Come on, tell us!

I can’t figure out where to begin… but I guess it’s best I start with my earliest memories of being attracted to a girl. I come from an average conservative Tunisian family. My mother and sister are veiled and my brother is a religious man. Until that first shiver I felt when my high  school sweetheart held my waist, I had never thought I could be a lesbian. No-one had ever talked to me about it.

I started dating when I was 13 or 14, not because I felt particularly attracted to someone but because all my friends were coupling up and I thought it was about time I followed suit. That went on for a couple of years. I have no special memory of it nor of the boys I was with, except the recollection of my first kiss. Disappointed would be an understatement. I was sick to my stomach, and almost threw up on the way home. Things got a little better after that first incident, but intimacy (with the boys I was with) never seemed particularly pleasurable for me. My body just wouldn’t respond. Now that I think about it, it seems strange to me how that did not bother me. But at the time it didn’t. I had an unstable home and I was completely absorbed by my

studies so I never questioned it…

As I was saying, that went on for years… My second year in high school is when it all changed.

It’s when I finally understood what my body knew all along. That year I started noticing a group of

girls. Two of them defied my every conception of what a girl should look like. They were boyish

and untidy but I found one of them to be extremely attractive. When I asked my friends about

them, they told me they were a group of lesbians. The word didn’t ring any bells. I had only heard

it vaguely before and always as something dirty and sinful. In my family, the word was never

uttered. In my friends circle at the time ( who were almost as conservative as my family), it was

rarely brought up, and if so, like any other taboo, it was vaguely talked about in an atmosphere

of fearful guilt. I was almost 16 at the time. But I had lived all my previous years in a shell. That

made me prude and unadventurous. Anyway, back to her… For the purpose of protecting her

identity, I’ll call her Sara (Needless to say it’s not her real name) . I know it sounds so typical,

but from the moment I saw her, that girl wouldn’t leave my mind. At first I couldn’t even admit

it to myself. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I helplessly wanted to get

close to her… Yet I was scared, and she seemed so unapproachable. I started listening to music

that girls sang about girls. I started watching movies about girls who loved girls and suffered for

it and I cried my eyes out each time. I was literally stepping into a new world but I was making

the journey alone. No-one else knew about it. I had no-one I could talk to about it. But with time, I

grew a bit more courageous. I looked at her and smiled ! I know it sounds trivial but at the time it

was a huge step for me. And she smiled back.

She came up to me one day and started a conversation. I had never before that moment felt a

confusion so intense. I must have sounded like an idiot ! but she talked to me again.. and again..

and I grew more comfortable and more confident, and we grew closer.

Those were some of the happiest days of my life. But also some of the most difficult. I laughed

like a child when we were together. My heart almost leaped from my chest when she said

something sweet to me. It was also when I started experiencing the famous “sexual desire” I had

always heard about but never felt towards any of my ex-boyfriends. She helped me bloom like a

flower. Now that I look back, I can even say she introduced me to myself. She was also the one to

give me the courage to explore the wants and needs of my body. When she kissed me for the first

time, I felt butterflies in places I’ve never felt before. And when we made love for the first time

(clumsy and teenage-like as it was) I felt like I was floating on a cloud.

Nothing ever felt like being in her arms. She was my first love… and as the rumors around me

started spreading and I lost most of my conservative friends (nothing dramatic. They just stopped

asking me to spend time with them and I got the hint) she became my world. That’s when the

double life I’m still leading started. At home, I was still the good daughter, the good sister. No-one

suspected anything. And to keep that up, lying to my mom had to become a second nature to me.

My mother is a traditional housewife in her fifties who got a very modest education, got married

early, and has spent all of her life worshipping Allah. Knowing what has become of her daughter

would shatter her world. And this is not an exaggeration. Through all these years, the thought of

her finding out was one of my worst fears. I am 22 now, and it still scares me.

As for my love story, problems started in my final year of high school just as I was getting

ready for my baccalaureate exam. It was such a difficult year. I cried myself to sleep almost every

night. When we fought and broke up, I was completely alone. Most of my new friends were

originally hers and so they sided with her although I was the one to get my heart broken. In my

despair, I just wanted to finish the year and move out of my hometown. And I did.

I moved to the capital. My first year in college was nothing like I expected. I still had

difficulty making friends and was afraid of opening up to them when I did. Trusting people gets

more and more difficult the older one gets. Maybe it was because I had just moved to a place

where I knew no-one or because I had just gotten my heart broken by the only person I had ever

loved or maybe I was getting used to my loneliness… The thing is, I got depressed that year. I had

suicidal thoughts and barely managed to fight my way through them. Hope that things might get

better was what got me through.

I started a blog that summer. That helped me make new LGBT friends abroad who helped

me through my depression. I also managed to go back to dating but I didn’t meet anyone really

special .. My second year in college I met the girl who would become, and still is, my best friend.

Her nickname is Ray-Ray. She’s the first close friend I ever came out to. We were having a talk,

and the topic of homoerotic love came up. Her laid-back and accepting attitude encouraged me

to take a step forward. I told her and my other friend, who also showed a similar attitude, that I

was bi-curious ( I was too scared to say I was a lesbian) and they both took it well. It felt so good

to finally start talking about that deeply hidden part of me but I was still scared that they might

start treating me differently. The next time I had a date with a girl, I told them about it. Ray-Ray

was so excited for me and even helped me get ready for it! It made my day. I had never felt so

accepted before. When I came back from my date that day I told her the truth (that I was a lesbian)

and she smiled and said it was okay and that she loves me and will always be there for me. She

actually said those exact words (We’re both English Majors)! Tears of joy streamed down my face

as I hugged her for what seemed an eternity. Her support meant the world to me especially after

everything I’ve been through, and that is why she’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

The following year, we made new friends. Together with 3 other girls, we became a close

group who throws excitingly prohibited parties at our dormitory with enough alcohol to knock out

half a dozen men! One night, we had all drunk a bit and were talking about love, sex and magic

( On a side note, Ciara looked like a Goddess in that music video!) when I said I was spending

the weekend with someone, one of the girls cried out “just don’t forget a condom, okay?” and

Ray-Ray (tipsy as she was) said “She won’t be needing one” So the girls started throwing around

guesses as to why not. “He’s sterile!” one of them yelled out giggling. “She’s sterile!” the other

teased. “Come on tell us!” and that’s when it happened . “ It’s a girl !” Meriam cried out and they

all went dead silent. When I said yes, wild cheers almost deafened me. I had never imagined that

the news of my sexual orientation would get a group of girls jumping around with excitement.

Now I always get this goofy grin on my face whenever I remember it. One of the girls actually

jumped on me screaming “You bitch! Why didn’t you tell us before?” It was a happy night for me!

One of the happiest so far! I thought it would get awkward after that, but no. It’s been more than a

year and they’ve even met some of the girls I went out with and they’ve always been so loving and

supportive.

I feel blessed to have met them. I truly am. Even though my love life hasn’t picked up as

I thought it would by this time, their friendship has helped me through my breakups and the

depression that usually follows. They’re always ready with a movie and a jar of Nutella waiting! I

don’t know what would have become of me without them. They’re my anchor. When the darkness

of living in the shadows becomes too stifling and the burden of secrecy becomes too heavy for a

young girl like me, they are the ones who manage to guide me out of it. I can never forget their

goodness to me, and I could not possibly be anymore grateful.

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