Over the past week I drew more interest to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community. Here in our continent, only one country recognizes LGBTQ relationships, adoption and gender identity. Only 21 out of our 54 countries legalized sexual activity, and although legislations have an impact on stigma towards the community, LGBTQ activists still rise over the stigma and voice human right violations and continuously inform the public on the need to recognize the community.
I spoke to one of Botswana’s vocal LGBTQ activists Kat Kai Kol-Kes, the country’s openly transgender LGBT activist to understand her perspective of the LGBTQ scenery in Botswana – one of the countries that have criminalized sexual activity of the LGBTQ community. Here our uncut raw conversation about the matter
Understanding the transgender community in Botswana because not a lot people are out and active about it. What do you receive within your community?
Well fortunately and unfortunately based on the way I live my life I don’t know where the community is. There is rainbow identity of which I haven’t had that much interaction with, so I honestly cannot speak on their behalf either. But I know that they have miss rainbow identity and Mr Rainbow identity beauty pageants but the last one that I saw was not last year. There was an interest, and then everyone decided no ‘let me live my own life’. I think in terms of a community what would be considered a community are people being with people they know and not so much we are here for you to come to if you need. Or a sense of, some form of a completely open support group, kind of thing
For me it’s been that issue that I haven’t, in me trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do. I didn’t come out because of Laverne Cox; I didn’t come out because of Janet Mark. I put it out there because I was like okay. I’ve heard in certain circles about some people but I’ve never heard the actual person say it. They’ve been illusions to certain things but nobody’s ever confirmed it or denied it but if were going to stay in Botswana doing this don’t ask don’t tell then were going to imprison ourselves even further.
Community wise, I don’t know. I’ve had some people who are Trans come to me and saying thank you for being a voice. You’re not necessarily our voice but you are a voice, you allow for Trans voices to be heard. Thankfully I guess for me – having it be part of what I studied it helps me be better versed. So I’m not just speaking from experience I’m speaking from research, I’m speaking from a learned point of view. I don’t know everything, but that’s the way I life my life is that I need to learn
Let’s look into the LGBT sense how at times homosexuality is confused with transgenderism
Yeah… When the first LEGABIBO appeal was won, I wrote an article which I ended up putting on my buzz feed channel because no publication would channel it, because no one wanted to feel that kind of talk. But it was about – when I was asking people how they felt about the decision, I ask a transgender friend of mine and he said ‘well it’s all well and good for the gays and the lesbians, but this decision has nothing to do with the “T” unless you identify yourself as a transgender who is gay”. In that it’s the intricacies and the complex nature of being transgender, which is very simple.
It is not relating your body with your experienced self. Your physical self and your experience self are two different things. But after that, you basically live the same way as everybody else. So you may be transgender and a homosexual, what that means is your female bodied but are male identifying and attracted to males. So that is what starts to confuse people – but I think that’s because people look at transgenderism as sexual orientation.
If that’s the case are we to fully include LGBT community, if sexual orientation relates to the LGBT?
The reason the acronym grew is because there was a necessity to not ‘other’ everyone. Because then they were seen that we were too few in numbers across the world. Whereas sure in Thailand for example the transgender community overpower the gay and lesbian community because they were more visible. So in Thailand having LGBT works in the favour of LG because the T is already out there. You know Thailand’s military regulations were – well in the beginning phases of my obsession of laws across the world – Thailand has regulations were they amended their military laws so that people who were going through gender reassignment surgery could still join the military. At first it was only males, and then it went to if you were male identifying, and then it was if you were born male or you still identify as more male but you may had some alterations on your body that won’t stop you from conducting your duty then you can be a soldier in the military. So if you are what in Thailand is called a lady-boy, which is an actual title it’s not a derogatory term, if you are a lady boy you live in that space between genders and physical manifestations of gender you can still be a military officer.
Who cares what is happening between your legs and what’s happening on your chest. So that’s where they progressed to. So that’s the thing, we needed to get to a point where LG where fighting their fight over there and then the bisexuals were pretty much the heterosexuals who were pretty much the watery ones, the slippery ones who at times confused people then the LGBT was formed. But as science made it clearer and more classifications were put together, TIAQQQ – and that’s the thing – we never look at the whole Intersexual, asexual, queer, queering and questioning. Queer Queering and Questioning are three completely different classifications. But we just stop at LGBTQ or LGBT. There are a lot of minorities against heteronormal activity
And heteronormativity in the sense that your cis gender and cis your cis-sex. Everything matches. So as soon as you start queering any of that, then it became the issue. So it’s like okay well, I’m not like everyone else, yes I grew up and I’m heterosexual and I’m attracted to males but if when you look at me I see a male. But I’m heterosexual. So me flirting with a guy is not a homosexual relationship that is about to develop, but not defined, at a chromosomal level it might be homosexual but at the end of the day physically manifestations prove that it isn’t. I think that is why the acronym is, and right now there is a push that the community now with the more wins that we have we split bit by bit, without saying ‘okay we as transgender don’t want to be part of that struggle ever again
-it’s just more of identification
-yes, you know IDAHO which is the international day against homophobia was originally IDAHO, but the last time it was classified as IDAHO was in 2012 which is the first time I did a production for IDAHO. So in 2013, transphobia was put in there, so it became IDAHOT. And in 2014 when it was all been given out, 2014 was still IDAHOT then 2015 the regulation was sent out that biphobia is still something we should be worried about, so now it’s the International Day of Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia but it cannot be IDAHOTBO (laughs) it’s still IDAHO but it is to say we do not neglect the plight of other people
The reason why the relevant is still relevant is to let people know that there is a community but within the community it must be understood that we must be put together as a unified front but not merged into people’s stories. The lesbians struggle was sub sued into the gay struggle