Faith and sexuality are closely tied for a lot of us queer people and faith usually is one of the major barriers to accepting ourselves as queer people. We have thus dedicated our first issue of NisNis, our quarterly magazine focusing on Ethiopian LBTQ issues, to this theme.
What does it mean to be queer and religious or spirtual? For those of us queers of faith, how do our two identities fit together? How do we reconcile these two identities? Is religion truly a barrier to our self acceptance as queer people?
Here is a sampling of the issues raised:
“They mention the end of the world in churches. But there really is not constant homophobia. I don’t mean that it doesn’t affect me, it was hard particularly during the early days before I accepted myself. I used to make me cringe and there were times when I said that I wished I didn’t go to church. My partner didn’t want to go [to church] because of this homophobia. She is open to going now after we had a conversation and because the homophobia is not continuous. I don’t think even I would feel comfortable if the verbalized homophobia was constant. It is because the homophobia is here and there. It is really not considered as a major issue, maybe it is also because it is assumed that it does not exist in Ethiopia. I think it will be the church’s number one agenda as it becomes more visible. – Selamawit
“I don’t know what the Quran says about LGBTQ+ very well so it is hard to have a strong view about it. But from how it is presented it looks like there is not much room for acceptance of queer identity or many other identities for that matter.” – Nejat
“In fact, I was thousands of miles away from my parents and the Orthodox Church when I had my first frank discussion around religion with a good friend. Over the two-hour conversation, I admitted to myself that a g*d obsessed with obedience does not align with my definition of love. I finally felt safe to stop believing in him. Changing my entire way of understanding the world was a terrible process, but I have no interest in going back to that religious place of powerlessness.” – Helen
“The louder voice in my ear was of the pastor who says “Those who don’t follow God’s way will die” rather than the one that said “Jesus died for our sin”. I used to think that I was the only lesbian in the church and that I was committing the worst possible sin.” – Kalkidan
“My relationship with sin is rather nonexistent. I have been an atheist since the tender age of 16. In fact, I had done more thinking about faith, religion and God since meeting her than ever before and had my own difficulties in making sense of her guilt and the way she understood her faith and her God.” – Name withheld
We believe an interrogation of faith and sexuality as it relates to us as Ethiopians will benefit all of us. We are excited to announce that we will release the magazine next week. We hope you will read it and that you will share your thoughts with us.