In Zimbabwe, it’s not that hard to get a reputation. Even writing letters to the newspaper is considered dangerous, especially if you use your real name. And that’s just the small stuff.
I’d call myself a government overthrower. And I’ve got Mugabe in my sights. I’ve had him there ever since he said, in a speech at the opening of the 1995 Zimbabwe International Book Fair, that I don’t have “any rights at all” and that I’m “worse than a pig or a dog.” Whatever that means. I’ve been involved in political activism in Zimbabwe for the last 10 years or so. At one stage, I had a truckload of police louts descend on my office with a search warrant for “ponography” [sic]. Of course they didn’t find anything salacious, but not wanting to go away empty-handed, they left with a directory listing bisexual groups around the world. Then the bunch of them push-started their truck and drove away.
This invasion of my private space was back in 1995. Ever since, I’ve been waiting for a midnight raid, either on account of my being queer or for being an outspoken critic of the Mugabe regime. So, not wanting to give the men in dark glasses any more of an excuse than they already had to drag me down to central police headquarters, I recently decided to ditch my dildos. Am I overreacting? Some might think so. But when your government has banned The Penguin Book of Lesbian Short Stories, it’s quite possible that being found in possession of a fake penis will land you in the back of a police Land Rover before you can say, “Let me see your search warrant.”
Welcome to Zimbabwe, where you have no rights at all. And don’t you forget it.
Some time ago, I was lying in bed, flipping through a sex-toy catalog. I had decided that I’d like to get a dildo. The selection was most impressive. I circled The One and asked my man Richard in England to go shopping for me. (Richard is a Zimbabwean now living in England who generously sends many different papers, books, videos, etc. to the gay community in Zimbabwe in a personal commitment to easing our isolation.) He didn’t turn a hair (as my mother would’ve said, although she would’ve gone bald at the thought) and set out to find “Dave” in a sex shop in Cambridge. Outrageous that the dildos are prenamed, but what can a girl do from a distance? In a month or two, Dave was delivered disguised as a bookend and tightly wrapped in The Pink Paper, which was formerly England’s premier gay and lesbian newspaper. My package was strung with string, all very neat and tidy and far too inaccessible for a not-so-diligent Zimbabwean postal worker to investigate further.
Let me say now that for the most part, I don’t give a crap if the whole world knows that I have a dildo in the drawer. I mean, big deal. But, like I said, having lived a lot of my life in anticipation of a raid in the middle of the night, the thought of the conservative creeps from central police headquarters ferreting through my stuff just wasn’t appealing. So my sex toy(s)—Dave got a friend, Roger—have never been very close at hand.
For a long time, Dave lived in a motorcycle helmet in the top cupboard in the bedroom. Then he was moved to the right pocket of my girlfriend’s furry white terry-cloth robe. Then he was stuffed at the bottom of our voluminous sock basket. After that, he was moved to a vase in our kitchen. And finally, he ended up under a bougainvillea in the garden—the purple one by our neighbor Malcolm’s wall.
Luckily, my dog Frank never got hold of Dave. What then?
Finally, I thought: This is ridiculous; let me stop forgetting where I’ve left Dave (and Roger) and give them the boot. I decided to toss them into a storm drain. On the way to dinner at my girlfriend’s parents’ house, I got ready but couldn’t find a drain in the dark. When we drove into her parents’ driveway, I saw that their rubbish bag hadn’t been emptied. It was innocently waiting there for more items to be added for the next day’s removal. But, as you can imagine, this suggestion didn’t go down too well with my girlfriend, especially because Zimbabwe is in the grip of a fuel shortage and waste removal is therefore an erratic affair. It was likely that my in-laws would be saddled with Dave and Roger longer than was decent. So Dave and Roger stayed in the car while we had dinner.
On the way home, I noticed how many rubbish bags were lining the roadside hopeful of a truck with fuel in the morning. In the end, perhaps it was the unsuspecting Mr. and Mrs. Flemming living at No. 3 Ardmore Close that finally took ownership of Dave and Roger. Or perhaps their groundsman smiled to himself when the rubbish wasn’t taken the next day.