Today is the beginning of Pride Month, the month set aside to commemorate the Stonewall riots and the subsequent fight for civil rights for LGBTQIA+ community across the globe and to celebrate the contributions Queer people have made to society. It’s the month where marches, parades and parties are held. Companies slap pride flags and colours on their brands and include Queer people in their marketing. Governments and civil society organisations usually silent on LGBTQIA+ rights, use the month to bolster their ally credentials. If this sounds cynical, that’s because it’s supposed to be. Pride month has descended into a month filled with frivolous parties and rainbow themed merchandise and memes. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good party and rainbow branded bottle of champagne. But that seems to be all we do during this month. And this year in particular, it feels so wrong to be in celebration mode.
Our world is so dark right now. It feels damn near apocalyptic; with a global pandemic, record level economic decline, political unrest, world leaders dividing and not uniting their citizens and the continued erosion of hard fought civil rights for marginalised communities all over the world including Black people, Indigenous peoples and LGBTQIA+ people. I feel an incredible weight on my soul right now. The sadness and hopelessness I have been grappling with is threatening to take over. I can’t justify celebrating anything right now.
What I can do is promise myself to examine why I am feeling so black and figure out how to deal with it. I can take this month to re-ignite the flame in my soul that is struggling to shine in the darkness. However that may happen, be it more posts or some other output, I will find that pride within myself again.
Until then, in the spirit of faking it until you make it, let me end this with a smile and say Happy Pride!
I’ve been grappling with the generally negative tone of my posts. I tend to be inspired to write when I see or feel that our community is under attack, usually from the outside. This is one of those moments, although it seems like this time, the damage is being inflicted from within. What do I mean by that? Well, let me explain.
Every so often, various lists are created and circulated via certain messaging platforms and become viral. The lists usually have some malicious content, and only function to spread rumours and lies about the individuals named. Some have called them harmless fun, but I disagree wholeheartedly. The latest list comes in the form of a snarky newsletter, which the author has promised to keep publishing weekly. The tone is malicious, hateful and hurtful. It’s really disappointing that at a time when we are reeling from the massacre in Garissa, the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, the mysterious disappearance of Itai Dzamara and countless other issues, the contribution of our community is the diatribe that is this list. Whoever the writer is, and there are many theories circulating about his identity, he has done nothing to help our community. He has played into the often cited stereotype that we are a bunch of bitchy queens intent on bringing each other down. I hope he realises that these are fellow human beings that he is so gleefully attacking. We are under such assault from the country at large that we don’t need to arm the gun and pull the trigger ourselves.
Then there’s the video, a 13 min sex tape that is doing the rounds. I won’t describe any of what I saw. I feel sorry for the two guys in the video. Their lives aren’t ever going to be the same again. They are going to have to live with the aftermath of this video going viral for a long time. And in a country where possession and distribution of pornographic material is illegal, both of them and anyone who has shared or received this video could face some sort of legal action if the video gets to the relevant authorities. What surprises me the most is that a lot of people have been sharing this video. I know that it’s a salacious and titillating thing and people want to share the latest gossip, but what about the individuals involved? I’m sure they didn’t create it so that their faces could become the most famous among gay Zimbabweans. I hope people stop sharing it. I hope people delete it from their devices. I hope people stop judging them, this can happen to anyone. We need to rally behind this pair and make sure their mistake doesn’t cost them their security, safety or livelihoods.
It’s happened every year I’ve been back in Zimbabwe. The national papers are awash with stories of deviant men sodomising other men, boys and women. The stories then get linked to homosexuality. We seem to be the cause of all the social ills of society. Out gay people and LGBT organisations are vilified, maligned, raided and arrested. Comments on social media range from “burn dem chichi man” to “it’s against God’s law” to “even animals know which hole to stick it in.” I’m sick of reading about this, especially on websites and pages create for the LGBT community. We all know it’s happening! It doesn’t mean we need to be constantly reminded of it. Nobody is offering solutions on how to deal with it. Nobody is countering the hate speech in the comment threads. Posting these links becomes an exercise in futility. We read and comment about how hateful it is and then the next day another article is posted, and the cycle continues. We need to focus our intellectual energies elsewhere. There are vibrant and sometimes intense discussions on twitter that unfortunately not many LGBT Zimbabweans follow. We have a lot of supporters out there. It’s high time we got actively involved there and showed that we exist and we won’t be shamed into silence. Just my rant for the day!
This is my first update in a while. Mostly because I didn’t know what I wanted to say. I could have written about the continued abuse and erosion of rights that LGBTIQQA Africans are facing at the hands of their own governments. I could have written about the harassment GALZ and its staff are facing from the police resulting in spurious charges of contravening sections of Zimbabwe’s infamous POSA (Public Order and Security Act) leveled against a very good friend of mine. I could have written about the wave of hurtful and sometimes libelous lists circulating amongst gay Zimbabweans. I could have written on South Africa’s continued refusal to hold other African governments to task on LGBTI rights. I could go on and on here but then that would miss the point of why I started this blog. I was trying to use my life ad struggles to illustrate the kind of struggles LGBTI individuals face in Zimbabwe and Africa. Instead, I’ve been caught up in this cycle of hate playing itself across the continent. Instead, I’m starting to feel like I’m using my voice to tell the stories of those that hate. I’m no longer telling my story. I’ve been forced by the hate to put my story aside. I won’t be doing that anymore!
It’s Valentine’s day again and to some that may be a bad thing, and to others it’s one of the most special days of the year. I’m one of those people who doesn’t celebrate the day. Not because I don’t have anyone to celebrate it with, but because I can’t publicly express my love. This year, this day has come as laws against same-sex love have been enacted or tightened in many African to include punishments as harsh as death. There seems to be no country on the continent that’s taking a stand for Africa’s LGBTI community. Even South Africa, the shining beacon of hope for all of us, is deafeningly silent. The world’s attention seems to be directed at Russia, where discriminatory laws were passed on the eve of the Winter Olympics. To this black African gay man, it feels a bit like the world doesn’t care what happens to us. It feels like only discrimination against white gays in Europe is the only discrimination that matters. People are dying here too. People are being arrested here too. People are being kicked out of their homes and thrown onto the streets. Access to health care is restricted and substandard. I could go on. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll wish one and all a happy Valentine’s day.
2014 has started and I can’t help but feel like the air has been violently removed from my bubble. During the past few weeks, Africa has become a less tolerant place for its LGTBIQQA citizens.
First, the Ugandan parliament passed a bill that proposes lengthy sentences for both same-sex loving people and their supporters just before Christmas. It was audaciously called an early Christmas present to the people from the parliament. The good news is that Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni, has since refused to sign the bill into law. His reasons, according to this article
, don’t exactly inspire hope for the future of LGTBIQQA citizens of Uganda.
The second and similar problematic thing is the unannounced but expected signing of the Same-sex Marriage Prohibition Act by Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan early in January. The act was adopted and passed by the legislative branches of government in 2011 and 2013. Consensual sex between adults of the same sex was already criminalised in Nigeria, with punishments as severe as death in some northern states where sharia law. What this new law does is to even criminalize groups that advocate for gay rights in Nigeria.
While all this has been happening, a transsexual friend of mine who lives as a woman was arrested for using a female toilet in Bulawayo. The case was thrown out by the judge. Also in Bulawayo, a GALZ sponsored Christmas party was raided by the police and several prominent figures within ZANU PF’s Youth League were outed to the party structures. No charges have been filed but they still live in fear.
Meanwhile, South Africa, seen by many as a beacon of hope when it comes to gay rights in Africa, has remained silent. International condemnation has been loud and quick. Petitions from all over the world are littering the internet. And still South Africa remains silent. There are serious discussions about reform of the United Nations Security Council to include a permant seat for an African country. The top two contenders are South Africa and Nigeria and that saddens me. We cannot allow African countries that don’t respect or protect African LGBTI rights the privilege of representing the continent on the Security Council. The time has come for us to speak out and stand up for our rights!
A story has been doing the rounds on my Facebook timeline that claims that my president has a son who has recently come out of the closet in a radio interview in England (follow this link if you’re interested). The people who have been taken in by this fiction are utterly stupid! And I’ll explain why:
1. The blog that’s hosting the article clearly states it’s satirical credentials if one bothers to look.
2. My president has three living children and none of them are called Chipape.
3. None of his children would be allowed to read for an MBA at Oxford or any other university or college in England. Those targeted sanctions have been used to keep his children studying in the East!
4. And finally, with the way the West vilifies my president, this story would be blowing up across all mainstream media and we wouldn’t have to dig through the garbage on the internet to find the alleged source.
Let’s stop and think before we post and share such utter rubbish, littering my TL!
The Government of this glorious nation of mine has been on a voluntary male medical circumcision drive for the past couple of years in a misguided (in my humble opinion) attempt to put a dent in the numbers of new HIV infections in the country. According to reports I’ve encountered, the numbers have been less than satisfactory and far less than the donors expected. Why? Simply put, I know very few guys who would willingly get their symbol of manhood disfigured, especially when the procedure does not completely prevent infection with virus. Consistent and correct us of condoms is still a must after the procedure. It seems like this part of the message isn’t getting across to people. Reports of men contracting HIV after circumcision and of prostitutes having clients who don’t want to use protection because they’ve been circumcised have surfaced. That’s worrying. And they now want to experiment on babies! No thank you! Let’s focus on behaviour change, universal access to condoms, lubes and proper sex education.
I’ve had four serious relationships in my life. In all but the last I was younger than my partner (significantly so in one instance). In my last one I was the older party. I was never in it for the money and my most recent ex boyfriend didn’t need or get any money from me. Just because there’s an age difference between two people doesn’t mean that monetary transactions are the basis and binding force of the relationship. I’ve always been able to provide for myself in every relationship I’ve been in; and to some extent, I expect my partner to be able to do the same. Don’t get me wrong, I love being spoilt with romantic gestures. These gestures just can’t be forced.
The reason I’m saying all of this is that I’ve been accused,through the grapevine, of paying my ex-boyfriend for sex. I know the stories didn’t originate from him. Whoever has spread this ludicrous story obviously doesn’t know either of us very well. If they did, they would know that for both of us love, sex and money don’t mix. I know our relationship was unexpected and unconventional and full of internal drama, but the love was real. It may be hard for anyone who was on the outside looking in to understand how and why we got together and stayed together as long as we did. But for them to automatically turn to the idea of me paying for services rendered says a great deal about our community; specifically how younger guys are treated by older guys and the expectations younger guys have of older guys dating them. It disgusts me that money is the first thing that people think of. What about the mutual love and mutual respect that two people may share. I know not every relationship between partners of different ages is the same as mine have been. However, painting them all with the same brush is unfair. I was left enriched emotionally and matured. I had experiences with my older partners that opened me to the possibilities of what a relationship between two men could be. I was left a better man. I hope I had the same effect on my ex.
That’s my rant for the day done!
I am an African, not because I was born in Africa, but because Africa is born in me – Kwame Nkrumah
What does it mean to be African? Is there really a definition for African? Africa is such a diverse continent with over 50 countries and over 2000 languages. This incredible diversity makes it very difficult and perhaps mischievous to define an African. However there’s a sense of unity as you travel across the continent derived from the concept of Ubuntu or Hunhuism. Ubuntu is an ethical philosophy that affirms the humanity of everyone, but most especially the “other”, the outsider, the visitor. My humanity is measured by how I treat others. This concept, that is almost universal across the continent, is what gives rise to sayings like “everyone’s child” and “it takes a village”. There’s an inherent warmth that Africans have for everyone, family, neighbours and strangers alike. I love how no matter where my travels have taken me on the continent, I can walk into almost any home and be received warmly with a glass of water and an offer of food. Until they realise I’m gay.
LGTBIQ Africans seem to be the only exception to Ubuntu. We are not accepted or received with warmth and respect. In fact leaders of every shape and form take it upon themselves to demean and dehumanise us with harmful and, oftentimes, violent rhetoric. We are called un-African, a perversion of African culture and a manifestation of Western society. We are called “worse than pigs and dogs”. We are called “the biggest threat to humanity”. We are threatened with beheading, arrest, deportation, land dispossession and a myriad of other crimes. Where is Ubuntu in all of this? How is my humanity being affirmed by all of this? How can I be expected to respect and honour my culture when it is used against me?
There are Africans who are challenging this attitude; LGTBIQ Africans who are using Ubuntu and their cultures to stand up and be counted as African. But they are too few. I wish I could say I was one of them. I wish I could courageously and selflessly be out there fighting for inclusion and respect. I’m too afraid I guess. But step by step, I’m allowing myself to come out and be counted. This blog is part of that journey for me.