I was just reading a small collection of the stories of queer Malawians. In very simple and deeply personal terms, they share their loves and losses and the time when they first knew. The perilous balancing act – close friends know and close family suspect (“who would pay my tuition if my mother knew?”). The law is unrelenting, the church is hostile and it is hard to find community. Dignity and safety are not guaranteed. Despite the conditions, or maybe because of the conditions, there is a courage and resolve to live and to love themselves.
Each person whose story is published in the booklet talked about an object they possessed that means something to them – these are my favorite four objects:
“The mirror reflects how beautiful I am. I cannot go a day without looking in the mirror. It reflects the kind of person I am. It shows me the facts. It shows me how I feel about myself.”
Charisma Maseko: A Stone
“One evening I was walking and someone shouted at me, ‘We don’t want you people, we will deal with you gays’. He threw a stone at me, but it missed me by an inch. I picked up the stone. I still keep the stone to this day to remind me of this incident. He thought he was stoning me but rather he gave me a precious message. A stone is always intact and maintains its original composition. So too, is my sexuality – it is original, genuine and intact.”
Shy Amanda: A Pair of Porcelain Clogs
“The clogs are a reminder of a lady from Holland. She game me the clogs when she realised I was gay and she told me a story about her lesbian friend in England who used to wear clogs. She said the clogs should remind me of her, because she is family.”
Monnahrisa: A cellphone
“My cell phone is very important to me. I can kiss through the phone. When I’m sad I can text, and get a lovely text back. I can have a girlfriend, even if she’s far away we can feel through the phone. I love a cell phone for communication.”
*Queer Malawi: Untold Stories. Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), Malawi. Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA), South Africa.