1/3/13

Open Minds in a Small Place


   Overall, Botswana is a politically conservative country when it comes to many subjects, including sexuality and sexual orientation. It isn't illegal to be gay here per say,but it is illegal to engage in any sexual activity that can not lead to procreation. There is a LGBT organization based in the capital city and there certainly are members of the LGBT community living in Botswana, but most who are out  about their sexual orientation live in the capital or in larger villages, not in the small, rural areas. I can't comment on whether or not it is physically unsafe for someone to be out in a village here or not because that would totally depend on the individual's situation. I've heard of teenagers who have come out here being beaten by parents or other family members as a form of discipline/punishment for being gay or using substances or harming themselves because they are afraid to be out or are being rejected for being out. Overall, Botswana is a peaceful country, but family dynamics and religious views have an influence, just as they have an influence in other parts of the world, including the U.S. Even if there isn't a physical threat, I can see how it could be intimidating for someone to be out in a small village here because it could feel very isolating and have some potential social implications for them. There isn't very much support or education regarding sexuality/sexual orientation in the smaller villages so many people just do not understand and lack of understanding often leads to discrimination and prejudice.
   Now keeping all of this in mind, I want to tell you about how I've had the privilege of getting to know a pretty incredible person in my small village who is openly gay and even dresses in drag frequently. This person is a respected member of the community, and from what I have been told and witnessed feels safe in the village and doesn't experience harassment within the village. I do not know what this person's experience has been growing up here entirely, but I know I am certainly admire the bravery it can take be fully oneself in a place where so many would not feel comfortable or safe enough to do so. I also am impressed by and was taken a little bit by surprise by the general open-mindedness of my small village community. It makes me feel lucky to live here in this village and to get the chance to meet such wonderful people who are able to say things like "We may not agree with it, but someone's life is his or her own life". I wish more people in this world were able to adopt that attitude, even in the United States. 

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