'A Graveyard for Homosexuals'

Published: December 19, 2013

 In a bleak little apartment on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, nearly a dozen men in their 20s take turns trying on a pair of black skinny jeans and watching Project Runway episodes downloaded off YouTube. There’s no plumbing, Internet or furniture, but because the space is private, it’s paradise.

When friends enter, they’re greeted with chirpy Hiiiiis – an homage to RuPaul’s Drag Race – before joining the jumble of cute boys sitting on the floor, drinking tea, eating spaghetti, and sharing photos from a recent "glamping" (glam camping) trip. Boche ruffles his boyfriend’s hair – they share this apartment with a friend – as he tells me how they met. Victor shows me the cursive tattoo over his heart: B.T.W., which stands for Lady Gaga’s acceptance anthem Born This Way. Like most of his friends, Victor still lives with his parents, so he’ll be staying the night, as he does most weekends. A cold tile floor and threadbare cots have never seemed so cozy.
If these giggling, affectionate men acted this way – unabashedly, stereotypically gay – on the streets of Ethiopia’s capital, they could be expelled, beaten up, fired, disowned, or jailed. This is the reality of what it means to be gay in Ethiopia.
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