Pain and Freedom


Addis Ababa + Ethiopia

Pain and Freedom

Gay + Male / 17 and Under + 18-22 + 23-29 + 30-39 / Christian

Pain and Freedom is my choice for the title for my coming out story, because those were the main feelings I had before and after I came out to my family.

I don’t believe that my coming out story is different or special in any way. What I know is, as an East African gay man, I struggled a lot with my sexuality and I believe that accepting myself and coming out was the hardest thing I ever did.

At the age of 13, I happened to walk into the men’s changing room at my dad’s construction site. The men were mostly day labourers and I saw muscular backs and muscular thighs and I felt all sorts of feelings that were very confusing at that time. The older I got, the confusion grew more and more. I became more religious and more isolated as a result. I thought there was something wrong with me and I felt like God was punishing me because I was attracted to men.

I grew up hating myself. I was the chubby quiet kid in school that no one talked to. I had very low self-esteem, I felt like I was worthless all the time.

It seemed like every body had their own things to say about homosexuality, some people said it didn’t exist in my country and that it is the culture of the west. Some said it was a curse, and some believed that it was a practice done by Satan’s people. And as a kid, I used to think I was evil for having gay thoughts.

In a country where consensual homosexual sex between two adults is punishable with up to 15 years of imprisonment, I used to think that finding anybody who thought that homosexuality was not a choice was close to impossible.

I can honestly say that my struggles with my sexuality have shown me that I can be extremely weak and also extremely strong.

After highschool, I dedicated myself to school and church. I became a doctor and worked in different regions of my country. But the wounds I had as a teenager were still there. I worked my ass off and I was good at my job, but nothing was new and I still hated myself for being gay.

I think things started to change for me almost 3 years ago – that was when my mother was diagnosed with a serious illness and that devastated me. She was the only person who was nice to me as a kid and I swear I felt more alone than ever when she got sick. I knew what her diagnosis meant. I knew that she would slowly lose her mind and die a very slow and painful death. Still, I promised myself I will be strong for the rest of the family and for her, and be by her side and always do the best that I can do for her.

I broke that promise in only a year. After repeated admissions to the hospital and sleeping on cold hospital room floors looking after a woman who used to be my mother, but now has completely forgotten all about me, I just gave up one day. I gave up on life. And one day, after spending two nights in the hospital looking after my mom, I went straight home, locked my bathroom door, filled the tub with water and got in it with what I was wearing that day.

I knew it had to end. The pain, it was too much. I thought one day I might have my mother’s disease and I will be all alone. I had to do something and so I did.

I had already gotten my mother’s insulin from the fridge on the way to my room. I thought for a nondiabetic person the lethal insulin dose is probably a hundred times the required one. I filled a 10 cc syringe with regular insulin and I thought, “1000 IUs that’s probably enough.” I thought, “After I inject this I will have a headache, I will start to sweat a lot and my chest will start to hurt. And when I lose consciousness and start to convulse I will probably drown in the bath water and that will be it.”

I was scared and it felt like that was my only option. I had to end it. So I found a vein in my hand and I started to inject the insulin. My hand was shaking and I couldn’t hold the syringe steady and I ended up rupturing my vein after I gave myself an injection of 150 IU of insulin. After that, I couldn’t bring myself to find another vein and continue with the injection.

I spent the night eating a lot of sugar and thinking about everything. I was too scared to do it that day, but I knew that I would probably try again someday soon if I decided to continue living the way I did. That night scared me a lot. It made me realize something had to change. I knew I had to do something or else I will end up in that bath tub again trying to kill myself.

I thought about it a lot and I knew what I had to do. I knew that I had to make the gay thing have less power over me. It was usually on my mind and being gay was a painful reality.

I always thought that my family would hate me if they ever found out I was gay. After that night, I had to find out if that was true. I said to myself, if they hate me for being me I would be ok without them. At that time I realized the best thing I could do was to accept myself for who I am and it felt right to stop. I needed to stop being afraid of what my family would think of me if they knew I was gay. I needed to stop being afraid of what they might say or do to me when they found out. I needed to stop being afraid!

And so I finally came out to my family and they didn’t react in the way I was afraid they would. I was expecting hate and disgust, but instead, they were accepting and considerate.

To be honest, I can’t really say that my sisters are 100% ok with me being gay, but they are trying their best to accept me as who I am and I am more than grateful for that.

This all happened almost 2 years ago and now it’s sometimes funny to think about how I have forgotten about all the pain and confusion I used to feel.

I must admit coming out was a good thing. I felt brave for doing it and I took some time off work after that to figure out some stuff about my life. I started to change my life around, I started my residentship, I started exercising and lost close to 20 kilos, dated a lot of guys and I made a couple of very good gay friends.

I am not saying that my struggle with my sexuality just vanished after coming out. I still think about having a family one day. And it hurts to know that I can never have the kind of love and the kind of family I want in my country.

So far I know that I can be extremely weak and extremely strong. I know that to find what I want I would have to take a chance and move to another country, work my ass off and start over. To get what I want, I know I need to risk failure and start a long and difficult process. It’s hard and discouraging to think about, and to be honest I am a little afraid to even try.

But I think now I am facing a different kind of challenge than before and I have a feeling I might be writing about that too a couple of years later.

All I can say is that everyone deserves love and so do you. For all of you guys out there who can relate to my story, stay strong, and be brave. The struggle never ends, but that shouldn’t keep us from hoping and from moving forward.Thank you for reading my coming out story.

Thank you for reading my coming out story.