Sunday, July 5, 2020

ON “HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE MILITARY”; LET’S GET THE FACTS STRAIGHT

BY LETLHOGONOLO MOREMI, LAWYER & LGBTQ ACTIVIST

Let us begin by clarifying one thing, the existence of gender diverse and sexually diverse people in Botswana is both a scientific and historical fact. History tells us of the concept of  koetsire by the Khoikhoi in the 18th century, it informs us of the Kenyan women who take on “wives”, it also tell us that the men of Shaka Zulu’s army, perceived to be most fierce of the Bantu armies engaged in sexual activity with one another in preparation for battle. In fact history tell us that until the colonialists brought “Sodomy Laws” to our land, the Tswana people variably had a culture of acceptance or indifference towards sexual diversity, not one of fear or hatred.

While I write in response to one Richard Molefe’s wildly misinformed assertions on homosexuality, I write with sympathy knowing I cannot entirely blame the writer. He is after all a typical product of a colonial education system that is based on erasure of one’s own narrative and  teaches us to erase the narratives of those who do not look, sound or behave like an institutionalized “Standard”.

The removal of LGBTQ people’s presence from history is a deliberate design meant to create minds like those of the article’s unfortunate author. In the same way that the erasure of any oppressed class’ contribution to history is meant to discredit those people’s humanity and value. We as Africans, especially as black Africans should know better what our erasure from history has harmed our presence and threatens our future. To use the same colonial erasure against fellow Batswana is a replication of the same violence that was designed to dehumanize us. To see a black African to willingly wield that same weapon is to witness our colonizers’ greatest achievement.

It is this erasure that leads Rre Moleofe to speak about an “introduction” of homosexuals into the military as if people who are sexually diverse have not served in Defence of this country. He might as well speak of the introduction of homosexuals to any sector or industry, forgetting the hardworking lawyers, bankers, artists, government officials and military men and women who wake up every day to work for the good of this country. They do not require separate training nor special treatment as the writer would have liked us to believe. They do not create any additional costs for this economy, they add it to exponentially. To speak of them as if they are not regular Batswana who are actively present in all structures of this country’s economy is not only ignorant but severely disrespectful.

It is this very erasure which leads to making false assertions that homosexuals have never had to fight for anything. In doing so Rre Moleofe dishonours the valiance of countless men and women who put their lives on the line across the world every day, standing up against a world that seeks to see them eliminated. Many of whom quietly put their lives on the line for the sake of their countries military, Botswana being no exception. He dishonored the work of leaders like Simon Nkoli, the gay anti-apartheid struggle icon who was jailed and charged with treason for fighting for fighting for liberation. He dishonours the legacy of great leaders like King Mwanga II of Buganda, who was openly homosexual and accepted by his nation until Christianity brought the virus of homophobia.

When opining on matters of such importance, we must always research. As queer people, when opinions based on misinformation are broadcasted, they make our existence even more endangered. They directly affect our lives.It affects us at. They affect whether we are safe, accepted, seen as valid without having to prove our humanity. We cannot continue to allow arbitrary opinions to have platform, nor to sit back and allow misinformation to go uncorrected.

On the same note, I would like to challenge Batswana to no longer think of us (Batswana) as beings who are set in stone and incapable of evolution. It is this same thinking that leads us to undermine our capacity for development, personally, socially and economically. To use this great nationality as a basis for self-censorship and self-diminishing is betrayal to our ancestors who took on the mantles of social and diplomatic innovation to build this nation. Surely they think higher of us than this.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.