CYNTHIA, age 25

I was born a girl, but when I was 10 or 11, I felt like I wanted to be a boy. I didn’t know the word “lesbian” or “homosexual.” When I was 16, my mother asked, “Why do you always wear boys’ clothes?” I said I wanted to be a boy.  When I was 18, she found a boy for me to marry. I said, “I don’t want to marry a boy, I want to be with a girl.” She said, “Then you have to leave this home.” But she realized she couldn’t force me. She gave up on it, and I stayed with my family. I was lucky: my mother is Congolese and had met open lesbians in Kinshasa, so she already knew what this was.  But then I gave an interview on the BBC when they were discussing the new law. My father heard it and was angry. He said, “Even if you do these things, you shouldn’t be so public, because I could have problems. I don’t want you in the house anymore.” I left the house and went to live with my boss from the restaurant where I work. I lived there for five months. Eventually my mother, my aunt, my niece, they said to my father,  You can’t chase away your daughter like that. She didn’t choose to be like that.” Finally my father said I could come back, and now I feel like my family accepts me.  Lesbians in Burundi are not yet open. There are still places I go where people don’t accept me because I’m lesbian. There are many lesbians, but they don’t want to join the association because they could have problems with their families. Some lesbians live with their girlfriends, but they do it secretly, as friends. I know other women who are lesbians, but are married.  I had two male friends who tried to rape me because I am a lesbian and they didn’t like that. They knew that I had never slept with a man and they were curious to know if I was still a virgin. They tried to take me by force. But they couldn’t, because I was stronger than them. We fought, and I went home. I no longer talk to them. Now I am looking for friends who are not barbaric or criminal, for people who understand me.  I was shocked when I heard about the new law against homosexuality.  I want them to give us liberty. We are people likeeveryone else. It’s God who created us. The law won’t change us.  Read more about

Forbidden: Gays and Lesbians in Burundi


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