We are excited to report that our third issue of Nisnis is almost here. While exploring the issue of coming out, we were fascinated by the multitudes of ways people understood and experienced coming out – both to themselves and others.
Below are excerpts from Nisnis and the words of our contributors are powerful and eloquent and demonstrate the depth and the variety of our experiences as queer people. Coming out is a journey and we look forward to sharing the magazine with you.
“I think the day that I Googled ‘lesbian’ is the day that I accepted myself. You know you have feelings before that but you don’t want to accept it because you find it difficult.”- — Yohana
“I came out to my dad and that experience was everything I could have hoped for because my dad was incredibly understanding. He did whatever they do in the movies where they’re coming out to their parents, and they’re like, “Oh, I know. I love you. You can be whoever you are …”
“I think my [queer identity] has evolved as I’ve gotten older because you start to learn how to really love yourself deeply. It’s like I’ve learned to be able to love my family and my community unconditionally for who they are. And sometimes these things feel like they’re in conflict, but we can also hold space for each other, even when we don’t understand or disagree”.
“I came to fully accept myself after I found this community. It was comforting to see so many people accepting themselves,” she said. “I knew this was OK and that it should not be seen as a big deal so I stopped worrying about it”.
“Despite my continued reassurance and days after [my brother] caught us in bed, [my girlfriend] worried that he might forcefully take us to church for some holy intervention or that he might inform her family or blame her for corrupting me or report us to the police or … she kept imagining many other scenarios.”
“I lowered my voice and told her, “I am a lesbian.” She chuckled, “I don’t accept this”. We went back and forth, and I tried to explain but I couldn’t make her understand. I don’t remember how we said goodbye. I went home and cried for a while. What does friendship even mean? I spent a long time thinking about everything. She kept sending messages that said she was hurt by what I told her. She didn’t ask any questions. Nor did she listen. Instead, she told me that I was a sinner and that I needed to go back to who I was. I never doubted that she would accept me, let alone listen to me not only because we loved each other, but because she had a strong stance on women’s rights. … I focused on asking “What kind of friendship leaves no room for listening?” “How does sharing my identity make you this way after loving each other for so many years?” She did not respond.
“In Addis Ababa, I found a place that recited the Quran. Without going into details, I told my mom that I have stress and/or depression. I had them recite the Quran for two months consistently, but my feelings (attraction to women) remained unchanged, and I was in a terrible state of mind. I cannot describe how much I hated myself. When I realized that I would live with a constant feeling of being dirty, I was overwhelmed. I thought about killing myself many times, but knowing my mom had no one but me kept me from doing it.”
“If you are a young Ethiopian queer person and if you were to ask me how and when you should come out, my immediate response would be DON’T. I know this response is born out of fear but I also know that the dangers behind that fear are real and significant. However, if you are insistent on coming out I would advise having a backup plan including your own independent source of income such as a place to live and you should get support and advice from those who have gone through the process. Your safety takes more priority than visibility, taking up your space and being out and proud. All these things only matter for as long as you are here, healthy and alive. So my first advice is to always stay safe and alive, everything else comes after that.”