PRIDE 2024: A Call to Counter and Challenge Anti-Rights through Community

Written by Dumi Gatsha

Dumi Gatsha is founder of Success Capital Organisation, a grassroots NGO working in the nexus of human rights and sustainable development with regional and global impact

“Strong communities are born out of individuals being their best selves.” –  Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Writing has always been my refuge. What started out in poetry, expanded to a passion for blogging and responding to phobic opinion pieces and columns lead my religious leaders in my country of citizenship, Botswana. Blogging became a sanctuary for protest and challenging patriarchy – even when I wouldn’t articulate it so as a 21-year-old graduate working in corporate auditing. At some point as an elected Chair of an unregistered organisation, I honoured an invite to a HIV meeting and only had the word “activist” as the biography. Every other participant had an illustrious paragraph or two printed by their name. This was the first instance where I realised that community doesn’t just exist or affirm us. My memories are filled with instances of disregard, exclusion, wrong pronouns, and rescinded job offers – even from safe spaces. Depression is a norm and whilst I do not wish to idealise suicide, it’s a common visitor when in the abyss of trying to navigate the world outside of gender binaries. I have come to understand community as a space, connection or gathering of belonging and becoming. The kind that affirms your humanity in authenticity, beauty, and flaws. 

My experiences are not unique the queer community or any specific gender. However, the triggers of trauma even when healing make it seem like you’re alone. The nonprofit industrial complex focuses on building movements and not necessarily community. One of the reasons of this could be because thematic issues, advocacy framing and even communities are deeply siloed. I also cannot grapple with the thought that the Arab Spring (Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain), #FeesMustFall (South Africa), ShutItAllDown (Namibia) and #EndSARS (Nigeria) movements needed to be built. Some of these were sustained by feminist responses, mutual aid and people power. Yet we continuously impose theories of change and narrow narratives of what change needs to happen. We seek out leaders in movements because it is deemed easier to engage and support, whilst movements never relied on one person. We manufacture/pre-determine outcomes as if life unravels the way it would be written on paper, whilst the Sudanese protests that heralded the ousting of Omar al-Bashir seem to be in vain with the current atrocities occurring under military rule. Communities do not fit in with the controls that influence the degree of trust in enablement and resourcing in times of uncertainty and crisis. This is reflected in the quantum figures that grassroots activists have to compete and unendingly work for without break.

Anti-rights and anti-gender ideology movements are not only sustained by institutionalised participation and [digital, ethnic, patriarchal] socialisation; but a salient history of unrestricted funding and a culture founded on the marriage between religion and the state. Their actors need not meet a specific criterion, language, or be bound by jurisdiction or action. They are emboldened by state-sponsored discrimination and the tools of colonial violence. Where the masters house no longer shields him from a changing world, but that his furniture and fortunes can be pollinated across the global majority the extract and exploit. Whether in capitalism, state debt, special drawing rights or invoking and reframing history to subjugate and oppress. Those with the capital can yield the profits and beneficiation from global majority countries’ natural resources, legislative bodies, and emerging markets. I could apply the owners of capital to those within the philanthropy value chain just as I can the ultra rich. As they invest in and benefit from global majority countries whilst seemingly existing in power and perpetuity. They are a system that sees dividends, anti-LGBT laws, rescinding FGM prohibitions, reversing abortion rights, tax loopholes and cheap labour. They thrive in chaos and grief as its never theirs to feel or experience. They are shielded by property, humanitarian, company, citizenship and intellectual property law weaponised by nation states against ‘othered’ demographics. 

These issues might seem structural, but they are deeply personal. They infringe on personhood – often denied on ‘othered’ demographics: those who are not white, cisgender, men, and/or heterosexual. The personal is political, as I navigate who I am in grant solicitation processes, care work for those around me and an increasingly unjust geopolitical landscape. I have to negotiate whether I am deserving or eligible whilst those that oppose my existence negotiate their holiday homes, salaries and stock options. The discomfort of not having options could never replace the comfort that comes with them. This is the crux of inequality, where material differences in opportunity can determine the trajectory of how one can lead a nurturing and restful life. We need community because we don’t have historical legacies of capital and exploiting free labour from enslaved generations and care work respectively. Community in many ways, helps us navigate the lack of capital, ownership and material things that make life easier. For example, paying for a niece’s school fees or a volunteer’s medical costs because we do not have equitable and holistic organisational or state social protections. Those costs would not be possible under a grassroots NGO’s project-defined budget. Community is a form of solidarity for many of us. No one looks or sounds the same, but understands what everyone is going through. Many find this sense of belonging and becoming in church support groups or in college years. Trans and gender diverse folks to not have these privileges.We navigate a world that continuously reminds us we do not belong, whether its in a global minority law enacting anti-trans legislature or health codes that cannot reconcile gender diversity and reproductive care. Our existence requires critical thinking and shifting away from gender norms that often narrow what is available for society. We are a revolution as a virtue of being present in a world and sector that does not value, recognise or appreciate us. Community keeps us grounded and reminds us of our beauty. Although we are far and few, we continuously find ways to connect and extend solidarity. As Saint, in our commemorative dialogue that touches on colonialism, philanthropy and NGOisation of our bodies and experiences, shares; activism as an art. As our labour, identity and contributions are consistently questioned by enablers, governments and even those who share our struggle. Arya, further shares on what truly matters; her community being fed, healed when sick and caring for each other in a chaotic world. This for me is the ultimate yardstick of resistance. That we look beyond the confines of enablement, the restrictions of oppression and continue to exist, to write and to challenge wherever possible. That our visibility not cost us further but connects us to others who understand the intricacies of our experiences and worries. A community of co-creation, camaraderie, and creativity for change. Only then, can community withstand and thrive amidst a chaotic world.

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