FRANCISTOWN: "This revelation has really turned my world upside down. Like a sharp spear, the words have pierced through my heart leaving me feeling dejected and feeling like a worthless human being.
"Why does it have to happen to my son? What wrong have I done in this world to deserve such a punishment from God?"
These are the words of 45-year-old, single parent, Sega (not her real name). These lamentations have been triggered by her 24-year-old son's shocking revelation of his sexual orientation. The day of the revelation will forever remain engraved in her mind. It is the day in which, as she puts it: "I lost my son, though he is still alive and we are living under the same roof. On that day, I did not know what to say to my son. I was not sure whether he was still my real son or not. But physically he was still the same".
She reveals that it was in the afternoon on that fateful day when the boy decided to reveal the truth that he had been hiding from her all along. "He approached me with a smile that I was used to because we were very close.
He held me tight and whispered in my ears that he wanted to tell me something," she says. Having seen him with a few girls before, she says she immediately suspected that the boy might have impregnated one of them.
"That is what immediately came to my mind. My mind started playing the videos of the faces of the girlfriends that I have seen with him. He immediately called me into his room and I sat on his bedside," she says. She says that, "a pin drop silence followed before I urged him to tell me whatever he wanted to tell me. He looked down and tears started flooding his eyes before declaring that: "Mum I wanted to tell you that I am gay. I am tired of hiding this fact from you".
Sega says that though her son had said a few sentences the only word that she heard and that continues to ring in her mind is 'gay'. "That word was like a deadly blow that knocked me off. I felt confused. I started sweating. My whole world was crumbling. I could see my world falling apart in front of my eyes. I felt like my son is no more though he was right there beside me," she maintains.
She reveals that that night the shock and anger did not permit her peaceful sleep. "I had difficulties sleeping. I cried uncontrollably. I tried to recollect myself and to figure out what might have gone wrong with my boy but to no avail," she says.
She had no alternative but to accept this hard to accept fact. "I had to accept that my son is different from others. I accepted that the few girlfriends that I have seen and even the last beautiful one who was officially introduced to me was just one of the many attempts by my son to fight off the truth that was burning inside him," she says.
She adds, "I now became suspicious that the different boys that I usually see with my son might turn out to be the real girlfriends". She says that of particular note was her son's friend who would always visit at month end. "I was always told that this friend was staying in Gaborone. My son also always made numerous trips to Gaborone," she reveals. She says that, "though I am trying to accept my son as he is, I still face difficulties. This is mainly presented by religious convictions. As a Christian, I at times tend to think that my son is possessed by demons and that one day they will leave him and he will be a normal person again".
She has however gone for counselling and is beginning to accept that "as human beings, we are different. It is not an easy thing but I have no choice here because he is my son, my own blood and flesh that I carried for nine months. I therefore cannot disown him because of his condition".
Although she is somehow disappointed, Sega is full of praises for her son. "At least he was able to be assertive and bold enough to tell me the truth. I will always love him and respect him for that," she says.
Anita Lebengo, a psychology and sociology lecturer at the Institute of Health Sciences in Francistown says that, "the issue of sexual orientation remains a challenge. This is so because as members of societies we are conformists and are bound by our respective societal norms and values. These societal norms and values create a burden of having to fulfil societal obligations and expectations. One of the clear societal expectations is that sexual relationships must and have to happen between people of opposite sexes".
She says, "because this is the understanding that has come to be viewed as the accepted standard or norm, anybody who engages in anything contrary to this is regarded as a misfit in the society and deserves to be punished".
She says that the societal norms and values have a corresponding effect on the way individuals think. "This explains why it will always be difficult for most people to publicly declare or express their sexual orientation. Only those who are strong enough are able to break from the established norm and publicly celebrate their true sexual orientation," she says.
She says that all forms of persuasion are used to try to cement and justify the societal norms and values. "At times religion and culture are used to try and justify condemnation of any other forms of sexual orientation apart from the socially acceptable ones".