As the transgender movement rises across Africa and the world Botswana have formed their own transgender identity oriented organisation titled Rainbow Identity Association (RIA) aiming to offer support trans people whose identity was not recognised by the lesbian, gay and bisexual community as well as the general society as their programs excluded the trans community.
Officially opened in May 2010 by Transman Skipper Mogapi, RIA, is a non profit association of trans men and women, queer, gender questioning, transsexual and gender non conforming people in Botswana.
Asked about the importance of forming a new organisation instead of including Trans people on the already existing Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo) Mogapi said Rainbow Identity focuses on gender identity while LeGaBiBo focuses more into sexual orientation.
He added, “Although RIA has three months since it opened office, we have managed to get buy in from different organisations that now we can call our stakeholders and the reception was most welcomed by organisations such as BONELA, Ditshwanelo, Botswana Family Welfare Association (BOFWA) etc.
Meanwhile RIA has recently organised a camp on 29 to 31 October 2010 aiming to create an environment that allows the leader to begin working together with all members as an effective and productive team.
It was also to allow about 14 members of RIA who attended an opportunity to understand basic communication skills and ways of interacting with each other, according to Mogapi.
“As Rainbow Identity team, we should always be there for one another and advice each other on challenges that we come across on our daily lives,” Obakeng said.
While RIA’s registration is pending, the organisation is already interacting with Botswana’s LGB community in many ways such as “social gatherings and important workshops designed for the LGBTI community”, Mogapi said.
Asked how it is like to run a trans organisation in a country that still criminalises homosexual conduct Mogapi said “One thing that really confuses a lot of people when it comes to trans issues, is this question, like I said transgender is more about gender identity rather than sexual orientation, when you talk about gender we looking at what the society see as norm; male (masculinity) and female (femininity) and when now it comes to gender identity is you as individual who looks at yourself and say I do not fit in this box therefore chose your own box. Criminalisation of homosexual conduct is not part of our advocacy as RIA, because we are not focusing on who a Trans sleeps with. We know that trans people can be homosexual, heterosexual or Bisexual but we are more concerned about recognition of gender identity.”
Despite challenges faced by gay people particularly in Africa Mogapi says RIA aims to continue to fight for the inclusion of transgender and intersexed people as respected and valued members of society through partnership building, advocacy, training and education within and across the region.