Hiding your sexuality has been easy for so many years, all you had to do was suck it up and just be ‘Normal,’ right? The main problem is that doing that cannot be considered to be a fulfilling life. When your sexuality isn’t satisfactorily expressed, a part of your life or identity, is unjustly stripped of you. Afterall we live in a world where being anything other than cis or hetero is seen as abnormal – an oddity. Yet that is far from the truth. It is not a foreign concept to find one being an effeminate man, masculine woman, transgender, gender non-conforming, not sexually or romantically attracted to anyone – these are all part of the diversity of human life. It would be nice to say that confidently, but unfortunately in Africa, you can still be imprisoned for your sexuality. Socially you can be made into a freak for not feeling at peace in the body you were born in, forced to be “hetero-passing” to avoid being a ‘disgrace’ or a ‘disappointment,’ or whatever cruel thing people say to invalidate your personal experience, growth and identity.

For so long, religion had been used and still being used to shame and condemn anyone who isn’t cisgender or heterosexual, save for ‘passing’ people, even though it is only a matter of time before the questions arise as to their seemingly odd behaviour. Since the decriminalisation of adult consensual same-sex sexual acts in June 2019, we, as a community, have been empowered to have the freedom to celebrate Pride and non-heteronormative life in solidarity. Though unfortunately, not many of us do, maybe because of limited activities in Botswana or the still prejudiced policies and ideals held by the elder generations. Admittedly, they can’t be fully held accountable for how they were raised, but we can understand that this is not an excuse to be disrespectful to a people or community.

Sadly, this is what we face as LGBTQIA+ in Africa, especially the ones who do not feel it necessary to be ‘Loud and Proud,’ just being proud is enough, whether to self or to whoever is the safe space for us. However, even being proud is seen as a cultural offence, on social media and in remote areas you could still be targeted and made fun of. Even so, there is no law that prohibits this, or protects LGBTQIA+ people directly. On the bright side, the court ruling allows cases on gender and sexual oriented discrimination to be tried as valid cases.

I do know, it sounds like doom-scrolling but I bring this up to encourage you, us. A community that still gets imprisoned for who we love or who we are attracted to, have come so far and we will continue to go further, so this is a shout out to the LGBTQIA+ this pride month, to say we see you and we accept you. You do not owe anyone peace if they don’t give you peace, and you do not owe anyone to be silent because you are gay, you owe them nothing.

Don’t think that to be LGBTQIA+ is to always be loud and proud, you also don’t owe anyone that, all you owe anyone is to be your genuine authentic self. Especially in Botswana, a country that is full of culture and heritage, with so much to stand on there is also so much they want to look down on. It does hurt to think of LGBTQIA+ in places that have small communities who are severely outcast or believe they need to be a certain way in order to keep the peace. I say don’t worry, you don’t have to let everyone know, you can keep it close, you can take your time to figure out how you identify, but never lie to yourself or anyone about your authentic self. So, this is a very special shout out to the ones still in the closet, the ones who are out to themselves, the ones still figuring it out, and the ones who have found a safe haven – for your own safety, or because you just don’t want to be loud about it. You are valid. You are here, and we will always have a place for you.