My Name is Lady Tabengwa. I am a lesbian woman of 25 years and I have a girlfriend. I live alone in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. To earn money, I work as a business administrator. Being a lesbian has influenced my life in a sense that I have to work twice as hard. Those things that are easy to most people, are challenges for me. Whatever I do, I will always be undermined and discriminated against, because of my sexuality. So, I have to fill in that gap. Often, I am cornered in a podium of people who pass remarks and ask questions. Many people invade my personal space, all in the name of trying to understand my sexual orientation. In most instances, it feels like I am robbed of my right to refuse being exposed to certain questions.
My rights are frequently violated. Simply, because when members of society do not understand my sexuality, according to them, they have the right to insult me, all in the name of curiosity. For instance, when I get into a bus with my girlfriend, we are attacked with remarks by the other passengers. My environment is not a safe space for me. In de mindset of the society of my country, being homosexual is a Western thing, so the community uses negative force, such as insulting comments. People try to ‘detox’ homosexuals and to control the spread of Western habits.
I buried the card of playing the victim
Even in the health sector, there is a lot of ignorance about LGBTI. Combined with the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS among health care providers, it is difficult for LGBTI citizens to approach health services about sexually related problems, either psychological or physical. With the government’s efforts to educate people about HIV and AIDS, you would expect people to be open-minded about it. But stigma still widely exists. Entering societal spaces and openly being who I am, is a big challenge. First, when I came out, I did not know what being a lesbian really meant, as I was raised in a straight world. Only negative things were circulating in my head. Often, I have been feeling like a ‘walking taboo’ and a ‘walking sin’. But, after finding out about the organisation LEGABIBO – Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana – I received all the support that I needed.
One of the best things that the organisation has given me is actually being around people who are homosexuals. This provides me with a sense of normality, after being in the void that made me think I was the only gay person! The range of events hosted by LEGABIBO brought a sense of sanity to me. Basically, the most important impact of the organisation is the shift of my mindset, realising the true essence of what it means to be a lesbian in Africa. This boosted my morale and made me bury the card of ‘playing the victim’. It made me really unleash the gay pride that I have long been scared to embrace.