We are very, very lucky to be here in the U.S. when we talk about the discrimination that LGBT people face here we do not even come close to what the LGBT community faces around the world. It could cost us our life if we come out.
Love in exileBut the worst was yet to come,
In 2010, Tiwonge Chimbalanga, a transgender woman, was imprisoned in Malawi for getting engaged to a man. Pardoned and freed, she now lives in exile in South Africa. Mark Gevisser reports on an uneasy triumph for the global LGBT rights movement
By Mark Gevisser
Thursday 27 November 2014
This was the headline on the front page of Malawi’s Nation newspaper, on 28 December 2009, beneath a photograph of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Stephen Monjeza, bleary and uncomfortable in matching his-and-hers outfits cut from the same waxprint: “Gay lovebirds Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza on Saturday made history when they spiced their festive season with an engagement ceremony (chinkhoswe), the first recorded public activity for homosexuals in the country.”
Four months later, when Chimbalanga said she and Monjeza wished to hold a chinkhoswe, Kamphale offered her lodge as a venue, and a loan to pay for the festivities. The pastor of a local Pentecostal church, in which Chimbalanga was a chorister, agreed to preside. Two days later, the couple were arrested and charged with “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” — a hangover from the British colonial penal code — which had never been used against two consenting adults in Malawi. They were given 14 years’ hard labour. It was, the judge said, “a scaring sentence”: there was to be no more of such nonsense.They were exiled after serving five months in jail,
During the trial, both Kamphale and the pastor would testify that Chimbalanga had deceived them: she had explained away her male features by saying she had been born a girl but had been bewitched as a child. Expedient though this explanation might have been, it is close to how she actually felt, given that she has always understood herself to be female.
“I am a woman,” she told me, firmly, five years later, as we sat in her neat, well-equipped two-roomed shack in Tambo Village, outside Cape Town. She has been in exile in South Africa since 2010. Amnesty International had declared her and Monjeza “prisoners of conscience”, and brought Chimbalanga to South Africa after they were eventually pardoned by Bingu wa Mutharika, who was then Malawi’s president, after five months in jail.All around the world gays, lesbians, and trans-people face execution and persecutions for being themselves.