The Journey of a Young Lesbian

Angel

Editors’ Note:

The author and the editing team of #DearAdultWorld, for her safety, have changed names and removed identifying details to all persons and specific places. The rest of her story and submission remains, unedited. – Calvin Ryerse, Editor-in-Chief

When reviewing submissions, this piece was particularly striking to me. Angel eloquently captures the harsh realities that queer youth face across the globe today, outside of the liberal bubbles. When reading this work, the audience is invited to think critically of our privilege in the spaces we live, how radically living authentically -whether it be true to queerness or other veins of identity- can affect our quality of life. It allows the audience to reflect on the empowerment that can come from a release in inhibitions. – Allison Higgins, Content Editor

I, Angel, declare under the penalty of perjury, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. sec. 1546, that the following is true and correct:

My name is *********, also known as Angel, and I am a teenage girl born in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. I am a lesbian. Article 629 of the Criminal Code declares that same-sex activity is illegal in Ethiopia and quotes “The punishment shall be imprisonment for not less than one year, or, in certain grave cases, rigorous imprisonment not exceeding ten years.” In Ethiopia, where homophobia is deeply rooted in the religious values of our society, it is dangerous to be a lesbian woman. 

Growing up in an extremely religious society, I never had the opportunity to be able to freely be who I am without fearing for my life. My parents were strict Muslims who took me to Mosque every Friday and taught me all the rules of the Holy Quraan which strongly discourages homosexuality. That was when I realized that coming out to my parents was not an option and will never be. I am an only child, meaning that my parents will never handle the fact that I am queer.

Every day after our volleyball practice, my friend group would hang out with the football team from a school a town away. My friends would dress up and get really excited to see the boys from the football team. They had crushes on them and they constantly flirted while I was just friends with the boys. One day when I was doing my friend’s makeup, she asked me why I never get ready and do my hair like her. I told her I was not interested in any of the boys. ‘Are you gay or something?’ she teased me jokingly and my other friend followed up with ‘ew don’t say that word’. I felt sick in my stomach. I smiled at them and laughed but after I went home that day, I cried myself to sleep. Although they intended no harm, their words displayed the fact that homosexuality will never be accepted in my society and that it would take generations and generations to change that. 

From time to time, I would hear people talk about how homosexuals were being thrown into conversion therapies, imprisoned, or even forced to have sexual intercourse with the opposite gender in hopes of  ‘curing’ them. Beside the victims, their parents were getting targeted by neighbors or discriminated against because they gave birth to ‘filthy’ human beings. Recognizing my sexuality while growing up listening to all of these horror stories traumatized me into acting as ‘normal’ as possible in order to not give away any clues that could suggest I was a lesbian. In Ethiopia, where homosexuality is illegal never even spoken of because it is regarded as ‘disgusting’, I lived my adolescent years feeling like I was not normal. I developed hated for my identity and tried to change who I was multiple times because it felt wrong to be who I was. A lesbian. When I was 13, I fell into depression and self-harm because it was getting exhausting to hide my sexuality. My parents did not know about any of this which left me undiagnosed, worsening my condition.  

A year later, I decided to study abroad and got into a private high school because of my strong academic background. Coming to the US made me realize that being a lesbian was okay. It made me realize that I was not abnormal and that there was nothing wrong with me. People were very supportive and nice to each other and it was something I never thought was possible. I still could not let go of the state of being closeted because I have lived so many years hiding from my identity until I met my best friend, M. One of the perks of living in a boarding school was that you could meet your friends anytime you want. Being far away from my parents was lonely but M gave me all the comfort and affection I needed. We were inseparable. We went to football games, ate together, went to the library together every afternoon. She is beautiful, smart, and an amazing person. M is the best thing that has ever happened to me. She is my first love and the first person I trusted enough to come out to. I never thought I would get an opportunity to come out until two months ago I said my first ‘I am a lesbian’ to M who hugged me and cried saying how strong I was and how proud she was of me. I was recovering from depression and self-harm. I was starting to love myself and my identity. For the first time, I felt loved and accepted. I felt welcomed. I can not imagine going back to such a toxic society after finally developing a healthy relationship with my sexuality. I may not have been beaten up or harassed in my native country but being closeted and living in constant fear of accidentally slipping is worse than any physical abuse. I remember being unable to draw a future for myself because I was seriously considering suicide.

Falling into a dark place because you simply can not accept what you are in the worst torture to anyone. The condition I lived through still affects me to this day and despite now being openly lesbian, I still struggle with being comfortable with my sexuality sometimes. Because of this, I still have not told M that I like her not only as a friend but also as something more. I still have not come out to my parents or anyone from back in Ethiopia because I know they will demand I return home and go to conversion therapy or even worse. I am sure that if I return back to my country, I will be raped and imprisoned for up to 15 years even though I am a minor. Furthermore, I will be putting my whole family in danger because they will be associating with a homosexual. Me. The process of detainment often includes beatings and sexual harassment by police forces which is encouraged by the government even though it is in violation of my basic human rights. The homophobia will not come to an end anytime soon in Ethiopia.

Visual Art by: Makayla Golston, 13