I’ve been struggling to publish my 5th blog post on this YALI trip not because there’s nothing important happening here. Last week was one of my favourite weeks in the classroom following sessions on leadership styles and effective strategic communication. Somehow, I did not feel you would want to be bored by a test I took on what kind of a leader I am and learning and drawing strategies for effective communication (I may be wrong though).
I’m also not sure if you will be interested in this ever “touchy” topic of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community, but I have written it anyway. I must admit I’m a bit nervous writing about this topic as this is the first time I’m also publicly speaking about it and not sure how people will take it without judging or attacking like rabid dogs.
One of the themes for this YALI programme is “Inclusion of Diversity for Leadership.” This concept essentially argues that effective leadership can “only be achieved when leaders understand and empathize with the backgrounds and past experiences of community members who may be differently-abled, hold different sexual identities, or subscribe to different religious, cultural, and political beliefs.”
It is on the back of this broad topic that the class on Thursday, entered into the LGBTQ discussions. Given our African cultural backgrounds, I was not sure how my colleagues were going to respond to this. Before it started though, the whole group watched a movie titled “Milk”, which depicted the struggles of the LGBTQ community for decades. The opening scenes of men kissing men and having sex (the sex part wasn’t very explicit) made most of my colleagues cringe. The kissing and the other things all continued unabated in the movie as my friends watched in silence.
About three of my colleagues from Botswana, Swaziland and Zimbabwe work with and defend the LGBTQ community in different ways so it was predictable that when the discussions start, they would be more open minded in their comments. But majority of them were actually quite sympathetic and condemned any form of violence against gays. Some of them cited instances in their countries where people have been lynched and others burnt alive by people who accused the victims of being gay.
There were questions that left people thinking; “What if you found out your brother, sister, daughter or son was gay or lesbian, will you allow a mob to burn them to death?
In one of the mini discussions, someone posed a question; What would Jesus have done if he encounted a gay or a lesbian, will he ask that they be killed? Or just like the prostitute or adulterer in the Bible, he would rather protect them?
We were later sent to a centre that hosts young members of the LGBTQ community which helps them to deal and live a fulfilling life within a hostile society. Americans are still very hostile to people who openly display they are gay, despite a Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriages. We even later sat through a board meeting made up of gays, lesbians and a transgender.
To be honest, it really felt like a long day for me but I learnt.