We've often focused on stories of Africans and people of African descent who are inspiring others with their accomplishments in the diaspora. The Be Inspired interview segment has often featured media personalities, business men and women and those who are helping the less priviledged. This month we go a little bit off the beaten path as we speak to Ruth Marimo who is a Zimbabwean lesbian author who lives in the United States. Her eye opening memoir, "Freedom of an illegal immigrant. The untold story of my search for a place in the world" is fast becoming a best seller. We talk about her life and her message. Her story is one of turning a negative situation into a positive one that we all can learn from and grow from. Ruth is an entrepreneur in that she owns her own business, she is an author and one of very few African activists within the LGBT movement. This month we tell her story and we hope that we all learn to take off that mask and be authentic. There is great power and strength in authenticity. Here we focus on LGBT issues. As we know, the LGBT community is a minority community in the United States and other parts of the world, and in many parts of the world - they are persecuted. Please take a read and then hit play to listen to parts that aren't within this excerpt.
On ulterior motives for writing her story and being an LGBT activist:
I have no ulterior motive for telling this story, I don’t need this book for anything. My paper work was approved way before this book was out. When I wrote this story, I really thought that I won’t see my children and that I will be deported. But, now, I find it really fascinating that some think that there is some form of underhand motive for writing this story. A lot of people think that this story is really about them but it really isn't.I have always wanted to be an author.
I have been an LGBT activist in this nation for a while. I have been invited to events and have been talking on LGBT issues before this book came out. This book just gave me a broader platform to continue talking.
There is nothing that I want or need in Zimbabwe. I do however represent LGBT Zimbabwe for sure. I really don't get people that say stuff like that.
On Robert Mugabe - his views, his policies and its effect on the LGBT movement?
You know that with this book, I am certainly trying to retell what people have working and I am discovering why activists from other causes stay away from Zimbabwe and prefer to go to places like South Africa. The South African environment have a way of making things happen.
Mugabe talks a lot of crap, it is almost like his bark is larger than his bite. But, really with Mugabe, I do not consider anything he says or thinks a threat. But, we all know that Mugabe won’t be around in another 5 -10 years. Our focus in Zimbabwe should really be in grooming the next leader.
There are so many things about this country and culture that I strongly disagree with. I don’t know if I can say that my activism is centered on Zimbabwe and the country. Even though, this is where I am from. It is just like...Zimbabweans are so like in the box. Very few think outside the box. I am surprised at the interest this book has generated amongst Zimbabweans.
Back to your question - the LGBT people in Zimbabwe are essentially safe. There is a thriving gay scene in Zimbabwe.
Buzz on the book and her life story - is it being generated from those in Zimbabwe or the Zimbabwean Diaspora:
Obviously, Zimbabweans in the diaspora. But, I do think that Zimbabwean back home have had some interest. But, you know that I have not been there in 14 years but I have tried to touch base with gay and lesbians in Zimbabwe (G.A.L.Z) but I have not had the kind of response I expected. I think that they can really use where I am at for their good but they haven’t done that. It’s tough.
Safety Issues of LGBT Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe
Another reason that I feel bad is that I see myself as a person that is really passionate about social justice issues in Zimbabwe. I think that there are more pressing social justice issues in Zimbabwe than the safety of me as a Zimbabwean and I think those are more pressing because gay people are not being killed in Zimbabwe.
On sexuality, fear and suicide:
You know that being gay takes a strong person because it takes a while to admit it to the world. It is so looked down in this country. I am glad I wrote this book, because it shows that if I can come out and claim my sexuality, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t. I think because I have always had to fight for something. You know from 5, once my mother died, I had to always take a stand and maybe that’s the reason that I had to take on whatever it is and say this is me. Maybe, because a way, I have been doing this all my life. Maybe, because I had gone through so much, I’ve gotten a tough skin. Honestly, people here suffer from anxiety because we experience hardship that is different because the way we take up things are very different from the way that Americans will take things. Sometimes, I think how did I survive and how come I am still standing. You know many think - how do you just carry on in the world after going through all this craziness. I have learnt to survive and keep moving on. Everything I have been through has carved the person that I am here today. You know when I give speeches they are really more like motivational speeches. I have gone through hell and I just keep going.
On parents, children sexuality and handling your children's sexual issues:
My children are not sheltered. They are around gay and straight people all the time. I remember when I was with Christine, I went to my daughter’s school and my daughter introduced me and my partner to her teacher as her parents. My kids don’t struggle with that. Maybe because I live an open life and they have experienced so much and they are around all kinds of people. They see the world they live in as the normal world. Even in their school, they have other kids in class that have a same sex house hold. Because, if I had grown up in such an open minded society - I would have been so much better for it. Even now, we don’t question it. Maybe because they’ve been around this from such a young age. I don’t think my kids will have a problem. They will probably be very out spoken and be against anyone that tries to be unfair in anyway. They already see how I am and they’ve taken on that personality. For example, my daughter is seven and is very flexible in terms of her sexuality. How your environment is really shapes who you are at the end of the day. I try to remind people that even though they are not gay, their child could be gay.
On children and bullying.
My kids see me being an activist everyday. They’ve seen me give speeches about homophobia. I talk to my children about all these thing. I remember my ex husband was trying to tell my kids that I am bad but I absolutely sit down and talk to them. You know that bullying in general is bad . I remember that when I take my daughter to African events, I have noticed that African girls don’t seem to want to play with her, and they seem to hate on her. They always seem to be intimidated. It is weird but they are already kind of mean. I have talked to her about this. If they don’t want to play with you...keep on doing your own thing. My kids will have to deal with their own seperate issues. You know being mixed and I am not. There will always be something. The world is the kind of place, where kids are always going to find something where you can stand up for yourself and stand up for others. One of the topics we really talk about is bullying and stuff. But, so far, at the elementary school they are in, they seem to have a zero tolerance for bullying. Their school is very diverse and they really don’t tolerate any kinds of bullying at all. I have teachers tell me directly that they are reading my book but when they get to middle school and high school and they fit into any kind of group. They are not afraid of people and they take on the world. I really don’t worry that much about my kids because they have that day to day elements. There is a lot of diversity. I think these issues come up when the kids are very sheltered because they won’t know how to handle it. You know a lot of it is actually internal. You know in many cases, it is a home situation in which they feel they can’t be at home, they can't be themselves.
I am writing a series of children’s books that paints a real picture about Africans. That will be the next project I am working on. I am writing lesbian erotica inspired by fiction and reality and it is called her love diaries. It is a hit with gay, straight men and women. That’s an interesting one. I am going to be one of those authors who won’t have a genre. I am really kinda all over the place. I honestly write when I am moved.
Ruth's story is inspiring because it shows how everyday people can create and make change. Many would have looked at Ruth and dismissed her as just another African Orphan but there was more in store for her. Even though she was an orphan, she made some decisions (quite a few bad ones) but she learnt from it, grew from it, refused to dwell in the past and she is creating an avenue for those who feel unwanted, unloved, very different because of their sexuality to feel at home. That's inspiring and she should be applauded for it.
Blurb on the book
Freedom of an Illegal Immigrant: The Untold Story of My Search for a Place in the World is a memoir about an African orphan who grows up feeling different, isolated, and unwanted even among her own people. She leaves her home country at the age of eighteen, has a brief stay in England, but finds her way to America, where she faces all the struggles of being young and alone in a foreign country. She marries an abusive American citizen and has two children with him, only to come to terms with her own truths, especially the fact that she is a lesbian. When she attempts to end the marriage, her husband attempts to have her deported due to the fact that she never had her immigration paperwork straightened out and has been living here illegally. This memoir confronts all the truths and issues our society shuns, from racism, illegal immigration, and homosexuality to sexual and domestic abuse.
Take a listen to the exclusive interview for this site
Interview done by Pamela Stitch
Last Updated ( Saturday, 13 October 2012 12:28 )