Today’s every generation needs to get away from being behind screens all the time and go get bruised on their knees and scratched on their shins and climb things and play.
Interview in Gabarone with Kat
In Your Own Words, What Do You Do?
I’m a professional skilled owner.
I don’t necessarily have a thing that I do for a living because I work within the human rights practicing space. But I also do communications and I am a theatre producer and theatre practitioner. So I do art for activism. But I don’t think activism should be considered a thing you do for a living. It should be a way of life.
It’s almost like it’s hard to it’s hard to dedicate yourself sometimes to something that doesn’t necessarily mean it obviously creates a beautiful reason and purpose. But like, how do you eat and all those things, right. I find a lot of times that activists always have to have something on the side, which is which is unfortunate because fighting for something important should be enough to feed you. And how is you in all of these things?
One of the reasons I say activism shouldn’t be a profession is because where are we living in a just world? We wouldn’t need to be activists and therefore being a conference activist, for example, where you go and do all these talk shops all the time and say, these are the problems in my region, these are the problems in my community. Valid. But how are we changing?
How are we enabling those who are part of the problem to become part of the solution so that I can stop going and, you know, asking people to sign petitions and I can focus on being a communications person who is a communications person and an artist without having to be the queer communications person who then speaks out against gender disparities in the workplace, because as a transit and defying person, I don’t then qualify for certain things because I’m neither in the exclusively Femm or the exclusively masculine space. And the workplace doesn’t know how to accommodate people like me. And so I must be an activist in that workplace space because I need to be accommodated. So if the workplace were to accommodate me, then I wouldn’t have anything to do except do my job. Imagine that. So you start working on strategies and stuff.
One of the interesting things that Teke Milan said in an interview was that for the most part, being a trans identifying man, he worked a lot of people who were his clients with a lot of people who were the consumers of his product, didn’t know who he was. They just knew the name Teke. And it was only when he then decided to welcome the public in to being a person of trans experience, that things for him started feeling a bit complicated because his transness was being placed before the word product that he was doing, especially considering that he also worked within the Hip-Hop space. And and then it’s like, wait, we thought you were one of the boys. Yes… I am still one of the boys, whatever one of the boys is but I’m one of the boys who has trans experience, so it’s those little things of where we ask where is their value? I could very easily work as a person behind a screen, but the screen is my protection. But I also live in a world and I understand that people like me would rather live than being able to sit behind a screen. So I must advocate for those people as well.
If someone wants to be a farmer and they’re going to need to go to the agricultural centre to go get seeds, and if them not passing, it becomes a danger to them because, you know, they have to engage with real world people. And real people are not thinking, hey, you’re just a farmer and you’re just trying to plant some seeds. You’re not gonna plant transgender seeds, you’re just planting seeds.
So why not just let the people live their lives? But we it’s very easy to say that, but we need to do the work to enforce it.
Homosexuality is legal
This is one of the most misconstrued things about the penal code that we as the Commonwealth received from the United Kingdom, is that there are clauses that prohibit carnal knowledge of another person against the order of nature, which then essentially means certain sexual positions that contemporary culture deems, well, normative; so doggystyle, for example or if it’s girl on top, if you are jackhammering, all of these things are kind of legal because you’re only supposed to be having sex missionary style, because that’s what that’s where those laws were set. So a blowjob is illegal in Botswana, technically.
Where it comes to homosexuality that clause has been used to say, well, you must have sex, obviously, if you’re going to say you’re a homosexual, you must be sexual in some way. What about asexual people who happen to be homosexual? So the homosexuality is not illegal, but the practise of knowing somebody against the order of nature is illegal. And so the assumption that if you identify as homosexual, you must have a sex life is what makes a lot of people think that we are illegal citizens, whereas trans people are not recognised at all.
I literally do not exist according to the laws of this country
..because there is no accommodation for this. And so would I say we are far behind. No. I think we’ve inherited a lot. I think we’ve lost a lot. And this is part of the projects that I’ve been working towards is humanizing the LGBT plus population. I never use the word community because I find it’s a misnomer, because community requires mutual understanding and requires people to understand and say this is what we will stand for and will not appreciate or will not stand for. And so Botswana are more accommodating than most people would think. And I won’t say they are tolerance. They are accommodating. There is no event, traditional or otherwise, that takes place without a queer person anywhere.
We have this weird family structure where you know somebody who knows somebody who knows someone who knows someone who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody.
So our webs make it very difficult to disappear within the country. So you won’t disappear, but you won’t miss it. People don’t have don’t have the language to approach you and question you about what they think you are or what they know you are, but they don’t have the word for it.
And so we keep borrowing all these words from westernised sociology. And that also removes things. So if you were to ask the average Botswana what gay means, they won’t be able to tell you, but they can tell you what gay looks like. But what gay looks like is based on the perpetrator tropes from Western media and then those then get transposed into local media, so effeminacy, which 1980s, 1960s, 1940s, America was saying that’s what homosexuality looks like is now where we still are so passing for straight acting is not a thing that is part of the lexicon of people who would have been call themselves homophobic or would say, no, I don’t like the gays. Do you know that that truck driver is gay? So it’s all these little things where I do believe that there is still necessity for more education and diversification of what queerness looks like here.
The rural project is what I’m most interested in, in understanding and creating understanding around the fact that not all queers move to the city and that narrative worked. It has happened. But they are queer folk in the villages. They are queer folk in the mines. And they’re living. How are they living? How are they having full lives? Who are they engaging with? Not all of them are single by circumstance so all of those little things where I’ve spoken to people who at the beginning of the conversation would say, oh, no, I don’t know any gay people, but three quarters into the conversation when I’m ready to leave or preparing to even start another conversation all of a sudden, these things start popping into their heads. They say “oh, but my cousin so-and-so does, but I’ve never really..”. And then they start recognising the fact that it’s not that they don’t know people. It’s just that we’re on a need to know basis. And some of it is shame, but also some of it is; how do I say it? And some of it is; why do you need to know?
In the words of RuPaul. If they’re not paying your bills, pay those bitches no mind.
My preferred pronoun? Kat. Because Tswana is gender neutral.
So if you were to ask in English would be where is she? The phrase in Tswana is where is that person? And that person is not gendered. So we don’t necessarily meddle in those little things. And that’s where we start talking about you to the poverty of the English language, especially when we try to understand beings in Botswana. In indigenous spaces through the lens of English where English is lacking. So now we claim that those other spaces are lacking simply because there’s no way of getting English into there.
What Feeds You
I think for me it’s it’s watching people have moments of conversations with themselves and me knowing that I can be someone who ushers that conversation into being. I always say the greatest gift you can give yourself is admitting that you don’t know. But it’s really, really hard to do that, to step into a space and say, I know nothing. Please teach me. We always wanted to know. We’re taught growing up. You need to know this. You need to know. You should have learned this by now.
I always use the example of a baby, wildebeest. Wildebeest, the born at us at a certain time during the migration. Now when everybody’s migrating, the lions are also following. Right, because everybody needs to go. Otherwise, if the lions stay behind, they’re not gonna have anything to eat.
The wildebeest mother must first be figure out which way the wind is blowing and figure out where the predators are, because as soon as she starts giving birth, the predators will smell the blood. And that means they’re going to come closer. As she gives birth, the baby wildebeest has I think once it’s on its once it’s come out and the sacks been broken it has under two minutes to go from being, oh, I was just inside you, too. I’m running.
Because you can’t just be like, well, hey. And fall. No, you’re gonna get eaten by lion. And I always say that, like about human babies, like human babies take two years to bake and baby, they’re not even at the level of you need to survive.
And this is what the wildebeests are coded with. Once you’re in this world, you need to survive. You need to make sure that you can fend for yourself.
There’s more to knowing. But you need to learn. You can’t just say, I know. And then things change or this is the way that I’ve always been. No, you’re not the same person as you were yesterday, all the cells in your body have changed. So how’s about you grow with them.
The biggest misconception you face
When I look at theatre, I think one of the main misconceptions is that innate talent is enough; if you’re naturally born with it, you can succeed. And this narrative gets perpetuated by people who become famous but don’t have the training. And, you know, people adore them. But it’s like they’ve had to learn on the job. I come as an already fully equipped machine. All you need to do is drive me right and say, I want this and I’ll do it. Whereas with somebody else, yes, they’ve got the thing. But then you still gonna need to do some polishing. And this idea that anyone can do it is what hurts us who are professionals and which then perpetuates this statement of those who can’t do teach because not everyone wants to go to castings and not get it.
Not everyone has it in them to constantly be told you are not enough.
From the activist space, I think people think either we’ve got nothing else better to do and, you’re you’re privileged and therefore, that’s why you can take time out of your life to do this.
I’m not taking time out of my life. I am fighting for my life. And unfortunately, I can either fight for my life and be vocal or I can survive my life in silence.
It’s it’s really hard. But we’re also not here for pity. We’re not saying, oh, my lord, please save us. No, no, we’re doing it. And yes, we’ve seen others come in, run and then burn out and say, well, nope, I’m gonna take a formal job. We’ve also seen the people who then go institutional and start doing their bit there, it’s fine. Not everyone needs a criminal record to be an effective activist, which is one of the things that I always say – I don’t need to go to jail in order to prove that I’m doing good work. Those are the the other things, which prompt the question but what change you making? Where and how can you quantify it? Show it to me and I can show you, you know, a mother who now knows how to accept the fact that she’s given birth to a person who is not who she thought they would be, but say when I gave birth to you, I wanted to give you life and I wanted you to be happy. So as long as I can be there to witness your happiness and to encourage your happiness, then I’m OK. I can’t give that to you in a number. I can’t give that to you and say this is proof.
But I know that I’ve had those stories. I’ve had that feedback. Some people think we’re we’re we’re fighting a futile battle and I say, no, you don’t recognise the fact that we’re making change, but sometimes we recognise it.
What would you say motivates you to keep going than on difficult days?
The fact that I have no other option.
I survived my 20s and I use survive as what it really means. It’s literally between you being alive or not being alive. I’m so happy that, yes, I had the chance to to choose the easier path and I’ve been blessed enough to not need to choose the easier path I need in the sense of, okay there’s no other option go be normal, normal and go and silence yourself.
In one of my poems, I talk about; The voice you use is laced in chloroform. You are awake, dead. And I could be that person who is awake and dead at the same time but the ancestors won’t let me. So that’s it keeps me going. Is is knowing that there is there’s something else out there that says, no, no, that’s not for you.
I’ve been rejected from jobs as a waiter because I was saying, well, you know, we need to make money. OK, We need to make some money. And me getting a rejection from a job as a waiter, even though I’ve worked within the service industry in hospitality and event management, I’d understand if you had told me I’m overqualified. It’s fine. I know it. I’m willing to settle for below minimum wage. I’ll do it just as long as there’s some coin coming into my pocket but I’ve been rejected from those jobs. But then two days later, two weeks later, somebody says, “hey, by the way, I need you to hop on an aeroplane to come and live in this country for a month and do some make some art”.
Had I been a waiter, then I was like, oh, by the way, thanks so much, but I’m going now! So I‘m so I’m not fighting the the universe. I’m just I’m letting it do the thing. So on tough days, I’m like, OK, I guess there is something in it. So let’s sit with it and let’s hear and learn what’s here.
What is something that you know now that you wish you knew years ago
There are far too many things.
Breathing can be a revolutionary act. Just by breathing and by acknowledging it, by feeling the breath on your nose, by feeling the coolness, by feeling the warmth, that in and of itself is revolutionary because you are there.
You might not be happy. You might feel as though there is nothing else in it for you, but you’re doing it and you don’t have any other option but to do it. Even if you tried to hold your breath.
That’s another one of my lines from a production that I did called shelf-life zero, which interrogates ownership of the trans body because people have always thought transitioning is “Ok cool, that used to be my life. Now this is my life”. And with shelf-life zero I was looking at what does it mean and what does it take when a part of you says another part has come to the end of its shelf life? What does the hand of a process look like? And is it always a full handover? And how long can you hold your breath? You’ve been holding your breath this long, how much longer can you hold it? Are you willing to not breathe? Are you willing to to watch somebody else breathe? To watch somebody else be smiled at, to watch somebody else be happy, even though you you’re both within the same body.
And what happens when you don’t want to be else. How long can you hold your breath?
Next Few Years?
I want to have at least started my journey as a philanthropist so that means we need to have reserves.
That’s what I’m working towards, is being able to empower other people to do what they really want to do, because I’ve been fortunate enough to get the chances to do the things that I’ve really, really wanted to do.
I’m quite sad that Kofi Annan has, you know, transitions to being a in the other realm as an elder, because he and I have a very interesting story, because when I was about eleven, he was there on TV, in the news everywhere and the more I started learning about who this face was and, you know, United Nations and what the United Nations does. I said, OK, that man is sitting in my seat. So when it comes around, I’m going to be right where he is. That was the time I think I made a commitment to being more of it humanist than pursuing just, I want to be famous. It’s how can I have impact? And so that happened when I was eleven and I met him. We ended up doing a consultation and I sat down with him and I told him how he’s been such an important part of my journey in the way I pursue excellence and told him I want to be the U.N. secretary general so give me a few tips. At the end of that consultation, he selected me to be the rapporteur to, give feedback to the rest of the folks who were in the convening. And that was for me, just a a sign of, hey, look, I believe in you. Afterwards, he then said to me, I think you’ve got what it takes. The sad thing for me is that I won’t be able to to hear him say, you’ve done it, but I’m still heading towards that United Nations secretary general seat, whether it’s as a philosophical or metaphoric seat or the actual seat itself, because diplomacy is in the cards for me so in the next few years is working within the diplomatic space, not necessarily as a stiff college person. I will still be as effervescent and colourful in black as possible and I will still be disrupting space, but I will have gone into the more formalized space. That’s where I’m looking to go.
Who is the most influential woman in your life and why?
There are two, actually three.
My grandmother, who has also become one of my ancestral elders now who is my maternal grandmother. She was such an amazing person, very soft spoken. But one of those people who had so much skill that you didn’t need to hear them say it or anybody else it you just thought she was very results oriented. I spent so much time of my childhood over the school holidays with her and my grandfather because my mum would always take me over to the cattle posts so I could be out of her hair so I’d also get to bond with my grandparents and my cousins. So we would all get dumped together. The things that I learned from her in that very quiet voice “know what you’re good at and you used it well”. And you don’t need to run around saying, oh, my God, oh, my God, look at me, I’m amazing, amazing. I’m fabulous.
I remember hearing at the eulogy at her funeral was it was almost as if they were talking about a person I didn’t know because they knew they’d known her for longer. And it was only when I got to sit and think, where were the points where I learned all these other things that I got to see so much more? How much heat put into me then I’d recognised
The second person, as cheesy as it is, is my mother because she’s a warrior. I still remember I wrote a monologue about this a few years ago. I still remember the day that I saw the ground get like completely slipped from under my mother’s feet, and that was the day that she’d learned that my father had passed on, and it was almost as if it was like watching a fort crumble and then slowly try and put itself back up together and then like wobble in the process. Everything in the aftermath hasn’t been OK. Live as though I haven’t lost the love of my life. It was live and honour the fact that I was lucky enough to have that kind of love. She lives her entire life by compassion and the way people look at my mother is the way I want people to look at me, the way my mother is with people.
I was once asked by someone if I’m performing humility. And I said, no. I don’t perform humility. This is what I live with and I’ve seen it in effect through my mother.
So, yes, I might be, you know, super slay. fabulous and walk into the room and everybody is like, oh, who’s that? Who’s that?
But that’s who my mother is as well. Walks into the room and people are like, OK, I guess we need to sit down.
So she’s got the same sort of side and strength that my grandmother had. And that’s why she’s one of my most inspirational people.
And of course, you know, the queen mother of my entire universe, Janet Jackson, for the same traits. I think that’s the thing that I gravitate towards, is knowing your strengths, but not always absolutely using it. Over all these decades. She keeps coming back. She keeps reinventing. She keeps topping charts. Yet she stays relevant without being ever present.
The the way she conducts her private life as a public figure has been a benchmark for me to just say, look, we are really here on a need to know basis. What I’m doing is I’m satisfying the gift that I’ve been given, but the gift that I’ve been given doesn’t come with a clause that says and everything about you must be known by everyone.
And of course, my favourite, favourite song of all time is All for You and escapade. Actually, I’m not even going to say favourites because I’m just gonna put myself in a knot. But All For You you definitely right up there and then Together Again, right up there. And of course, the Pleasure Principle right up there.
Believe in your magic but don’t ever think that the world owes you anything. We live in a country that is so gifted but still hasn’t recognised its power. And if you think it owes you for having power, you will learn.
You will slowly start resenting it because you have protections that you don’t know. But you also are given the right to really be as vocal as you wanted to be. Do it with respect. And when I say respect, I’m not saying come form. Be respectful. You can be respectful rebel. But I really don’t think that Botswana owes you anything. Enjoy being from here. But also harness every single thing, every single gift you get from here and grow with it. And additionally, our cultures within this land are really worth diving into. Don’t think you need to be other than Botswana because the world is constantly coming here to consume what’s on it. Why don’t you become a primary consumer as well?
You can be very strong, be self-reliant. That’s always been the thing that my mother taught me to be, is if you can’t afford it, just don’t don’t even try and pretend that you can. live within your means. living within your means also means understanding that while you’ve got something and what you have somebody else might not have. And so you should always be ready to be generous with yourself and don’t do it, because one day you might need someone. I find that when people say, but what about them? Give and expect nothing in return. You must also learn to receive and acknowledge the gift of having someone there to give you that thing that you needed whether or not you knew how to ask for it. That’s what’s the importance of supporting one another. This whole thing of like love thy enemy. Sure. But you have to acknowledge the person as an enemy. I am not one to even spend time acknowledging that somebody doesn’t like me. If you don’t like me, that’s a you thing is not a me thing. But if you need something I and I am able to provide for you, I’ll do it.
Best Received Advice
It was from BBC journalist Liz Doucet. I was in a space where I was unsure of like, oh, am I a bit too much? And I think, what’s going on? What’s going on? Who am I right now? And she came up to me and said, you know, when you walk into this room, I could tell that a presence had arrived. I’ve listened to you speaking to others and I’ve watched you engaging with others and I recognise that you see people don’t ever stop being yourself.
If I were president I would abolish gender.
I feel most liberated when I’m on a pole dancing without cameras around or singing
I feel most proud of myself when I’ve made someone smile.
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