Today we celebrate Lesbian Visibility Day! Which is a great opportunity to put the light on all women from the LGBT+ community who are sexually and/or romantically attracted to other women. Despite all of your suffering as an Iraqi lesbian, we tell you to stay strong, to be proud, and to not ever listen to what haters say. You don’t have only one day to celebrate being a lesbian, every day is a chance for you to celebrate and to be proud.
For this day, Esraa and Khawla, who are two Iraqi lesbians, share their happy and sad stories with us:
Esraa says, “Ever since I was a kid, I dreamt of being an actress. Coming from an artistic family that loved the theater and music meant that my family were supportive of my dream to go to theater school. To me, it was one of the few ways that I could express myself freely. I enrolled at the age of eight. I grow up in the theater and had a great childhood! I learned early on about myself because I was allowed to express different things in my identity, and my family were supportive.
When I turned 16, a new girl joined the program for a summer. We became friends very quickly. She was beautiful. Time went by, and we got closer. I started feeling attracted to her! I did not fully understand what those feelings meant, so I told my parents. Both of them asked me to keep this to myself as it could put me and them in danger. They did not reject it, and helped me understand what it meant. So I took their advice and did not tell the girl that I liked her.
We continued being friends even after she left the acting class. We started seeing each other outside in coffee shops and went shopping together. I felt like she was also developing feelings towards me but I did not say anything because I was too scared. Until one day we were in her room when she kissed me. I was surprised, and she was nervous. She said “I have been wanting to do this for a long time. I am sorry, did I offend you?” I said no!! And I told her about my feelings towards her too.
Since then, we got romantically involved without telling anyone. I did not even tell my parents. One day, we went back to their house and we started watching a movie on the laptop in her bedroom when she started kissing me. While we were kissing, her brother came into the room. He pulled her by her hair, and started hitting her. They kicked me out of the house and asked me to never come back or they would call the police. A few days after, I heard the news that she was dead. They told people that she slipped and hit her head in the bathroom. Just like that! No one questioned them. A beautiful young woman was killed for loving someone, and she was killed and quickly forgotten by her family and the society. Like she never existed!”
And Khawla says, “I got divorced four years ago, after six years of marriage. I was married off to my cousin. Arranged marriages are very common in Karbala where I am from. A 30 year old girl who is not married is not acceptable. In families like mine, girls are supposed to get married at a certain age, perform their marital duties, give birth to babies, raise her children, stay at home, and be a good wife. For 36 years, I was following all the rules that were put for me by my family, extended family, religious teachings, and the society. I was the only one who did not have any power over my own life. Ignoring my feelings, my thoughts, and my own identity. It was not until I got divorced that I got to really think about who I am and what I want in life.
After my divorce, I spent a lot of time in my room. I always wanted to be alone, away from my family and everyone else. That’s when I really started listening to myself and think for myself. I started realizing that all the “strange” feelings I had towards women, was not strange. It was how I really felt. I was attracted to women. But I did not realize that because.. well, how would I know that when I was told my entire life that I should find a great man! Never ever have I thought being with a woman is an option.
Three years ago was when I met the love of my life. I was going to buy some things from the grocery store when I met my neighbor. She was wearing blue top which brought out her blue eyes. She is the most beautiful person I have ever seen. We started texting. We talked about everything. I could tell her the important and person things in my life. Our connection grew stronger and stronger. Being neighbors, it was not strange that we would spend time together in person. Our mothers were friendly with each other, and that allowed us to visit each other at home.
One day, we were laying on her bed, listening to Shireen’s song “Enkatabli Omr”, our hands started touching. We were talking about love, then we had our first kiss. It was the first time in my life that I feel afraid and safe at the same time. Since then, we have been together. We meet and talk all the time. Our families still do not know. They think that being a divorcee makes me sad, but in reality, I have never been happier.”