PFLAG is the largest group uniting the parents, families and allies with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.
In some countries, the group is formally registered as an organisation or association, often with activities besides those of the movement itself.
In Botswana, the group is in the form of support groups in different areas, with the most active located in Mochudi and Francistown.
The support group provides peer-to-peer support and other resources to ensure that the family members of LGBTQIA+ people get the support they need in the ways that best serve their needs. This enables the families to support, affirm and advocate on behalf of their LGBTQIA+ loved ones.
Their role is often in supporting family members when a loved one comes out. Most prominently, some of the members of PLFAG Botswana were applicants in the Thuto Rammoge & 19 Others v Attorney General of Botswana and Another case. The case is often referred to as the LEGABIBO registration case. The applicants had placed an application before the High Court for the review of the decision of the Registrar of Societies.
The High Court, and subsequently the Court of Appeal, through a form of judicial activism, protected the rights of the applicants and all those they represented, in setting aside the decision of the Registrar.
The PFLAG support group had strategically ensured their own participation in support of the LGBTQIA+ community in Botswana as an effort to reflect that the violation of rights of any one person has an impact on all other persons.
The affidavits of the PFLAG members stated that the organisation would be a great resource for their loved ones, but also for themselves. Being an ever learning community, they would benefit from the formal registration of the LEGABIBO. The importance of PFLAG is unquestionable. Although they are external to the movement as they are not to be mistaken as the movement or as necessarily speaking for the movement, they have access where members of the community and movement may not.
These are usually adults who, as some adults in society, have access to higher strata of societal power – the spaces where social morality is decided and where social and cultural norms are formulated. They often know how to work with the gatekeepers of culture in ways which will ensure the protection of the LGBTQIA+ persons in the area.
They attend merero and can often easily influence social and cultural shifts through the strategic use of the influence they yield, being able to engage with Dikgosi and cultural leaders. PFLAG are also often impacted by the homophobia, biphobia, intersexism, transphobia and queerphobia levelled against their loved ones.
In many cases, they themselves have previously perpetrated the violence against their queer loved ones by way of discrimination or stigmatising them.
The reformation journey they walk through, and the experience of watching a loved one be broken by such violence,
They have a significant seat to fill at the table and a substantial role to play in dismantling the ills affecting their loved ones. They can, more easily than the movement or community members, educate the public and ensure positive attitude transformation, shifting the narrative on various matters related to queer lives.
They occupy a powerful position in the strengthening of the movement. In this year’s IDAHOBIT theme, “Together: Resisting. Supporting. Healing!” PFLAG are a critical component to the movement’s resistance, and healing, in a supportive manner. In the previous piece, we explored the nationalised theme, Lorako la Botlhe, symbolising the stonewall made up of all persons.
The stone wall contains all aspects of the individual lives of LGBTQIA+ persons, including their healing. In many instances, the greatest hurt and pain experienced by LGBTQIA+ persons is that perpetrated by their families and loved ones. In many instances, the PFLAG members themselves, from a place of lack of understanding, are hurt by their loved one’s identity or orientation. The healing they derive from acceptance even if it is unaccompanied by agreement, but acceptance which supersedes mere tolerance is powerful. It is helpful in ensuring that queer persons are valued in the society, as well as taken pride in, and that they value themselves.
Another important stone in the lorako is the legacy of activism by PFLAG, which includes work towards the achievement of equality for LGBTQIA+ community, through the changing of hearts, minds and laws as illustrated in the support for the court cases.
They keep the conversation going, and in some spaces, they start the conversation on the need to protect the queer people in the community. Their role is often viewed as controversial by extreme right wings Christian fanatics who “hate the sin and not the sinner”. But controversies are necessary for revolutions, as they offer an alternative to the problematic norm.
This years IDAHOBIT inclusively invites the allies of queer persons to reflect collectively, notice the places which need collective healing, support the resistance and to jointly ensue a world which is non-discriminatory.
There is a lot of room for greater support of the LGBTQIA+ community in Botswana. This would of course include the co-creation of such an environment for the collaborative development of new narratives and solutions for LGBTQIA+ in Botswana. This is necessary! It is exciting that there is space for everyone in this work. Aluta!