|Our safety net is our circle of gays and a small number of heterosexual Ethiopians who understand the existence of the discrimination and admonition it.|
Originally published in
In the living room, a handful of guests are seated on cushions and couches around a small coffee table laden with lemon cakes and potato chips, breaking the ice by sharing stories of their strangest dreams and answering "would you rather" questions read off a deck of cards. " Would you rather your mother was a well-known prostitute or a murderess and only you knew about it?" a girl asked. Leoule blanches, even though the question is not addressed to him. He's played "would you rather" on his birthday before -- specifically, one night two years ago when he decided he'd rather live on the streets than face his abusive parents again.
Domestic violence: A family affair
Originally from Austin, TX, the former UW Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian and Transgender Commission #GBLTC# director grew up in a household where domestic violence was a family affair. His parents were from Ethiopia, where Leoule's grandfather was a government official. His parents moved to Austin before he was born, and his father attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he received a PhD in psychology. Although it is not uncommon for Ethiopian men to hit their wives, Leoule said his father decided to give up the practice after studying the effects of spousal abuse. But the damage had already been done. Instead of growing up in a household where the father was the dominant abusive figure, by the time the family had moved from Austin to Tacoma, his mother had taken to hitting his father. Violence was "all around," he said. As a child, he thought kids in every household were treated that way. " I was a bully in preschool," he said, laughing. "My parents used to pinch me, so I pinched other kids. I thought it was the norm."
An excuse for anger
His parents noticed his high voice when he was young and knew he was "different." " Apparently they knew I was gay before I did," Leoule said, but doesn't show the smile that so frequently appears when he interacts with others. He doesn't think his sexuality altered his childhood, or that his parents picked on him because he was gay. Rather, his sexuality became an excuse for their anger. "[There would have been] domestic violence whether I was gay or straight," he said. As he grew older, the attacks got progressively worse. " My father threatened to take my life," Leoule said emotionlessally, staring far away into the darkness of the night. "My mother threatened to kill me with an ax." It's a story he's told many times before.
The young and the homeless
When Leoule was 18, he enrolled at the UW, commuting from home for two years. His parents wouldn't apply for financial aid, even though Leoule says his family would have qualified. "For them, it was a matter of control." One night, Leoule's mother hit his sister in the face with a wine glass. The injury landed her in the emergency room. For Leoule, it was a wake-up call: his mother was capable of carrying out her threats. He realized he might be next. So like many children who come from homes of domestic violence, Leoule decided he was safer on the streets. He split the night he turned 20. " There's a rule among street kids that if you don't have interaction with a social worker during your first 90 days of being homeless, it's hard to get help and get off the streets," Leoule said. He was lucky -- after making contact with a social worker, he was placed in one of Seattle's transitional housing facilities
Because he was black, gay and homeless, the odds were against him. According to a report by the Seattle Commission on Children and Youth, approximately 40 percent of homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Half say their parents reject them because of their sexual orientation, and 25 percent are forced to leave home because of it. When Leoule began seeking out ways to get back in school, he discovered he was still technically enrolled at the UW. "It was one of the greatest days of my life," he said.
But there was still depression to overcome. At the transitional home, youths move out when they feel they have gotten a handle on their lives. The continuous exodus and influx of new people at the shelter was too much for Leoule to deal with. Depression and suicide are common issues, he said. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that suicide is the leading cause of death among gay and lesbian youth. " Here in the U-District, people have the privilege of staying in shelters," Leoule said. "There was no stability in my life. People would enter and leave every three months."
A fetish for being included
The men in the room fit no stereotype and belong to several ethnic groups. Party guests have moved on from playing "would you rather" to describing their fetishes.
" Soccer men."
" Swimmer boys."
" Being tied up with the entire U.S. men's gymnastics team."
For Leoule, it's a welcome change. Even among gay youth, Leoule said he often felt excluded because of his skin color. "White gay males, their circles are very white," he said. His awareness that his skin color made him different from other gay men made him painfully shy. "I would meet guys on the internet for sex," he said. "But I could never interact with them in person."
Fighting for his rights
Leoule still battles post-traumatic stress. But he's also moved on. As director of the UW GBLTC, he was responsible for generating a storm of publicity about gay rights on campus. He lobbied for gay marriage and helped organize a drag talent competition in the HUB that was so popular it filled the auditorium to capacity and students were turned away. His job has become so popular that although Leoule applied for the position next year, he was not chosen for it. "It was weird, moving from a place where I had no power, to a really powerful position," he said. "People love me or they hate me. Nobody wanted the job last year, and now so many people want [it], I've done my job."
Moving on Leoule Goshu did not tell anyone at Foss High School that he was gay. Now he attends UW and does volunteer work with gay youth.
Leoule's apartment, the biggest in his building, is spotless. The room is lit only by one lamp, with bulbs sprouting in every direction, making it look like an exotic tree. Alongside movie posters, pages featuring GBLTC events from The Daily are tacked to the wall. Music pulsates from someone's laptop, a grounding, driving beat. The guests are eating, drinking, engaged in animated conversations. Every now and then the door opens and someone new walks in to shouted greetings and hugs. Leoule stands at the center of the room, reveling in it all. Later, when everyone who wants to be is good and buzzed, there will be dancing at Neighbors, a popular gay club on Capitol Hill. Finals, the past and the future can wait -- right now, Leoule Goshu is just another college senior enjoying his 22nd birthday party.
The Journey continues..
Leoul's remarkable story continues with an article titled 'Students hope Day of Silence sends message loud and clear' detailing his continued devotion for the advancement of LGBT rights and his active role to achive his dreams of a better future for those in the same boat, while in University.
Source ;Seattle Times
Leoule Goshu did not tell anyone at Foss High School that he was gay. Now he attends UW and does volunteer work with gay youth.
Gym class was just not an option — what if they made fun of the way he walked? And running for student government was too risky — what if they picked apart the way he talked?
He'd seen it all happen before, to boys who weren't even gay.`You're paranoid, you're anxious, you're depressed," said Leoule Goshu, who graduated from Foss High School in Tacoma before telling anyone he was gay. "You don't experience what it's like to be young."
Tens of thousands of students will take a vow of silence tomorrow to call attention to the pressure gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) youth often feel at school to keep their sexuality to themselves. The silence will last for the duration of the school day, with students passing out cards to their teachers that explain their reasons or not speaking.
More than 50 high schools and colleges in Washington, including many in the Puget Sound area, are expected to participate in the ninth annual National Day of Silence — a sign that GLBT youth are more empowered, and organized, than ever before.Despite legal challenges, nearly 2,000 gay/straight student alliances have sprung up nationwide in the past several years, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. And several states, including Washington, have passed anti-bullying laws that include provisions on sexual orientation.
These measures send a clear message that schools must, at the very least, tolerate the presence of GLBT youth. But acceptance is another story."There's a difference between trying to fight for civil rights and public safety and being acknowledged as a human being in your classroom," said Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor at the University of Washington who studies gender and sexuality.Students still get ugly words thrown at them in the hallway: A national school-climate survey by the Gay and Lesbian Education Network last year reported about 84 percent of GLBT youth said they had been verbally harassed with threats or name-calling. And beyond what is being said, there is something else that cuts deep for many GLBT youth: what is not being said.
The silence shows up, in bits and pieces, all over school. In the computer lab, when a filter blocks a student from reaching a gay-rights Web site. Or at a school assembly, where a tolerance lesson includes race, religion, class — but not sexual orientation. Fewer than one-third of GLBT students surveyed in 2001 said they saw the issues in their lives reflected in textbooks, according to the task force. About the same percentage said they could access gay-resource Web sites at school or find GLBT resources in the school library.
When Goshu was in high school, he heard a message in that silence that straight people might not even notice: You do not belong here.He already had heard that message at home. When he was in sixth grade, Goshu said, his father pulled him aside to deliver a warning: If you become a homosexual, I will kill you. The words followed Goshu to high school — and nothing he saw there made him feel any better about being gay. He saw boys and girls holding hands. He saw photographs on teachers' desks of traditional families — a father, a mother, children at their feet.
What he did not see was his life. chwartz said gay students are facing the same "invisibility" in schools that black students faced decades ago. The black community worked to raise awareness of that problem, she said. And part of what resulted was multicultural education, a movement to include people of different cultures and colors in the curriculum. The GLBT community is at the beginning of such a movement, Schwartz said — and there is a long way to go. In some states, such as Alabama, teachers in sex education are required by law to emphasize that "homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public."
Arizona law prohibits any talk of the "possibility of 'safe' homosexual sex." Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi and Utah have similar laws, according to the task force. The American Family Association, a conservative Christian group with more than 2 million members, said it would support an open and balanced discussion in schools on issues such as homosexuality. But spokesman Ed Vitagliano said the group does not want sexual orientation included alongside race and gender in an anti-bullying curriculum.
"They specifically want kids to think homosexuality is normal, natural and healthy," said Vitagliano, who believes gay-rights groups are using the bullying issue to forward an agenda. "It's an opportunity to get sexual orientation on the list of things that are immutable characteristics, like race." But advocates for GLBT youth say these lessons are not about promoting a certain kind of sexuality. The lessons are about protecting students who already are vulnerable and often suffering from rejection at home. Some public-health studies have indicated GLBT youth are at higher risk for suicide and homelessness, depression and substance abuse.
It is a strain to "come out" at any age, advocates say. But for the average teenager, it can be particularly difficult. Children at that age are naturally questioning who they are and whether they are accepted. They are particularly open to messages that parents, teachers and administrators send about what a good person looks like, acts like and feels. So Lisa Love, health-education specialist for the Seattle School District, encourages administrators to hang posters in the hallway that read, "All Families are Welcome," with a sketch of a lesbian couple holding a child's hand. She hands out rainbow "Friendly" stickers to teachers to post on their doors as a sign they are open to talk with children from different backgrounds. "We're heading in the right direction," said Love, who supervises the gay/straight alliances at each of Seattle's high schools. "But kids need to feel accepted in every classroom, in every building, with every person — not just once a week, during lunchtime, behind closed doors."
Working toward that goal, Love trains teachers and administrators how to intervene in any anti-gay harassment they witness. More than 82 percent of GLBT students in the national school-climate survey said teachers either sometimes or never intervened when hearing homophobic remarks. Yet the same survey showed that GLBT students who could identify one supportive staff member were twice as likely to attend college after graduation.For James Broetz, a senior at Newport High in Bellevue, it was his health teacher. Barbara Velategui has taught for decades at the school, serving as gay/straight alliance adviser and introducing all of her students to GLBT issues through annual speakers. This year, she invited Broetz to sit on the panel. And when it was over, he felt nothing but relief. "Off the chest — finally," said Broetz, president of Newport's Gay/Straight Alliance.
He got congratulations from several classmates. And recently, when members wore their alliance sweat shirts for the first time, Broetz said he heard only friendly questions about what the letters "GSA" represented. But Broetz said there is still a lot of work to be done on tolerance at Newport. "I think people are supportive to my face," he said. "But they still kind of skirt around the issue — even the slightest hint of it, and they go on to another topic."
Goshu, now that he is out of high school and living away from home, said he no longer feels so hemmed in by his sexuality. He came out two years ago to his closest childhood friends, who accepted him. Last year, he told his parents, who did not.Goshu is a student at the UW now, feeling free to talk about all parts of his life — from the homelessness he suffered when his parents threw him out, to his volunteer experience at a gay-youth organization. He put it all down recently in an application for a fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University.
Goshu was one of 30 students accepted into the program, which trains students in public policy.
It came as a shock to Goshu, that a prestigious college would accept him despite all that was said in the essay — or possibly because of it. "I think they wanted the whole me," he said.
Persistance+ Determination = Success
UW Canadian Studies Center Welcomes Our New Graduate Staff Researcher and Strategic Partnerships Curriculum Developer Leoule A. Goshu
The University of Washington Canadian Studies Center welcomes Leoule Goshu as our newest Graduate Staff Researcher and Strategic Partnerships Curriculum Developer. Through our Center, Leoule is an ambitious agenda-setter: launching four new Summer 2011 courses, including University of Washington's first queer study abroad/study tour program in Vancouver British Columbia in partnership with Simon Frasier University's Canadian History of Sex and Activism National Academic Conference, College of Arts and Sciences Comparative History of Ideas and University of Washington Q Center administrations. Leoule studies Organizations and Policy: Higher Education Administration with his applied focus on building Canadian interdisciplinary study tours and undergraduate courses partnerships for our center. His research interests include career, student and organizational development.
Prior to joining our center, Leoule Goshu studied at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government on a prestigious Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship. Leoule is grateful for the opportunity to strengthen University of Washington Canadian Studies Center's footprint and global impact.
Leoule's work drew the attention of UW athlete David Kopay, who contributed $1 million to the University of Washington Q Center, the queer community center. He was featured in Advocate Magazine , the University of Washington Daily and represented the University of Washington in the 2007 Seattle Times graduation edition.
He enjoys connecting people with jobs, scholarships, and graduate school opportunities. His passion is to pay it forward and help people live their lives to the fullest.He travels frequently. (His travel hot spots are: New Orleans, Denver, Vancouver, Québec and Montréal). He enjoys queer communities.
Leoule is working on Canada Study Tours for 2011-2012. He welcomes interest from the Canadian Studies Center community. Leoule can be reached at email@example.com.
My name is Amire I’m 28 years old born and raised in Ethiopia I only have 3 brothers I’m the third in the family, I don’t even know how my story would bring me, death or being stoned to death I don’t know, I’m a Muslim but I must admit that many times I have done so much wrong against Islam the same with a lot of my relatives and elders that take Islam seriously.
I don’t know why I’m lesbian, I have always preferred women and I know when they discover this about me anything can happen where ever I go to, but this is what I have gone through and I’m about to flee soon. In 1999 I started communicating with another girl from another country, we had so much to talk and yes it was a mistake to keep some of the letters I received from her, I’m sure you will be surprised that the other girl was also Muslim aged 25.
We really talked about issues regarding us being able to meet and seeing to it that we would never be forced to get married. My father has always been busy travelling all the time and my mother is just a house wife that is very loyal to my father, one time my mum noticed that I received a letter from outside the country, that raised concern but she somehow thought I was trying to find a man to marry me, wrong, this particular letter had things explaining more about lesbians in my friends country and how thy looked at it.
It was so good for me to read about things like these, obviously I would never even attempt to look at a straight porn magazine in shops, its not normal for a girl in Islam country. So I enjoyed reading what she wrote and what I had to imagine, the thing is that my friend had a friend in New York and she would secretly send her magazines about lesbians.
So the next letter I got from her had a cutting in it, it was the first time I ever saw two women playing in that way and knowing that they where lesbians, it really pushed me to want to know more and want to experience it. To be honest we all want to try out things its not about how my culture wants me to be no, its about who I am and that is forbidden in our law, I know I’m lesbian and its not about me being insane I a agree with my religion that yes if they find out about me they should punish me but at the sometime I want to do and enjoy what I want.
Its been a bit hard for my friend too in that she has to try and be discreet about what is going on that side and how she communicates to me, the latest letter I got from her she explained to me to me that they have found a man to marry her and now she does not know how to escape that and how she will manage to do hard thing like having sex with a man, being lesbian I don’t think one would want to go through that experience.
As time went on my side my mother kept on insisting to find out if I was trying to find someone to marry me which I always never wanted to talk about because it was less interesting and I never even imagined having a husband.
Few weeks later my mother went through my letters and found all the letters from my friend and the cuttings she sent me, my mother went ballistic, she was almost collapsing that day my whole world changed to the worst. She did not bother to ask me so what she did was she called her brother and one of her friends to talk about how they would change and punish me. I was called and was told that I was to move in with my uncle who was going to help me change oh no he was instead helping me to dig my own grave and getting all he could for himself.
The entire contents of this story are from the highly valuable and useful Pan-African web site Behind the Mask which has useful information about lgbt related issues in 36 countries on the African continent.
Updated July 2006
A concept of homosexual life in Ethiopia.
I want say much about sexual orientation and in addition to this much more about the circumstances of gay people in terms of the law of the country of Ethiopia as well as culture and religion.
Before this I would like introduce you to you some detail about Ethiopia. Ethiopia as large as France and Spain combined, has an area of 1,235,000 square kilometre about 65 percept of the land is arable, with 15% of presently cultivated. There are two seasons, the dry season prevails from October through May, the wet season runs from June to September. The population is estimated at 55 million, over 50 percent of whom are under 20 years old. The average number of inhabitants per square kilometer in 49.
About topography, Ethiopia has an elevated central plateau varying in height between 2,000 and 3,000 metres. In the north and central parts of the country there are some 25 mountains whose peaks rise over 4,000 metres. The famous Ethiopian river, the Blue Nile, runs a distance of 1,450 Kim from its source in lake tanner, to join the white Nile at Khartoum in Sudan.
About economy of Ethiopia, it is one of the poorest countries in the world; about 90 percent of the population earn their living from the land, mainly as subsistence farmers. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy and the principal export from this sector are coffee, oilseeds, pulses, flowers, vegetable, sugar and food stuffs from animals. There is also a thriving livestock sector, exporting cattle on the hoof and hides as well as skins.
In terms of language and scripture, Ethiopian has got their own alphabetical scripture in addition to a multi-ethnic state with a great variety of languages spoken in the country, of which there are 83 with 200 dialects. The main languages are Amharic, Tigrigna and Oromigna, English is not widely spoken.
There are several religions. The main one is Islam from 50 to 55 percent, Orthodox or Coptic Church makes up 45 to 50 percent, others like, Catholic and Protestant Christians make up 5 to 7 percent of the population.
(Editor's note: In May 2005 the following message was sent to GlobalGayz.com by a reader, seemingly a cleric of a religious organization in Ethiopia.)
"Come this notice from Ethiopian community.we looked your site about Ethiopian gay. This is very nasty. So for now we don't say anything but you have to remove this site within 24 hours otherwise Ethiopian community will find out who posted this site.
"The Ethiopian, who was the first of the Gentiles to receive from Philip by revelation the Mysteries of the Divine Word and was the first to return to his native land and preach the Gospel of the knowledge of God of the Universe and the sojourn of our Savior which gives life to men, so that by him was actually fulfilled the prophecy which says, 'Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands to God' (Ps. 67:31 68).
"The Ethiopian Orthodox Union church, an autonomous Christian Church headed by a patriarch and closely related to the Coptic Church of Egypt, was the state church of Ethiopia until 1974. About 40 percent of the people of Ethiopia are Christians, and Christianity is predominant in the north. All the southern regions have Muslim majorities, who represent about 45 percent of the country's population. The south also contains considerable numbers of animists. Most of the Christian belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, whose 4th Century beginnings came long before Europe accepted Christianity. A further small percentage of the population adheres to traditional and other beliefs, including Judaism. A sect known as Beta Israel or Falashas, who practice a type of Judaism that probably dates back to contact with early Arabian Jews, were airlifted to Israel in 1991 during Ethiopia's civil war. You have to know all this history please." (End of message. The apparent protest had to so with correcting the religious information about Ethiopia rather than with the gay information presented. GlobalGayz responded asking for reactions to the gay material but there was no further reply.)
Now that I have introduced the country I would like to begin my main aim for writing - about gay life or homosexuality in this particular country.
Across Ethiopian or according to most Ethiopians, homosexuality is regarded as a white disease and an inexcusable sin. There are three legal systems in Ethiopia, tribal, religious and state law. Homosexuality or being gay, according to this law, the penalty is often death. So homosexual life is extremely difficult to live openly. Even to mention your sexual orientation is feared. Rural people in Ethiopia don't know about it. If someone knows that you are gay they won't shake your hand; they want you burned in the everlasting flame. I think this is how 98 percent people think.
If you are lucky, God gives you your partner who will have the same sexual identity. But if you are not lucky, you will be suffering mentally and emotionally until you eventually get one of your own.
Do you see how much gay or homosexual life is difficult? I am surprised with one point still now, not one human rights activist from the country or from out side the country ever criticised the government for human rights violations or abuse in terms of minority freedom and rights.
With my last edition I promised to mention about the discrimination against the gays and lesbians and how their rights are violated in Ethiopia.
In Ethiopia this moment many gays and lesbians are living with intimidation and harassment under state, religious, and tribal law. So some of them cannot explore their sexual orientation freely and openly.
In this moment there are so many political, social and economical issues
In terms of social issues, there is the aggravation of poverty, AIDS and HIV, gender issues, children's right, education, health ,and so, all that besides the current emergency issues for that country - economic privatisation, free market, corruption and allegations, as well as investment issues.
As we know politicians, economic experts, human rights activists, NGOs and observers have said much more about the country's crisis. But no one from in the above mentioned bodies or organisations blamed the government officially about gays and lesbians and the violation of their rights.
In addition, I would like to say some about this sexual orientation issue; this is directly related to social, economic, and political agendas. We can't split it out from these. Each and every right without sexual rights or freedoms are incomplete.
So I want emphasise to Ethiopian gays and lesbians that international human rights commissions must force this government to respect and accept each and every persons rights. or agendas in Ethiopia. Most political activists in and out of the country criticise the government about human rights, real democracy, free speech and press freedoms, about multi-party and free and fair election. Especially in this time Addis Ababa University students and teachers protest about academic freedom. These are the current political issues.
I tried to mention in the last edition that there are so many gays and lesbians living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - but they live undercover, unconfident and in fear.Speaking to fellow Ethiopian gays who live in South Africa I tried to get a picture of life back in Addis - my own experience there being so limited. One man shared with me his sexual experiences as well as telling me about other gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in Ethiopia.
His name is Rush, he is 26 years old, and he came to South Africa in the last months of 1998. He started his gay life when he was 7 years old around his village when he was playing with his friends. He said, "I don't forget that day, that was really fabulous and exciting."
And I asked him to share with me about gay people, those who live in Addis. He said, "Of course! I know plenty gays people in and outside of Addis, especially around Piazza, Arat Kilo, Ambassador Theatre house, in province Bahar Dar, Awasa, Nazareth, Dera Dawa, there are many places that you find gay people."
My next question was how can they communicate with each other? Is there a specific place like, bar or other places like in South Africa?
"We have our own code language or words. For example, "I am nation" means that I am gay. About places to meet, we had specific places, in addition we could make contact in our home vicinity as well."Can you tell me about the circumstances or major problems for gay and lesbian people in Ethiopia?Rush answered, "They have so many problems, specially this state, tribal as well as religious law, as you know their sentence is death so our life is in disaster there. For most of us we don't have plan to stay in our nation, this is why I left my place of birth, my country, Ethiopia."
Do you know any one who has been victimized by the government?
"Yes! I know two gays who were executed by the government." How do you compare your life from Addis Ababa and South Africa?
"Indeed there is a lot of differences between in Addis and South Africa, especially in terms of my sexual life. Now I can explore freely, it is clear for any one how is difference in terms of legal or constitutional system as well as people's awareness."
Do you have any message for your gay friends and for other people who have same sexual orientation?
"Yes, when I came to in South Africa I was thinking that homosexuality is as a disease or abnormality, but now I understand that it is natural, so each and every person must understand as this is a part of nature."
"Meanwhile, each and every Ethiopian should emphasize, what is the sprit of democracy? Where is the starting point of human rights?I think still we don't understand the sprit and principle of democracy and the culture of human rights. Let us see the experience of other developed countries in terms of this question. They are based on giving respect for differences or identification, for the beginning of democracy and the culture of human rights."
Troubled life of a gay ethiopian
I was born in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. I and my nephew were raised by my aunt.The story that I heard from my family was that a few weeks before my dad passed away he gave me to my aunt.I never knew my biological mother but I heard that she died of the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
As I went to school, from elementary to high school everybody used to tell me that something was different about me.
Since I was a little boy I never had feelings for girls, I was only attracted to boys.I was depressed for many years because I wanted to fix what I thought was wrong with me but it was impossible.I used to wonder who was going to heal me, but even if there was someone who could heal me, I wouldn’t be able to tell them my sexuality because it is shameful and would be a disgrace to my family, my religion, my culture and tradition.
The burden of facing such problems on my own was too much. My life was full of fear, shame and disgrace. I felt useless and unwanted by my community and worse, my own family.I never told any one about my sexual experience as there is a culture in ethiopia where every one is supposed to talk about sex with elderly people, even one’s own parents.If you are gay it is given that you will be rejected by your family, community, and church. You will not have friends at all.I was alone for a long time with my secrets until I found out people are talking about me.I was between the ages of 14 and 16 when it became clear to me that I am gay.It was a nightmare for me because I knew that if anyone heard, my life would be in danger.The Ethiopian culture is 100% connected with religion both Christian and Muslim which means I had to vanish or if the government came to my rescue I would have to go to jail for the crime I didn't commit or for the sins I didn't do, but just because of my nature.
Even if I would go to jail, I would be killed in no time.I was called by many names, but no one ever laid a hand on me because they respected my aunt.Problems came after the war broke between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
We used to own a big hotel which was run by me and my aunt whom I used to call mom since I was a child.But during the war, every thing was taken from us. We were told by government officials to leave the country. This was a big blow to us.Even though we were told to leave our country we are still Ethiopians. These politics were too much for my aunt, she died on June 27 1998 after a long illness.
Her death was the final nail on the coffin; I had no family, no friends, no money and I felt betrayed by nature. I told to my self "from now on every body is my enemy." At that time, the most important priority was to get out of my country.Before I left, I met one gay guy from the southern part of the capital city called Akaki.
We met through my friend and before we knew it, we were like soul mates. We talked about our safety and we kept our secret but people were suspicious of me not dating any women from my community.Things went crazy when people found out that I am dating a guy. They broke in to my house and found me and my friend in bed and started to attack us, using anything they could find.My friend ran for his life but I was beaten into a pulp and I was left to die. Miraculously I survived but I still bear scars in my head, left arm, right ear, left arm, and my hand.I went to my friends’ house and his family took me to hospital and they were under the impression that I was beaten by street muggers.
Upon my recovery I looked for a way out of my country. I left the country and came to South Africa in 2002 and I applied for asylum seeker documents.I am still a seeker but have not received my documents. Even after I arrived in South Africa I was still hiding from everybody.I dated some South African gay guys but I had to be careful not to be exposed by anybody because many Ethiopians who are in South Africa would beat me up as they have shown extreme homophobia, since they found out that I am gay.
In mid 2006 someone from Ethiopia found out that I am gay and all hell broke loose. I was called names and I was chased. The more I tried to convince people that I am not gay, the more difficult it got.I had a group of about seven other gay people from Ethiopia and we used to meet secretly but now I am the only one left.One was killed by Ethiopians in front of us in May 2006 because they found out he was gay. The tension was so terrifying every body went their own way.Each one of us thought they would be next.I am the most vulnerable because I live amongst Ethiopians and I know one day I will be next to be killed or seriously injured.
I don't have anybody to lean on, to depend on or to talk to. I live in fear every day of my life.The only thing that bothers me is that no one is willing to bring my enemies to justice. All in all I have never been protected and I have never had peace in my life.
I always think each day could be my last unless a miracle occurs.I face so many challenges in my life apart from losing all my family. I long to be treated with respect and dignity.I don't even have money to pay my rent, to buy food because I cannot get a job.My life is threatened on a daily basis.