communities.”  The 44-page book, Dipolelo Tsa Rona — Our Stories, is available in print in Botswana; elsewhere it can be downloaded online. LeGaBiBo’s announcement of the book’s publication is below.

These are a few excerpts from Dipolelo Tsa Rona:

Cover illustration for the book Dipolelo Tsa Rona. (Photo courtesy of Legabibo)

Cover illustration for the book Dipolelo Tsa Rona. (Photo courtesy of Legabibo)

I am a work in progress

[My mother] had always told me not to pay any attention to what other people thought of me and not to be demoralized by their petty issues. That’s why the jokes and name-calling didn’t get me down. I knew, if I took the discrimination to heart or “bent” myself to what my peers expected, it would just make me weak. I was not going to be a “victim” or get pushed down by their treatment of me.

One thing that gave me hope at this time was becoming a church-goer. Church allowed me to “suspend” the pain and hardship I was going through. It reassured me that there would be joy at the end of my struggle, although there wasn’t much joy at the time.

Follow your own dream

My childhood was very open. That’s how I like to think of it. The people surrounding me were very open-minded and just let me be. In my neighbourhood, there wasn’t much boy vs girl. We all played together, and that’s just how it was. I was treated like a girl, although it was something that was never spoken about. It was just sort of second nature, so to speak. I considered myself one of the girls, and it didn’t bother me or anyone else. The girls were my closest companions, my “go-to” people, so I considered myself one of them. The guys were open-minded and just accepted me that way. …

[But later] I heard a knock, and there was my aunt by the door, saying, “Your mother wanted me to come to you and talk about the issue that you are gay. I am here to pray for you.”

Then all at once, as soon as she walked through the door to enter my bedroom,
something like 15 or 20 other women followed her in, locked the door, and announced they were here to “cast the demons out of me” and pray for me as well. It was like they were on a mission to “exorcise” me.

Photo from the book Dipolelo Tsa Rona. (Photo courtesy of Legabibo)

Photo from the book Dipolelo Tsa Rona. (Photo courtesy of Legabibo)

At the end of the tunnel

I have always been told that every family has dark memories and that there is a skeleton in every family closet. But mine has many skeletons, and they live not only in the closet but inside my family members as well. When I sit and remember, a cold shiver runs down my spine. … This is my story.

I have had to learn to be independent

I first realised that I had two sex organs when I was in Form 1. [Later, my teacher] became concerned when I started experiencing something like menstruation. I would bleed for about three days but just thought it was some sort of illness that would pass. Ms Nare decided to take me to the local clinic, where I was examined. It turned out I had a female hormonal profile and that the bleeding this was indeed a menstrual bleed.

I was then moved out of the boy’s hostel at school, and I moved in with the school matron until my “situation” could be assessed and a decision made about my school living arrangements. After two weeks, I was moved into the girls’ hostel. Until I finished my junior school, many of my teachers were very supportive. They understood the circumstance I was in, and they taught me to be accepting of my physical makeup, because accepting myself would make it easier for other people to accept me.

Discovering I was different and being accepted has made me appreciate myself and the woman I have become. … My mother still has issues with the fact that I choose to live my life as a woman. But even though my visible sex organ is that of a male, I have a female reproductive system internally. I have had to choose how to live, but it’s my life, and I have had to learn to be independent.

LeGaBiBo Launches Book

U.S. Ambassador Earl R. Miller and LeGaBiBo members and supporters at the Dipolelo Tsa Rona book launch in Gaborone, Botswana, in September. UK Deputy High Commissioner Oliver Richards also attended. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

U.S. Ambassador Earl R. Miller and LeGaBiBo members and supporters at the Dipolelo Tsa Rona book launch in Gaborone, Botswana, in September. UK Deputy High Commissioner Oliver Richards also attended. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

On Friday, 23rd September, LeGaBiBo once again made history! The organisation launched its first edition of a Dipolelo Tsa Rona booklet. The booklet is a collection of 10 LGBTI stories from across Botswana. The stories tell experiences of love, hate, coming out and hope. It also explores lived experiences of LGBTI persons in our communities.

The event was attended by the LGBTI community, LeGaBiBo friends and partners. The Deputy High Commissioner for the British High Commission to Botswana, H.E. Mr. Oliver Richards commended the work that LeGaBiBo has been doing in advancing LGBTI rights in Botswana. He we added that “to advance human rights is to seek to build a society where no one is left behind and to make space in that for difference. We are, after all, all different”.

Cover illustration for the book Dipolelo Tsa Rona. (Photo courtesy of Legabibo)

Click this image to download the book Dipolelo Tsa Rona.

Dipolelo Tsa Rona can be obtained at the LeGaBiBo offices in Block 8, Gaborone. A soft copy can be downloaded here. [Or by clicking on the image of the book.] We hope that you will enjoy the book, and do let us know what you think.

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One thought on “Stories of LGBTI love, hate, coming out and hope in Botswana

  1. Pingback: Lesbian, gay and bisexual Nigerians, please share your stories | 76 CRIMES

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