With homosexuality being regarded as a “disease” and immoral in many communities throughout Botswana, many, however, believe that Gaborone is turning into a “gay haven.” Many people have come out of the closet with their sexual orientation and are easing down to the feel of being homosexual.
However, some even believe they can be oriented to “turn gay”.
Letso, (not her real name) says she chose to date women because she was “fed up” with men.
“Men abuse women’s feelings and use us; my relationships never worked out and I got tired and decided to experiment with lesbianism.”
The final year university student says she now considers herself lesbian, and rules out bisexuality as she says she only dated men in her past.
“It’s just like when one transforms to a new faith, they will be recognized with their new religion, not the old,” she said sternly.
Letso reveals that she has been dating women since the beginning of this year, and has only been out with two women already. She reveals that her first homosexual relationship did not work out and she attributes it to inexperience. “It was a first; I was used to dating men and the adaptation took just a bit longer.”
Asked whether she had had feelings for women before, she sinks into deep thought before rolling her eyes to a “maybe”. She admits confusion on the issue because, as she says, “some things are rarely in the open and have to be probed. I had to go through an array of unsuccessful relationships to open my eyes and heart to a possible truth.”
Letso said she had to sit down and think deep on what was going wrong in her love life before realizing she was meant to date within the same sex. Although she refuses to disclose whether she initially had feelings for women before, she proudly says she believes in orientation. “I can easily introduce one to the gay life and they will be hooked,” she says.
She, however, is cagey and does not reveal whether she was introduced and trained in the homosexual world. Though she has been dating women for only a year now, she reveals that she is happy with her love life and certain she will not “turn straight” again. She chuckles, “I love the life; it’s free and fun.”
Caine Youngman, board president of LeGaBiBo (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexual people of Botswana) asserts that the term “turn” is strong to be used simultaneously with sexual orientation. He says there is a difference between heterosexual sex and being heterosexual, citing that homosexual people can indulge in heterosexual sex and heterosexual people can also practice homosexual sex but that’s not changing their sexual orientation. Youngman avows that his opinions are based on his personal experience, experiences of those around him, available literature and the confessions from different people.
“No, I do not believe that one can turn just like that. There are some institutions who call themselves “Ex-gay”. They believe they can turn gay people into heterosexuals. The results are questionable since some people say they just choose to ignore their emotions. I have a friend who was a member of such an institution who had to go under shock therapy as part of his transformation. He is still a gay man,” says Youngman.
He reiterated that with sexuality, it is emotions (feelings) that are involved, adding that with bisexuality, a person is both physically and emotionally attracted to people of the same sex, stating that there are straining situations that lead people to indulging in homosexual sex.
“A population of men isolated from the opposite gender for a long time in boarding school, military institutions or prison will find a way to sexually satisfy themselves to the best of the situation at hand. This doesn’t mean they are gay or bisexuals. They are just heterosexuals practicing homosexual sex due to the situation at hand. With most, once they leave that place, they will stick to their preferred orientation.”
Youngman says according to his knowledge, “ordinary bisexuals” are born bisexual and do not choose their lifestyle. But he also affirmed that people are sometimes termed as bisexuals because they get physical and sexual with people of different sexes and same sexes, adding that at times situations could compel people to get involved with both sexes (not necessarily at the same time).
Says Youngman, “It’s because they are usually forced by circumstances; some experienced dire heartaches, so to avoid more emotional pain they turn to the other sex.” He further said that some people do it to get clarity on their sexuality.
In neighbouring South Africa, a study conducted between 2003 and 2007 by the South African Social Attitudes Survey (SASAS) has revealed that over 80 percent of the population believes that same sex relationships are always wrong; despite it having been legalized and even gay marriages now being recognized by law. The study exhibits that negative attitudes between lesbians and gays are widespread in South Africa.
Meanwhile, in Botswana, homosexuality is considered illegal and LeGaBiBo, the first organization advocating for homosexual result has been in existence for almost 10 years now, but the organization has not been registered with the Registrar of Societies under the pretext that registering such an organisation is an act of aiding and abetting the commission of an illegal act as defined under Section 164 of the Penal Code, whose effect criminalises homosexuality.