Accepted paper:

Pray the gay away: how the desire to heal disrupts families and communities


Kim Molenaar (Leiden University)

Paper short abstract:

Building on stories from people from the SOGI community and their nearest and dearest in Gaborone, I show how messages from Christian leaders about sexuality and their offer to 'cure' homosexuals leads to divisions within families and communities through fear, shame, gossip, and violence.

Paper long abstract:

Many Batswana from the SOGI community find themselves questioned, sworn at, and left out because their sexual orientation or gender identity is seen as demonic and immoral. In this paper I build on stories I collected during my fieldwork to elaborate on how the influence of Christian leaders regarding sexuality and their offer to 'cure' homosexuals or transgender persons 'back to normal' leads to divisions within families and communities. Christianity is important in Botswana, and shapes attitudes. During public discussions on sexuality and sexual rights, various Christian leaders got involved in the debate, usually condemning queer relationships and genders. Batswana often refer to the God, the Devil, demons or biblical stories if sexuality is the topic of conversation, echoing the message many religious leaders spread. People with queer sexual orientations or gender identities are othered and labelled as people who need fixing based on what Batswana learned about men, women, and sexuality from religious leaders. The negative stories about the SOGI community lead to fear to come out and the fear of rejection and to shame and gossip, and is used as a justification for public and domestic violence as a way to instill moral behaviour. The nearest and dearest of queer people also struggle with fear, shame, and gossip as they are confronted with the queerness of their family member or friend and have to find a way to cope with that, often closely watched and questioned by family and the community, including religious leaders.

panel Rel01
Religious activism and disrupted social relations: exploring religion and alienation in Africa