By: @OTSETSWE KOOTLHOKILE
People of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI), often in rural communities, often have to live a discreet life. A secret existence boxed in conservative and confirmative societies that if they dare break from the norm, run the risk of being labelled abnormal.
For those brave enough, coming out as a homosexual is often closely followed by community and family backlash. The LGBTI community are often alienated by the very same community that has sworn to love, protect and support them at all times. The LGBTI community in Selebi Phikwe, has also had its fair share of abuse and ridicule from their closest kin. While some have managed to mend fences with community and family, some are still left to deal with the aftermath of their disclosure of their sexuality on their own.
The LGBTI community in Selebi Phikwe argue that they get little support and a support group would be very much welcome in the mining town. The LGBTI community argues that despite living conditions being bearable, there is a gap that only a support group could fill. Thato*, a gay man living in Selebi Phikwe, says there is a lot a support group can do to support the LGBTI community. “Most people think because we are not constantly harassed or bullied, all is well in Phikwe. I believe we need support in Phikwe in areas such as community and emotional support”. Thato says despite being accepted by his community and parents, he still feels there is a long way to go. “I am openly gay but that has not made it easier. I sometimes feel it has made my life a bit harder”. He goes on to further relate his story. “I have been openly gay since I was in senior secondary school. I have had teachers say really demeaning remarks to me and never told anyone about it because I could not identify anyone who could help me to deal with that. My parents even though they say they have accepted me, when we fight, they will say something really homophobic and it’s really hard to know where I stand with them”. Kabo* a gay man, also believes there is a need for a support group in Phikwe to help the LGBTI community deal with the issues they deal with every day. “When I came out to my family, they threatened to kick me out but they didn’t follow through. If they had followed through I don’t know where I would have gone to. I am unemployed and my family believes it’s because I live a life of sin as a homosexual, that’s why I can’t get a job. We need a support group that offers services such as shelter and counselling to LGBTI community in Phikwe”.
Thabo*, a self-confessed staunch Christian shares a story of a dream denied because of his sexual orientation. “My dream growing up was to be a praise and worship singer in any church. I went to a local church hoping I would be roped in but in one of the services the pastor revealed to the whole church that I am homosexual and I need to be delivered from that ‘spirit’. I never went back to that church and in fact I haven’t been to any church ever since”. Kabo says the church incident has since weighed heavily on him psychologically. “I tried to get counselling at the local hospital but if felt the counselor could not be bothered with what I was I was going through. Maybe if we had counselors that knew how to deal with LGBTI related cases. Most LGBTI would get better emotional and psychological support”.
Currently, the only support group that offers any sort of support to the LGBTI community in Selebi Phikwe is HIV non-governmental organization Silence Kills support group. The support group offers services such as, HIV prevention interventions, HIV counselling and referrals for treatment.
.*not real name