Real life stories of LGBTI shared online
The absence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) stories in Botswana and the need for representation has inspired blogger and photographer, Brilliant Kodie to launch an online portal called Setabane. The portal, which officially went online in the past two weeks features real life stories of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders and Queers residing in Botswana at the same time creating understanding of what it means to be LGBTI in Botswana.
“Setabane is a derogatory word for gay. The word is always used to bring down gay people especially when they are closeted or just trying to live their truth. In deciding to use the word I saw the need to own it and change its view by allowing all those who are living their truth to come forth and share stories about themselves with the world,” Kodie explained.
Even thought the policy environment for the LGBTI community in Botswana has improved in recent years with the registration of activist organizations and adoption of more progressive public health policies, social acceptance and knowledge remains a distant dream. Most Batswana still see homosexuality and gender non-conformity as unnatural, sinful and many LGBTI Batswana continue to be misunderstood with homophobia on the rise. Kodie added that in creating the portal he wanted to share with straight people their realities and how they see themselves. “This is done so that they refrain from just seeing us as just abomination thus using my talent of photography for creating stills that are high quality and relevant to our time,” he pointed out.
Currently, the portal features two stories of Keletso Kelatlhegile and Kay Kesaobaka writing letters to their 15 year old selves. According to Kodie it is at around those years most people are in junior school and that is where they discover themselves and get to deal with discrimination. “So far the impact has basically been Batswana visiting the website setabane.com to read stories and show appreciation. With time we want to engage them more and expand into podcasting so that they are able to hear the stories being shared by those who own them,” he said.
While he is currently running the portal as a solo project, Kodie says he would like to see embassies and any NGO’s getting involved. “Going forward it will be great to actually even have set ups where the public can maybe once a month get to meet these individuals and hear their stories in person and interact with them,” he concluded.