Ethio Zegas’ uncertain future
‘Out with the old, in with the new’ … part of a series of chants sang and
hollered as part of the age old tradition of new year’s eve camp fire on September 10th every year. I vividly recall the euphoria and cheery optimism that seemed to take hold of every one that gathers round on those special nights every year’ to celebrate the end of the rainy season as well as the last of thirteen months according to Ethiopia’s unique Geez calendar. a crucial part of the ceremony would involve briefly taking a fiery torch in doors and as dangerous as it might sound, it was invariably performed as a kind of symbolic renewal of the household, doing away with all that is old and drab and ushering in all that is new and good for the New Year.
And with New Year being perhaps the one holiday that is celebrated up and down the nation and across religious divide; it truly brings Ethiopians together in an unreserved optimism for a brand new future.
This year though, it seems this season of change and of looking in to the future will be exceptionally crucial in respect of the entirely unprecedented events that occurred in the last couple of weeks. The sudden passing of PM Meles and the Patriarch of the Ethiopian orthodox church, Abune Paulos. These individuals had been at the helm of the highest positions in the two most prominent institutions of the nation as a whole for the best part of the last two decades.
Their passing has left many wandering how the drastic change will shape the future of the country and its ninety million inhabitants.
At this stage, I guess we can only wonder how these inevitable changes will affect the society as a whole as well as individuals with in. As I have tried to make out one to many times, I am all for ‘change’! in just about every aspect of life since I strongly believe that dynamism is the main constituent of liveliness of humanity in general. Hence,despite these not being overnight, I think it will not be long before our nation begins to experience change in laws & policies which have been rather monotonous, since the last change of leadership over two decades ago. Thus, and though not oblivious of the unpleasant possibilities, I am certain that these changes will most probably affect our community too, in one way or another. This Comment from the 20th of August,seems to ponder this inevitablitity in a similar manner;
Who will replace Ethiopian Church’s anti-gay patriarch?
Activists in Ethiopia are hoping the country will become less hostile to LGBTI people after a replacement is chosen for Abune Paulos, the homophobic patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church who died last week at age 76.LGBTI advocates know, however, that an equally anti-gay religious leader might be installed in his place.
Paulos, who once termed homosexuality “the pinnacle of immorality,” joined with
the anti-gay advocacy group United for Life Ethiopia a few years ago, seeking a
constitutional amendment against homosexuality.
Ethiopian law, homosexual activities can be punished with prison sentences of
one to 10 years, and up to 15 years for “aggravated” same-sex practices.Abune
Paulos and United for Life Ethiopia led a campaign that urged the government to
impose stricter sentences, up to life imprisonment and the death penalty.
was president of the World Council of Churches and served as an honorary
president of Religions for Peace, the world’s largest multi-religious coalition
advancing common action among the world’s religious communities for peace.
members of Ethiopia’s LGBT community believe that the death of Abune Paulos
will weaken the anti-homosexuality movement, especially if the next patriarch
is a relatively open bishop about homosexuality, at least willing to discuss on how to address
the HIV vulnerability of LGBTs in Ethiopia.
some believe that the next patriarch will be Abune Samuel, an extremely
homophobic bishop who wrote a book in 2009 decrying the evils of homosexuality.Along
the same lines, Abune Paulos told reporters in 2008, referring to
homosexuality, “For people to act in this manner, they have to be dumb, stupid
like animals.” “We
strongly condemn this behavior. They have to be disciplined and their acts
discriminated against. They have to be given a lesson,” he said.
He also said, “Homosexuality is an unnatural act and we call on international bodies to repent from their sponsorship of legalizing what is a wrong and harmful as well as requesting foreign body to refrain from attempting to subvert the sacred traditions of the Ethiopian people by threats and political pressure.”
In any case, rest in peace, our patriarch!
28 July 2012
28 July 2012
Nothing fascinates me more as being able to witness the wheels of time turn ushering in a new era and a significant ‘Change’ of one form or another. And it is truly astounding when this ‘Change’ is one that actually beholds a ground breaking achievement for humanity and leaves a profound mark in history books for generations to come, as well us feeling like a very personal triumph.
My exhilaration arises from what I took to be two significant developments in the LGBT human rights front which though unrelated, felt equally close to home.
The first one was the news of launching of an official political party; The GLBTI Party of South Africa. A very first for the whole of the African continent!
Founded by Nicholas Gregory, a marketing and design executive from Bloemfontein, the Party aims to represent the interests of the LGBTI community and plans to take part in the 2014 elections on a national level. The need for the creation of the party is stated as being a result of frustration with the apparent lack of action by existing LGBTI groups when it comes to on-going hate crimes against the community and, more recently, proposals to reverse the constitutional protection of LGBTI people.
When South Africa first legalized same sex marriages back in Nov 2006, it was the fifth country worldwide, the first in Africa, and the second outside Europe, to do so. In contrast, LGBT South African’s enjoy exceptionally advanced human rights and equal treatment which would be utterly inconceivable in rest of the African continent made up almost entirely of nations like ours, which criminalize homosexuality and openly persecute LGBT citizens.
years on though, South Africa has not actually developed in to the queer Utopia
of Africa’ as might have been had the lessons from the Apartheid era really did
engrave with in the societal attitudes, the importance of equality and
non-discrimination. In fact, life for most LGBTI’s in South Africa is
regressing in to more of a ‘Double edged sword’ existence.
The legal status of homosexuality & laws supposedly protecting the rights of LGBT individuals have many at times served a purpose only of giving some queer South Africans in rural parts of the country, a false sense of security. This dichotomy is evident in the astronomical number of incidents of so called ‘Corrective rape’ of lesbians, as well as Murder & Extreme violence directed towards members of this minority group. To make matters worse, South Africa’s National House of Traditional Leaders who advise the government on traditional laws and customs have been exerting a sustained pressure on the nation’s parliament to delete a clause in the constitution that guarantees equal rights to homosexuals.
Thus, I strongly believe that the establishment of The GLBTI Party of South Africa under the motto; “Put your foot down for hate crimes!” could not have come at a better time, if the nation is to continue to make exemplary progress and development in human rights’ from which, our own nation as well as the rest of Africa will inevitably need to learn.
have already started to question if the party can work or even secure a single
seat in parliament. And yes the numerous challenges of setting up and running an
official political party with the necessary funds will surely be even greater
for such a party aiming to mainly represent a small minority with in a
population of over 50 million. All the same, the rewards of having a dedicated
voice with in parliament that will represent the LGBT community are truly
invaluable. The brains behind the party, Nicholas Gregory, promises to do this by
following the example of courageous optimism and unyielding perseverance of
world renowned Anti-Apartheid activist and South Africa’s living legend; Nelson
is a Facebook quote from his wish for Madiba’s 94th birth day, last
I also believe that our Habesha LGBT community could learn from the unrelenting campaigning and activism that resulted in this milestone victory. Though I worry that my optimism might come across rather unrealistic & un-relatable to an Ethiopian context to those who can’t help but acknowledge the million-mile difference between the current status of LGBT and many other fundamental human rights in Ethiopia to that of one in a western nation. Yes, I am anything but oblivious of the fact that it is not at all marriage Equality we could begin to hope for but perhaps societal acknowledgement that same sex relations are not a mere animalistic behaviour but a result of genuine affection and love for one another that is not at all different from that between people of opposite gender. And the legalization of homosexuality in the Ethiopian law isn’t even close to being our immediate priority, but perhaps an understanding of the very fact that, Homosexuality is not at all a disease, result of being possessed by the devil or something that only animals or faithless westerners engage in (as the ever un-debatable societal consensus infers) but instead, that homosexuality a purely natural and just as a human phenomenon as heterosexuality is. That it is as innate as the length of one’s arm and as un-changeable as one’s self, it self. That homosexuality is not at all limited to one race or another, but that it is a fundamental aspect of an individual’s being regardless of race or nationality (Thus just as Ethiopian as it can be a westerner’s).
Keeping in mind’ area of concern, priority and the amount of work that needs to be done to bring about change with in our nation is extremely unlike to any western nation. But I believe that, ‘Change’ and the intricate workings of societal attitude as well as the dynamic nature of culture are truly universal. Hence, more or less the same principles apply to our nation. Furthermore, taking in to account the fact that numerous other fundamental human rights in various aspects of life are grossly violated and in a truly dire state, in Ethiopia today, the mother of all consideration and concession should be taken in to account before striving to determine a foothold from which to being this very lengthy road. The realization that it is societal attitudes that needs to Change, before all!
The Ethiopian leadership in the form of a republic in principle, being a democratic representation of the general mass, the universal hierarchy should at least in theory, be applicable. Thus, Laws are from the government, while Government is from the People. Despite the undeniable fact that the fairness of elections and purported democratic-ness of the Ethiopian state, being not very conventional, to say the least…It is ultimately the general mass, and the society at large, that is the ultimate be holder of power. Power that ultimately determines the nation’s being a nation and various aspects of society in general, as well as the individual lively hoods of Individuals with in it.
I reckon it is the society we need to
bring about Change in’ first… and the rest would naturally follow. And, there
will come a time(I sincerely hope to be soon) that it will not seem so utterly inconceivable
that even we ,Queer Ethiopians, could envision and campaign for ‘marriage Equality and equality in all other areas of life where, the concept is truly inconceivable and a dream
undreamable, in our today Ethiopia. And there shall come a time when people
will be surprised to learn that there was a time in our nation’s
past when people were persecuted and discriminated against, for living and
being, as nature intended them to.
I’ll wrap up this post with a montage of some
fantabulous pics of love & Marriage I put together from various sources.
In the last two decades, western backing of Woyane leadership has always been grossly supportive mainly owing to the fact that the geographical placement of Ethiopia makes it worth befriending for its strategically crucial position in the horn of Africa and the red sea region. The main practicality of this has been the use of Ethiopian air space and military bases from which numerous drone strikes are carried out in neighbouring Somalia by the US. Hence, Woyane’s carefully built reputation as an important Anti- terrorism ally of the west has meant numerous other gross violations of human right are completely overlooked and the leadership unconditionally backed and financed by the US and other developed nations. I hope this shameful foreign policy maintained by the west is soon replaced by one where such relationships are not a ‘all or nothing’ but instead one where individual concerns specially one’s regarding human rights issues , are addressed separately regardless of other cooperative undertakings.
On the other hand, I had always hoped that western nations should bring an end to decades of turning a blind eye on the abhorring state of Gay (LGBT) rights in Africa. In fact I had briefly touched on this in previous post and long before a succession of speeches in 2011 by leaders of US, UK and other developed nations calling for a global recognition of gay rights as fundamental human rights. This was followed by statements which were mainly directed at Homophobic African nations. In one of these statements, UK PM, David Cameroon made spoke of financial aid cut to Homophobic African nations.The Southeast African country Malawi which has received £200 million from Britain over the past three years was the first subject of this shift in foreign policy as it had its aid cut to £19 million after jailing gay couple Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga for fourteen years.
But while almost all of the targeted African nations sternly vowed to resist such pressure to accept LGBT rights, Malawi’s President Joyce Banda would later go on to be the first to make a ground breaking announcement of the countries intention to decriminalize homosexuality. And though this is truly remarkable and perhaps a fundamental lesson to be learned from by the rest of Africa, It also made much sense that as a former British colony & a current commonwealth member, Malawi’s current leadership would heed the counsel of and agree to unull the same colonial era laws that were introduced by Britain itself.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case with other common wealth member African nations and even more so with nations like ours who has no former colonial overseer.
This is and other contributory factors are what built up to the unparalleled concern on the issue of homosexuality and the events that unravelled and the on-going media frenzy. I had always acknowledged, desperately wished for and even tried to do my bit towards breaking the silence on this ever taboo issue and having a civilized exchange of opinions in the current context. And it seems that is what is currently ensuing, though for all the wrong reasons.
Personally, yes I do agree that human rights and in this case LGBT rights should be a very significant component to be considered for financial or any other form of Aid to developing nations like ours. But it would by no means achieve the desired change if It is used to blatantly leverage and result in an overnight change in attitude.
Once again, I hope that such generalized foreign policy approaches are carefully considered on specific context basis, and effective applicability tailored to suit local religious, cultural and other social factors if ever true acceptance, equality and universal realization of fundamental human rights are to take effect.
Ethiopian (African) LGBT Heritage
29 may 2012
In a landmark speech at the African Union summit earlier this year, UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged African leaders to uphold and respect Gay rights as fundamental human rights. While leaders of some western nations followed suit by pledging greater measures including cutting aid to encourage and influence homophobic nations in to abandoning colonial era laws that criminalize homosexual relationships and acknowledging the rights of LGBT Africans.
Nevertheless, seldom do individual and/or societal changes in attitude ‘of a significant consequence materialize. Let alone ones that actually bring about change as palpable & practical as repealing of national laws. Hence, the news of an African country becoming an exception to this trend is truly remarkable though highly divisive and prone to countless objections…As was the case late last week when the incoming president of the republic of Malawi, Joyce Banda announced her plans to overturn the nation’s law which bans homosexual Acts. Speaking at her first State of The Nation Address to parliament on Friday May 18, she acknowledged the need to legalize consensual, loving relations irrespective of gender!
For a nation that only 2 years ago was a subject of outcry from various international LGBT groups after a gay couple’ (Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza) were convicted of homosexual crimes and sentenced to 14 years in prison for holding a traditional engagement party, this would be an outstanding achievement and an exemplary development from which the rest of the continent could learn from.
Make no mistake, though such breakthrough in the LGBT human rights frontier is truly empowering, it by no means is an indication that the momentum is with us and that positive change is imminent even in homophobic nations like ours. In fact, and despite striving to maintain a glass half full attitude at all times possible, I can’t help but wonder if the ‘’progress’’ is a two step forward and one backward, one. Painfully slow, if at all advancing!
If Malawi does successfully change its laws and decriminalize homosexuality, it would be one of only two African nations to do so. But unfortunately the count may not necessarily rise as was evidenced by events that continue to unfold in South Africa, the only nation in the continent where Gay marriage is legal and the rights of LGBT people are protected by law.While, the House of Chiefs in South Africa, also known as the National House of Traditional Leaders, had time and again condemned homosexuality and even went on to officially request the parliament to delete a clause in the constitution that guarantees equal rights for gay and trans people….the threat towards the protection and equal treatment South African LGBT individuals had enjoyed since the fall of apartheid seems worryingly greater as a current proposed legislation intends to give sole legal authority to the traditional leaders in certain parts of the country.
Thus, the so called ‘traditional courts bill’ would grant individual traditional leaders sole authority to interpret and implement customary law. The bill would also prohibit rural people from opting out of the jurisdiction of traditional courts, preventing access to alternative forms of justice and circumventing the authority of the constitution.
At the core of all this, a belief strongly maintained by the traditional leaders that ‘Homosexuality is African’. A perspective that is perhaps the major stand point shared by just about every Homophobic society up and down the continent. And more so by the great majority of Ethiopians. According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 97% of Ethiopian residents said that homosexuality should be rejected by society.The second-highest percentage rejecting homosexuality among the 44 countries surveyed, exceeded only by another African nation, Mali with 98%. Five years on, the exact same view point seems to prevail engrained in a grossly misinterpreted societal consensus that culture should be maintained and one that is considered foreign and undesirable, rejected. From David Bahati( infamous Ugandan MP who continues to propose the death penality to gays) to the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox church,and every homophobe inbetween ,up and down our nation and the entire continent…all would like to assume that homosexual relationships never existed in our nation and even the rest of the continent before it was brought over and washed down on to our pristine culture from westerners of one kind or another. Therefore, it should unreservedly be rejected by all means for it is ungodly,inhuman and most of all, UnAfrican.
Personally,I have tried to touch upon in my past posts regarding the dynamic nature of culture itself and that the many instances of its evolving with time and context should apply in exactly the same way to this subject matter. On the other hand, the soul of my argument has always been that Homosexuality being very natural phenomena’ has existed in the Habesha (Ethio/Eritrean) society just as it has in the rest of the continent and anywhere in the world for that matter.
But, this has always been hard to swallow for many due to erroneous perception (As a result of religious, cultural and traditional beliefs) of homosexuality. One too many times I have been accused of defaming the pure & holy nation of Ethiopia for stating the fact Ethiopian history itself does attest there having been instances of homosexual relationships even among traditional Ethiopian societies, long before any supposed foreign cultural infiltration took place. Here is an example of a recent article that’ despite maintaining a neutral perspective, openly calls on me to back my claims (http://allafrica.com/stories/201203161002.html)
Though in all fairness, it was in a genuinely inquisitive rather than blatantly contradictive manner.Yet, lack of significant factual reference material owing to the fact that the issue of homosexuality has for generations been a subject deemed too taboo to even talk about let alone document in a printed format, is always major setback.
This however changed recently when I came across a rare publication on the subject matter. A truly enlightening gold mine of factual info penned by a prominent scholar, sociologist & anthropologist. Dr Stephen O. Murray. The publication titled;
“Homosexuality in Traditional” Sub-Saharan Africa and Contemporary South Africa” Gives detailed insight in to various instances of homosexual relationships in traditional African societies. The brief overview on Ethiopia and Eritrea not only gives accounts of factual, first person observations of Uranism (Practice of Homosexual relations between males) as well as lesbianism, but also details significant instances of trans(transvestite, transsexual/transgender) occurrences.
This publication, I believe is perhaps the best testament by far, of the Ethiopian LGBT heritage. And hence, of a paramount importance in demystifying some of the countless widely held beliefs. I urge all LGBT Ethio/Africans to read the entire publication, take pride in & Identify with our heritage. And further on, use this factual evidence to dispel ambiguity and disprove the notion that has for long been at the core of Anti-Gay arguments; homosexuality is unAfrican.
Click Here for the whole document with extensive overview covering several sub-saharan and southen African nations. With special thanks to Marvin D. Marchien for sharing this in ZegaMatters and urging those capable of doing so to appropriately translate it in to Amharic and try and make it widely accessible.
The uproar and kerfuffle that followed the news of an Ethiopian contestant taking part in this year’s Mr Gay world competition soon multiplied exponentially and in numerous dimensions. The arguments branched out in to sub-arguments and individual concerns turned to a major talking point mainly among the online Habesha community at home and abroad. And with the much anticipated date fast approaching, it all seemed to have been blown way out of proportion when Robel’s supposedly “despicable” deed along with the western world’s alleged conniving mission to defile Ethiopia and the continent with the ‘disease’ (homosexuality), was named and shamed on a national radio station based in Addis.
This was subsequently followed by an Amharic article on a local magazine which in accordance with the nations “exceptionally ludicrous” journalistic standards; printed Robel’s pictures without his consent.
To my surprise, I had now developed some kind of immunity to the barrage of horrifyingly hostile comments on indisputably biased articles on the topic, by Ethiopian sites.My curiosity and itching desire to witness what was happening in real time has always lead me to seek out and read through endless list of such comments and exchanges. As coming across the rare, positively informed reasoning by people who don’t even necessarily identify as an LGBT Habesha, made the experience worthwhile. But unlike previous occasions, this ‘inner emotional filter’ enabled me to somehow get through it all without much of the subsequent emotional trauma. A painful & desperate hopelessness which I inevitably had to cope with after absorbing similarly distressing messages of hatred towards people like myself, which roughly represents the societal perspective to homosexuality in general as a whole, as well.
Most notable set of occurrence which similarly lead to generations of silence surrounding the issue to be broken, and significant expression of opinion(be it a wholly one sided one) was ,the period following the AMSHeR meeting in Addis, late last year and the events that followed.
A few months on, here was the same old poorly informed, appallingly biased and exclusively religious-belief based opinions absolutely devoid of either logical reasoning or a slight consideration of the concept of basic human right, being blatantly expressed and shared! Calls for the need to defy this western “evil culture” unanimously accepted along with individual pledges to cleanse the holy nation from the impending threat of homosexuality, and of individuals possessed by this evil disease…And this is where having a targetable entity in the form of the gay Ethiopian, Robel G. Hailu (Mr Gay Ethiopia), came in handy.
An indescribable feeling of joy & pride surges through me every time I get to refer to myself as proud Gay Ethiopian’ a proud Habesha and a proud Zega. But to my dismay, it is still not unconditional. Which is perhaps the case for most fellow queer Ethiopians. And as sure and aware of the realities of being born in to a Habesha family I am, I have no doubt that we have all at one point or another contemplated and hoped for ‘a life without limitations. One without the need to abide by conditions and conform to contextual restrictions. An existence were by we are wholly and utterly truthful to all in our world, as we are to our inner world!
While the coward imbecile that is me chooses to take one tiny little step at a time, it always draws a spurt of vigour to take a leap up on coming across individuals who have mastered the courage to go all the way, freely and unreservedly. But such queer Ethiopian acquaintances whose religious, cultural and family background I can relate to, are quite few. And besides, some of these individuals who have successfully gained their family’s acceptance of their sexuality would almost always still have to exclude themselves from other Ethiopians in diaspora communities or resort to incognito personas at times (In instances where they would like to maintain their Habesha community status, church membership and the like).
This is perhaps, one reason beside all that truly fascinated me up on coming to know of Robel, for he only knows what it feels for a Habesha to unreservedly shout out to the world, his pride in his sexuality!
The brave man
Robel G. Hailu; Mr Gay Ethiopia 2012
The 24 yr. old IT graduate, Robel Hailu, born and raised in Addis and currently doing his post graduate studies in South Africa had bravely taken the initiative to represent Ethiopia in in the 4th Annual Mr Gay world completion. And subsequently became a subject of horrifying insult, malicious messages of hate and direct death threats which dominated most of the aforementioned comments.
Once again, I can’t even begin to fathom his remarkable courage and outstanding audacity. All the same, it was perhaps not so difficult to imagine the numbing pain and emotional distress he must have had to endure up on reading what was being said about him.
But then again, this very emotional vitality is perhaps not only the basis of his ingenuity to dare accomplish what no Ethiopian has ever attempted and the source of enviable tenacity that saw him soldier on through the event regardless of the challenges… but perhaps the reason why he is the undisputable owner of the title “Mr Gay Ethiopia” for the first time ever.
This fact, I feel is quite important to set straight as numerous individuals had insistently claimed that he was not a legitimate representation and a legitimate “Mr Gay Ethiopia”, since he never won a national completion as is the case for delegates from other countries and because he was not officially recognized by some sort of official body back in Ethiopia.
Now, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the infeasibility of holding a national Mr gay completion in Ethiopia, given among countless other reasons, the legal status of homosexuality. Equally absurd it is to expect him to have been endorsed by the government. While even the absence of other individuals seeking to represent the Ethiopian Gay community would by default make him the sole qualifier. In addition, I would also like to mention the case, coincidentally of a namesake fellow Habesha.
Robel Teklemariam became the first Ethiopian to compete at a Winter Olympic Games in 2006 in Turin, Italy. Robel who moved to the US at age 9, was by default the only Ethiopian representative, and literally flew the flag for the nation despite obviously never having been a winner of national race as is the case for the other Olympians, or needing to be endorsed by a non-existent Ski federation of Ethiopia.
This should reasonably dispel beyond doubt, Robel’s legitimate representation of our community and his delegacy as an Ethiopian national.
Yes there was a slight apprehension mostly from Robel’s close friends back in Addis who might be identified from their past association with him and all of it emanating from the fear of backlash & witch-hunt that might follow. But ultimately, the risk was far outweighed by the ground breaking & truly invaluable message this would inevitably send to the nation of Ethiopia, and to the 37 African countries where homosexuality illegal and punishable by law.
After all, the Mr Gay world completion itself was new not only to Ethiopia, but the entire continent.
Founded in 2009, Mr Gay World is an annual contest for gay men, seeking to establish ambassadors for Gay and Human Rights, with winners of national contests competing as delegates in a variety of categories.
The official website states;
“The Mr Gay World Competition is a Twenty First Century public performance where the delegates represent their nation as the best spokesperson and embody the spirit of their nation.The competition takes place over an intense four days and includes various challenges including a photo challenge, sports challenge, fashion show/run way challenge, swim suit challenge, public speaking and a local outreach challenge where MGW is able to work with a local charity to give back to the community in hosting the competition. The delegate chosen to represent his peers on a global stage will not only have the inner beauty of confidence, self-assurance, charisma and natural leadership abilities but he will also take care in his outward beauty.
The delegate will treat his body as his temple and will be active and outgoing. He will have impeccable grooming standards and has a thorough understanding of what attire is appropriate for each engagement he is to encounter.
During the stage competitions and particularly in the personal interviews, the jury will focus on the delegate who:
-Shows an interest in the world and people around him
-Displays patience, has a compassionate and considerate nature
-Embraces change, or things and people different from his own frame of
-Reference, experience or cultural background
-An articulate his thoughts and conduct an intelligent conversation
-Has a basic innate charm and sparkle
-Is special, and authentic
-Has poise and is secure with himself, without coming across as arrogant
-Is the ambassador that his nation and local community is proud of
-Can be a diplomat of goodwill
-Has natural leadership skills
-He inspires his peers and people around him
-Is willing to take risks and become something larger than he had imagined
-Is willing to have fun, push his personal comfort zones, and meet many wonderful
people around the globe and be part of a very select and special group of men
He is Mr Gay World.”
The first event held in Whistler, Canada in 2009 was won by Max Krzyzanowski from Ireland, while South African delegates won the last two events in Oslo, Norway and the Philippines.
This unique and the most publicized gay contest in the world was to be make its debut in Africa ,where its positive message is desperately needed if ever attention is to be brought to the plight of millions of LGBT Africans up and down the continent and change brought about.
And despite, the ever mounting anticipation and hype…it all kicked off as planned on the April the 4th. A variety of events, from a sports challenge to a wildlife safari and a Children charity outreach leading up to a Sunday evening finale.
The Grand Finale
My love of weekends has for a while now been replaced by the dread of being unable to spend them with my hubby. I can hardly recall the last time we had a Sunday night movie -feet up, with a drink or two. Thanks to weekend shifts that seldom allow him to get home before midnight. And this Sunday, was no exception…Only consolation being a few bottles of my favourite juice, “Leffe blonde”, I went online frantically searching for a means to follow the Mr Gay world final.
I would have given my right arm for a seat in what I envisioned to be a grand hall packed full of buzzing, enthusiastic crowd with a shared intention of watching colourful African history being made.
And though several sub challenges had already taken place and winners determined, there were still the Delegate’s Questions and the National & Formal Costume categories … not to mention, Swim Wear!
Unfortunately, I had to make do with picture-less twits from those lucky enough to have been in there, in person. Eventually learning the top ten, and the apparent final winner.
The Winner…My Hero
Mr Gay World 2012; Andreas Derlethhe
German born New Zealander, Andreas Derlethhe was the ultimate winner and crowned Mr Gay world 2012. Fair enough; the 32 year old, 6.3 ft. hunk with to die for Abs not only looked gorgeous, but he also excelled in the Delegate’s Interview, Swim wear and Sports challenges which accounted for twenty per cent of the total scores.
In a later interview, the new Mr Gay world pledged to continue to carry on the vision and mission of the organization that seeks to fight the discrimination and stigma faced by the gay community across the globe.
Yes I was a tad disappointed that none of the two remaining black Africans, Mr Gay Ethiopia & Namibia, made it through to the last ten!
Namibia's Wendelinus Hamutenya whose family accompanied him to the airport for a warm send-off when he left for the competition was the only black African delegate to get the full support of his family. The registered midwife who at 16 came out to his parents and managed to gradually gain their acceptance, was visibly disappointed at not making it to the final stages though.
In an interview with AP, Hamutenya said “My experience shows that Africans and Africa can change. On the continent, gay rights activists have been vilified, threatened and killed. Laws in dozens of African countries ban homosexual acts. Prominent African politicians ridicule gays and minor politicians grab headlines by proposing even tougher anti-gay laws. “I hope and I believe that Namibia will be the second country in Africa to recognize the rights" of gays.”
Nevertheless, the final line up and culmination didn’t at all lessen my expectations of what the competition is about and would be like; for the mere fact that such an event could successfully take place on African soil and in an African nation where equality was unthinkable not long ago, is a ground breaking achievement and an invaluable lesson for the entire continent.
Neither did the outcome lead me to resent Robel’s representation for I could not have possibly been proud of anybody, any more! No amount of words can set forth my utmost respect for him and the milestone feat he attained in the struggle for LGBT human rights in Ethiopia and the African continent.
Besides all, I believe he will have inevitably brought about change in attitude among fellow Ethiopians with extremely ill-informed perception of us, Queer humans, as being ‘a devil possessed , drug addicted and sex crazed beings with no hope & courage and with absolutely no aspirations in life what so ever…!’
My frequent Skype conversations with Robel, have enabled me to get a closer insight in to his remarkable aims & plans for a tangible Ethiopian LGBT rights movement while I also truly esteem and hope to learn from his enviable personal traits of strength, courage and un- yielding tenacity.
Mr Gay Ethiopia that is Robel Hailu is the real embodiment of quintessential Habesha inner and outer beauty, Ethiopian pride and African heroism.
*Many, many thanks from me, your fellow Zega brothers and all LGBT Ethiopians you represented and did proud,Robel*
28 March 2012
As much as I try and avoid wasting even a miniscule part of my waking hours paying attention to negativity, there are times at which, the shear abundance of it makes it rather impossible not to get sucked in, in some way or another.
And this month was one that had me come across a couple of such significantly conspicuous events which I followed closely for days to come only to be ever more appalled,horrified… and truly disgusted of the views shared by a fairly sizable bunch of people who somehow came together on these two separate instances. In both cases, an overwhelming majority of individuals sharing only one crucial trait; HATE, in the form of HOMOPHOBIA!
The first one was an archive of twits with the hash (#) tag ‘‘ToMyUnbornChild’’. Apparently, the hash-tag which went on to trend worldwide for the best part Monday, 12th of April began as a light-hearted theme in which individuals sent a personal virtual message to their future child by way of a Twit. But unfortunately, it was soon besieged by ill-disposed individuals who go out of their way to incite and spread hate under the cover of relative anonymity afforded by the internet.
Though I’m all against keeping a hold the memory of the less beautiful aspects of humanity in general, I thought it was a remarkable initiative by the compiler’ @Homophobes. For this is a crucial evidence of the extreme views, regarding homosexuality still possessed by some individuals in this day and age. And perhaps be of use as a tool in the on-going fight against such bigotry and narrow-mindedness which is usually camouflaged and opportunistic…
While the second event on the other hand still continues to develop and bewilder me beyond belief …. Besides being very much close to home.
On Sunday Feb 19, Mambaonline.com a leading gay life style website based in South
Africa published a breaking News; Mr.Gay World to boast four African Finalists
I have no doubt that readers of this post have read the story and are fully aware of its ground breaking nature and profound significance in the history and developement of LGBT human rights in Ethiopia and subsequently ,the continent of Africa. Hence I will delve straight in to the subject matter of this specific observation.
Unsurprisingly and not long after first published, the story would go on to become the one of the most commented on news articles in the website until the page was inundated to such an extent that the comments feature was rendered dysfunctional.
The great majority of these extremely homophobic and sickening comments were from Habesha (Ethiopian) individuals who besides all made it their mission to cause the most emotional pain and hurt to Robel’ inaddition to discouraging him from taking part in the event…Perhaps because it will besides all, prove once and for all, the very existence of us ‘Queer Ethiopians to those who doubt it entirely. To say the least…
Owing to the events that unravelled following the AMSHeR conference in Addis at the end of last year, there had been unparalleled rise in the amount of significant conversations taking place on the issue of homosexuality in the Ethiopian society.
However, this instance I thought was quite notable ‘be it for all the wrong reasons!
Bar a few exceptions, just about every comment entertained an unfathomable degree of hatred & hostility. Some individuals culminated their barrage of homophobic insults by patronizingly advising Robel to pull out of the competition. While most resorted to despicable messages inciting violence against suspected gay Ethiopians in general, some (especially those residing in South Africa) even vowed to personally punish Robel for distaining & tarnishing Ethiopia’s name and its reputation as a nation of Christians; free of homosexuality and what not….
Regardless of my dedication to positivity and strong belief in the notion of fighting evil with good,I thought times like this do call for the need to put a mirror before society and show it ‘its hideous features, If ever awareness and change in attitude is to come by.
Hence, I’ve tried to compile and catalogue a few of these comments. Most of all, to perhaps be able to look back some time in the future, juxtapose and appreciate how far our society’s view of the subject will have come…and changed for the better!
Wishing the best of luck to the beautiful and remarkably brave fellow Zega’ Robel G. Hailu who aims to represent the Gay Ethiopian community in the upcoming Mr Gay World 2012 public event.
* Please follow the link; http://vote.mrgayworld.org/index.php/component/content/article/1-delegates-slider/126-ethiopia ,to vote in the popularity contest for Mr Gay Ethiopia and help Robel achieve his remarkable ambition to
be the voice of the many voiceless LGBT Ethiopians and Africans up and down the
GSG: follow up
First and foremost, I would like to thank
everyone who got in touch regarding my last post. I received numerous messages
among which one, a point raised by a
reader ‘Lena’ intrigued me most as it pointed out an idea that first seemed way
far-fetched but would without a doubt make a world of difference to how Gay
(Zega) Habeshas are perceived with in the Ethiopian society. And that was a
notion as to view Homosexuality& sportsmanship from an Ethiopian
perspective and imagine what it would mean if ever one of our Athletes came
We are all aware that habesha’s
strong sense of nationalism & pride is expressed among other ways, in the
in great deal of respect and reverence given to individuals who in one way or
another have achieved success in the outside world there by literally flying
our beloved flag. And our Athletes are none but a truly exceptional embodiment
of this success in the international arena hence considered precious pride and
joys of just about every Ethiopian.
Let alone if ever one of them
happened to by gay (which is not unlikely) and came out publicly, even if any
of them expressed their support for gay rights, it would without a doubt be the
beginning of a new era and perhaps the most important step in the right
direction for the realisation of LGBT human rights in our nation.
I guess for now we can only dream that day.
The day when a Habesha sports person with the bravery of Justin Fashanu stands
up to become the voice for the voiceless…make history!
Now, after my last post and rather
coincidentally, the BBC here aired a documentary about homosexuality in the
context of the world famous English Football. It followed Amal Fashanu (niece
of Justin Fashanu) go on a mission to discover why no gay player has followed
in her uncle's boots in over twenty years. On this touching journey, she
confronts her father ‘also a former premier league footballer ,about his reaction
following Justin’s coming out and also travels to Sweden to meet the only professional
football player in the world currently still
in the profession after publicly revealing his sexuality.
I thought I’d conclude this two part post by sharing
a YouTube link to the documentary as the Beeb’s iplayer is mostly inaccessible
outside the UK.
It’s is divided in to 4 subsequent
fifteen minute parts.
AMSHER in Addis; blessing in disguise or a
Grave menace, to Gay (ዜጋ) Ethiopians?
The beautiful, truly diverse and vibrant city of Addis is without a doubt the sole claimant to the title of ‘Capital’ not only of Ethiopia, but continental Africa as a whole. It has been a hub and host to the head offices of major international organizations from the likes of the now disbanded OAU, to its current successor AU (African Union) and many others... Addis has been a centre of choice not only for its geographical location or relative peace, but mainly because it is a home of unconditionally welcoming and hospitable people. Yes a white man will be stared at for standing out, but is never from the eyes of a face without a’ heart-warming smile’ and yes a ‘’ strange haired’’ individual might be shouted at, random ‘hellos and the like… but after all, what would better welcome one to a foreign place, than these small yet heart felt gestures of kind acceptance.
And despite unsuccessful competition from other far more developed African nations over the years, the city with an Amharic name
meaning ‘New flower’ and is also literally in the process of blossoming, continues to be the choice of centre and a hub of the African continent.
Hence, it came as no surprise when Addis Ababa was chosen to host the 16th International Conference on Aids and STI’s, Dec 4-8th, 2011.with up to 10,000 thousand delegates expected to fly in to Addis, it would be the biggest conference the city has ever hosted, but it should not be much of a challenge at all for Addis is the city of truly convivial and hospitable people…
The International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) is one of the major international AIDS conferences happening in Africa. ICASA provides a forum for exchange of scientific knowledge, experiences and best practices in Africa and around the globe in all dimensions of HIV/AIDS and STIs. Most importantly, ICASA serves as a platform for sharing of progress towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support in the continent.
The conference attracts leaders, high level policy makers, scientists, and people living with HIV/AIDS, community and opinion leaders and UN agencies, among others.
The first ICASA was held in Brussels, Belgium, in 1986 with the theme, "AIDS in Africa," and Senegal hosted the 15th ICASA," in 2008. Its current biennial hosting alternates between the Anglophone and Francophone African countries.
Following the 14th ICASA conference held in Nigeria, Abuja under the theme
HIV/AIDS AND THE FAMILY, a regional coalition of MSM/LGBT led and other organizations was formed. Aiming to work to address issues ranging from vulnerability of gay and bisexual men, Male-to-female transgender women and other MSM, to HIV
African Men for Sexual Health and Rights was formally established following the International Aids Society (IAS) Conference2008 in Mexico and a consensus workshop to define and agree on the objectives, held in Cape Town on March 16th and 17th, 2009.
AMSHER’s official website states that;
‘’ As a coalition of African -based and -led MSM organizations, AMSHeR provides a platform for exchange and learning among grassroots MSM organizations, HIV services and advocacy organizations, human rights organizations and other agencies working with and/or for MSM communities. In addition to its work to bring about visibility and address MSM and HIV issues, AMSHeR advocates for greater resources for MSM work in Africa; it works to strengthen and develop community structures to address issues such as societal discrimination and stigma, and advocate for positive and inclusive policies and effective interventions. AMSHeR strives to increase the visibility of MSM issues across various levels such as policy, legislation, communities and service delivery, and strengthen capacities of national agencies and individuals working to improve policy, legislation and programming related to MSM sexual & reproductive health’’
The organization’s motives are described as having arisen from the failure of most African nations to deal with Sexual health and other issues faced by MSM and similar sexual minorities as part of the fight against HIV aids.
Further on, it states that “Despite global and local evidence in Africa about the higher vulnerability of men who have sex with men (MSM) to HIV infection, only a few African nations have attempted to put adequate responses in place. Too much time has elapsed to ensure that MSM are considered within national HIV programmes. Africa continues to be the worst performer in the global community's efforts to stem the impact of HIV amongst MSM. The reasons for this state of affairs can be attributed to a variety of factors, which explain the current weak response the HIV related needs of MSM on the continent:
■There is a lack of visibility and voice of African MSM
■There is very little resourcing for MSM self-organized groups and programmes
As a coalition we feel that there is an urgent need to have a common understanding of and clarity on the real issues ourselves (as MSM advocates). We are conscious of the need for African based structures to join the energies of emerging self-organized groups and organizations working to promote the health and rights of gay men and other MSM in the continent...”
Though the issues mentioned above and the need to address them’ dire, in most African nations, Ethiopia is probably where the work of such an organisation be most desperately sought. Since there has never existed a single NGO, local or national organisation to deal with the issue and include MSM and other sexual minorities with in the current strategy to fight AIDS and other STI’s.
Well, no surprise there, in all honesty, It is perhaps too big a ‘ask, and a dream too far-fetched. For me to hope to be helped and saved by the same people, society and state ‘that wish and strive for the entire non-existence of me and the likes of me…..
Despite all, I was delighted to learn that AMSHER would be hosting a three-day workshop to build the skills of member representatives between November 30- December 2 and a one-day pre-conference session dubbed ‘Claim, Scale-up, and Sustain’ with over 200 participants on December 3, 2011, in Addis Ababa - Ethiopia, prior to the main ICASA conference.
The aim of this pre- conference gathering was set out as;
“To increase attention on MSM/LGBTI and HIV related issues in Africa, to reflect on the state of the response in MSM communities on the continent, and to identify ways forward for scaling up MSM and HIV interventions. AMSHER has partnered with its members, several community and donor organizations, as well as UN institutions to offer a range of topics that highlight a wide array of the most pressing health and human rights issues facing sexual minorities today, including the criminalization of consensual same-sex practices, new biomedical approaches to HIV prevention, the AU African Commission’s Committee for the Protection of the rights of PLHIV and those most at risk, the Global Fund’s Equity Assessment, and the recently adopted Political Declaration on AIDS”.
I was optimistic for it might be a mile-stone and the start of a new era for the health and well-being of fellow Zegas @home yet also apprehensive in that it might lead to and bring about unwanted attention and a new wave of hostility towards the gay community in Addis and across the nation…As was the case following the Dec, 2008 gathering of nearly a dozen religious leaders in Addis who called for a clear constitutional ban and death penalty for the crime of homosexuality... ''
Monday Nov 28,the AMSHeR team arrive at the pre-booked Jupiter hotel only to be informed by the management that they had double booked their conference facilities and that they would need to seek alternative arrangements to host their meetings. Amidst claims that the hotel was on the receiving end of accusations from the conservative Ethiopian elements about hosting a ‘homosexual meeting’ and that there were threats of violence. In the face of this hostile homophobic environment, the hotel opted to cancel its obligation to AMSHeR.The management suggested some alternative venues, but informed the organisers that it would take up to a week to transfer their deposit to the new hotel. cumulative of which, made it virtually impossible for AMSHeR to host their workshop and pre-conference as previously scheduled.
At long last,the UN stepped in to offer a venue for AMSHeR to host the workshop and pre-conference. And despite day one of the workshop having to be cancelled as almost a full day was spent getting the participants security clearance to enter the ECA building located in the UN compound in Addis, a shorter version of workshop and meeting took place.
Religious leaders convene
Addis Ababa conference hall. Tuesday, 29 November 2011.
Religious leaders of all the major religions gather spear headed by Abune Paulos, leader of the Ethiopian orthodox Christian church for a press conference called to denounce the upcoming MSM and HIV themed event to be hosted by AMSHER, prior to the opening of the much anticipated ICASA.
The leaders briefly faced journalists before being interrupted by the health minister Tewodros Adhanom for an hour long meeting behind closed doors. Subsequently, the conference was called off and the leaders left without revealing what was discussed with the minister while a swarm of federal police officers forced the awaiting journalists to delete pictures taken in the conference room.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the dodgy measures taken by the government officials were to cover up and bluntly deny what took place. And it is even more so obvious that, it was only to make sure the main event took place without a glitch there by avoiding embracement for the very deceitful & Image conscious administration. After all, it is the exact same hypocritical leadership that facilitated the gathering in 2008 and allowed the same religious fundamentalists to publicly incite hatred!
Now, since there have been no further publications on this pre-conference event hence I am not aware of the specific details. But I have no doubt that it would be of invaluable lesson and experience for the Rainbow Ethiopia members, health professionals and other Ethiopians who took part!
But at the same time, I can’t help but wonder If this gathering which was the first of its kind in Ethiopia will be a blessing in disguise’ once the current spate of negative hype and attack dies out, or whether if will be a fire starter and a grave demise to the future of gay Ethiopians? I guess only time will tell…
Meanwhile, it didn’t take long for the news of the planned meeting organized by AMSHER and subsequent gathering of the religious leaders in Addis to reach the public. Mainly curtsey of online and print publications devoid of basic journalistic standards of impartiality and neutrality. Which was promptly followed unsurprisingly, by a flood of homophobic and hatred ridden messages on countless forums and chat rooms. Facebook posts entertained and reflected up on the sole topic of conversation for Ethiopians at home and abroad; Homosexuality.
By the time a few exchanges had taken place, it would no longer be about the meeting itself but all about homosexuality and the Ethiopian perspective.
Yes it was excruciatingly painful at times for, if I ever forgot’ It did remind me the extremeness of homophobia with in the Ethiopian society and the mind set of many many individuals. But it was also strangely pleasing in that, Even if for all the wrong reasons; it did acknowledge my very existence. And to my surprise, there in between the insult and the curse were some truly remarkable views by Habeshas. Altruistic Ethiopians who don’t necessarily identify as queer themselves, but are not only aware of, and acknowledge the very fact that gay rights are basic human rights, but also brave enough to freely express their views.
On the other hand ,I was also astounded of the number of people who actually were not in favour of gay rights ‘as such and would never consider personally associating with a homosexual but still went on to emphasize the fundamental need to raise and have a civilised discussion on the issue, regardless of the outcome.
Here is one such excerpt from a series of comments by an individual named ‘Benji Fortu’ which truly enthralled me;
“First of (just to make it clear) i believe in individual rights. No one should tell me what to do in my life as i don't want to order you in yours. And if u don't believe in individual right, stop reading my comment, you might find it offending to your thoughts.
So if you believe in individual right, no one forced you to be Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, atheist etc... No one forced you to follow EPRDF, CDU...., and similarly no one should force you to be homo, bi and hetero, as it is totally your right to exercise your choice and beliefs.
I have not seen, read or heard any tangible argument from anti-homo individuals that is not associated with religion, culture or just plain hatred. The religion reasoning only works for believers, how about for Atheist's? What is your argument for someone who is not in the circle of believing in God?
The culture reason only holds so long as the culture is stagnant. However, every culture in human history is evolving and changing through time. I don't think you still believe that women should not dress up shorts (which was literally our culture awhile back). It might not be our culture to support the idea of being homo or bi, but that argument could not hold long, it will eventually change. Some things which were considered as morally unethical just 10 years ago, are just normal those days.
After all we have to understand that life is a matter of choice and doing your best to achieve those choices while respecting others' choices.
But one thing that i would like to point out is that, if a homo person knock on my door and tried to persuade me in to his world (just like what the Jehovah witness individuals do), i wouldn't tolerate such action on my property and that would be enough for me to take some further measures. That's why i respect anyone's decision, so long as they respect mine”
what captivated me most reading Benji’s comment is how he made a very apparent yet absolutely imperative observation of the fact that just about every single one of the homophobic comments and arguments were based on religious beliefs. Hence he went on to ascertain to all self centered and ignorant homophobes to ‘think out of the box ‘for a change!
It’s not wether which religious teachings say what, and which ones are right or not….for religion itself is a choice and that no one should be expected to have one let alone agree to and abide by a certain specific text and paragraph.
On another note, the very nature of the AMSHER gathering and the fact that it was part of the perhaps the biggest international Aids conference, was more than excuse enough to be used by inconsiderate stirrers and scaremongers to justify their reasoning that homosexuality is the major source of HIV infections, and that even AIDS itself originated from gays. Some went on to name homosexuality,the ugly sister of the once infamous group of individuals known as ‘Shamo’ who were rumoured to have set out to purposely and in an organized manner ,spread HIV .
Similarly and very sadly, various articles were published as a supposed insight in to Ethiopian homosexual life style. A good example of which, is an Amharic article titled (የግብረሰዶማውያኑ ስብሰባ የፈጠረው ትኩሳት) which entertained scaremongering & utter bullshitery of truly colossal magnitude. Extensive and detailed but entirely ludicrous fibs of how the alarming spread of homosexuality is on the brink of destroying the nation of Ethiopia, how gays in their ever expanding organization either use sweets, chocolate and Khat to lure innocent men and do their deeds, or violently rape using force.
I am truly disappointed most of all at how some individuals are not only against our community, but actually go out of their way to mislead others using completely fabricated facts. While also, bullying anyone who might be pro-human right into fear of being ostracised ‘by painting a false picture of overall nationwide consensus. Nevertheless, I can’t even begin to imagine trying to retaliate for I wouldn’t wish to stoop to their low….
But can’t help but at least, poke a gaping hole in a couple of ill-informed logics up on which, the majority of discussions taking place are based on.
Here is to all Ignorant homophobe Ethiopians; a hole in your own logic
1, if as you all seem to deduce, we (gays) are to AIDS what mosquitos are to malaria, then how come Ethiopia has amongst the highest rates of infection in the world? Wouldn’t that assumption subsequently infer that ‘either the majority of 85 million inhabitants are gay, or that the very few minority Habesha homosexuals have somehow managed to have unprotected sex with and spread the disease to the majority? Wrong!
Homosexuality is not the major cause of AIDS, and gay sex, by no means an STI lottery. Unprotected sexual intercourse of any kind is!
Now, I am not oblivious to the numerous researches and statistics that has over the years revealed that there is a relatively higher rate of all STI infections among MSM worldwide. But this is a direct result of complete lack of safe sex education and campaigns specifically designed for this and similar sexual minority groups. Socio-cultural stigma also plays a major role in forcing homo sexual relationships underground there by rendering the chances of establishing a stable and monogamous relationship, impossible.
Both of the aforementioned facts are substantiated by the decreasing rate of HIV and other STI infections with in these communities in many western nations who have decriminalized homosexuality and put in a great deal of work and as much resource to safe sex education, campaigns and specialised medical support to the MSM, LGBT and all sexual minority communities as a whole.
All of which should have in fact been, more than a reason enough for Addis to gladly welcome and host AMSHER with open arms and, more than a mere motive for Ethiopians to acknowledge the need to establish, nurture and develop such organizations and events!!!
2, It was not at all a new phenomenon to see just about every single Anti-homosexuality view expressed to have been based on religious principles and mainly, those of orthodox Christianity.
Time and again, I simply ignore such arguments for it would most certainly be time wasted in vain. But, born and raised in a family of strict Orthodox Christians myself and having done my fair share of bible study, I am very aware that the bible (leaving aside the matter of weather I or any one for that matter should believe in it) does forbid homosexuality, mainly’ in the old testament . In same way the same bible and the same Old Testament calls for an adulterous woman to be stoned and a misbehaving child put to death….
Well, if this is the case and if you (holly people) despise us (gays) for the book tells you to do so, then should you not give your disloyal women to be stoned to death and your boisterous children be killed’ before you ?
3, On the other side are arguments, purely from a cultural point of view. Stressing on the fact that Ethiopia is a country never colonized. Of pure, long-standing culture that has been passed down for generations and that it continue to be so. These stand points go on to not only claim that homosexuality has never existed in Ethiopia, and that no child of Habesha blood would grow up to be gay, but also that if there ever occurred an instance of homosexuality in today Ethiopia, It is a result and one pitfall among many, of, globalization…. As ridiculous as it may seem, the idea of homosexuality having been literally imported in , courtesy of vectors in the form of tourists, merchants, and Ethiopians returning back after living in the west, is not just a mere speculation but a firm stand point for most Habesha-Homophobes.
Wrong again dear friends!!
I personally detest these arguments most of all for undoubtedly it will have a major vilifying effect and would greatly sway people who don’t have any understanding of homosexuality at all ,in to believing that homosexuality is not the result and making of nature but a habit acquired or learned. Hence the probability it might have been brought to Ethiopia from the foreign land of the White man.
Now here is why I think this theory is absolute baloney,
i, Substantial Historical evidence tells that the “Agaw people” who are ancestors of present day “Amhara” and “Tigre” tribes of Ethiopia and Eritrea practiced same sex marriages up until the 17th century. I guess that by itself should put an end to the whole “globalization” theory once and for all ‘If for any thing, since it happened a bit earlier than the year New York legalized same sex marriages or the century Britain decriminalized homosexuality…
On another note, a recent research on sexual health of male sex workers in the streets of Addis Ababa, by a Norwegian NGO has coincidentally found that most of the men interviewed were born and raised in the country side and did engage in gay relationships before coming to Addis and if ever at all, meeting a foreigner or someone who has been outside Ethiopia.
ii, Almost all of the still functioning anti-gay laws in most African nations are colonial era laws which were forced up on these nations by colonial powers mainly Britain. Which ironically shows that if ever, the white man had anything to do with homosexuality in Africa, it is forming the basis of state sponsored homophobia and persecution of the sexual minority. A trend still carried on to the present day Africa by numerous white evangelical churches and scaremongering NGOs like “United for life”.
iii, Yes Ethiopia is a nation of rich history dating back as far as 3000 years. Home to countless, traditions and cultural practices…. But if we are proud of and treasure history of the previous generation and the ones before that, then we need to also believe in making our own history; of today, for future generations. By building on what the positives passed down to us and by modifying the unsuitable for our present day and age. Whether we like it or not the dynamic nature of culture will take its course and we will need to acknowledge it.
Evident in, the countless harmful & inhumane cultural practices which were a must a few years back, but are utterly unthinkable in today’s Ethiopia, a very good example of which is’ Female genital mutilation(FGM).
Well, In all honesty, I was literally lost for words witnessing what I forethought would be a moment of triumph and a step in the right direction.It had always been my passion & a personal mission to do my best to help start a conversation in our society regarding the ever taboo concept of homosexuality.In the hope that it would open society’s eyes and acknowledge the existence of me and fellow LGBT Ethiopians. And what follows, time would tell.
But in hind sight, I wonder if I actually realized the scale and gravity of the consequences.
Beyond all,events that made homosexuality a topic of discussion among ordinary Ethiopians ,and the exchanges I witnessed mainly in online discussion forums has made me realize the Cold truth; In 21st century Ethiopia, the conceptual momentum of Gay rights being recognised as basic human right ‘ is Not a case of ‘back to square one’,but rather ‘one that never left square one, in the first place.
It’s plain to see that, almost every single one of the views expressed by Anti-gay individuals originated from among gazillion other reasons, a basic and fundamental misunderstanding of homosexuality in its entirety.
Being gay, from an Ethiopian perspective is solely depicted and understood as; a man’s choice, desire and act of having penetrative anal sex with some one of the same sex. And no more. Exemplification of this being the societal trend easily visible in just about every argument concerning the issue in that, female homosexuality is hardly ever mentioned.
Now, that being the case, I would like to raise a few points ‘from my own
Perspective. In the hope that other fellow LGBT Ethiopians would also do their bit to help bring about change in attitude. For if even one oblivious mind-set is learned, Ethiopia and consequently the world would have one less homophobe …
It’s utterly ridiculous to assume that being gay is only about anal sex.first and foremost, it is a no-brainer that anal sex is not for gays only! And besides, as unbelievable as it may seem, a man can be of homosexual orientation and have just as fulfilling sexual relations despite having never engaged in penetrative anal sex. Fact!
Now, what baffles me on the other hand is the fact that , not only Ethiopians but just about every homophobe regardless of their origin tend to associate the mere word or phrase describing a person of sexual Identity/Orientation other than what is of the majority( man,woman/ straight) with lust & carnal engagement. And assume such a person to be wild and interested in sex only. That being the case, Habesha homophobes possesses perhaps the worst form of this basic misconception. Hence, I do not think I could stress enough; being gay is not only about anal sex as being straight is not just about vaginal sexual intercourse. Being gay is a sexual orientation innate (inborn) not a choice, vice, illness or addiction.
I despise stereotyping for I believe that every single human on earth is a universe away from being exactly alike with another, despite whatever two individuals may have incommon.But I as a proud gay man and a proud Ethiopian, tell you this. Which perhaps most Habesha or otherwise’ individuals of my sexual orientation would agree to;
We (Zegas) are just as human as you (straights) are. We have a life and a lot more than just being gay. We have hopes and ambitions to better ourselves and our nation as you do… and our relationships are by no means less loving, we do experience just about every facet of a heterosexual relationship; love and romance attraction and rejection, jealousy and compassion and so on….
For me, my sexuality is not only lived/ expressed by my human and very natural desire to engage in physical sex with another human of mutual feeling but also in just about every aspect of life which from early child hood made me different , and mostly Better!
Yes, our sexuality does influence to an extent and is reflected in’ the music our soul dances to our interests ,attitudes, ways and choices….but it is In exactly the same way that heterosexuality does for straight individuals.
Now, a very crucial face of the coin is also the fact that, our sexuality/being gay is not at all our sole makeup, but rather a crucial part and constituent of our whole being. Keeping in mind that, this is not because of what our sexuality is, but because that is what human sexuality itself is.
Here is the best, short definition of sexuality I ever come across;
“Sexuality is a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identities and roles,sexual orientation,eroticism,pleasure,intimacy and reproduction.Sexuality is experienced and expressed thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed.Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic , cultural, ethical ,legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.”
Now, If this does serve its purpose of imparting to the reader, the inimitable importance of ‘sexuality’ and the role it plays in every individual’s being as an adult human ‘regardless of gender or sexual orientation, there should never arise a doubt that a gay man/womans sexuality is no more or less strange and unconventional than that of a straight one. If ever our life style is portrayed as being eccentric and abnormal, It is because you straights agree on and defined’ what is of your own’ as being normal and ordinary….
Personally, I am very aware of how people might react if a gay habitat’s sexuality came to light. But, in all honesty, I don’t harbour hatred towards homophobe Ethiopians for most of all, I know that these very people who would not batter an eyelid to wish the direst of perils to my person would do so not because they hated me, but because they actually never knew me.
Homophobe habeshas know nothing of what being gay is ‘not only because they despise and condemn it so much and don’t even want to spare a second trying to understand it but also because
i, They are completely and utterly confined to a culture of ‘take what your father told you to be the truth and the only truth and pass it on to your child’ without ever analysing and examining with one’s own God /nature given judgement.
ii, Adherence to erroneous and ‘As and when it fits’ interpretations and teachings of religion without ever having the audacity to even begin to think about self-analysis and investigation.
iii, Our (queer Ethiopians) lack of courage, freedom and initiative to stand up and have our say. Show our true colors and reason our argument. Neither individually with in our families nor collectively with in our community.
Surely, safety comes first and foolhardy battles are nothing but a recipe for disaster. But we also have to acknowledge that no
success comes without sacrifice.Racial segregation was not always considered immoral and Apartheid, inhumane. But with time, struggle and the unrelenting will of the minority, the oppressed and the marginalized have brought about the realization of equality and human rights for all in our world today.
Hence why we should perhaps seize the moment to stand together and rise up,Hence why we should shout’ If need be, to be heard…and stand by our word!
If anything, for we yearn to simply be accepted and not demonized for being gay.
For we are a son and a daughter, a brother and a sister, and even a mother and a father….and most of all, a proud Ethiopian.
International Coming out Day
11 Oct 2011
Today is international coming out day. Coming out and
gaining some form of acceptance is a huge step in an LGBT individual's journey towards living a true and fulfilled life but is dependent to a large extent on personal & cultural circumstances.
It would not come as a surprise that our,Ethiopian culture does not entertain any concept remotely related to Homosexuality and LGBT life,Hence why this crucial step in the life of most queer habesha always seems a step too far.Personally,I would not have dreamed of or even tried to assume what would happen if i cameout while i was back home.But after living in diaspora and realizing that my family's beliefs would never realy change that much' I decided that it was now or never. Braced my self for the worst but had an ever mounting fear with in me that I might be left with out any family in this world.
I didn't know what to expect at all for i had no frame of reference.
When i finally went ahead and and did it, i felt like a huge load i carried on my back every single minute of every day ,was lifted.It was one of the most precious moments in life'even though very much bitter sweet.
Unsurprisingly,My mom's response though was not any one of the countless scenarios I'd gone through in my mind in the days and weeks leading up to my Coming out; She accepted me for she loved her baby son nomatter what,but she didn't waste a second before she tried to enlighted me with her habesha Motherly wisdom, the real reason why she accepted the 'Gay me' now. She said it was only because she knows this is a result of living away from family,church and Ethiopian way of raising and that I was going through a phase,or perhaps took up a bad habit which I will very soon grow out of with the help of relentless prayers,a bit of holly water and most of all,once he avoids those bad friends who mislead me...
Now, I can't even begin to comprehend what the consequenses of my Coming out would have been like had it not been for the fact that my family live in the west and had perhaps come to realize that people that are Gay and Lesbian do exist and that they are not the monstrous,un-godly creatures the bible portrays them to be.(partly due to the fact that My mom's most favorite Telly continues to be'' Ellen Degeneres show''' despite knowing the hosts sexuality...lol)
Living away from them also plays a big part in the absense of emotional and physical peace i enjoy after revealing my sexuality to my loved ones. But i would be none the wiser to assume every one's circumstances will be the same and encourage all Queer Ethiopians to do the same based on blind bravado...But to take time and realize the consequences,to read and learn from others successfull Coming out stories.I strongly believe that we should not shun the entire idea of coming out for the sole reason of culture for as i have said time and again,culture is a reflection of us the individuals with in 'and what we make of it strongly depending on the time we live in. If we can change the culture with in our families,then nothing can hold us back from changing culture at societal levels.
With that in mind ,I hope the few stories and related materials would help my fellow LGBT Ethiopians and allies be familiar with the concept of Coming out, and draw from it what can help change our lives and the likes of us.
Coming Out support
Telling people about your sexuality is called coming out.
You don't have to tell anyone you're lesbian, gay or bisexual if you don't want to. It's up to you who you tell, but you might feel happier if you can be honest about who you really are.
A good idea is to start by telling someone you really trust, and who you know will be supportive. It might also be helpful to get an idea about people's attitudes towards sexuality before you talk to them.
Lots of people that you tell will be really positive and will be proud of you for telling them, they might even be flattered that you trust them enough to tell them. Sadly, not everyone will be so positive and supportive. You should be prepared for some negative reactions and understand that this may be a difficult thing for some people to understand or come to terms with.
Once you have come out to one person the process does not end there, throughout your life you will find yourself in situations and around people where you feel the need or desire to disclose your sexual orientation.Ultimately there is no right or wrong way to come out, do it the way you want to and the way you feel comfortable.
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone, there are lesbian, gay and bisexual support organisations across the world who are there to offer a helping hand, a friendly ear, and who have vast experience of helping people just like you.
The prospect of coming out is a scary one for many, and there are lots of concerns around being rejected and left in isolation. In all situations there will be positive and negative effects of coming out, and when looking at the best way to do it, it’s almost impossible for anyone to give a perfect guide to the event. But, here are a few ideas on the do’s & don’ts of Coming Out:Do 1) Contact The Lesbian & Gay Foundation Helpline for support and guidance 0845 3 30 30 30 6-10pm every night of the week. A quarter of all of our calls are about issues related to Coming Out. Our Helpliners are all individuals who are used to dealing with many issues and if they can’t help you straight away they’ll know someone who can.2) Use a trusted friendship to ask for support. Test the water by talking about subjects relating to sexuality before your ready to pour your heart out. Sometimes people don’t always react the way you think they will.
3) Ask a teacher / LGBT worker for support and advocacy, there are many people out there who can help; they're not just their to find you accommodation or tell you about the drama club.
4) Be yourself - be honest and respectful to your feelings and the feelings of your family and friends. When you're finding out about fabulous new friends and surrounding yourself with all kinds of gay influences to make up for lost time - don't forget about those who have always been there for you.
5) Ask yourself why is now the best time to come out? If you’ve got other stresses going on in your life; exams, flatmates, work, school, friends, family etc, now may not be the best time. What do you hope people’s reaction will be? If people aren’t as supportive as you’d like, do you really need the added pressure of their baggage while your getting to grips with what you want to say?
1) Own the reactions and feelings of others. You need to be sure of what’s right for you and that can change. It’s easy to be influenced when you’re feeling unsure or insecure about something, but you know deep down what’s right for you, regardless of what someone else says.
2) Stand in the closet until someone opens the door. There’s always an opportunity where someone will lead the way into a conversation. It’s up to you if you want to jump in or out. Many people have outed themselves unwittingly or without planning to just because they get sick and tired of keeping it to themselves or listening to homophobia.
3) Do not be frightened about coming out there’s lots of support available. If you can’t find any support where you are ring the LGF helpline 0845 3 30 30 30 6pm-10pm daily.
4) If you are having a tough time with Coming Out or if you are already out but need someone to talk to, you can call the helpline or come to the LGF's Face 2 Face counselling sessions.
*Contacts and Counselling services accesible with in the UK
Happy coming out day....
POWER OF STANDING TOGETHER
Our beautiful city continues to live up to its reputation of ‘’ unique’’ Scandinavian weather and last week was no exception. Well shielded for all the wrong reasons; the fantabulous Indian Summer up and down the country seems a world away from our week of gloomy grey days and a weekend of none stop rain. No better way to ride it out though than with a box set of Lost or 24, unless by miracle, something actually worth watching is on telly.
Luckily, last night was one of those days. My sweet h had come home after a long shift in time for my culinary genius; a very humble equivalent of Sunday night roast and we soon cozied up before the telly for a journey in time to an amazing piece of LGBT history.
The ‘Stone wall Uprising ‘Without a doubt, one of the most crucial, defining events in the past that transformed and shaped societal attitudes toward homosexuality in modern day America and perhaps the whole of the west.
Though I had seen the 2 hour long documentary not long ago, I was no less mesmerized by this astonishing story told by the actual people who experienced it first hand, fought the fight and lived to tell the tale. In fact, watching it this time around was rather special for it not only became the reason for my next post which I had been putting off for quite some time now due to some unsettling circumstances in my personal life over the past couple of weeks,but also gave me a spurt of energy a much needed emotional uplift to keep pushing for the cause I had promised to fight for in every way possible.
Though I have not the slightest of doubts that I will someday achieve my goal of bringing about change in our Habesha society regarding the issue of homosexuality, I can’t help but at times feel that the momentum might be against and not with me and my kind ,for quite some time to come.
As I briefly touched on in my interview titled Invisible activism and Optimism; story of the Ethiopian LGBT movement for a south african LGBT site Behind the mask ,though there are few instances of discussions taking place and rather insignificant initiatives by individuals mainly in diaspora over the past few years, there seems to be no real and tangible community based movement or campaigning yet. It seems every step forward if any, is undone by ten ginormous leaps backward with no foreseeable breakthrough in the near future.
My personal experience of online activism and the feed back that follows through is perhaps a drop in the ocean and very personal,but still a good example of this eternal stalemate like state of LGBT rights and social attitudes progress among our Ethiopian society.
For every positive feedback I get on the site, there always follows ten folds of hatred ridden filthy, monstrous insults, threats, and discouraging and utterly dispiriting messages…In all honesty, none of it would have mattered’ had it been so easy to banish these wicked mind-sets almost exclusively of Habesha (Ethio-Eritrean) descent, from my thoughts and from the entire Universe at once, as filtering them out by the click of a mouse… only if! On the contrary most of this haters tend to go on to deduce that It is impossible that I am Ethiopian for no true Ethiopian would chose to turn their back on their parents culture and that I am most probably an Eritrean or some other villain with a calling to defame the wholly land.
Well for their information, if I am anything, it is Ethiopian as one could ever be. Born and raised in the suburb of bole,the heart of Addis. from parents both of ‘sheger’heritage,''see if you can put something on that, ”pure Ethiopians”. Like it or not,
I am Ethiopian by birth , gay by nature and proud by choice!
But then again, for the true Ethiopian I am, I should know better than to assume that it is my habeshaness that bothers this people more than the fact that’ a gay Habesha actually did man up and spoke out to defend his true identity and of the likes of him. There, now that should make it all right.
Or perhaps not, unfortunately. Not long ago, I set about setting up a wee online poll on whether homosexuality should be decriminalized in the Ethiopian penal code. Oblivious to a reply other than a few yeses and gazillion noes.But to my surprise, there came a number of enthralling comments suggesting that the question itself is out of context.
Mind you, a ‘yes’ I would gladly accept and a ‘no’, rationally challenge. But a “The question is out of context for our culture”, I was not prepared for at all.
And despite all, what truly and utterly flabbergasted me was realizing that this was not just the personal perspective of a typical extremely ill-minded homophobe but that of my own comrade; an active member of the Ethiopian LGBT community online.
It would be rather imprudent to name names but for the sake of readers, here are the exact words;
“Are you finding many queer people who think it should continue to be criminalized? Also , it is only criminalized
in the penal code, the Ethiopian constitution protects all of its citizens regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
In fact when all of the religious groups banned together a few years ago under the push/ financing of a western
NGO (forgot the name) it was to change the constitution. Is decriminalizing same gender sexual acts in Ethiopia
something thatqueer Ethiopians in Ethiopia find important? I'm not sure it is for the majority of queer Ethiopians
... at least from what I saw it seems that living in the closet goes hand in hand with Ethiopian culture.
What do you think?’’
Like I said, at that very instance’ I didn’t foresee this and my reply was nothing but a mere peeved reprisal. A typical Habesha’s unreasoned ‘whatever’ sort of retaliation. But over the days and weeks to this very moment it lingered in my conscience for I feared deep inside that I might have been absurdly irrational. That I was wrong to ask and hope that someday, in the near future, gays and straights would be equal in the eyes of the law and the Ethiopian society.
How dare I!
I don’t want to go on about the painful emotional conflict I endured and the Immeasurable inner arguments I entertained with in me for none of it matters. All that matters is that, that was then and now is now. And now, I am unreservedly abashed but also whole-heartedly learnt. Not just because I nearly and easily conceded my greatest battle of all but purely because I now realize that I was shallower than a puddle in that I didn’t think of leaving a space in my conscience for a ‘none of the above’ reply to the multiple choice query of my partiality.
Auspiciously, ‘time lost is not necessarily time wasted’ in this instance, for I believe that I have today travelled in time to answer the question I could not, then…For I now realize that it was not weather Ethiopian culture could change, that I should have wondered but, whether we Ethiopians acknowledge the crucial fact that' culture is Dynamic,the actuality of culture as consiousness of the majority with in a society along with common and protected interest of that of the minority,Minority in number'but those equally righteous in every way! Yes,realization of this very fact is what can truly bring about compromise among us all and change in attitude,awareness and change in way of thinking for us all. On a different note,the fact that this comment was from someone who I'd have thought to have lots in common regarding the whole issue,and specially the fact that it is an individual who actively involved in organizing has answered a very crucial question I had failed to figure out. And that is the question as to why Ethiopian LGBT activism never takes off the ground let alone form a real movement that gets our voices heard.The voice of every queer habesha wallowing in self pity,guilt and eternal pain.
Yes the Ethiopian constitution does claim to uphold human rights of every one,regardless of age,sex,religion and so on,but this stops well short of mentioning sexual minority of any kind. It might well be that it is because not all instances of life and not every regulation in the land has to be spelled out in the constitution it self,but set out in other laws and regulations which are all drawn up on and in accordance with the constitution.Now,if that is the case,then where do we find any laws mentioning us queer Habeshas.After all,in a land of over 80 million, there is bound to be a few of us...and we are a son and a daughter ,a sister and brother ,too.
The Penal code of all laws is where the state acknowledges us for once with a clear criminalizing of all instances of homosexuality(Male and Female) with up to 10 years of imprisonment. Severe a punishment for a loving relationship between two consenting adults. It might seem every bit preposterous in every way but the reality is ,this law is actually the least of our worries as an LGBT of a habesha heritage. Coming to terms with my sexuality as a teenager,going to prison for being gay never worried my little mind for not even once do I recall hearing about a gay man/woman being tried and sentenced offence but one of being mercilessly beaten up and stoned to death not just by strangers and haters,but by close family members and loved once.
And if there ever did take place such a trial and appropriate punishment in the eyes of the law,we all know for a fact that there is not a chance in a billion that this would be reported by the media.
Now this and countless thoughts baffle me as to why some one let alone an actual LGBT habesha would say that decriminalization of Homosexuality is not relevant to our 'Ethiopian culture.perhaps this very person has no consideration for others and for the cause what so ever because they reside in a foreign land and is afforded all the protection in the world.But what if they never left,what if they had to wake up every single day with the fear wether today might be the day someone or they them selves end their life.,would they still have the same selfish opinion?I seriously doubt it...
That said,I can't help but wonder if with this quote and with in the words,is a fundamental cause of failure in us all. Fear!
For nothing more could ever explain our failure to stand up and challenge.hope,wish and strive for a better future.for a life free of prejudice and discrimination.
Gay or not,It comes as no surprise that just about every Ethiopian is raised with countless fundamentally flawed principles.Among which is the importance of a behavioral aspect made up of two very diffrent phenomenons.Fear and respect. what better way to create subjects and loyals rather than equals than to create a society with no clear distinction of the two. we were told from day one that we have to fear and respect our elders and parents,our teachers and leaders.To follow the rules and principles,thoughts and attitudes set out by them and the generation before them until the day when we are old enough to be feared and respected so that we may also be revered and heard with absolute authority.Until the day we pass on the culture and tradition passed down to us in its entirety.
This 'fear' instilled in us from early child hood is what has made us Ethiopians trully obedient and a subject of what we were told is superior.
This fear is what closed our eyes and our minds,never to question but to accept what is given to us.
This fear is what rendered us incapable of standing up and holding our own.
This fear is the reason why we say this is my culture and this is our culture and this is Ethiopian culture with out ever questioning what culture itself is.with out ever wondering if we could change it and make it our own suited for our own individual ways and the likes of us.Only with the realization of this imperative fact can we answer all the questions regarding homosexuality and the Ethiopian Culture.We,every single Ethiopians of today 'make Ethiopian culture of the day! black or white,male or female,young or old, gay or straight,Amhara or Oromo....
I guess ,history has all the lesson we would ever need,if we are to awaken.The fact that slavery was a common practice in america a few decades ago does not at all allow racial segregation today.Renaissance Europe executed witches and Nazi Germany persecuted Jews....culture never frowned up on not long ago but utterly condemned in our world to day.
Well now,the question remains,Should 21st century Ethiopia stigmatize Homosexuals?
Bestowed in me at the very moment when I watched this documentary for the second time (mainly because Brian insisted we do so) was a couple of points which I hope are worth sharing.
I had previously touched on the common belief(misconception) among many Ethiopians of Homosexuality being a foreign practice brought in by those who lived over seas and most of all one among many pitfalls of Globalization. Only to go on to poke a huge hole in this logic using a none but our own history which tells us that the 'The Cushitic speaking Agaw people of Ethiopia and Eritrea practiced Homosexual marriages as early as the 17th century.
There followed numerous accusations of blasphemy and tampering with Ethiopian history;Silly retaliation from the unreasoned minds of the morally oblivion...what was perhaps common ground in all messages was that I is never Ethiopia,but the west and mainly America,is where Homosexuality has always been nurtured for generations... Hence why I thought it is absolutely empirical that every one sees and learns some among many truths which we live in denial of,through the documentary Stonewall Uprisings.
I itch to share with you all, this film not because I favourably or otherwise’ assume 1969 New york to be the equivalent of present day Addis, but because I, from a purely Habesha point of view, see a stark similarity between how gays then and there were surprisingly viewed from just about the same perspective as zega and Lez’s like you and me’ of our time.
The first half of the documentary is what intrigued me most as it entertained a similar perspective to that of the average Ethiopian, towards the issue of homosexuality and sexual identity from one that is in any way different than what the mainstream accept to be normal.
Yes . I rest my case. All who argued of homosexuality having always been accepted in other cultures ,shall hopefully learn once and for all ,the actual truth.That even the most democratic state on earth persecuted and tortured gays in the hope of a cure.
Argue with me if you will for I am not oblivious to the very fact that New york then is might not have a singe common similarity with Addis now and that America and its culture is a every bit different from our Habesha culture.But, the degradation those individuals felt is no different from what I feel now. The Isolation and need to hide is no different than what we experience on a daily basis whether we live in Ethiopia or not.
Now, I am well aware that I have been accused of going on and on at times but I’d like to convey this wee message to my fellow LGBT Ethiopians.
‘Please have the heart to spare a couple of hours off your busy lives to watch this documentary for it has thought me that we are not some whimsical, possessed characters that most fellow Habesha’s prefer to portray us as, but a brain behind the ‘face’ and person and an ‘individual’ beyond the label.
I visit on all of you to hear every testimony in this movie and draw up on it all and realize that you are not alone and that by standing up with others’ your brethren and sistren LGBT’s ‘,we can achieve what most Ethiopians think is inconceivable.
And most of all, I urge you all to mind that our history of being people of the only African nation never colonized is a result of 5 years of semi-occupied martyrdom and that,as an ethiopian, if we truly believe in being free,we should stand up and fight for the truth and never give in,no matter what.
INVISIBLE ACTIVISM AND OPTIMISM, THE STORY OF THE ETHIOPIAN LGBT MOVEMENT
(Excerpts from my interview with Behind the mask's 'Melissa wainaina)
What is the human rights movement like in Ethiopia today?
Ethiopia has a diverse population upwards 80 million and has been under the same leadership for over two decades. There is an absence of a significant human rights movement of any kind.
Systematic and divisive repression seems to have taken root planting immense fear among society at large. Civil societies are continually monitored and intimidated while almost every form of media government controlled. This does not allow for much of a human rights movement in Ethiopia.
But surely human rights abuses in Ethiopia will be exposed eventually despite the restrictions and intimidation tactics?
The global west seems to somehow favour stability over democracy. This is evident when there is continued support for the dictatorial leadership that oppresses human rights and this is rather hypocritical in my opinion.
If laws of western nations vow to uphold the values of basic human rights and condemn all kinds of discrimination based on age, disability, race, religion or belief, sex and sexuality, then they shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the situation of millions of people in nations like Ethiopia whose leadership they have close ties with.
Currently the right to basic human rights in Ethiopia continues to be unattainable and endeavouring to raise awareness of the issue or organize some sort of human rights movement seems impossible.
So where does this leave the LGBTI Movement in Ethiopia?
The mere concept of the LGBTI community as a minority of any kind is non-existent in Ethiopia.
A few months ago, I tried desperately to get a hold of the latest Amharic-English dictionary just to see if at last there had been an entry for any of the constituting LGBTI terminology but to no avail.
The nation’s most used language which is thought to be one of the oldest in Africa simply doesn’t recognize our existence.
The strong bond between state and church (mainly Orthodox Christianity) has meant that religious beliefs greatly influence every aspect of laws and practices of the government and society at large. Hence homosexuality is viewed entirely from a biblical perspective.
Absurd as it may seem, the unchallengeable consensus here is that there is no existence of homosexuality in Ethiopia and that the fact that it is recognized elsewhere is a clear indication or a premonition that ‘the world coming to an end’ as predicted in the Bible.
It is unthinkable for an LGBT person to come out as the consequences would be catastrophic. Suspicions or less have lead beatings or killings even by close family members.
In my early teens, I recall my trembling fear when I heard about the incidents of individuals being violently punished after discovered to be gay in prisons and detention centres. Seeking help or protection of any kind from the state is inconceivable as both male and female homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.
There is not even a single LGBTI organization that has managed to come up and to bring about the much needed change in the attitude and provide support of any kind to LGBT individuals.
Ethiopia has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. A great deal of work is being carried out by several national and international organizations in terms of STI awareness, both in prevention and treatment.
But none of it is directed to the people who perhaps need it most, LGBTI individuals.
‘Yesedom Nefsa,’ is a book by Fares (pen name) about a HIV positive former gay sex worker. Among other things the book touched on how medical professionals would refuse to treat patients who they suspect to be gay. On the other hand, there were also shocking details of how such professionals would use their authority to take advantage of vulnerable individuals.
Considering this position, it is clear that the LGBT are a vulnerable group in the fight of HIV/Aids and other STI’s.
Any help the civil society and NGO’s could attempt to extend to the LGBT, would be denied the necessary permits by government. It is extremely cautious of such organization’s capability to educate people and raise awareness of human rights issues.
But it is also clearly evident that no significant measure has been taken to try and get the necessary approvals by such organizations. The only NGO that had interest in the issue was ‘United for Life’ an Organization that was the major force behind a gathering in 2008 of religious leaders from across the nation to urge the government for a clear constitutional mention and tougher punishment against homosexuality.
Therefore these limitations have so far made it impossible to establish a tangible and coherent LGBTI movement in Ethiopia. The only visible activism if any is internet based as it is the best means by which opinions can be shared with anonymity.
This being said, internet accessibility is still quite low and very limited as evident in the various LGBTI chat rooms and forums that die out before any real community as such is established. Currently, the only significant, interacting online communities at the moment are ‘Gayethiopians’ and ‘Ethiopian_lesbians’ yahoo messenger groups with members in hundreds. Almost all of the members live in Diaspora like me with relative freedom of speech and accessibility.
Unfortunately, the Internet is strictly censored and monitored with in Ethiopia. Websites disapproved by the government are blocked which has made it impossible to access information as a community and work to bring about tangible changes.
Is there hope for an LGBT individual in Ethiopia?
Despite progress being painfully slow, I believe change is apparent as seen in the number cases where individuals are motivated enough to have their say and express their own life experiences which usually lead to the beginning of more open conversations and discussions around sexuality.
I set up and launched a website ethiolgbt.com and with the help of close friends and other LGBT Ethiopians mainly in Diaspora, there has been an awakening and unprecedented amounts of conversations and exchange of ideas on the issue of homosexuality and other issues around LGBT taking place.
But what is truly overwhelming is the support from Ethiopians who do not necessarily identify as LGBTI individuals. They seem to clearly understand the value of human rights and equality and have a strong belief that the Ethiopian LGBT community should be acknowledged and afforded the same level protection as a minority of one form or another in Ethiopia.
I quote a recent comment from a straight Ethiopian girl living in Addis Ababa,
“Lately things happening in my life are making me rethink my decision to be indifferent and turn a blind eye to what is going on around me as long as it didn’t affect me directly. I don’t think that kinda life is just for me (sic) not when there is this much injustice around me! So added to my list of latest happenings that inspired me to live a true life is that today I read your stories on your website which brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for standing up, coming out and shading a little light on what it is like to live as a gay person in Ethiopia. I am not gay and I can’t imagine how it is like to live here in Ethiopia where people think you are shameful or just a victim of popular western belief and in crisis. I think I am now more aware and no longer ignorant about homosexual life in Addis and open to understand more about it instead of judging without wanting to understand.” – Meti
What is the way forward in terms to the LGBT Movement for Ethiopian nationals?
As Ethiopian LGBT nationals we are all aware of the amount work that needs to be done and the countless challenges that lie ahead but hope to overcome and someday be able to live life freely in our great nation.
We also hope that other nations who claim to uphold a uniform standard of human rights but seem oblivious to the horrendous human right violations in Ethiopia would take up initiatives to perhaps change in foreign policy regarding leadership standards.
Ultimately, it is up to us LGBT Ethiopians to come together, and try to get our voices heard, work to bring about the necessary change in attitude at individual and societal levels. And most of all endeavour to have homosexuality decriminalized in Ethiopia.
*Selam is a pseudonym.
By Melissa Wainaina
Everyday living with all its endless stream of hustle and bustle would have made life, to say the least ‘far less pleasing had it not been for moments of sheer delight we all attain in some way or another. A moment of immense exultation, a moment when one is fully in control yet carefree…yes this moments when we feel in charge of ourselves and even surroundings are what I presume to be the ultimate revitalizers in all of us.
Some are able to attain such joy day in and day out by among other ways, perhaps by being able to do what they enjoy most for a living. And others may be not so lucky to be able to make such choice and have to make do with whatever life puts forward…I have difficulty at times which group my semi monotonous, at times superb, calm &and joyful yet now and then turbulent, life' would belong to perhaps because am yet to make many of the choices which may make the future me.
But I have always been fascinated by stories of people who have achieved high of heights by doing whatever it is that truly exhilarates them while enabling them to tell their stories and convey their messages...in tandem. Hence I was intrigued when I first heard about Le Gateau Chocolat, a Nigerian law graduate turned cabaret singer.
Aware of the dire treatment of gays in Nigeria; a religious nation that views homosexuality in a way not very different from that of ours, I was astound of his bravery in daring to literally show his true colours in public. And besides, he could have easily made lots of money practicing law which he’d successfully studied… But it didn’t take me too long to fathom out the truth as to why he chose stage life for a living. A few articles and a bunch of interviews, and most of all, a glance at his picture on stage …absolute and utter joy easily discerned from his never ending smile that seems to out shine the shiniest of glitters on him.
`My parents don’t know I’m gay. They know that I sing but they don’t know in what guise. ‘To protect them he never discloses his real name, referring always to his stage persona, who belts out pop and opera clad in outrageous skin-tight Lycra.It’s a far cry from the well-heeled image of the British legal establishment. ‘I think I was lured in to the idea of being a lawyer by American films, ‘he offers as a defence.’ People stand up and thrust their hands in the air in these wonderful wood –paneled rooms. It’s all so dramatic! Then I started studying law and it’s not like that at all.’
He completed the course then ricocheted between jobs, including a telephone advisor for the National Health Service. ‘God, the stories I could tell you! ‘He cackles. ‘There was a woman once, who found out she was pregnant and called to ask if she could still straighten her hair. I was like, “As long as you’re not straightening your baby’s hair in your womb, I’m pretty sure you’re fine but I’ll get a nurse to call you”
’Outside of the office, he became a regular at the legendary Brighton club night Dynamite Boogaloo and sang for the first time at the club’s cabaret in his `civvies’, before the metamorphosis into Le Gateau Chocolat began. ‘The hostess Princess Knickers gave me my first tube of cerise lipstick, ‘he recalls fondly.
‘That tube acted as my blusher, my eye shadow and my lipstick and it took me just three minutes to put it on. I looked awful. ‘Didn’t anyone tell him he looked ridiculous? ‘Dolly Rocker pulled me aside and told me what to do, ‘he confirms. ‘She gave me this really awful gold lame kaftan. Lot of the gold had rubbed off but I thought it was wonderful! She also gave me my first cat suit. `
On the subject of his fabulous Lycra creations, I presume that they are handmade to order. ‘I get them off eBay from a lovely lady in China who doesn’t know what I use them for, ‘he laughs. I pause momentarily to consider whether anyone else could ever demand that much Lycra, and he interprets my silence as incredulity. ‘Seriously, in China, how ridiculous is that? The lady has been wonderful. She’s cut me some great deals because I buy in bulk and I’m always asking her to find me new fabrics. ‘He continues: I’m a man and I’ve got a beard. I just happen to be a man who has a penchant for Lycra, which is interesting for all of us. I really enjoy the drag element. It gives the performance an extra frisson and provides a lot of interests’ in terms of gender play and sexual identity.’
` There are moments I struggle to fit in- Being big, being black, and being gay. If you add up all those things, I am a minority in more ways than one..`
Until now, Le Gateau Chocolat has performed three-minute spots in cabaret show such as La Clique and La Soiree, where the emphasis has been on shock value. For his Fringe debut, he will sing for an entire hour with accompaniment on piano and cello. It’ s a daunting and thrilling evolution. ‘You’re going to see a much softer, more real and honest Le Gateau Chocolat,`he promises.’Here,you get to meet who I realy am.Before all of the Lycra,before the frills, make-up the tutu and lashes, I’m a person and I have these stories to tell.
Le Gateau Chocolat on Paul O'Grady show
‘I think the themes in my show are universal, from falling in love to wanting your parents to be proud of you, ‘he continues. ‘My show transcends the fact that we are not the same and deals with the humanity in all of us. There are moments I struggle to fit in- Being big, being black, and being gay. If you add up all those things, I am a minority in more ways than one so I have two choices: play the victim, or look at the positives and celebrate the fact I’m alive.’
On stage at least, he has celebrated in eye catching ways including a Christmas performance at the Roundhouse in London, where he was hoisted from the ceiling clad in an enormous white tulle snowball. He has personally dragged 80 kilos of retina-sneering Lycra to Edinburgh. ‘I came up by coach, ‘he sighs,`It was an eight-hour overnighter, which is an experience you should have once in your life… but never again. ‘He lets out a deep ,rumbling laugh then adds, I never intended to be a performer, I was going to be a lawyer. I haven’t run away with the circus, I feel like the circus has run away with me.It’s snowballing out of control but I’m really enjoying the ride.
Mon 20 June,2011
Though I’d learned that the 4th and final series came to an end in the US over a year ago, I decided not to take a short cut but rather savour every Episode not to forget the time in between. But at the end of the day all good things must come to an end, and yes, now I’ve come to terms with the fact that Betty is in fact history! Last Friday I had box of tissues ready for the very last instalment of my favourite show ever - Ugly Betty.
Overall, "Hello Goodbye" did wrap up each of the beloved characters’ lives in a nice pretty bow, but how bummed was I that there wasn't even a kiss between Daniel and Betty!? They literally waited until the last 40 seconds to show him go to London for her!
C’mon! Surely everyone wanted MORE!I hoped for a dramatically romantic ending where Daniel sweeps Betty off of her feet professing his love to her in front of all her new British friends and giving her a kiss that gives hope to all the ugly Betties of the world that you can get the dream guy. That would have made the show.
Although, I acknowledge it was much more of a realistic ending. Especially since Betty would/could not believe that Daniel had feelings for her. It was funny to see her look at Claire with such surprise. Hello Blondie! Get on with the program, right?!I know I should have probably expected it, but I was happily surprised by Connor's return. He really loves Wilhelmina and the spoilers were right - Wilhelmina did have a dream ending. She got everything she always longed for - love and being the main editor of Mode.
But I think I can safely say Justin had the best ending of all really. I’d been looking forward to the day when his sexuality eventually comes up and how people around him might react. Yes he’s got a cool mom a wonderful granddad and of course the funkiest auntie one could ever wish for. Still, the unpredictable nature of the drama makes it almost impossible to imagine how it would all unfold. I couldn’t help but wonder if Justin would take the leap himself or be reassured by a loving family perhaps before he is ready to accept himself and learn to be ok with how others perception of him might change because of his sexuality.
Oh my, was it worth the wait!
Justin didn’t need a word to tell the world all… He just had to dance, pretty awesome. (ሰላም)
For the average habesha turning the pages of a local newspaper or browsing online with the aim of learning the day’s news and current affairs so as to be just as informed as colleagues and friends, this title is very much more than peculiar. ’Yesedom Nefsat’’ literal translation meaning ’sodomite souls’. I was advised to have a look by an acquaintance who thought it might be of interest after stumbling up on a review on a prominent Ethiopian website.
After reading repeatedly what seemed shockingly grippinga title for any article as such, I went on to go through the paragraphs that followed only to end up looking for some more and more again so as to make sure that I clearly understood what lay before me. Apparently, a book had been published by a gay /ዜጋ(zega) Habesha revealing his experiences as a gay man, giving readers shock of their lives! Most reviewers describing it as the most outrageous and vivid description of homosexual life in Addis and the whole of Ethiopia. It surely came as a shock to me as well as no books of such content have ever been published to date. And all of a sudden, I was to believe that a gay Habesha had written and managed to legally publish a book in Addis. And though some sites like Ezega.com published a well-informed review that seemed to be considerate of journalistic standards in terms of impartiality. I was still left with so many unanswered questions and it seemed like nothing would give me the closure I craved except to try and get a hold of the actual Amharic publication.
Within minutes, I was filling out purchase forms off a website based in Addis with items on offer as diverse as a live sheep holiday gift to best-selling novels and what have you. But this was my very first order from a site based in Sheger and sceptical as I was, I couldn’t resist the urge to get on with it and just hope for the best and to my surprise the punt paid off right away. In just a matter of days, I had the book before me. Rather tiny, nothing like I expected but then again I did not know what to expect.The grimmest of titles along with a man facing backwards, sat on a chair with a semi hand cuff dangling down and an ‘over 18s only ‘warning made the cover reassuring me of a worthy deed in trying to get my hands on it as I realized that no Ethiopian browsing a book of shelves would ever by pass this one without the need to flick through.
The story of Abiye(Eliana)–first person narration by writer ’Fares’
I went ahead and flicked a page;(Begebresedomawi hiwot lemisekayu hulu) To all suffering in homosexual life’Well, I did pose for a moment now and asked myself if perhaps what I had in my hands was for me for after all, even though I have always been gay as far as I could remember, I have never suffered from it. Nor ever thought of a possibility that one could…But then again, who am I kidding? I know very well that no matter how mediocre I predicted what lay in front of to be, I would still be itching to lick a finger and turn a page, and so I did.
The story detailed the life of a gay Habesha from child hood, early teens and then on to adult life from his birth place Negele-borenato Awassa, from Kulukonta to Piazza in Addis Ababa, from the warmth of Harar to the deserts of Yemen and Saudi Arabia... Born in the late 60s in the southern rural part of Ethiopia, Abiy’s extraordinary story tells unfortunate life of a child born in an uneducated & extremely conservative family and raised in a society that seemed to unconditionally reject him for what he his.A difficult child hood described as one filled with days almost entirely of suffering, anguish, torment and sorrow followed by a life of pure and utter misery. Well in all honesty; this alone by no means would have made his life so eccentric as to be worthy of a print to be read by millions, for a life of hardship is not at all scarce for an Ethiopian. But, along with the ups and downs of Abiy’s difficultchildhood, he described how he discovered his homosexuality at an early age which according to him shaped literally every aspect of his lifeto the present day,2003(EC)
Even though his sexuality was never known by his parents as such, it still by no means guaranteed him a good safeupbringing .His own words suggest that his family seemed to continually punish him not just for the usual mishaps a child might get a stick or two, but for being what he was. For being different!He reckons that being gay was the cause of a wretched life for perpetuity. He talks of having to run away from his parents who cruelly tortured and maltreated him for every menial excuse and most of all to rid him of the evil fixation (homosexuality) he had developed over the years. But despite all the optimism to restarting a new,’ clean life’,it was not long before as he says ‘he found himself serving his evil master, engaging in gay sex and even worse engaged in the business of prostitution.Further on, the later chapter of his life takes a turn for the worst as he is diagnosed with HIV and loses all hope. He reaffirms once again that his sexuality /zegarescindable punishment for life. Hoping to cleanse himself of it once and for all, yet again he embarks on a journey away from his old life only to be back where he set out from in no time.Well I was not surprised for no matter how unwise i am,i had long ago learnt one crucial lesson in life quite a while ago…One can never alter or run away from themselves no matter what!
My o my … One true page turner story got me glued on to this tiny book thingy like no other till the very last page. Busy digesting thoughts and analysing what I took in while at the same time construing through. Normally, I would try and envisage some form of ending for a story I am reading which would delight me if it turns out to have some form of resemblance to what I would be left with after reading through to the very last page. But in this case, I had no prior reference to compare to. hence did not have any clue what to expect let alone predict a plausible conclusion
In my first read, once turning page 244 of what felt like 50, after about two and a half hours and Three cups of tea, and realizing that it was actually all over, my mind went numb for a while and I can safely say that there was literally not a trickle of thought impulse taking place in me what so ever.I Put on my coat and went out for a smoke not daring to be the one to have to trigger a spark of notion in my little yet always busy brain which rarely resembles a thought vacuum.What was I expecting, When I went ahead and placed an order for a book titled ‘’Yesedom Nefsat’’ and waited for what seemed like an eternity to get my hands on it, running to the door every time I heard the letter box flap. What was I expecting when I laid my eyes on a picture of a red bloodied eye close-up alongside a Semi cuffed man with hands dangling out as if lifeless? What was I expecting when I read the message for the likes of me, supposedly suffering in the agony of homosexuality…? I have no idea and yet I seemed to have gotten the shock of my life that my system was somehow rendered inert ‘incapable of entertaining even the tiniest of thoughts.
Short fag walk turned to a trip to the pub and it was not before a pint that I kind of came around and realized what just happened, but it’s a Thursday, a week day. I had broken one of my most sacred self-set out rules; I should never drink on a week day even if it was my birthday! Deary me… I got up but kept my head down and headed to the door
Once settling down, I realized that the book had achieved his objective in gripping readers tight with the grimmest of tells. Maybe it was the writer/publisher. Whoever actually wrote and compiled the book had accomplished whatever it was that they set out to attain. I could only wonder might bear ultimate responsibility of the entire contents of the book. But at the end of the day, Abiye’ (Eliana) was the one who evoked such indescribable distress in me. I didn’t for a moment up on reading through presume that it may all be lie and I still don’t. For, some very personal parts especially during Abiy’s child hood, I myself could relate to in a way. But then again no matter how long and hard I tried, I could not come up with a plausible explanation as to why someone would want tonegate their own principles, repudiate their own words and disprove their theories as I could clearly see Abiy do.
Why did Abiy; a gay man who’d be best suited to argue the realities of gay nature and the fact that it is never a choice & addiction but an inborn nature or perhaps even raise just about every issue faced by an individual like himself, choose to use the gripping power of his life experience to advance the ill-informed dogma retained by the millions of homophobe Ethiopians who inadvertently, unintentionally or deliberately claim that homosexuality is a wicked vice onechoses to engage in.
Absolute baloney! Being gay/zega is by no means a choice neither is it immoral. It is a phenomenon innate feature that can never be washed off or escaped from’ not that one might ever want and need to.Why then did a homosexual who due to very unfortunate circumstances in life engage in prostitution and contracted a deadly virus decide to blame his sexuality as the source of what he believes is a ‘punishment’ brought up on him?
Why on earth did he go to the extreme of alarming the nation of Ethiopia against threat to the society of an impending homo invasion of some sort?
Why, why, why….?
This being probably the only book of its kind ever published in Ethiopia, it certainly would have come in handy for all bigoted Habeshahomophobes to support their inhumane misconceptions about gay individuals and homosexuality in general. And I have no doubt that he is aware of this fact. Whatever reason got him to do this and agree to have his very cherished memories be twisted and distorted to fulfil the evilintentions of organizations likelife United For Life ,I would notwant to contemplate. But I am truly perplexed how he never thought of the real consequences this might have on readers for whom it really matters; a teen realizing their sexuality and in the hope of trying to make sense of it all, perhaps ending up reading this dreadful story. Queers up and down the nation who live on the verge of suicide’ with no one to talk to and no resources what so ever to at least reassure them that they are not alone and their nature is perfectly normal. All my brethren Habesha Zegas whose day and night is a living hell. Is a’ ’doomed life from beginning to end’’ what he thinks they are all destined for? I would never have thought not one sane human would ever live with his conscious after trading everything they are for whatever it is that he desired to achieve…
Well to my surprise, after a few hours of deliberation & careful analysis, I guess everything kind of started to make sense and I was finally able to take a break and weigh up the circumstances especially after trying to place myself in his shoes.I needed to try and imagine the level of pain and suffering he endured, physical and emotional agony he went through to this very day due to unfortunate family background and circumstances that followed. He was done injustice all his life and abandoned to deal with the it all’ alone. I guess it is just natural for him to deduce that ’what he is’ which he was made to believe was ’the mother of wrongs’ all his life; might be the ultimate cause of his suffering. And given his health status which obviously is the result of his prior sexual encounters, unprotected once to be precise. It all kind of ads up.
Now all the pieces get shape and make even more sense when considering the fact that at the end of the day, when he thought he’d reached the very end, there had to be hands put forward to help him get on his feet and those hands while helping him a great deal also used him to serve their purpose& advance their wicked ideologies.once again, I have no doubt that every bit of Aby’s story in the book is true, but I am just as sure that the organizations who helped him publish this book made sure that they told their own story And passed a stern message/warning to whoever might get their hands on it: ‘homosexuality is evil & Un-Ethiopian’’.Clear evidence of this being a detailed description of ‘United for life’s work in the last 2-3 years campaigning frantically for a clear constitutional ban and harsher punishment of those convicted of Homosexual offences in Ethiopia.In a move widely welcomed, United for life had organized a gathering of all major religious sects in the nation who witnessed among other presentations, an utterly horrid DVD made almost entirely of fabricated facts & statistics prepared by the same organization describing in detail countless reasons why homosexuality should be unconditionally denounced and condemned. The outcome was a unanimous decision and a statement from the panel urging the government for a constitutional ban in addition to the already existing mention in the criminal code.
Well, no matter how much I tried to see where he’s coming from’ so to say and come to terms with all of it, It just never happened. For a part of me knew I had to do something for my conscious sake,
Hence I decided to have my say perhaps with a brief…
Message to አብይ (ኤሊያና)
First and foremost, I would like to thank you for your initiative and unparalleled bravery in going the extra mile to share your story. I am aware of all the worries and fear of reprisals you mentioned once the book gets published and word gets around. To come over all your apprehensions and as you said ‘Risk your life for a worthy cause’ is indeed inspirational.
I have read your book quite a few times, pedantically…Once I stumbled up on what I thought was a truly uncanny& repugnant title for a book yet found it very personal, there was no going back!But unfortunately, no matter how meticulously I examined your wordsin the hope of finding that one vital part I had somehow missed ,the part that would make the book worth the trouble trying to get a hold of, Iwas left with evermounting confusion & ambiguity. You might ask where? Well, right from the very beginning. From the very title and even more so right from the ‘to all those suffering in homosexuality’message thingy! For it is rather trivial to argue whether homosexuality (beingZega) is ever a disease or ailment of any kind that one could possibly suffer from. Though awfully distressing it is that this is actually a print in the present day and age we are living in, I believe that I needn’t say any more about this message and so I will go right in to the story and mention a few among many’ misleading and untrue facts, extremely nauseating reasoning, repulsive rationalization & stomach-churning interpretation of Homosexuality and gay life in general enumerated more or less as a justification for the unfortunate circumstances you happened to find yourself in be it as a result of dreadful childhood, lack of emotional support & guidance or simply due to wrong choices in life.
Not to negate or criticize you but in the hope that readers might have a basis up on which to have their own take and perhaps raise awareness in general. Even though in my view, the issue you claim to raise awareness of has only so little to do with real universal issues relating the majority of the LGBT community.
The acknowledgements section emphasizes the fact that you worried about Friends, family & relatives that never knew of your sexuality finding out the truth from the book; naturally. And also of others in general who might somehow see this as some sort of stain on a supposedly clean and pure Ethiopian culture free of all immoral western behaviour. Understandable as well. But you went on to say that you are also’ worried that it might somehow entice people in to a homosexual life’ .That for me was every bit absurd! For even as you and the likes of you claim, if homosexuality was a choice, then not even a single sane human in their right mind would ever choose to be one after reading what you wrote. You did not glorify but demonize it; you misquoted and misinterpreted everything about it, every bit of it. You said Gay sexual encounters were nothing more than an unnatural act of mutual anal violation for a matter of minutes. Painful every bit’ only to be followed by excruciating physical agony, incessant bleeding and so on…well you know whatAbiy;Had what you say been true, I doubt there would ever have existed an instance of gay sex on planet earth.
Moreover, what ever one gets up to in their own privacy is purely personal and though you tried to paint the most horrific of pictures as versions of your sexual experience, I think you for a moment sound like the average Ethiopian homophobe who has not a clue what being gay actually is but assumes that it is all and only about anal sex and no more, Typical! Last thing I would ever expect from a Zega. I can safely say that just about every Zega agrees that this is never the case, in fact totally untrue…Though sex is a necessity and perhaps a crucial part of life, it is not what life is all about irrespective of one’s sexuality.hence why we humans are way more developed of all animals. I have never personally considered anal sex to be a crucial facet of my sexuality. For me; love, friendship & companionship, comforting a loved one, putting a slime on a partners face and being there for each other and countless other mannerisms have values too precious and pleasing but perhaps in a different way than sex’ be it anal, oral or any kind for that matter.
Who said a good old chat over a bottle of wine on a sunny afternoon can’t be just as orgasmic…Besides, you know very well that same sex relationships are made of very similar trials and tribulations encountered by that of opposite sex ones. True love, lust and even the concept of soul -mate are also few among many tangible features. A distinct embodiment of this in your own story being the fondness you developed for Davis and the jealousy that burned through you evoking a surge of confidence to confront him after learning his interest in someone else. And best of all, your teenage relationship with Yonatan; confiding in each other as you did at a time when no one else seemed to care and bathing your selves in a fountain of joy. Helping each other bring balance in life and get through hard times.Well that, which you would never trade for all in the world is what true love is and it didn’t make it any less treasured for you and Yonatan were of the same sex, now did it? It was not just about anal sex nor was it anything to do with anything other than pure mutual fascination. .You did not need to engage in hard core anal intercourse to consummate your love. Neither of you needed to entice & coerce or force the other into doing anything uncomfortable.
You didn’t need guidance for the spark to blaze afire. It was all very human, very natural…
After reading about your early child hood relationships and encounters in various rural parts of Ethiopia which are nothing like those of someone like me born and raised in the heart of Sheger, I really hoped there would be more of you, The real Abiy (Eliana).But then again, that would have meant that this book would probably never have been published.If It was to come in to being, It needed to serve a purpose, It needed to shock and disgust, patronize and warn…. raise a brother on his brother.
It needed to spread hate in the name of common good!
Hence’ the part of your story as a sex worker in Addis which ultimately resulted in you contracting HIV virus. Very unfortunate, I was truly sad to see how you might have lost all your enthusiasm and the will to live at all. But then again I was very delighted that you finally got yourself together, faced the facts and turned your life around for the better. Most of all, I felt It is truly remarkable that you decided to shareyour experience in the hope that it might help as a platform up on which to discuss the whole phenomenon of homosexuality in Ethiopia which is rather unmentionable in just about every sector of our society. It will hopefully also help raise awareness regarding practice of safe sex and perhaps bring much needed help to men and women engaged in the sex trade business.
My main problem was your clear inclination to blaming homosexuality for being the source of misfortune and mishap in your life. Not just as being thereason why you were treated differently from early childhood to the present day by just about everyone around you around you, but alsoas the reason why you believe god might have brought his wrath up on you..…In the form of actual physical pain and suffering, and mental distress.
To begin with, you mentioned quite a few times that you enjoyed being forced, over powered and even beaten before and during sex and that obviously might have resulted in physical injuries but that has got nothing to do with your sexuality but is purely the result of your own personal mania and also your partner’s actions. And all of this might have been avoided had you been able to access some form of advice or counselling. You told of severe corporal punishment almost regularly from a very early age and you could have somehow gotten used to pain to an extent that you associated it with pleasure while at the sametime taking it perhaps as a punishment to engaging in what you were raised up to believe to be utterly unacceptable. This I say purely in comparison to my own personal experience… after all, Not very long ago, I hated myself just as much for being what I am.I prayed relentlessly to get an answer as to why I was created to be gay and like you mentioned doing with Yonatan, I asked god day in and day out to heal me, to make me normal, to correct me...but there came no reply. Just like you, I was disappointed to an extent that I planned to abandon my faith. But god truly works in mysterious ways and even though I was rather obtuse to understand it, he had long ago answered my prayers. There was never anything wrong with me…For I am his child and I believe that he created me. If anyone wants to insult my nature, then they are insulting his work. Perhaps that is what you failed to realize too, god never punished or abandoned you, he did answer your request.
I had opted to never engage in an argument on the subject of religion and homosexuality for I it is almost always bound to be fruitless. And besides, religious principles and interpretation of the bible are highly dependent of various factors. Your devious effort to justify your statements by quoting and misinterpreting a number of verses off the bible was rather vain. You ascertained that various chapters of the Old Testament condemned homosexuality and predestined gays for the ultimate punishment in the afterlife. Fair enough, those chapters do indeed exist. But, do you know how many individual laws & decrees are enlisted in the Old Testament that are unequivocally inapplicable just about to every individual anywhere on earth. It clearly states that children should be put to death for misbehaving, and those who are engage in adultery to be stoned, And so on…Well, why are these commands not treasured and observed as being holly words just as much as those that speak of homosexuality???
If you rid yourself of the fundamental Habesha culture of accepting what others bestow up on you from childhood to be the absolute truth and ever flawless, then you would ask similar questions in life. And perhaps search for the answers. If as you claim you are a good Christian now, then you would not just accept what other earthy beings tell you are the correct interpretations of Christian values and the holy bible. But that is exactly what you did. And what all who spread hatred and animosity in the name of religion continue to do. Surprisingly, it is seldom hard for many to take this lesson to heart and Hate, discriminate, persecute and punish.But, what if that what you accepted to assume to be evil of evils’ is you yourself, are you still going to practice what you preach? Rather impractical!Unless like what you tried to do, you try and change yourself. Alter your very nature.
Well, once again I would have thought you to be very best suited to argue that this is absolutely impossible taking in to account how many times you mentioned of Zega friends falling ill & even taking their own lives unable to come to terms with themselves. And also considering the fact that you have lived all your life trying to literally run away from yourself, abstain from earthly deeds and even live in a monastery on a daily dose of holly water in the hope of being healed only to realize that it was all in vain. It didn’t work for what it was not achievable in the first place. Nature is perfect and so are all its creations. Including us; Black or white, tall or short, straight or gay…we are all what we are and we are all perfect, just the way we are!
Truly gobsmacked I was to read the final chapters of your book entertaining homophobia from a very different perspective. A rather ludicrous one to be honest. You mentioned that ‘In the past, Homosexuality was listed as a mental illness in international medical standards and laws but was later excluded from such classification due to development of human rights. Which you said has led to many gays confidently citing this fact as justification of the virtuousness of their lifestyle.I guess now is when I actually run out of words. I thought, What if one was to actually set out to list such laws, rules, standards, classifications, etiquettes, protocols and the likethat were at some point in the past considered appropriate but were later in time annulled. Be it due to social evolution, advancement of basic human rights or as a result of fundamental common sense & realismprevailing. I cannot even begin to imagine where the list would end. Now, in all honesty, never in my existence have I encountered reasoning where an argument is based on the fact that something was deemed immoral at some point in history.Yet you or the publishers somehow thought it might be worth mentioning along with countless other inane & shallow viewpoints.
Well Abiye, I guess I could go on infinitely for I was truly disappointed after reading your book. It is against me and all my values regarding my sexuality. I am a proud Zega and I dream of an Ethiopia free of discrimination and prejudice. I endeavour in every means possible to help bring about a change of attitude in our society so that someday we, LGBT individuals from across the nation can live freely and be accepted for who we are. I do not expect a reply but you are more than welcome if you want to get in touch. I hope that you read my message and realize that you personally or who ever used your name to advance their principles have caused a great deal of emotional distress in me and probably many, many brethren Zegas …best of luck
Is Homosexuality un-African?
Fri 1 April,2011
In the past, Various viewpoints based on the fact that Colonial era followed by globalization brought numerous cultures, language, attitude, life style and the like... to Africa have been put forward to class certain features of the current African way of life as foreign, imposed up on our fathers and us whether beneficial to society at large or not. And even though this by no means takes in to account the fact that Culture is dynamic and ever changing by itself, it also lacks plausible reasoning and tangible evidence to pinpoint the actual transfer in time of this certain aspect of culture that otherwise never existed in its entirety prior to that very period in history.
Among others ,homosexuality and the issue of it being part of African culture has been a dividing topic in almost every nation throughout the continent but almost never raised until very recently when human rights organizations and various pro-gay groups gathered pace and pressed for an end to criminalization of homosexual relationships and also better protection to LGBT individuals continually at risk even in countries like south Africa that allege to have put forward laws to do so.
In the aftermath of the cold blooded murder of Uganda’s prominent gay rights activist David Kato, the world’s media seemed to have awoken to the plight of LGBT individuals up and down the continent who are stripped of their basic human right, prosecuted and punished for their very nature. All mainly because homosexuality is thought to be purely western. A life style by choice and not in the nature of an African.
A few documentaries helped shed light on the issue mostly as seen in the eyes of westerners who travelled to have first-hand experience only to be even more perplexed as to why people would be persecuted and even killed for something that is very easily taken for granted in the west. Well known gay Radio DJ scot mils’ trip to Uganda saw him get the shock of his life witnessing an indescribably harsh existence LGBT individuals have to endure and even faced the risk of being arrested himself after revealing his sexuality mid interview to Ugandan MP David Bahati who is behind the country’s proposed Anti-gay bill.
In my opinion, though such programs would undoubtedly help shed light on the issue to outsiders, they don’t do much in the form of getting Actual Africans themselves to raise the issue in civilized discussions and perhaps in paving the way for laws to be made and implemented with better consideration. But much to the amazement of many, the BBC world service in Johannesburg hosted an interesting debate on the issue not like anything seen in the past.
The short debate had a very narrow panel representation despite a title ‘Is homosexuality African’, a subject with largely very extreme points of view in different cultures of different nations. And I would also have like it to be much longer than what felt like the shortest hour on telly due to the very interesting and at times hard to believe views on the issue witnessed. Rather Mediocre ones from supposedly educated people like MP Bahati who claimed Homosexuality is threatening Africa’s population growth to enlightening and inspiring thoughts from Eusbius Kaiser, a Writer and Philosophy lecturer at Wits University in South Africa who is also gay. I went back over and over his closing statement which among other things pointed out the fact that Homosexual relationships are by no means a perverted deviant interaction among two individuals of the same sex as is thought to be by many but rather an intertwining of two humanly souls in love prone to the same trials and tribulations faced by hetero sexual relationships.
What I thought was a truly crucial point despite all was also that almost everyone who tried to argue that homosexuality is un- African tried to get their points across by raising the fact that a standard family consisting children would not be attainable and that they themselves who have so many children would not have had any’ had they been in such relationships. A baseless argument in its entirety in that it deduces homosexuals as being unable to procreate at all and also oblivious to a very important fact which is that the question of is homosexuality African or not is by no means is to say as should every African be one or not! There have been for generations and will always be heterosexuals most probably in many folds majority as there will be homosexuals.
Here is a link to the full debate divided in four parts.
In october 1999 the bbc published a report titled ''Homosexuality;Is it un-African?''
which saw overwhelming reactions from africans at home and in the west condemning homosexuality and asserting the fact that it is not and never will be African.almost a decade on,I wander how much'If any has changed in peoples attitudes interms of realizing equality and accepting one's sexual orientation/identity with out prejudice.
By Selam(ሰላም) & B.T
Special thanks to Joe Bell of Southwark LGBT Forum
Saturday 26 Feb,2011
The one and only activity i engage in almost at all times' be it for work,study or entertainment being reading,I spend hours and hours almost every day ; On the move or stationary even while sat on the throne answering the call of nature...i strive to satisfy my insatiable craving for knowledge in the form of words,sentences and pages.Every time i come across something interesting and read it; repeatedly if necessary,i get some kind of indescribable kick and a surge of satisfaction quickly replaced by a desire to read further ' discover even more...A never ending yet never tiring cycle takes me through time,to places I'd never get to see, and in to the minds of great people I'd not have the honor of meeting otherwise.
Usually, at the end of along day I put my book away and tend to retire with a cup of tea and a DVD i would have picked up earlier.And my favorite genres almost unchanged since childhood being the likes of Epics,Sci Fi,drama,romance and true stories,i seldom need to look hard to find some thing good...until now that is.
I was recently recommended a television film by Russel Mulcahy an Aussie director well known for his Elton john video clips.After reading an enticing review and witnessing lengthy discussions on a few gay forums,I decided to give it a try but unfortunately, even though i scoured every store in and around my home city ,not many people seemed to have even heard of it.frustrated but too stubborn to give in,I looked for the title that sounded too personal to ignore' at every window of opportunity. My determination paid off at last and i was able to get my hands on a blue ray copy at a small LGBT library/centre and couldn't wait till evening to snuggle up and see if it was all worth the trouble.
Prayers for Bobby
Ryan Kelly( Heart stoppingly gorgeous ) plays Bobby Griffith in Prayers for Bobby, true story of a young gay man driven to suicide mainly due to his mothers religious intolerance.
To describe this story as Gripping and extremely saddening would be an out right understatement.Let me put this way; i have watched some really moving emotional stories and perhaps even been covered with goose bumps all over quite a few times but never experienced such an intense sublime feeling bubbling with in me not just immediately after wards but surprisingly almost every time i think of it' to this very day. I would not want to be a spoiler and tell the whole movie from start to finish which I would have been delighted to, but will rather mention few bits in the hope that readers watch and have their own take on it.
Bobby Griffith grew up as the innocent, happy and intelligent all-American boy with an obedient and gentle spirit. But as he grew into adolescence he discovered that he was attracted to other teenage boys his age or older and not girls. And because Bobby was raised as a devout Christian and was taught that being gay was one of the worst sins imaginable, he believed that he was defective, that he was going to burn in hell for eternity and that he was unworthy of God’s love. He was very aware of his church’s teachings because he was active in his local church along with his brother, 2 sisters and mother, Mary, who taught Sunday school.
The movie begins at a stage where bobby was growing in to adolescence but just before his outing. A happy and close 'very typical christian family. Things are completely changed though as bobby comes out to his brother and once the whole family became aware ,every single day became a living hell for the young man who was never to be accepted for what he is but despised,ridiculed and scorned... administered a cleansing regime to rid him of his ailment. His mother ,Mary blinded by the teachings of hate and discrimination was convinced that this was just a 'thing' he came across guided by the devil and would not leave a single stone unturned before her son was healed. She set about trying to save her son of the punishment he might face in the after life in part but also her self of the shame and hate her family would probably have to endure.her absolute dedication to religious teachings of the bible mattered to an extent that she would try to change her son's sexuality weather it made or broke him. But despite all, she didn't succeed and saw her son move away to another city to live life as he was meant to be.
Even though a it seemed the right decision to get away from it all, the damage had been done long before .. Bobby was hated and rejected by almost every one he loved most and abandoned to deal with unbearable stress by him self. He was literally pushed over the edge for what he knew was not something he learned or became but was what he was created as.
The pure and innocent young man that many would later realize was a kind,loving soul who would never hurt any one;was hurt beyond repair and forced to take his own life.
As is the case most of the time,the funeral ceremony was lead by an inconsiderate homophobe who was supposedly 'man of god',yet went on preaching hate and misinterpreting religious teachings ,manipulating verses in his own favor to prove his point that homosexuality is the greatest sin of sins.unbelievable as it may seem.almost every one sat silently as the minister blamed an ungodly life style bobby followed which lead him to lose his life.
It did not take very long for most who knew bobby though to open their eyes and realize that it was others and not him that had a problem with what he was' and his mother was no exception. Infact she knew him very much better than any body else in his short lived life and conceded she was wrong in thinking he learned what he became.Assisted by a minister at an LGBT centre, she began realizing the fact that the bible was written by mortal human beings and interpretations were almost entirely reflections of the the time in which they lived . ''Blind faith is just as dangerous as none at all'' as he put it beautifully. he helped her realize that questioning faith is not at all blasphemes but probably the best means of finding a deeper one.
Up on reading a number of passages in the old testament,she realized that many actions of various of individuals in society that are seldom thought of as a problem at present would have resulted in severe punishment during earlier times.she breaks down unable to fatom what level of pain her son must have endured to an extent that he ceased going to church for he thought he was not worthy of God.
Finally ,Mary succumbed to the very fact that she had been oblivious to' since the beginning and said in her own words;''My son was different,his difference began in conception,I knew that ,I felt it ...I know now why god didn't heal Bobby,he didn't heal him because there was nothing wrong with him!!!'
Mary Griffith finally comes to terms with her loss and goes on to become an iconic gay rights activist and a active meember of the national association PFLAG,(parents and friends of lesbians and gays) urging parents to understand and accept their children's homosexuality.In all honesty,her extraordinary conversion touched me as deeply as the tale of Bobby's tragic death. What enabled her to transcend her background and perform what could only be described as acts of courage. Distant as is may seem to many,I and probably almost every Lesbian or Gay Ethiopian could see a stark similarity of the immense loneliness we must must have experienced with that of Bobby's ,at one stage or another.Most of us being from a very religious household and surrounding means that we have to go through the same level of emotional distress and intense internal conflict but,stories like this give us the strength to hang on, the will power to keep going and not give up on love.
I urge every one to watch the full movie in the hope that it might help shed light on a few among many intriguing questions one may have,regarding the issue of homosexuality & religion from varying perspectives.
On a sunny Friday afternoon in the village of Nakawala in Mukono district, 40km (about 25 miles) from Kampala,hundreds of people - friends, family, colleagues and diplomats gathered to attend the funeral of a fallen hero.Courageous,brave and possibly Uganda's most out spoken gay rights activist to date-David Kato.He was savagely bludgeoned to death with a hammer on Wednesday at his residence in Kampala.
Mr kato who is openly homosexual first came to media attention after a local news paper'Rolling stone' published his picture on the front page along with full names and addresses of up to a 100 gay & lesbian individuals in Uganda and called for them to be hanged' in October last year.
Since then,In spite of countless death threats ,David had managed to win a case against the paper at the high court and further publishing was banned.This was a truly remarkable achievement for the LGBT community there and would have been a step forward in changing the colonial time laws in the country which still criminalize homosexuality there by inciting the general public at large to discriminate and even physically attack gays.But unfortunately that was not the case and homophobia still remains a very natural practice in Uganda to this very day.
I was extremely saddened up on hearing the news at first on a midnight world news report and spent the whole night drifting from one thought to another, trying to fathom the level of courage and personal strength David must have possessed to have kept going..fighting for what he believed in. After tossing and turning unable to get a shut eye i decided to get out of bed before the crack of dawn and follow up on the news.Naturally,I wanted the assailant to face justice but most of all i really wanted to hear what measures would be taken against the publishers of the Rolling stone who undoubtedly played a major role in David's death.
In for a Shock....
When questioned by the media about the apparent murder,Rolling Stone editor Giles Muhame said,
''I condemn the murder and our paper had not wanted gays to be attacked.There has been a lot of crime, it may not be because he is gay,". he also added ''we want gays and people who promote homosexuality not to be attacked or killed but to be hanged." Mind you,these are the exact words of a supposedly educated journalist running a free medium of information reaching millions across the country.
The sad truth is that such statements are by no means out of the ordinary in a nation whose law makers come up with unbelievably inhumane proposals to prosecute gays and lesbians.In an interview with the BBC just over a year ago about LGBT life in the country ,David him self had told how he was repeatedly assaulted leaving him with many scars. He also said ''people are not attacking us because they want to but because the policy makers incite them''. The policy makers,who are given the power to rule by the people choose to raise some against others' instead of protecting the vulnerable ,they facilitate discrimination and preach hate!
If any thing is to be done about the situation in Uganda or any African nation for that matter, it should begin by changing the out dated colonial era laws and the views of brainwashed homophobic leaders.
western nations should exert at most pressure to bring about change and unconditional human right for all rather than just providing refugee protection to the very few who are fortunate enough to have escaped alive.
Among many,U.S secretary of state Hillary Clinton's statement outlined similar notes but i strongly believe that almost nothing has been done by developed nations around the world to protect the very human rights of LGBT individual across Africa and prevent the loss of lives of treasured souls like David ,in vain.
David Kato who was described by one member of his Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug) group as ''a teacher and a friend'' died doing what he believed in and no matter how troubled his life had been he will remain a hero in the hearts of many which was evident at the unforeseen turn out of the Ugandan LGBT individuals and supporters at his funeral. And even though most came along to celebrate his remarkable life and mourn his death some had other ideas among which was the Pasteur 'bestowed with the task of leading the ceremony. To the shock of many, the ''man of god'' lashed out at homosexuality and advised all gays to repent provoking a strong reaction from friends of Kato who stormed the pulpit and grabbed the microphone unable to sit and watch their beloved friend be insulted rather than praised for his remarkable achievements. The pastor shouted 'it's ungodly'' while being ushered away. ''only god can judge us'' was a response from a female activist who shouted out loud courageously.Never mind his personal believes and wrong interpretations of the holly word but,had he been a true follower the lord,he would not have dared to judge for if any one was to judge then it would be only the creator.
here is a link to the disrupted burial ceremony http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruT1zswRVAU.
MR Kato's cold blooded murder surely helped raise awareness about the extremely difficult conditions LGBT individuals live through in Uganda but the harsh truth is that the situation is similar,if not worse in many nations up and down the continent. The strength and Unity of Ugandan lesbians helped the story get world wide media coverage but in many countries like Ethiopia,such matters would never get any' given the government unconditionally controls and sensors flow of information at all times.It was not long ago that after a campaign started by Benin,representatives of 79 nations around the world voted in favor of an
amendment to remove sexual orientation from the resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions at the UN gathering only for the bill to be reinstated after a U-turn vote from some following a considerable pressure mainly from the US.
Here is the full list dominated by supposedly democratic African and few Arab nations who originally voted and nearly succeeded in removing a crucial UN resolution for human right.
Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brunei Dar-Sala, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
No one really knows how many such lives have been taken and will continue to be in all these places ...but the truth ,it would be just another statistics
One way or another ,No life should be lost unnecessarily no matter what.
After all,If a human being dies ,it's a tragedy...but if a million die,then its just a number!!
David Kato- interview on the bill proposed by members of parliament of Uganda regarding criminalization of homosexuality
Love me for me
A couple of weeks back' Gareth Thomas,a former welsh rugby star told how he persistently prayed to be come straight while on Elen DeGeneres show.Currently divorced, he came out about a year ago and still remains the only out gay professional rugby player.
He told what lengths he went to to hide his homosexuality and lead what others perceive to be a'' normal life''.
“I became the master of playing the straight bat,” he told DeGeneres. “I would go to bars with the boys, I would always be the one to start a fight, to be outrageous and drink the most.“I even went to the extreme of marrying the perfect woman for me.“I remember I used to go to the church we were due to get married in and I would sit there in the graveyard and look up to the steeple..clench my hands and close my eyes as tight as I could and pray to be straight.”
After realising his true and unalterable nature he came out ,first to his wife and then his parents.one can only imagine the intensity of internal conflict,pain and utter misery he must have endured over the years.And the truth is,this is almost exactly what most if not all LGBT individuals like my self go through.needless to say some even don't live to a peace full ending but unable to with stand the pressure ,choose to end it all.
I always wondered what life would be like to come out freely and never have to worry about repercussions and most of all , be accepted for who i am by all those i love and treasure.Most would assume that it would be better kept a secret than to tell ones sexuality and hurt family and friends. But true love is never conditional, and who ever loves me for who i am should never have a second thought for my sexual preference is not necessarily the same as theirs.
I did pray to be straight every night before i went to bed and just like Gareth,i did all the things a straight male would normally be associated with.I loved fights for i thought i would be less of a man other wise.I took part in every sport i possibly could and to my surprise i almost always turned out to do way better than most ; the macho & manly straight ones. And even though all that probably reassured people of my sexuality whom might have , from my general appearance ,had doubts ' it became among many things a lesson in life,for me.
A lesson to be learned the hard way..I was no less of a man(male) and my sexuality is nothing but just another trait i was born with among many..many...I was drawn and could relate to Gareth's story in way and felt there is a lesson to be learnt for others who might be going through a similar situation.
Here is the full video of Gareth's appearance on Ellen DeGeneres show-courtesy Pink news
80 Languages,200 dialects ..yet no place for a bit of Polari..
Monday,6 Dec 2010
Polari was name given to a gay slang derivative language mainly used by the underground gay community in the 1960s britain.As implied by the past form,its is no longer in use and no actual data is available to estimate its survival mainly due to decline in the need for a secret subculture code with the legalization of adult homosexual relationships in England and Wales in 1967.Polari was used in London fish markets, the theatre, and fairgrounds and circuses, hence the many borrowings from Romany. As many gay men worked in theatrical entertainment it was also used amongst the gay subculture, at a time when homosexual acts were illegal, to disguise homosexual activity from hostile outsiders and undercover policemen. It was also used extensively in the Navy, where many gay men joined cruise ships as waiters, stewards and entertainers.On one hand, it would be used as a means of cover, to allow gay subjects to be discussed aloud without being understood; on the other hand, it was also used by some, particularly the most visibly camp and effeminate, as a further way of asserting their identity.
The almost identical parlyaree has been spoken in fairgrounds since at least the 17th century and continues to be used by show travellers in England and Scotland. As theatrical booths, circus acts and menageries were once a common part of European fairs it is likely that the roots of Polari/Parlyaree lie in the period before both theatre and circus became independent of the fairgrounds. The Parlyaree spoken on fairgrounds tends to borrow much more from Romany, as well as other languages spoken by travelling people, such as cant and back slang.
Polari itself was never clearly defined: an ever-changing collection of slang from various sources including Italian, English (backwards slang, rhyming slang), circus slang, canal-speak, Yiddish and Gypsy languages. It is impossible to tell which slang words are real Polari. Click here for a list of words and their translation.
I was truly mesmerized by what i think was an incredible survival instinct possed by the Gay men and women of the time which lead them to put together and universalize to a scale, a means of communication so as to still be part of a rather conservative society and while maintaining their innate identity.I can imagine that it would have been very gradual and ever changing like any that requires strict exclusivity but I did not at all think it would have been very demanding though.
After all ,who'd better than us gays gets a real kick by playing with words ,and twisting and turing phrases to our liking..and who better to learn a language in a snap.personal experience has learned me that excellent verbal skill is one of the many perks of being queer and I so..luv it(my favorite past time being inventing Nikies( nick names).
In all seriousness,I thought this would be one cool stuff to learn but most importantly,to draw up on for us gay and lesbian ethiopians.Our societies attitudes to wards homosexuality being what it is, and with the unchangeable fact of our existance being ever so unacceptable to the regular abebe and alemitu ,this kind of means could really come in handy. but even though we all know the odd one or two phrases we mumble at times, a real communication is literally impossible.And i say it's about time we did something about it.
On the other hand,en route trying to see if there's any recent slangs that might have surfaced since i left Addis.. i also realized a shocking fact that's always been.I searched but absolutely to no avail meanings for the words Lesbian or Gay or any term depicting LGBT in Amharic or any of the major languages. i looked up Merit and all major amharic -english dictionaries both on and of line yet nothing seems to exist.
Surely am aware of the B word but is that it? is that it....That was when i was truly surprised.
Ethiopia has hundreds of languages and countless dialects.Ok,take the case of Amharic;hundreds if not thousand years old and truly complex to learn with over 350 individual alphabets.words as many as the stars in the sky,countless ways and possibilities to describe , that being the case ,it would come as a shock to any fair minded individual to learn that there are none other than one or two despicable derogatory terms for us ethiopian lgbts.I am not at all a language expert but as a native of sheger born and raised right in the center of it,my new word discovery ages are long gone.hence why i am continually puzzled as to how the amharic vocabulary progressed to such degree of complexity and yet it seems to sort of die of when it comes to even the simplest of words that have any thing to do with sexuality and homosexuality in particular.
For me a proud ethiopian.Not so often do i detest so intensely having this so called language for a mother toungue which seems bluntly oblivious of my very existance ! (;-(