This post is inspired by and dedicated to a friend who has been recently diagnosed with HIV. I feel his pain, his anger, his confusion and his strength. I vow to stand with him in what ever way he needs me to. It’s also the first poem I’ve ever shared like this, so be kind… SB this is for you.
A death sentence
Nothing can be the same again
Denial, anger, blame
Anything but acceptance
Acceptance would mean dealing with mortality and the truth about the fluids we share during sex
Acceptance would mean acknowledging the fragility of our human bodies and the fleeting nature of our existence
Denial allows us to go on living a normal life until our bodies begin to outwardly show the scars of the battle within
A fight for survival
It’s amazing how three letters can change the course of your life
How your body can become a battleground
Every cell for itself!
Every cell fighting against an enemy so deceptive, it hides in plain sight
An enemy that snuck in during a moment of careless abandon
An enemy that could have been held back by a thin latex sheath
But in those wanton moments of ecstasy, the last thing you wanted was to stop and reach for the rubber
Instead you let that hard pulsating spear penetrate you and leave a scar that will never heal
Three letters can turn your sexual past into a map of betrayal and accusation
Three letters will turn each orgasmic moan into screams of shame
Three letters can turn every dick you sensually stroked into weapons of your destruction
Three letters turn your normal life into a life of doctors and tests and pills
Three letters and your sex life becomes a carefully orchestrated routine of disclosure and negotiation
Three letters that now define you
Three letters that turn you into a statistic, a cliché, a tick in a box on the endless array of forms that run our lives
Three letters that turn you into a tool for the global machine built to combat the disease
A machine that now gorges itself on donations and government subsidies
Three letters and your choices are now dictated by memos and reports from faceless agencies a world away
They tell you what to eat
They tell you what pills to take and when to take them
They tell you what’s safe for you to do
They tell you what sex you can or cannot have
H I V
Three letters that I refuse to become me
Three letters that I do not blame anyone, including myself, for making a part of my story
I acknowledge them
I accept them
And I shall live
And I shall love
During the frivolities of last week’s Zim Pride, one of our own died after complaining of a severe headache. She was a fixture at GALZ events, well loved and respected by everyone who met her. I was shocked and incredulous when I found out about her death. However, I can be secure in the knowledge that she lived her life the way she wanted, filled with love both from her long-time partner and the community. Her funeral and wake were supposed to be a time where all the people who loved her could gather to celebrate her life and mourn her passing. That was the plan until a friend of mine received a message asking that “nobody obvious” should attend. What does that even mean? And in the Zimbabwean cultural context, it is taboo to turn anybody away from a funeral and wake. It’s as if you are diminishing the relationship between the deceased and those you’ve turned away. Nothing is as insulting as being turned away from mourning your friend because you’re too obvious.
I actually wasn’t going to post anything about this incident out of respect for the deceased, but I felt like it raised an important issue. We seem to be obsessed with how people express their sexuality; whether someone is butch or fem seems to be so important. The external expression of our inner and most personal sexuality determines whether you’ll be accepted by the mainstream queers. If a guy is too fem or a girl is to butch, they are labelled and shunned. How can we, a community struggling to be recognised and accepted as part of the diverse social landscape of our country, how can we exclude and stigmatise anybody. We should be the first to be united in our own diversity. We should be the first to celebrate that diversity. Events like this past weekend’s Mr and Miss Pride (a drag beauty and fashion pageant) help to put those that are usually in the dark under the spotlight. However, these events are few and far between. We queers just need to take it on board that we are as diverse as the general population and if we want to be recoginised and accepted we cannot continue to discriminate our own!
Recently, I was filling in a form and ticking all the different boxes the Big Man uses to define who I am – male, black, in a relationship, Christian. The one box that wasn’t there and I would love to tick would be gay, but alas, living in Zimbabwe means this isn’t a label I can own. You see labels aren’t just about what other say about you; they help you feel like you belong to a group. The LGBTI(Q) (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Inter-sex, Queer and Questioning) community is one of the most invisible in this wonderful land of ours. Our invisibility means we are always excluded from all processes of national and health and personal development. Our relationships aren’t uplifted and supported by the community at large. Our lives, concerns and problems aren’t afforded the same space in public discourse as those of our straight counterparts. When we do make the national discourse, it is always negative stories about sodomy or same-sex marriage. But even in those stories the terms gay or homosexual or LGBTI(Q) never appear. Names and labels are important. They allow individuals to feel part of a community; they allow the general community to engage with and identify the named other. Getting these labels to be part of the national conversation is the first step in ensuring that the LGTBI(Q) community is treated with the respect and dignity all individuals and groups deserve.