Open Secrets – Serving Queer in Paraguay

– Compiled and Edited by Manuel Colón and Fiona Martin, RPCVs

Have you ever heard the Hans Christian Anderson tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? It’s a story about a vain Emperor who cares for nothing. He hires two swindlers that promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or “hopelessly stupid”. The Emperor cannot see the cloth himself, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing unfit for his position; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects, who play along with the pretense, until a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspecting the assertion is true, but continues the procession anyway.

That story embodies what an open secret is. How many times have those of us in Peace Corps heard about local and national governments that are run by corrupt leaders, yet they continue being elected? Or teachers/adult leaders having inappropriate relations with students yet haven’t lost their job? Or the spouses, who have extramarital relations, yet will not divorce? An open secret is information that is well-known throughout a community, but isn’t spoken aloud because of the power that said information contains. Overt acknowledgement may encourage and sometimes require the knowledge holders to take action of what they already know, but were purposefully ignoring. While open secrets like this, and others, make work and personal life difficult, they actually serve as a positive way for some volunteers to serve safely and productively.

While applying to Peace Corps, I received a call from the Paraguay Country Desk in Washington, D.C. with some follow up questions regarding my interview and application. Near the end of the call, as we were wrapping up, the woman on the line asked me, “You are comfortable staying in the closet for two years, right? The country you are being invited to isn’t that open to homosexuality. You’ll have to keep it a secret.” I sat in the cubicle of my summer job and calmly tried to process this blunt, and rather awkward, turn of the conversation.  Hesitantly, not sure who might overhear my response, I said “Well, I suppose. But, I’m pretty gay. Like, even if I didn’t tell anyone, it wouldn’t be too hard to guess.” That was the quickest, most professional response I could come up with, as I thought about my voice, speech patterns, hand motions, and general composure that are usually a dead giveaway for my sexual orientation (and had been for many years). She politely quipped back, “Oh, don’t worry about that. Those non-spoken cues are things we pick up from a cultural context, the country you’re going to isn’t exposed to much gay culture, so the cues don’t communicate the same things.”

Reflecting on that phone conversation, I wonder what the desk officer really meant to communicate. I initially understood her to mean that no one will ever suspect I was gay and would just fly under the radar, which is definitely not the case. I’m confident that several of my community members knew that I was gay, without ever having told them. During an asado (BBQ) at my house, during a conversation, my Paraguayan housemate said “Yeah and I have a gay cousin. But, not gay like you Manú…” and continued on nonchalantly. I, however, sat there in an utter stupor for about ten seconds, food hanging from my fork, as many things ran through my mind; 1) He knows I’m gay. 2) How did he find out? 3) When did he find out? 4) Who else knows? 5) He dropped that bomb in the conversation and carried on really fucking casually. In that instant, I understand what the desk officer really meant in that call; people will know that I’m gay, will share their suspicions with others, but they’ll simply add that information on their list of other open secrets and carry on about their lives.

One strategy in addressing open secrets is to do so indirectly. During my service, I was requested to be at a meeting to help plan Día de la Juventud (Youth Day) events with the Muni (our local city hall). However, the conversation got derailed from whom to invite to speak about health and wellness to making sure that we don’t get anyone who will come and talk about sexuality. Not that they didn’t value a safe-sex and HIV-AIDS charla (lectures), but they didn’t want a situation where a puto (faggot) would come and say that homosexuality is a normal, healthy lifestyle. They began to discuss how lesbians and gays should not have rights; that they shouldn’t be allowed to marry or raise children, etc. Once again, I found myself paralyzed by shock, blankly staring at my computer screen, where I was previously taking notes, with my fingers now lying flat on the keyboard. I sat there for ten minutes, listening to people who I considered friends and professional work counterparts dissect and discuss my value and worth as a human being based solely on who I love. I had been curious why I was invited to the meeting in the first place, and began to wonder if my presence was specifically requested for this very exchange. Non-confrontationally discussing my sexual orientation, in such a passive manner, allowed them to air their disapproval without the burden of actually taking action. If they were to openly acknowledge the “secret,” they would be expected to do something about it, at the very least shun me, and by doing so, potentially lose a valuable and productive member of the team.

But the real impetus for writing this piece was an exchange I had with a good friend at my site. As I was lying in my hammock, he stumbled over in his mid-afternoon drunken stupor (which was all too common) and asked “Manuel, you’re a pacifist, right?” to which I respond “Yeah, I guess so.” He followed up with, “Good. So am I. But, can you defend yourself, like if you needed to? In a fight?” I was unsure of where the conversation was going and imagined that shortly he’d slap me in the head and run away giggling. So, I stood up, out of the hammock to exert my clear height advantage and said, “Well, I’m a big guy, I sure think I can defend myself.” He let me know that he was glad I could defend myself if needed, but also that I could count on him if I ever find myself in a sticky situation. He went on to recount, teary eyed, having witnessed the hatred, discrimination and even violence, his lesbian sister had received growing up. He assured me that if I ever experienced this in my time here in Paraguay, he would have my back.  And to remember that there were good, respectful Paraguayans, like himself.  It was after this exchange, I began to ponder the complexity of the open secret.

Open secrets can be great. They allowed me, and other LGBT Volunteers, to safely live and work in Paraguay with minimal burden. Open secrets allowed us to retain our identity and behavior but with the understanding that we must remain silent and never demand public recognition and approval. There is an unspoken agreement: we won’t say anything if you don’t say anything, which again is the basis of every open secret.

However, open secrets are also damaging. They contribute to the sequestering of positive imagery of gay citizens, a “glass” closet, if you will. I am unable to counteract the pervasive, harmful rhetoric of gay men being pedophiles and sole carriers of HIV because despite being a successful working professional, I am not officially out; my sexual orientation can not be publicly acknowledged. My passion for social justice and diversity advocacy is silenced and squelched where it should matter the most, my personal identity. Not only are we unable to serve as positive counterexamples to the pervasive and damaging stereotypes about gays, we are also unable to serve as positive role models to youth, just now coming to terms with their sexuality. A culture of open secrets allows and encourages passiveness of the status quo, rather than challenging ignorant or bigoted ideology.

Complacency about the status quo creates a complicated environment, not only for members of the LGBT community, but as conveyed in my last anecdote, even for allies. There are situations, where LGBT Volunteers are clearly rendered voiceless and disenfranchised. However, these situations are opportunities for allies to stand up and do what we cannot.  There are spaces for our allies (especially other straight PCVs), to say or do something when it is too delicate or dangerous for us to do so. Hearing someone who is a confirmed heterosexual speak up in disagreement to homophobic comments carries much more weight than the comments of someone living an “open secret.” It’s also safer for an ally to speak up and less likely to result in complications for our communities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, much of your personal and work safety is, after all, at the whim of your community. There are two very simple choices to be made in situations like these. Similar to the Emperor’s ministers, and educated townspeople, we can stay silent and allow an open secret to parade through our society rearing its bigoted self, unchecked into our lives. Or, with the purity and sense of equality as a child, we can actively challenge the status quo and bring attention to what is wrong, and demand it be corrected. So, next time you see a naked man walking down the street…are you going to say something?

You can contact Manuel Colón at and Fiona Martin at


In the Closet in Morocco and Some Poor Decisions

– A Volunteer

License Some rights reserved by lapidim

Some rights reserved by lapidim

To be absolutely honest, upon receiving my assignment to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco, I was so super excited to a point that words can’t explain it all. It was especially welcome since I had been waiting so long to hear the good news from PC’s placement office. I was so excited that I forgot, or should I say it never occurred to me, to look up what the gay scene was like in Morocco, a Muslim country. All I could think at the time, since I only had a few months before my departure, was to find ways to make myself become an effective volunteer to ensure that my time spent serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer would be worthwhile toward the people that I would serve.

Having that said, since I discovered my sexuality, I have never placed an important emphasis on it. I mean, yes indeed, my sexuality is a very important aspect of my overall life. It’s who I am! But at the same time, I refused to have others associate with me with just my sexuality or those who don’t seem to see past my sexuality. To me there is so much more to people that defines who they are as a person than just his or her sexuality.

Once I arrived to Morocco with about 60 other PCVs, I discovered that only a handful of us self-identified as LGBTQ. For the first few months in-country, overwhelmed with all sort of things, I never really thought about my sexuality in the context (now) in a Muslim country, or the gay scene, or my needs for that matter. But before I even knew it, I realized that I was lonely and missed the privileged lifestyle and the freedom of acting and expressing myself and my sexuality freely back in the States. I thought I had it tough growing up discovering my sexuality and all sorts of feelings and emotions overwhelmed my mind, realizing my self- identity, my sexuality, and coming out to certain individuals. Don’t get me wrong, I did in fact have a really hard time. However, compared to gays here in Morocco, they do have a tougher time of it. Like anywhere else, there are people from all sexual backgrounds. It’s just that gays in Morocco like in other Muslim countries have it a lot tougher in so many ways.
I will be completely honest with you based on my experience for the past 22 months. Yes, Morocco is indeed a more liberal Muslims country; however, it’s still a Muslim country, where gays and the act of gay are forbidden. For that reason, gays in Morocco are forced to suppress themselves and their feelings freely toward one another. I can speak from my own experience with honesty. I feel like I have been living a lie and not being true to myself as well as others, especially with the people I’m serving.

Moreover, PC staff during training had given us the worst case scenario about how homosexuals are perceived in Morocco. They placed an emphasis on if we get caught in a gay sexual activity, or drug use, we would be in big trouble. We as PCVs would then have to abide by Moroccan’s laws. We might be put in jail for up to three years without support from PC, the US Embassy, or anyone to that matter. It’s definitely a scary thought! It has got us all worried and scared for our lives, safety and security. Because of that we would have to take ourselves back in the closet at least for the next two years of our service. It’s definitely a sad feeling, serving a country for two years, and the people don’t know the true you. My host family as well as the majority of the people in this country would condemn me to hell if they would find out about the true me. This scary thought has crossed my mind almost everyday of my service.

Gays, especially those who are more effeminate, are often forced to hide themselves for their own protection and for safety reasons. If a male PCV is suspected of being gay, he’s often looked down upon by his community, and his reputation, safety and security will be at risk. Given that my site with a fairly large population is a more liberal site, it’s still a Muslim community. Having that said, I can’t come out to my community, even to my close friends and my host family who I love dearly. They are disgusted by homosexuals and the act of gays, as they have pointed out to me multiple times over conversations we’ve had, yet they’ve also expressed that they are very open-minded people. I know it’s quite confusing. I guess it’s just not in their culture to accept homosexuality. I know religion surely plays a big part in this mentality and ways of thinking. It also, to my belief, restricts people from thinking and expressing freely for themselves.

I would like to think that I am very integrated into my community. However, often times I would feel so out of place because of my sexuality and how it doesn’t fit so well in this Muslim culture and society. Yes, given that Morocco is and might be a more liberal/tolerant Muslim country in some perspectives comparing to other Muslims’ societies, I still often feel un-at-ease and have constant worries for my safety and security if someone in my community were to find out about my sexuality. It, to some degree, affects my integration process in terms of getting to know people and being close with them to the best that I can and vice-versa. For instance, I would almost always have to be careful, think twice, and be cautious about myself with others, and I think that totally affects my relationship with them. For example, often times a good friend, among others, would invite me over for dinner. I would refuse and turned them down because I feared their getting to know me too well.

I would always have to be careful about how I talk, speak, act, and overall how I presented myself in front of my community, even with the closest people in my community, my host family. I’ve never been good at lying. Hence, it’s extremely uncomfortable when asked by my host family, close friends, and community members at large about my love life, whether I have a girlfriend, or if I want a local girlfriend. When local girls hit on me, I honestly don’t know how to react. And when I try to avoid them, people would ask what’s wrong with me? And when I find local male friends attractive (even if my gaydar might highly suspected that they might be gay), I can’t expressed anything to them because I fear putting my reputation at risk.

I know I was never big on celebrating my gay pride back in the States, but it’s an extreme here, where I would have to hide my true self and identity, each and every moments of every day of my service, and having a constant fear of people seeing the rainbow flag in me. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep, and hope that the next day will be better.

Sometimes my loneliness, my so-called needs, and desire to be with somebody have gotten the best of me and have led me to do things that I would never wish to revisit. I mean I have never really thought about the people that I met up with were gay prostitutes and thugs, or even that they can cause harm and danger to me. During my service thus far, I have made some bad decisions with hooking up with local men where I put my safety and security at risk. I’ve been assaulted and my belongings taken from me. It was definitely a scary moment, but it could have been a lot worse. All I could think of afterward, beside the fact that I was scared for my life and scared to notify PC, was to realize how naïve I could be. I could have gotten myself killed in a worst case scenario. However I was lucky and I’m grateful for that. I have definitely learned from it the hard way. It’s just that at times, it can get lonely and I wish somebody would be there to cope, share, and spend time with. Moreover, I remember when I was hanging out with a fellow PCV and some locals at a park in Rabat. All of a sudden, the fellow PCV and one of the locals got stopped, questioned, and hustled off to the police station by some undercover policemen. It seems as if we have no rights in this country.

On the other side of things, I have accidently stumbled across some hush-hush of discrete gay activity in big cites like Rabat, Fez, Meknes, and Casablanca. It is here I have had some beautiful encounters with some really nice and genuine local men as well as with other PCVs. It is on the hush-hush staying with a low profile, because I didn’t want to put my reputation at risk in my community or jeopardize my safety and security while in-country during my service. Other than that, there isn’t really any gay scene to speak of in Morocco. There aren’t any outlets for gays. There’s one gay-friendly club I know of, Le Village, located in the Ain Diab district of Casablanca, but it’s very expensive.

As gay volunteers, we often get mixed messages from Moroccan guys. Guys in general in this society are very affectionate and show their affection towards each other somewhat freely. They often hold hands when walking in public, kiss each other on the cheek, and caress each other. This is absolutely normal in their culture, like it is some other places in the world. It’s just that a lot of these actions would often in our society be perceived as the behaviors of homosexuals.

Honestly, I don’t know if I were to have had a chance to search and look up the gay scene in Morocco to have prior knowledge and insight of what it’s like to serve as a gay Peace Corps Volunteer in a Muslim country prior to coming, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. But maybe it would have, but the feelings of loneliness, being out of place, constant worries about my safety and security, would still have been a factor after I got here.

In closure, despite some of my difficult experiences, I have had memorable moments and outings with local gay men as well as with my fellow gay PCVs. We bonded and shared some beautiful times with each other. One instance which I least expected, involved an extremely attractive PCV who has a genuine and charismatic soul). Let just say, it was a very beautiful experience that I will never forget.

Given that I have had some difficult and challenging situations, I’ve dealt with them in a manner that was most comfortable and suitable for me. I’d made the decision not to report my problems to Peace Corps, but I did reach out to fellow PVCs for moral support. They were extremely helpful. Despite some bad experiences, I did not allow them to affect my service. I’ve learned that I’ve been living in a very different culture, but this could have happened anywhere in the Peace Corps world. Therefore, I’ve dealt with these problems, and learn from them and overcome the challenges. Overall, I have had a good experience. I find my service both very pleasurable and rewarding. I have met interesting people from a different part of the world and from all walks of life.

Anyhow, in a nutshell, that’s my life as a gay Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco.

You can contact this volunteer at

Lesbians Non-Existent in Tonga?

– Peace Corps Volunteer

Tonga Flag

Tonga Flag

To start, I want to comment on how much I appreciated LGBT RPCVs and Brian Favorite’s three articles on Fakaletis (men who live and dress as women) in Tonga. The fact that the LGBT community is embraced by the Peace Corps and that a forum exists gave me much-needed support before accepting my invitation. I hope this contribution will also be helpful for somebody else considering serving in the Peace Corps.

Now, here is a little about me and my life here in Tonga.

I am in my mid-twenties, identify as queer/lesbian and have dreamed about being a Peace Corps Volunteer since I was a kid and pronounced the “s” at the end of Corps. I am currently living on the main island known as Tongatapu and serving as a TEFL teacher in my village’s government primary school. I have been living here for about five months now and am still learning so much about my new community.

For those of you who have read Brian Favorite’s articles, you will know that Tonga is very conservative and Christian. I jokingly compare Tonga to a conservative, southern town in America. There are churches on almost every corner (and then some), filial piety and respect of elders is paramount, and homosexuality is taboo. According to the laws here in Tonga, homosexual acts are illegal. However, Fakaletis generally are not seen as gay. Therefore, they tend to “slip through the (legal) cracks”. In Tonga, there are only male Fakaletis and no known female equivalent to the sub-culture.

When I read the details about Tonga from the infamous blue invitation packet, I was concerned by three things. One: Lesbians are a non-existent group here in Tonga. Two: Female PCVs in Tonga have felt uncomfortable by some Tongan men’s unwanted advances. Three: Tongans can be intrusively curious people. These three facts didn’t bode well for me, an openly gay and proudly feminist woman.

As with most scary things, a lot was built up in my mind before arriving to Tonga that was unwarranted. While all three concerning facts are true, it is completely manageable to be happy here. For starters, if you serve in the Peace Corps, inevitably some behaviors will have to be toned down out of respect to your community. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with these rules, but there is a sort of unwritten expectation of compromise. To me one compromise is “if you don’t go around talking about your girlfriend or have obvious same-sex relationships with women, we will stay out of your business”. Another helpful tactic is to use the Tongan gender-neutral term for girlfriend/boyfriend, kaumea. I have been asked by all sorts of Tongans if I was married or if I had a kaumea. When I was in a relationship, I would reply in Tongan in the affirmative. Easy peasy.

With this being said, I certainly do feel a sense of diminished freedom in Tonga. While my PCV group and some of the Peace Corps/Tonga staff know that I am gay, there is a feeling of isolation. Most of my friends from America are LGBT. Currently in Tonga, I am the only openly gay person that I know of. That fact is tough. When I go out with my friends here, I know that I can’t meet or date women. Since many are too shy to say it, I will: two years of celibacy sounds really daunting.

In closing, if you are a LGBT Peace Corps applicant, trainee, or nominee and are feeling weary, it is okay. The staff will be very accepting and will provide you with the support you need to adjust to your new life. There will be times where you feel completely out of place, but other volunteers will be just as supportive of you as you are with them. In all likelihood, other people in your community and Peace Corps groups are feeling the exact same way. Good luck!

This volunteer can be contacted at

LGBT Ally Training in Paraguay

– Manuel Colon, former PCV

PC Paraguay (Jopara)

On Friday, November 2, 2012, Peace Corps – Paraguay hosted its first ever LGBT ally training with 16 participants, volunteers and staff, in attendance. The training comes as a response to the 2011 all volunteer survey (AVS) that stated roughly 25% of the incidents of harassment received by volunteers as a result of their sexual orientation came from either volunteer peers or staff. Peace Corps Headquarters is currently in the process of creating a training packet to address this issue specifically, but has yet to release anything more than the outline. Jopara, Paraguay’s volunteer diversity group, decided to step in and move forward with organizing and facilitating the training instead. Topics covered in the training included facts and history of LGBT events and legislation, correct terminology usage, a guided experience of the coming out process, and an overview of the in-country LGBT resources. Upon termination of the training, all participants were awarded “safe space” stickers to be placed anywhere of their choosing (desks, doors, notebooks, etc) to communicate their dedication as an ally to the LGBT community.

LGBT Resources in Paraguay

LGBT Resources in Paraguay



  • República De Colombia 141 C/ Yegros.
  • (21) 495802, (+595) 981 616 203
  • Mon-Th 14:00 to 22:00 Fri. and Sat. 14:00 to 00:00
  • Marcha de Orgullo, Besaton
  • Their center functions as a temporary relief shelter for LGBT youth who are homeless, they offer HIV screenings, and a general space to be rented for events


Aireana- lesbian organization

  • Eligio Ayala 907 entre EEUU y Tacuary
  • 21 447976
  • La Serafina Bar, Friday night events, Feminist Conferences, Radio Show, Marcha para la Igualdad, LesBiGayTrans Festival de Cine

Panambi- Trans community

Grupo Ñepyru- Trans community and people living with HIV

  • O’leary 177 c/Cap. Carmelo Peralta y Padrea Molas, Cnl. Oveido
  • 0521200059
  •  Services and focus: HIV screenings and education, human rights

Todo Mejora- Paraguay- entire LGBT community

  • Facebook page and YouTube account
  • A project that offers resources and support to LGBT youth
  • Offers a collection of videos on YouTube from LGBT Paraguayans sending messages of hope and support to LGBT youth for the future

LGBT Friendly Spaces

Babylon Dance

  • Dance club and bar
  • 760 25 de Mayo c/ Tacuari

Hollywood Dance

  • Dance Club
  • Independencia Nacional c/ Teniente Farina
  • 0982.488.652

Frogus Karaoke Gay

  • Estrella 852 entre Montevideo & Juan de Ayolas

La Serafina

  • Feminist Safe Space with Books, Internet, Space to Hang Out
  • Monday-Friday 9am-12pm and 1pm-5pm/Converted into a restaurant + bar and event space on Friday nights 8pm-1am
  • Eligio Ayala 907 c/Tacuary
  • 0921.447.976

Peace Corps – Paraguay Resources

Peace Corps Medical Officers/Counselors/ Security Officer

Jopara, Volunteer Diversity Group

Peer Support Network

You can contact Manuel at

Guarding My Sexuality in Botswana

– A Peace Corps Volunteer

The other day a fellow PCV invited me to an LGBT pool party coming up in Gaborone, the capital. This was strange to me to begin with because I don’t know any locals who are members of the LGBT community. My village is very small and very remote. And considering the climate in my area regarding issues of homosexuality, I am not out as a gay man. Since Botswana is very small (only 2 million people) I am always somewhat on guard to make sure I don’t accidentally out myself, because word travels fast.

For me this has been easily the most difficult part of my service. Back in the United States I was a very vocal advocate for LGBT issues. I first started coming out to people when I was 15. During my time in college I was the head of the GSA on our campus and the Diversity Committee of our Student Senate. So feeling the need to head back into the closet has been challenging to say the least. Nowadays the only time I mention anything related to being gay outside of my contact with other PCVs is when talking about respect and social responsibility towards all people with the kids I work with. Even then I still distance myself from my own orientation. I always lead off with, “I have friends back in the US who are…”

At times I feel that I am closing off a part of me, and that does make it harder to have friendships with the people in my community. When I am hanging out with teachers from the school, or the nurses over at the health post the conversation often drifts to, “Why aren’t you dating anyone? Did you have a girlfriend you left in the US?” And so on. So while I can have good conversations with people, eventually it leads back to me having to lie yet again, and keep guarding myself.

There has only been one instance during my service that caused me severe discomfort, and even some fear, regarding being gay here. I was at a multi-day event and one of the teenage girls had told another PCV that she was a lesbian. The PCV asked if I would be willing to talk to her since the girl had a lot of questions she was unable to answer. There were many reasons in my head why I should not do it, all of them concerning self-preservation of my hidden identity. First of all, with how small Botswana is, if word got out the people back home would probably know I was gay before I even showed up back there. Secondly, the girl lived in my shopping village, so there was a chance I would run into her often.

Despite this I decided to go ahead with the conversation. I came to Botswana to help people, and this was a way that I was uniquely qualified to give help. She mostly was looking for advice on how to talk to her family about being a lesbian. She was already out to a few friends, so I told her to use them for support, and also not to feel rushed to tell her family if she wasn’t ready. All in all it seemed to go pretty well.

In the next few days that girl ended up telling some other event facilitators that she was a lesbian. As soon as I had heard about this from the other facilitators I grew quite nervous since I was not sure if she had told them about me as well. From what I was able to gather from her, she did not. There is still the chance that she could tell people somewhere down the road, which is a risk I knew I was taking, but one I felt necessary to try and help her out.

I still think that at any day people here could start to figure out I am gay. Not only because of that event, but also because I have started to become closer with my co-workers to the point where I even have a few of them on Facebook (which considering some of the things I post is a big deal). I have even lately been considering telling some of them who I am closest to. Yet, I have not quite reached that point, and until then I am completely isolated in my village regarding even people to talk to about being gay.

But I do have a friend who lives much closer to the capital. She has LGBT friends (mostly people of other cultures working here). They have movie nights, and other events aimed at bringing LGBT people in Botswana together. In a sense Botswana is 2 different worlds. In the bigger areas, and especially the capital, you can go around fairly unnoticed. This means you can find other LGBT people and not have to worry about censoring yourself all the time. But in the remote areas, you are lucky if you are able to walk to the tuck shop without stopping and talking for a minute with at least 5 different people.

And for me, I am starting to meet some more LGBT people. I did end up going to that pool party in Gaborone. And to my big surprise (since I thought I would never even be able to talk about it during my time in Botswana at all) I actually met someone there who I am now seeing regularly. And while our relationship is very under the radar (although several of my PC friends know) it is still liberating to be able to express that part of myself.

So I think I would have to say that Botswana has some LGBT culture, but unless you are posted to a large area you may not find it that easily. And while yes, being gay in Botswana can be very challenging, the work we do here is very rewarding. I have tough days, when I just want to go home and beat my head against the wall, but ultimately the work I do with the youth in my community is more important to me than my discomfort about closeting myself. After having been here a year, I can say you get a little more comfortable about covering your orientation, and that I have made small headway with at least being able to talk about homosexuality with some people in my community, though always devoid of personal identification.

All in all though, I am actually very grateful to be a gay male in Botswana, even if I am closeted. This experience has taught me much more about myself, my limitations, and my strengths and has caused me to appreciate how much I have grown. I would say to anyone that don’t let being a member of the LGBT community stop you from engaging in challenging situations, at the very least you will learn a lot from it.

You can contact the author at


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