I keep remembering a time when I was young… hands so tender, it almost hurt to clasp them in prayer… When all I could hold was my stuffed teddy who knew all my fears, joys, and wants. The sound of the Zimbabwean national anthem evoked hope in the future for one like me then; an invisible child, waiting in the wings to be counted and loved one day by a constitution that preached love and nurture of humanity. In those days when I wished upon a star, it was the star on our flag… It was more easily reachable than the bright stars in the night sky. More tangible, even. I had hope then.
It soon faded in 1997 when I awoke to the entrenched hatred that plagued both church and state. A president who had stood and spewed venom about the inhuman nature of gays and lesbians. There were several things that many in the country didn’t agree with him on. But on this, the majority of the people in prominent places of influence agreed with Robert Mugabe… That, “Gays and lesbians are worse than pigs and dogs”. This was by no means the only rhetoric floating in our country. There were many untruths that were peddled about why people were gay. Some did it for money because they wanted to get wealth from Europeans who condoned homosexuality. Some were perverts that just wanted to go against the order of nature and so on.
I was caught in the middle of all of it, being a teenager and all. I did not yet know how to speak. Neither did I have the vocabulary for what I felt so deeply. When you’re in that space, there isn’t a soul you feel is reachable for you to turn to. I remember once, sitting in a car with one of my leaders from the church who’d truly become close and was counseling me on my issues of abandonment that were a real part of my life then. I could tell him everything, but not the one thing that was gnawing at my core. I felt that coming out rendered me unlovable. So I hid further into my darkest internals.
It upsets me to think about it, because the emotional and self-worth rape that comes with homophobia deeply roots itself into our core, no matter how strong and resilient we become; we continue trimming and navigating through it for decades. We constantly have to keep grounding ourselves with the words, “I’m Enough”. Yes, some of us find this reality fairly easier than others. Others will glide on it for a while but will soon battle over and over and keep flailing through life.
Homophobia takes lives. Some into death. And some into never truly experiencing life as it ought to be lived honestly. I’m furious with the way we keep seeking permission to exist. Even when it’s unnecessary, we feel the need to be acknowledged into safety because homophobia has left us limping and very wary of danger even where we’ve woven safe spaces. I’m tired. I’m mostly tired of Zimbabwean homophobia that keeps rearing its ugly head in spaces where it has no business burrowing itself.
Zimbabwean homophobia is eating its young. It’s also chasing them out to make them great and appreciated in lands afar, never to find hope in their own country. It’s also killed many of the friends that I grew up with. Suicide, fear of seeking medical attention and therapy when their health was compromised. I find it hard to forgive that part.
I’m forever grateful for all the men, women, and nonbinary people still in Zimbabwe fighting against the hatred and fuckery that political parties and the government perpetuate against the LGBTQIA+ lives that are there. Thank you for the tireless and often thankless work you put up with.
I’m at a time in my life where I’m limping but still aiming for a better future for all of us to be seen as humans on the African continent. I’m getting old and becoming cynical in some ways, but there’s always a flicker of hope that keeps me reaching for a better way to educate people as opposed to fighting. Fighting has exhausted me. I hope posterity gets a better deal than most of us had and keep getting from the Zimbabwean ruling government, opposition political parties, and the church regarding our inalienable rights as sexual minorities.
— Frank Malaba
Frank Malaba is an actor, playwright, and published poet. He was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa. He has performed on stage and on television in both countries. He has a passion for using poetry, storytelling, and theatre as a method of healing for both himself and others. His poetry has been presented both at home and abroad. Frank is currently developing a two-man play entitled “Broken Pathways” which will be touring internationally. In 2014 Frank was recognized by Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans as an Achiever in the category of Arts & Culture. View all posts by Frank Malaba