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A call for allies: A narrative change for LGBTI persons

A call for allies: A narrative change for LGBTI persons
May 28
08:42 2018

On May 17th, various activists from gender, social care and education industries came together to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, Biphobia through a breakfast dialogue at Regent Hotel in Gaborone. Curated by Men For Health and Gender Justice Organisation, this year’s theme “Re-Awakening Allies-Changing the narrative and celebrating lives of Batswana LGBTI persons,” aims to foster positive alliances for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community.

Hoping to change the narrative that reduces LGBTI persons to an ‘anomaly’, it has become apparent that there’s still more awareness and education that is necessary to facilitate their inclusion. With visibility and inclusion repeatedly cited in the conversations that morning, the lack of allies that positively share the experiences of this community is apparent. “The main issue is that LGBTI are entitled to their rights, from health access to freedom of expression. We continue to receive cases that outline discrimination based on sexual orientation, which should not be happening today. We are born free, so we must embrace each other and continue to speak out and become a bridge for LGBTI people,” stated Thatayotlhe Junior Molefe, Executive Director at Men For Health and Gender Justice. He added that Botswana has come a long way as expressed by the State allowing LEGABIBO to register.

The challenge has been identifying allies who have the best intentions for the community, as well as those willing to become their voice outside the scope of the community. “Visibility can change the perceptions of people about LGBTI people, but it can also leave them vulnerable to danger and abuse. We need to ensure that they can share their stories, their lives in a manner that protects and respects them and how they choose to identify themselves,” stated Ratanang Mosweu.

US Ambassador to Botswana, Earl Miller, asserted a message of solidarity to the community. “We need to advance human rights. We advocate against laws that discriminate against the LGBTI community and we will continue to.”

A mother to a child who identifies as lesbian, Felicia Moatshe, highlighted the need for parents to embrace their LGBTI children, as well as becoming their fortress. “These are our children. We need to accept them, love them and embrace them for who they are. I hope that eventually there comes a time for us to recognise marriage for LGBTI people because they deserve that right.”

Activist and poet Tshepo Jamiliah Moyo, decried the lack of inclusive language in the media: “Journalists still do not know how to report on issues surrounding the gay community in a way that desists from sensationalism and reducing LGBTI persons to sexual objects. There’s necessary work to be done in humanising this community, as well using the right terminology that does not mock them or vilify them.”

“As a nurse, I took the oath to provide health care services to anyone in need of them, regardless of creed, race or sexual orientation. There’s a gap in how LGBTI people are treated in hospitals when you relate it to this oath, mainly because of the homophobic culture that is common in our society. Nurses and doctors are not exempt from that, as they were also raised in that same culture that discriminates gay people. It has become our mission to continue to sensitize health workers to treat gay people with integrity and respect, and this will take persistent awareness,” noted Biomedical Officer Nene Mmoloke.

Cindy Kelemi delved into the importance of intersectionality and portraying gay people beyond the scope of health and as ‘whole people’ who have aspirations, needs and important contributions for the society.

Men For Health also hosted an art exhibition around the theme at Livingstone Kolobeng College on May 18th

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