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Who Wants to Marry a Feminist? by Lisa Miya-Jervis
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A Special Report on the Fertility Industry:
What Price Pregnancy?

Since the birth of the first "test tube baby," assisted reproductive technologies have been hailed as medical miracles. Ms. goes behind the hype. >by Ann Pappert

IN THE MAGAZINE:

MARRIAGE NOW
- Both Sides Now:
She married at 18 and instead of finding bliss, she became a shrinking woman. Now, at 54, marriage is on her mind again.
- Marriage Vegas Style
In this desert empire 295 couples marry every day.
-Who Wants to Marry a Feminist?
But the real question is why do feminists want marriage?
-Otherwise Engaged
The issue of same-sex marriage has sparked an impassioned debate. Asked if she would marry if she could, this author takes a long hard look at the institution and herself.

-What, Me Marry?

A SPECIAL REPORT ON THE FERTILITY INDUSTRY
-What Price Pregnancy?
Ms. goes behind the hype of assisted reproductive technologies.
PLUS:
-Inconceivable
When it comes to fertility treatments, gender makes all the difference.

BERLIN DIARIES
Her immediate family fled Germany before being swept up in the Holocaust, but they forever mourned the loved ones who didn't survive and the life they'd once shared.

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NEWS:
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BIOGRAPHY
BORN: August 3, 1967, Harare, Zimbabwe
RESIDES: Marondera, Zimbabwe
EDUCATION: Grade 7
ACTIVIST: Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARC ASNIN / SABA

Tsitsi tiripano never intended to become an icon of Zimbabwe's gay rights movement. In fact, she learned the word "lesbian" only after she fled a forced marriage, and her father, who arranged it, took away her two sons. Initially, for Tiripano, who she loved wasn't a political issue. But in 1993, she became the first black woman to join Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), then a virtually all-white and all-male organization, which is now mostly black and the nation's only gay activist group. Through her dogged determination to be herself, this 32-year-old woman with a seventh-grade education has become an international spokesperson and role model in a country where the president considers homosexuality a white man's disease.

Racial tensions were brewing in Zimbabwe long before its liberation from Britain in 1980. Whites make up less than 2 percent of the 11.2 million people yet own more than two thirds of the fertile farmland, and this colonialist legacy stokes the mutual distrust between blacks and whites. Predictably, Tiripano's community frowned on her decision to join the predominantly white GALZ. "People said, 'Are you mad?'" she remembers. "They thought I wanted money from white people." In GALZ, however, Tiripano finally found a refuge after years of harassment from family and strangers alike. The group's weekly parties provided an alternative to the nightclubs and bars where gays were routinely disparaged, and she relished new friendships. But then her private life became public and Tiripano unwittingly became an activist.

President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's ruler since independence, launched a vicious homophobic campaign when his government banned GALZ from Zimbabwe's International Book Fair in 1995. Calling homosexuals "sodomites and perverts," Mugabe declared gays had "no rights at all." The following year, GALZ's application to participate in the fair was again rejected, prompting the group to take the government to court. GALZ won, and Tiripano attended the book fair, distributing GALZ pamphlets even as the government filed an appeal. While there, a throng of students pelted her and a colleague with fruit, then destroyed their stand as the police passively looked on. The next day, her photograph accompanied newspaper reports of the incident, and Tiripano was "outed." When she returned home to Marondera, an hour from the capital of Harare, another angry mob met her, waving placards and clenched fists. Tiripano was forced to retreat to the capital until the furor settled, but she soon emerged on the world stage as GALZ's most prominent ambassador, representing it at international gay rights conferences and Amnesty International-sponsored tours. Tsitsi Tiripano is a pseudonym she chose in order to speak freely and have her words published without having to worry about Mugabe's government tracing the stories and retaliating. Tiripano uses it still, because it is how she is known internationally, though she no longer hides her real name, Poliyana Mangwiro. Sitting in Amnesty International's New York headquarters last March, the day before a three-week speaking tour in 11 U.S. cities, she translates the pseudonym in a soft, confident voice. "Tsitsi means 'mercy,' tiripano means 'we're here.'" She pauses. "Everyone must have mercy with gays and lesbians because we're here."

Tiripano grew up the oldest of four children in a small Shona village in Manicaland, a northern Zimbabwean province. The Shona, who make up 71 percent of Zimbabwe's population, practice polygamy and value women for their ability to procreate. Tiripano never went past the seventh grade because her father refused to pay the tuition, saying that girls are not worth the investment. "A woman's wealth depends on her husband," she explains. In 1982, at 15, Tiripano became the second wife to a man 40 years her senior. She shudders remembering. "My father came into my room one morning and said, 'You no longer live here. Go stay with Mr. Shamu.'" Despite her protests he was unyielding: "That's where you belong now. You must go today."

Tiripano cried for many reasons, but leaving her girlfriend brought the most tears. "We met during the liberation in 1979. We were comrades and stayed in the same barracks. And then we started kissing . . ." She interrupts the sentence with a big laugh. "I was so jealous--I didn't want other girls to come near her." At that point, Tiripano didn't know what being gay meant. "There's a Shona word, ngochani, which means 'gay.' I remember wondering, what does an ngochani look like? He must stay in the mountains."

During her first year of marriage, Tiripano gave birth to a son but considered sex with her husband a loathsome chore, one she often refused. "I was more interested in my husband's first wife!" she says, smiling. "All the time, I was pushing to sleep with her." Her husband complained to Tiripano's father, who forced her to see a traditional healer. "If you don't want to have sex with your husband," she says, "they think something is wrong and take you to be cured." The healer had her bathe in an herbal mixture, as if, she says, "I could wash [my lesbianism] away."

Tiripano wasn't "cured," and so, pregnant with her second son, she fled to Breaside, a small town near Harare, where she stayed with a friend and sold vegetables to feed her family. Two years later, her father tracked her down and demanded that she return to her husband. When she refused, he took the boys, a prerogative sanctioned by patriarchal customs. "He thought I would teach them to be gay," she sighs. Ironically, Tiripano didn't even know the word "lesbian" until she met a drag queen and his boyfriend in 1988 while living in Harare. "I told them that my partner was a woman, and they said, 'So you're a lesbian?'" They gave Tiripano a GALZ pamphlet and, she says, "My head popped. I said, 'You mean, there are women like me?'"

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