Many years ago I lived overseas where I was, as you can expect, a minority. I felt like a minority because quite often I was reminded abrasively at times that I was in fact that minority. Fast forward to 2012 and now living back home, those lessons have not been forgotten. It took me many years to understand why I was so concerned with minorities and/or the disadvantaged in society. Inspired by a #263Chat topic last year, I had a moment – an epiphany if you will. I care about minorities because for many years I was that minority. In some small way I still am.
Let’s fast forward to 8th January 2013 on a day where we discussed Gay Rights in Zimbabwe during our weekly #263Chat. The guest expert was @HOLAAfrica who played an instrumental role in disseminating information but more importantly debunking the various myths regarding gay rights in Zimbabwe. The conversation itself was an eye opening discussion for most it seems. You could tell from the tweets and comments prior to this week’s #263Chat that many people were very much interested in this discussion but whether they would actually be tweeting and sharing their thoughts with others was another matter altogether. From the messages and emails I received afterwards, there were many people sitting on the sidelines watching and taking in the discussion.
Sadly what struck me most was the higher than expected level of bigotry. I have often heard statements about how religious or how Christian Zimbabweans are, however I saw very little Christian values during #263Chat this week. Many equated lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals (LGBTI) to animal behaviour. One individual spoke about ‘killing them’ while others expressed disgust that there were people who was advocating for their rights. I personally lost some followers on twitter that day and the subsequent days simply because I wouldn’t support their views. Some expected me to engage in this bigotry fuelled discussion and oppose LGBTI however as I mentioned earlier, this group is a minority in Zimbabwe trying to survive against all odds. They too require support and inclusion in society just like everyone else.
A few points from the discussion: -
- Despite our high level of education and exposure we’re still not yet as tolerant as I thought we should be. This was evidenced by various people who called for the killing of gays and lesbians and other such comments. Some of the same people claimed to be Christians and used the Bible as their basis for their argument.
- The older generation who took up in this #263Chat may relate to the discrimination of a section in society. I firmly believe there will come a time when we have accepted LGBTI as being a part of our society. As begottensun pointed out: ‘some people will one day read back yesterday’s #chat263 & cringe like white people who opposed blacks on TV in the 60s’. He’s right; it’s only a matter of time really. Till then, their fight continues.
- One individual suggested that those advocating for gay rights were predominantly based outside the country, whilst another suggested that those supporting gay rights are MDC supporters and those opposing are Zanu PF supporters. I found that comment very interesting. Yet again another example at how we often politicise situations when there is absolutely no need to.
In conclusion, this topic was always going to be a tense affair with heightened emotions infused with the much anticipated bigotry that is often associated with LGBTI discussions in Zimbabwe. I know there are many people and/or various organisations who were ‘listening in’ as the discussion continued. #263Chat was established amongst other things to be a catalyst. I know the conversation didn’t end there and is still ongoing right now. That was the point i.e. we took an issue that was otherwise swept under the carpet and brought it out in the open. Let’s keep talking about this. While we talk, we invariably share ideas, engage others and slowly perceptions and reality should change. As Sue Nyathi so rightly said, ‘every citizen should enjoy the same rights regardless of their sexual orientation’.