©Photo: Weema, ©Design: Boshra Jallali

« Breaking Free & Facing Parents »

Weema ( He / They ), project manager and activist

By Haithem Haouel

English translation by Yasmine BenSalah

For every Queer person, coming out is an accomplishment, an act of emancipation. Weema*, aged 31, decides to come out and carve out an existence for themselves that is not devoid of consequences, but certainly devoid of filters. Indeed, standing up to his family, he chooses one day to take the lead in his own life... for better or for worse.

“Revealing myself as I am to the family, and especially to my parents, had become
crucial. An emergency itself: that of relieving oneself from a weight which has
become overwhelming. It was about doing that, in a critical time, regardless of the
consequences. It was about saying it loud and clear or remaining silent forever or
even worse…”. Says Weema, smiling beautifully and peacefully in his haven of
peace; his workplace, where he chosed to meet us. In recent years, he has
devoted himself entirely to the Queer cause , through “ Mawjoudin – We Exist ”
by being a project manager. A life, in Tunis, which ends up reconciling his Queer
existence, his very nature, his values, his commitment and… his livelihood. A
young life, which they lead with its ups and downs but one that they no longer
need to hide… especially from his sisters and parents: His everything. “Not
forgetting my dog and my cat. My children “. (Laugh). A sort of equilibrium is
achieved… but not smoothly.

Embryonic militancy 2.0

Queer cause has been and still is an integral part of Weema ‘s existence . A few
years ago, the commitment came about spontaneously, by volunteering in local
Tunisian associations (Queer or not). Gradually, his online activism took over
and… became more recurrent, due to the frequency of publications and more
visible, due to their reach. The interactions they generated came to life. The 2.0
commitment, carried out alone, was fruitful. They remember: “This activity
spread very quickly outside the country and reached abroad. The magic of the
internet has certainly played its part.” They remember, before specifying: “I was

posting information related to the Queer / LGBTQI++ cause. I enlightened Internet
users about the confusions by publishing videos, various information, images and
“Infox” operations. I felt compelled to counter the prevailing homophobia, online
violence, discuss sexual orientations, gender identities, endings, inclusive writing
and a host of Queer / LGBTQI++ subjects. And this same content opened the
discussion. I felt free and safe to do so, because any violent reactions I might
produce or endure did not go beyond the screen.” (Smile) This homophobic, sexist,
racist violence was indeed heavily felt: The urgency to act or try to put an end to
it, at least, online was done spontaneously through his own social networks…
precisely Facebook, at the very beginning.
A form of struggle has taken hold on a daily basis. It immediately became more
concrete and field-based by integrating “Mawjoudin – We exist”. Weema does not
fail to recall this defining “Tilt” moment and remembers:: “My very first exchange
with a member of “Mawjoudin” was enough to make me feel at ease. I had not
known other places, nor other contexts (In Tunisia at least), in which I had been
asked, for instance, about my pronouns. That day, it happened instinctively! And
for me, this question meant a lot because I was coming out of, among other things,
a short but difficult experience lived in an International Organization and which
had “ Outed ” me, put me in danger. The transition for “ Mawjoudin ” happened
naturally and above all in a “ safe ” way.” He quotes. Little did he know that a
collision between activism and personal/professional life was looming on the

Chase away the unsaid

Concealing one’s pronouns, pretending to be someone else, explaining, justifying,
or worse hiding… gradually exhausted Weema. Integrating “ Mawjoudin ” helped
to ease the weight of an existence considered as “singular”, “Distinguished” or
“Non-Normative”. It should be remembered that at this stage, for them, being
themselves has already been done occasionally, differently or nonchalantly with
others. At this point, moving beyond this phase entirely and eradicating any
discussion around “Who am I?” with those around him has become… necessary.
With friends, acquaintances, or work partners, they let go. At high school, Weema
tests the reaction of the people around him, he tests the waters… before saying
anything. This is, according to him, in itself a form of Coming Out. He quotes:
“There were some who left, others who stayed, others who told me: ‘It doesn’t

matter, but we wouldn’t like to know more, it’s better to be discreet and remain
so… etc. etc “.
However, online activities raised questions and doubts. For the family, on the
other hand, Coming out happened “step by step”. With his three sisters, things
were fine, including the eldest… to whom everything was said during an
argument. Weema remembers: “My older sister, who scared me a bit, was always
criticizing me, making comments about my lifestyle and the way I dressed. She was
always asking questions, right up to the point where we started to argue… which
ultimately brought us together. After two days of complete radio silence, she
came back to me, in an attempt to mend fences, approached me about my hair
colour, what I might like to wear etc. etc… And we finally embraced. It was moving!
Looking back, I’d say she was just protective and scared for her sisters, especially
for me. Another of my sisters, who was younger, had already known… for as long
as I can remember.” However, revealing yourself to your siblings is not like
revealing yourself to your parents. Despite the extreme fear that one day they
would find out who he really was, Weema summoned up the necessary courage
one day and… took the leap.

Crossing the unimaginable

Yes: doing it, kept going over and over in his head. Confessing everything to his
parents bubbled up as time went by. Weema tossed the question back and forth,
pondering the various possibilities, taking advantage of the lockdown and the
pandemic to think about it over and over again on their own, and to question
himself. He goes so far as to think of ways to protect himself, by setting
alternatives, if this revelation ever shatters his life, puts him in danger. “I even
thought about leaving right afterwards, running away, in case it all goes wrong!”.
He recalls and comments: “Coming out to one’s parents was the decision of a
lifetime, and it could even turn mine upside down… for better or for worse. I felt
paralyzed and despite that, I did it.” It was unacceptable to him that his parents
would find out about it from other people, that they would be told so, that they
would end up knowing about it … and not from him.
This decision was hastened, above all, by a serious depression that had weakened
him to the point where his parents’ presence, comfort and support became more
than vital. Weema attempts to put words to this unprecedented existential
anguish: “I kept telling my therapist over and over that I want to tell them and that

I need them in my life. The latter was skeptical. Reluctant. He did not want that.
Distress was in full swing. I ended up making a list of pros and cons! I finally made
my mind to do it despite the recommendations, the warnings of my therapist, and
the disapproval of my sisters… My life appeared to be at a dead end: so, I was
determined to do it. The big day had arrived. I obviously warned the parents in
advance. I told them that I had something very important to tell them and that
they both had to be present. They were very scared at the time! I even asked a
close friend to wait for me in a café nearby. In case there would be a violent
reaction, he will be the first to help me. The fateful moment had come. It was two
years ago already.”

This first moment of the rest of your life

This moment was worthy of a movie scene. A face to face, with both parents
around a table. Heart beating, trembling… hesitating at the moment. Weema
appeared before his father and mother, who were also terribly worried. Expecting
the worst, his mum ended up telling him first: “We will eventually find a solution…
no matter what the problem is!” It only took such a short but reassuring and
comforting sentence…for him to pour everything out, thinking that this moment
of affection with the two of them was probably going to be…the last. “”Don’t
interrupt me!” I told them, insisting on letting me finish what I have to say and
asking me the questions they want to ask afterwards. By specifying that I was
already in advance, ready to withstand any reaction from them… Then, strange
silence on my part for a few seconds and I continued: “I am not attracted to men”,
all by explaining and justifying my discomfort, and my depression, as best I can
with the words that came to mind, which presented themselves as lifelines during
this specific moment, a moment that seemed infinite to me. (smile ). I told them
that I needed their presence by my side and their support etc. etc. “.
With hindsight, Weema retraces this exchange with great lucidity and continues:
“At one point, there my mother responded: “I don’t understand anything you are
saying! “. She was still searching for explanations and stumbling through questions
and snippets of words spoken spontaneously. My dad keeps silent.” Faced with
these two distinct reactions, Weema drowned in a stream of unfinished, and
often incomprehensible expressions. The tension is at its peak! With Assurance,
he replied: “And spare me the religious argument, the psychologist that I’m
already consulting, the doctors also because I am not sick. I will not change, you
must know that, because it’s not possible… I was able to continue by listing all

these arguments out loud to them. It was a way for me to anticipate their reaction
and to give myself even more credibility by citing my consultation with an Imam
and my ongoing research on the subject. » . Weema has never been so clear with
his parents, he nonchalantly told them that many people around him know about
it and accept him the way he is. His father responds immediately, with a touch of
fear but remaining calm : “What exactly do you expect from us? And what do you
mean by “People know”? “. Weema quickly realized that for his parents, it’s more
about people’s “What will they say” that bothers them, much more than being
Queer /Gay.
He immediately admitted that all his sisters already knew. And there was the
mother asking why he waited all this time to open up about it with them. ““What
were you afraid of?” She told me. I had to mention that I work for a Queer
association and that I am often in contact with many people in the know. That this
might become known one day and that it often turns out badly for Queer people
who choose to “ Come Out”… etc. My mother was surprised, even shocked, that
the laws were so restrictive against us in this country, that parents abandoned
their children if they are Queer / LGBTQI++, and I found myself explaining and
revealing to them information about us that they were totally unaware of. My
mother found it astonishing that entire laws were put in place to harm us. My
parents have continued to learn more about our existence since this revelation. I
realized how much they knew nothing… They were responsive and above all
wanted to find out more, which is a blessing in itself ! Despite this look of pity they
had had at the time. And finally, there was a relief, a collapse into tears and
overflowing emotions. My father even wanted to know more about the one who
was at the origin of my romantic depression. ( laughs ).” He remembers with a
hint of emotion in his voice.
The small family that now accepts him continues to learn, train and learn about
Queer / LGBTQI+ existence and more about Weema’s private life. The
parent/child relationship has become closer. This revelation completely healed
W. He has since been in tune with himself and moving forward. “After my family,
nothing matters! “. He proudly proclaims, leaving a word of advice for anyone
who feels the need to come out: “Don’t take this personal journey as an example.
Be aware of your privileges. Take your time to do it. Don’t do it if you don’t want
to. Above all, be very careful.”

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