How two female playwrights are risking their lives to fight homophobia in Africa

Tall and model-thin, Katlego Kolanyane-Kesupile turns heads. She receives constant compliments but in her native Botswana, she is also met with contempt and abuse. It's simply for being who she is: an openly transgender woman.

Katlego has an ally in Adong Judith. She's a straight woman in Uganda who has made it her mission to stop the type of discrimination lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) people face in African nations, where homophobia runs rampant. 

Consider that 38 out of 54 countries on the continent have enacted laws that make it illegal to be gay and in several, including Somalia and South Sudan, homosexuality is punishable by death. A recent Pew Research survey found that 96% of people in Uganda believe LGBTQ people should not be accepted by society. In Nigeria, that number was 98%; Senegal, 96% and Kenya, 90%.

For Katlego, not a day goes by without vitriol and verbal abuse, she says. A man once attacked her with bricks on the streets of Gabarone, the Botswanan capital. People watched and did nothing. 

Katlego and Adong are united in their determination to change things. And they are doing it dramatically. Or rather, with drama.

Katlego, also known by her stage name of Kat Kai Kol-Kes, is the founding director of the Queer Shorts Showcase Festival, Botswana's first and only LGBT themed theater festival. Through her work, she strives to make "trans-visibility" a reality.

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