“Looking back to when I came out to you, what are some thoughts that come to you?” I randomly texted my niece who has known of my queerness for some time.
“Emmmmm idk I felt closer to you. I was a little shocked but not in a bad way,” she responded. It was such a simple but yet powerful answer that I even uncharacteristically forgave her unnecessary shortening of “I don’t know”.
Openness and closeness are at the heart of families and my ability to be honest with her enabled us to establish an even closer relationship with each other. I was reminded of this text conversation as we spoke with Hibist during this month’s podcast that focused on coming out.
We are conditioned to be homophobic and the way that her family allows her to be who she is despite their being a product of this homophobic society gives us hope. Religion, nationalism, conservatism, unscientific myths and a sense that being an LGBTQ+ is an import all hinder Ethiopian’s ability to see gender and sexuality as a spectrum of sorts.
“Be selfish,” Hibist says when articulating the importance of self-acceptance and the need to live our lives in a way that is authentic. She further notes how our feelings cannot be wrong and how they don’t need explanations and justifications. She has been able to accept herself as a pansexual and that acceptance and realization has given her a zest for life that directly opposes her experience before she came out to herself. The sense of peace and ease with which she walks through life was made possible because of her self-acceptance.
Coming out can be a struggle. It is also a never ending process and Hibist’s articulation of her experiences reminds us of the fact that we need to be gentle with ourselves as we navigate through this often homophobic society. But more importantly, she paints a picture of what is possible when we accept ourselves for who we are: Authenticity and freedom to live our lives in a way that liberates us.