Everything that is wrong and that is right with the world emanates from socialisation; how we were brought up, reared and institutionalised (formally and informally) constructs every decision, choice and action.
Fresh after being granted the right to associate, the Lesbians Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) are now embarking on a mission to address the change of gender markers on all documents such as births certificates, identification cards and passports to each individual’s preferences.
Girls wear pink and boys wear blue; girls play mom to their dolls and boys rough it out on the streets with toy cars and as they grow older the young women cook with their mothers and the young men do the outdoors such as jobs chopping fire wood and slaughtering animals.
All so flat-surfaced and two dimensional and easier to understand and live with, consider the weirdo who the layman describes as a man stuck in a woman’s body or alternatively the awkward girl stuck in a man’s body.
They do exist and are shunned, discriminated against and more importantly misunderstood; society’s myopic perceptions are still trying to wrap its mind around same sex relationships (gays, lesbians and bisexual). Understanding transgender, intersex and the non-gender conformists is a hurdle Batswana are yet to overcome.
Lawyer for LEGABIBO, Lesego Nchunga, explained that they were currently working on an application to the court to challenge a transgender woman’s gender marker which indicates that she is a man while she not only identifies as a woman but expresses herself as such.
Ultimately Nchunga hopes through their advocacy they will attain a non-binary status quo regarding gender markers to include the intersexes and the non-gender conformists who prefer to be referred to as the gender diverse.
LEGABIBO’s Communication and Documentation officer, Bradley Fortouin explained that: “Currently Botswana constitution is silent about transgender and at the same time it does not recognise transgender persons. It only mentions sexual orientation in the Amended Employment Act of 2010.
“One is not prohibited to have gender reconstruction surgery, but the problem comes when you have to change your gender on your national identification documents with the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs.”
In the United States of America they are advocating for the free use of toilets, showers and changing rooms in schools beyond the confinements of the girl/boy signs found at the door as they are deemed discriminatory to the transgender communities.
It directs schools to treat transgender students according to the gender they identify with after being notified by the parents/guardian with no specific medical diagnosis required.
Nchunga further explained that ideally bathrooms would be gender neutral who should go where.
According to Nchungane, “having separate restrooms for them would be just as bad as apartheid as there were restrooms for blacks and whites, or like in medical clinics where they place an ARV centre at the back of the clinic. It is an unnecessary reinforcement of stigma and discrimination which is not only unfounded but is also undesirable in a society that seeks to respect bodily dignity and autonomy.”
To change a names as an adult requires to get a signed letter from the parents and witnesses and it is usually done by people with names that are deemed demeaning with less than desirable connotations.
To change one’s gender marker however remains impossible hence the application that has been made to the courts seeking some sort retribution to this regard.
Understanding the terminology:
TRANSGENDER: People who are born with typical male or female anatomies but feel as if though they have been born into the “wrong body”; for example a person who identifies as transgender may have typical female anatomy but feel like a male and seek to become one by ingesting hormones or choosing to have sex reassignment surgeries
INTERSEX: It is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with the reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male
NON GENDER CONFORMITY/ GENDER DIVERSITY/ GENDER VARIANCE: Behaviour or gender expression by an individual that does not match masculine and feminine gender norms.