From Addis Ababa, With Love

Kweers of the Nile (KOTN) is an online journalistic platform and digital archive documenting the lives of queer and genderfluid people in North/East Africa and the Sahel. The following is a conversation between sudanese writer and organiser of KOTN and Luna, a queer singer from Ethiopia.

I got in touch with Luna through exploring queer Ethiopian Twitter. In comparison to queer Sudanese twitter, it seemed to be more organized, with networking events being promoted and prominent community organizers encouraging cultural talks. Visibility was, of course, still centered on diaspora organizers who were relatively more protected than their local community members. The following is a result of a conversation with Luna, a lesbian woman living in Addis Ababa.

Luna is a 25-year-old Ethiopian singer who loves poems, music, and film. Growing up, she was an adventurous only child in the bustling city, never spending a moment at home; a rebellious spirit who’s disobedient to outsiders but not to her mother.

As a teenager, she began feeling attraction towards a girl in her high school but kept her feelings to herself. Despite not being able to put a label on her feelings, she knew she enjoyed the girl’s presence. This led her to confide in a friend, revealing to him that she might like women. He took it upon himself to set her up with someone he knew. That experience was Luna’s introduction to her unique queerness; “this first experience let me know exactly what I wanted”, she says.

When she was 21, Luna says she experienced love at first sight when she saw Dayana, a model who was rehearsing a performance at the time. Luna was grabbing a drink when she first saw her but never got the chance to speak with her that day. Luckily, the two crossed paths in the same bar at a later date. She got her number and they began spending time together. Dayana labeled herself as straight, but Luna had her own ideas – “it never felt that way when we were together”.

Luna never confessed her love to Dayana, “but I think she secretly knew”, she says. They ended up spending a magical week which Luna regards as one of the best weeks of her life. The two now remain platonic.

“Ethiopia is a country where the majority speaks for the minority,”  Luna expresses, but she doesn’t allow cultural restrictions to stop her from being who she really is. According to her, the queer community in Ethiopia should exist and love against all the odds. “I want to tell queer people in my country and the world not to be scared to the point where you hide yourself to fit in, there’s no such thing. ‘Society’ is just a concept – you are the only real thing in your life. That should be your focus.”

She recognizes the damning impact of peer pressure and social norms, but at the end of the day, she believes queer people in Ethiopia should hone in on their joy and finding community; “…try to spread your wings and go find your tribe. There are a lot more of us here than you could ever imagine.”

A year later, I got back in touch with Luna, who still resides in Addis Ababa. She excitedly shared updates about her love life and current partner: “I didn’t think I would ever find a girl that would reciprocate the exact same feeling that I would give out” she says. “We are learning from each other and growing side by side. I’m thankful that I never left this country because now I believe that love is everywhere, if you have the authenticity to look for it.” She ends on a spiritual note, “the universe returns the same energy wherever you are in the world.”

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