L-Word meets F-Word

Fadzai Muparutsa

The F-word, “feminism,” is taboo in some spaces and arouses mistrust and criticism. That was true for Zimbabwean activist and sceptic, Fadzai Muparutsa, who spends her days doing advocacy around the L-word in “LGBTI” – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex.

I was suspicious about what feminism was; I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was a feminist because of people’s perception of what feminism stands for. It took time for me to sort through the clutter in my head and arrive at an understanding. Feminism, like any ideology, has those who relate and practice it differently; I found a way to make it work for me.

Separating women’s rights from LGBTI rights? I would say that that’s how injustice thrives. Women’s rights and feminism challenge patriarchy, so it’s critical to work together to appreciate how patriarchy is used to marginalise not only women, but all of us who are seen to be non-conforming to society’s oppressive values. Coming together to challenge patriarchy should be teamwork—that way we can make super noise!

Zimbabwe has been a roller coaster ride the last few years. At one point during that period I was a quadrillionaire – I had all that money and it was worthless. One day, I drove through a riot. Later, I heard that three people were killed by politically motivated violence at that very spot. No investigations were carried out. I lived through and survived the most violent elections ever experienced in Zimbabwe. Out of the political violence, the government of national unity was born. The president and the prime minister shared their disdain for LGBTI people while speaking at an event on International Women’s Day. Through all of these situations, I have also experienced alternative voices and organising on human rights, including the rights of LGBTI people and democratic processes and this is encouraging.

Coming under fire from the Zimbabwean government, GALZ continues to survive in an uncertain and often violent environment. In spite of these challenges, out of the fire, new voices and greater visibility for the organization have emerged as young LGBTI and activists speak out.

I consider GALZ to be a pioneering, visionary and legendary association. We don’t only represent LGBTI Zimbabweans – we also speak as Africans, as citizens, as members of civil society. Our different sexual orientation, our gender identity, these do not take away our Africanness nor do they take away our citizenship. Politicians, and religious and traditional leaders speak about the unAfricanness of homosexuality to push an agenda of patriotism and nationalism. As GALZ, we believe in equality and justice which to me means we are part of civil society seeking social justice for marginalised people and groups.

I’m not sure how to be realistic about Zimbabwe. But my vision would be lasting peace, stability and not living in yesterday. Zimbabwe has to have a different view of change. My vision for myself is to continue working on LGBTI issues and challenging injustices in the spaces I occupy.

Fadzai Muparutsa is a passionate feminist and LGBTI activist, and the former Gender Programs Manager for JASS partner, GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe).