Once, my American feminist professor who was visiting the university I attended in Ethiopia told me that feminists must be willing to “break the silence” and challenge taboos about our lives as women that keep us imprisoned in unnecessary shame.
My social issue is human right in different subject but today I prefer to talk about homosexuality in my country.
In this fellowship program I get to learn from different exposures about different things, lucky for me I am living surrounded by the homosexual community, which makes my experience good and which makes me to reflect to my country and particularly to one of my friends who suffer for being homosexual.
My friend was born in Addis Ababa and her family is very religious. When we were teenager, she was curious about her unusually strong feelings for girls, we shared our thoughts about it even though we did nt have any information about sexuality. It is taboo to talk about sex and sexuality in general in our community. My friend true romantic feelings were for girls; it was unusual but She tried to entertain the feeling.
We google about it , we start learning about it, we understand it is different than the usual, but she did nt learn that form anyone, it was her natural feeling, she could nt change that. She was lucky to get someone with the same feeling and cherish her happiness even though it is for short time.
We must ask ourselves, these questions, what actually creates this bond to one another? Why must anyone feel guilty about their feelings or sexuality, as if they have done something wrong? Why can’t we think and see things out of the box?
Oh no, we can ‘t!!! It made sense because the society puts rules and regulations of what is “normal” to follow. So making any move out of the rehearsed and perfect like BOX is” shame”
So my friend start to ask question on what is next in her love life. How could she hope to be exemplary citizens and respected women in our society? Many people would no longer want to be her friend if they knew that she loved another woman romantically. Where would she get a job in Ethiopia if people knew? The stigma would kill her.
She decided to get back to a “normal” life, which meant repressing her feelings.
I knew since then my friend had pushed away her feeling in the corner of her mind. Without even realizing it, she had buried a part of herself that had finally come alive. But how could she trespass the so called “normal” rules, the rehearsed BOX.
Her family and community would curse and look down on such a thing! Her parents are extremely homophobic. So, she just assumed that she should like boys—like her mom, sister, and most women in the community. But, just because women are taught that they should like men does not mean that all women like men that way!
Why do we assume that heterosexuality is the only sexuality available to women or men? because of our societal structure in Ethiopia which meant the patriarchal thinking, the heterosexual norms, and the taboo people like my friend had to suffer and lead unhappy life.
In addition to the societal structure government criminalized any homosexual act, so even though anyone would like to come out about their sexuality, they will end up in prison that may sentence them up to 15 years of imprisonment.
One of my favorite feminist writer Adrienne Rich’s critique of compulsory heterosexuality suggests that “for women heterosexuality may not be a ‘preference’ at all but something that has had to be imposed, managed, organized, propagandized, and maintained by force.” Women receive messages every day that promote what Rich calls heteronormativity—the belief that heterosexuality is the only normal sexual orientation, thus making sexual and marital relations appropriate only between members of the opposite sex. Which many women or men are straggling to convince the community they belong what they feel is normal
Criminalizing and thereby silencing women or men who have the capacity to love other women or men romantically does not change the reality—it only forces women or men to hide, ignore, and deny the reality.
So in here watching people experience their sexuality freely and with no discrimination make me think of my friend and many others back home who hide away their feeling and try’s to live up to the societal expectations.
As an African, I wish we are open for new things, I wish we are considerate of other options, I wish we accept people for who they are and I wish we create free platform to talk about such things without fear of the law or the societal believes.
I do nt mean that we need to through away our culture or religion but we need to be open and we need to select the great values and move forward!!!
Who knows even though it is too late for my friend; we may see Africa letting her children to live up to their preference, and we may see people cherish anther men/women of same gender.