Ethioqueer Podcast: Notes on love in the trenches

Dear Melat and Saron,

“How could anyone possibly think that there is something wrong with this?,” my lover wondered as we were cuddling in our warm bed on a rather cold evening doing nothing but having, to quote Toni Morrison, “sweet, crazy conversations full of half sentences, daydreams and misunderstandings more thrilling than understanding could ever be”.

Although this took place what now seems like a million years ago, this is what I thought of when I sat in your home having a conversation about your love and your life as a couple for Ethioqueer Podcast

With every question, and as you took me through your love story, it was easy to see how much you cared for each other. A love so patient and understanding that I found it difficult not to be enraged at a world that made your loving each other unnecessarily difficult. 

When I arrived at your home, the first thing I thought about was how ordinary it all felt. You live in an ordinary home in an ordinary neighborhood in the outskirts of Addis Ababa. You are also an ordinary couple with what is an ordinary story about how you met, how you fall in love and how you deal with the daily grind of being a couple.

As we started the conversation with the rather ordinary question of how you met, I remember thinking that your recounting of your meeting online via mutual friends seemed like an ordinary way that couples meet these days. I admit that the dreamy way that the two of you kept looking at each other as you told me about how you met and your first “date” made me feel like I was eavesdropping on a conversation that was meant to be had between just two lovers.

Melat, as we went deeper into the conversation, I could not help but admire your bravery. How does a woman risk expressing growing feelings of love to another woman in our homophobic Ethiopia, especially when she is not certain that the person in question is queer? Love, I suppose, is in part a leap of faith and you are incredibly brave for taking that leap in a country where you could be imprisoned for up to 15 years for being a “homosexual”. 

Love is, in part anyway, also about an exploration of the unknown and the way that you, Saron, figuratively caught Melat amazes me. Having never dated a woman, you too took a leap of faith to explore what that meant. You are both brave souls who continually defy the hatred for queer people in our society to find your way to each other. Being able to continue loving each other as two women in this battlefield called Ethiopia is courageous and you two are warriors of love.

Because we live in an extremely homophobic country, soon enough our conversation veered into topics that should have no place in a story about love: Fear, anxiety, a struggle for self-acceptance, doubts, hesitations and insecurities arise. This is of course  as a result of living in a society that vehemently and violently opposes any sexuality that differs from heterosexuality.

In the space of 45 minutes, you made me run through a gamut of feelings: Happiness, anger, sadness and disgust. At the end of it all though, what remained stuck in my heart was the sense of lightness and joy I felt after my conversation with you. Even as I was angry, disgusted and disappointed at a country and a society that made you expand so much energy into hiding your incredible love, I kept going back to the possibilities. Perhaps, one of the truest expressions of love is the ability and the desire to keep tending to it. Like a flame at risk of being extinguished, it burns brighter precisely because of the care that is constantly put into it. Your love is a testament to the very definition of tenacity: You are able to withstand the dangers, the risks and the uncertainties around you because the singular goal of being happily together supersedes every other risk.

By virtue of being a lesbian couple who live in Addis Ababa, you take a risk everyday that you are together. Thus the very fact that you have chosen to explore your love for each other is revolutionary. And extraordinary.

How, indeed, could anyone object to such revolutionary love?


Your Ethioqueer Podcast Interviewer

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