Rainbow Identity Association is the very first and remains the only organisation in Botswana to focus on the needs and rights of the transgender and intersex communities in Botswana. It was formed by a group of concerned activists in Botswana in 2008 to address the challenges faced by the transgender and intersex community in Botswana and to promote their rights, access to services and overall visibility that works to minimise stigma and discrimination in general society. After a long and tiresome struggle, one of its biggest successes was its formal registration in 2010. It has since established an office where transgender and intersex persons and their allies can gather to benefit from its services, socialise, organise and collectively act.
"A world with gender equity and justice in which transgender and intersex persons possessing all genders and diverse identities feel safe, valued and respected."
To advocate for the inclusion of transgender and intersex people across all spaces and to challenge the stigmatising and discriminatory social treatment of transgender and intersex bodies, identities and people as unjust.
RIA provides a variety of services to its community, including organising entertainment, sporting and recreational events in a safe environment to provide opportunities for community building
Facilitating referrals for health care focusing on–
mental health specialists and counsellors and for psychosocial support
sexual and reproductive health care
rehabilitation centres for drug and alcohol abuse
Disseminating information and providing training relating to HIV and STIs including–
information on HIV and STI prevention, treatment, care and support
- Disseminating HIV barrier products specifically geared towards the needs of transgender and intersex bodies
Providing legal referral assistance by linking up our members who need legal advice or representation relating to the protection and promotion of their gender identity and expression rights
Promoting advocacy through workshops for community organisers, activists, politicians, and other leaders
Hosting information sessions for transgender and intersex people outlining their human rights
- Advancing trans and intersex issues in civic and legal platforms
TRANS & INTERSEX DIARIES
My name is Onneile Sam, I come from a village called Marobela. Some of my friends call me Sam or Samito. I was born in Orapa and raised in Letlhakane. Ever since I grew up, I felt that I was different, some people refer to us as, the odd one or, a black sheep. I might have been born a girl but deep down I feel like a boy. So, I am a Transgender man, but back then I had no idea about this identity of mine. I remember when I was 4 years old playing with my older brothers, I would shout out telling them that I am a boy, if they called me a girl. I also enjoyed playing with guns made out of plastic, and cars made out of wires. I was never fond of dolls. By then my family thought that I was kidding. My own mother thought that it was just a phase that would pass with time. There was a point of time when I told them that I no longer wanted to wear skirts and dresses. My mum and I would get into arguments while buying me clothes. By that time, she did not comprehend why I detested girl’s clothes, but on the other hand my dad seemed to comprehend. I even demanded to wear boy’s under wears. He was very supportive, to an extent of him and I becoming close. Even at school, I refused to wear skirts or dress uniform. Some teachers thought that I was somehow rebelling against the school system, whereas I was simply trying to be myself. Yes! I cannot deny the fact that I used to plait my hair. Trust me, I did not like it. My mum would bribe me so that I agree to be plaited. Obviously, I was still a child, and I could not resist the offer. I am not sure if she was ashamed or perhaps hoping for a miracle. Sometimes I turn to think that she was pressurized by the perspective of the society, since she is a religious woman. I was told to go to church or else I will end up in hell. The reason why I went to church was a way of pleasing my mum. To be honest I was never happy at church because we were only allowed to wear skirts and dresses, and that to me felt like torture. She did not realize that persuading me to wear skirts was like putting me in hell itself. I ended up hating church. I used to have a lot of hatred towards my mum, because I felt that she was forcing me to live a life that was fake. When I started to cut my hair short, she seemed to comprehend me gradually. I remember the first time when I had my period, it was still hard for me to accept that the body I had was mine. It felt like my worst nightmare. I used to pray to God wishing that I could wake up in a boy’s body. Even now I still have a wish to change, because I feel trapped. To some people it might seem silly, but normal to those who know how it feels to be a transgender. When I was in my adolescent stage, I realized that most people called me a tomboy, some would say that I was a girl pretending to be a boy. Some guys would threaten to rape me, so as to turn me straight, as if that was possible. Fitting into the environment proved to be a difficult task. At first it was petrifying such that I became anti-social, and I stayed indoors more often, turning to food for comfort, as well as expressing my feelings on a piece of paper, using ink. It is not easy to make the society to comprehend us especially when there is lack of support from the family. My dad left us and I had to learn to fend for myself. I even tried to date a guy, so as to find out if somehow, I had feelings towards boys. Dating a guy felt way weirder than the number of times I found myself crushing on a girl or a teacher at school. I was also trying to please everyone, and yet they never did anything to please me. So, when I turned 18 years old, I made the biggest decision of my life, and I am glad that I took it. I told myself that I was never going to please anyone again, including my own mum. In 2014 I moved to a village called Oodi, and I was also schooling there. So, all the guys who were in our class requested that all the ladies in the class should come to school wearing dresses. I refused. They attempted to criticize me and, I told them that, as much as I did not have a problem with them being who they are, I did not expect them to have a problem with me being who I am. That was bold right? I believe that they thought that I was somehow a threat to them, concerning the ladies. I cannot deny that most ladies were attracted to me, as much as I was attracted to some of them. So, I isolated myself so as to prevent conflicts with anyone, then the most amazing thing happened. People started being curious about my gender and my sexual orientation. Some of them were surprised because they thought that I was a guy. I enjoy being called a guy or a boy. Even strangers I came across addressed me as Brazen, even now. To me it seems normal. In two months almost half of the school had accepted me already. Being in Oodi helped me to meet other people who are like me. I got to learn a bit about homosexuality, and I became a bit relieved that I was not alone. I was taught about lesbians and gays, so I thought that I was a lesbian. It was through the help of Rainbow identity that I was able to receive proper knowledge, and indeed it was an eye opener for me. Rainbow Identity gave my identity a meaning. I felt my inner wounds healing gradually. Some of the wounds that healed were caused by incidents that occurred in Mogoditshane. Let me tell you what went down in Mogoditshane. While I was still schooling in Oodi, I would visit my uncle who resides in Mogoditshane, my uncle’s wife discriminated me in such a way that I felt like I was cursed. I was even afraid to tell my uncle because he was supporting his wife by then. Her sisters used to make fun of me, saying that I was possessed by demons. My uncle’s wife suggested I should wear dresses, skirts and plait my hair. She claimed that I was confusing her children, because they were told that I am a girl, whereas they saw me as a boy. By that time the use of anointing oils in most churches was popular so, she used anointing oil on me, thinking that I did not realize. Here is how it happened, she and her sister as well as her older daughter applied anointing oil on their hands. They stood in the living room, then she came and called me, I was in the bedroom. I could not refuse, who would? I was in her territory, so she was the one calling the shots. She claimed that everyone in the house should pray, so I went with her to the living room. They had all formed a circle, we were all instructed to hold each other’s hand, they had applied it thinking that I had an evil spirit which was compelling me to act and dress like a boy. They all thought that I would start jumping up and down, like someone who was possessed. Unfortunately for them, such an incident did not occur. Even though I was hurt that they used an anointing oil on me without my consent, I enjoyed seeing the disappointment on their faces. I confronted my mum about what they had done, and she told me ignore them, and ask God to forgive them. Sometimes it is difficult to fit into the environment, especially when the community fails to comprehend us, to a point where they try to force us to change. Some of the people see us as prey that should be haunted down, some of us are perceived as targets and guinea pigs. Someone might ask why I used the name guinea pig. I used it because there are some men out there who are on a mission to impregnant us, as well as to emotionally abuse us. Most Transgenders are afraid to come out because people cannot take a moment to put themselves in our shoes, and relate. The world can be too quick to judge, and try to justify their actions with the bible. Some people think that we are a disease, just imagine, it hurts. I can assure everyone that all LGBTI community is not possessed nor, disease carriers, because my own family accepted me, and some people in the society. I did not tell my family my secret but, it turns out that they knew all along. Whenever they wanted to know who I was dating, they would ask some of the people I used to hang with. It was funny, because I knew that they knew about my secret, but they were afraid to confront me. The same people who were asked about my identity spilled the beans, and I waited for my family to confront me. And, they did just that in 2017 during a Christmas Eve, I was not shocked but rather, overwhelmed. They made it easy for me to be fully out of the closet. Since coming out of the closet, I feel free and inspired to help other people out there who are like me, as well as those who are straight to comprehend. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rainbow Identity for giving my identity a meaning. I hope what I went through will inspire people who are still living in the closet, so as to come out, and for the society to comprehend and accept us, or aid us where possible.