Known for keeping LGBT-related events on the down low due to the country’s anti-gay policies and social stigmas, drag queens from Zimbabwe competed against each other in a contest on October 19. 17-year-old Ezmerald Kim Kardashian, who would not release her real name for obvious safety reasons, won the title this year of Miss Jacaranda.
With the event named after the purple-flowered tree that blossoms in the Fall, the contestants celebrated in a discreet farmhouse.
“I want you all to be proud of who you are, regardless of what anyone thinks about us,” pageant organizer Sam Matsipure told contestants.
Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) organized the event for its annual ZimPride week. Publicized through word of mouth and social media, GALZ held a film screening and the launch of a book on coming out to families and society. The book is called “Out in Zimbabwe: Narratives of Zimbabwean LGBTI Youth.”
The option of organizing a street parade wasn’t possible, as sodomy is still considered a crime and punishable in court with up to seven years in prison. GALZ was forced to abandon public displays during their first exhibition at the annual Harare International Book Fair in 1996. The group showcased literature of homosexuality, safe sex and human rights, and was later heckled by President Robert Mugabe’s political party.
Mugabe referred to gays as “worse than pigs and dogs” and believes they should be castrated.
Coco DaDiva, who participated in this year’s competition, said, “Events like these raise my sense of self-worth in a country that hates us.”