Wednesday, November 20, was the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. Transgender people are those whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned at birth. It also includes people who express gender in ways that contravene what society expects from a man or woman. This umbrella term includes cross dressers, drag kings/queens, transsexuals, people who are androgynous as well as people who do not identify with any labels. GALZ commemorated the day by paying tribute to Zimbabwe’s LGBTI rights champion, known only as Naomi, with the following statement.
WE pay tribute to Naomi, Zimbabwe’s very own trans-woman who championed the struggle for LGBTI rights in so many ways. She came out at a time when there was very little to no information on transgender people.
Born 4th in a family of 8, Naomi a very active member of GALZ, Naomi never shied away from controversy. In her hometown of Mabvuku, a township about 25km outside Harare, most people considered Naomi’s behaviour feminine.
Naomi fought for inclusion and acceptance even within the GALZ women’s program. She was never included in these activities. She was a victim of violence in public spaces owing to her gender identity. She attempted suicide three times in her life, following a period in which society shunned her. But nothing stopped her tenacious fight for LGBT awareness, rights and freedoms.
As a HIV/Aids activist, she was instrumental in facilitating the first and only grant from the National Aids levy through the Zimbabwe Network of People living with HIV. The grant of ZWD 95,000 was handed over to GALZ to support its HIV Aids work, (not without controversy) ZNNP+ Director then, Dr. Frank Guni had to defend his position on why he granted GALZ the grant simply saying that HIV knows no sexuality.
She organized a successful Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS (ZNNP+) National Congress in 1999 that was held in Masvingo. This congress also courted controversy because of her involvement. She did not despair, she was a fighter and a winner.
In 2000 she organized an All Africa exchange program for GALZ, bringing together a number of LGBTI activists from Africa to Zimbabwe.
2001 She co-ordinated the GALZ counselling Team, a group of about 25 LGBT counselors in GALZ. During the same year she was appointed safer sex coordinator, responsible for organizing a very successful safe sex program for GALZ members, which was later transformed to become the health department that has now become the programs department.
She was elected vice chairperson on the GALZ Executive Committee three times. She later became involved in the Community Enterprise Development Against Stigma Trust (CEDAS), a trust founded by people passionate about the injustice and discrimination based on their own life experiences.
She started and led the GALZ buy a brick campaign, a campaign to raise money to buy the present day GALZ Offices in Harare. Her efforts contributed significant amount towards the purchase of the GALZ house. She became a performer extraordinaire at GALZ events, a regular supporter and organizer of the Jacaranda Queen Pageant, twice runner up and Queen in 1998.
She organized and performed at the 2005 Jacaranda Queen show held at Harry Margolis Hall which became her last show. She died 15 February 2006.