Of the 29 years that I have been alive, I have spent 12 of them outside of my birth country Ethiopia. Nevertheless, some norms of Ethiopiawinet (Ethiopianess) which were injected in me at birth and which have struggled to sustain themselves throughout the years are slowly being dismantled. Some of the characteristics of what I call Ethiopiawinet is a concoction of tradition, superstition, pride, faith, patriotism, community, festivity, religion, ethnicity, passivity, rigid notions of right and wrong, reservation, aggression, endurance, suppression, masks and defined gender identities.
I grew up in the push and pull of duality – my nature versus my nurture dipped in the bitter sweetness of Ethiopiawinet. Girlhood had its own pleasures and challenges as I negotiated the plains of what it meant to be a “good Ethiopian girl”. However, being the Ethiopian woman I want to be has been much more fun and rewarding as opposed to becoming socialized into an Ethiopian woman, which for me was riddled with the fallacies of culture. I have struggled to squirm my way out of suffocating robotic norms of what to say, how to say it, what not to do, what to wear, how, when and whom to date, to befriend, keeping in line with what was “culturally acceptable”.
While now I may come as a shock, a nuisance, or maybe an inspiration to my friends, family and those around and beyond me, I take great pleasure in creating, living and sharing an authentic life doing the things I love to do with those I choose to do them with. Choice is a powerful tool which is available to all but systematically stolen from many. I consider myself lucky to be in a privileged position of making my simple choices and acting upon them.
So it is my choice to share with all of you in next entries my deliberations of gender identities, roles, norms, issues, and discussions as they arise.
For now I leave you with the question of what gender means to you and what relevance you give it in your life.~
Love & Light