Story 1: The Queen Harold Project
The Queen Harold Project is dedicated to the late Harold Thomas also known as Queen Harold. Queen Harold was a young Sierra Leonean gay drag queen who was the victim of a homophobic attack in late January 2020 and later died as a result of sustained injuries on February 4 2020. Queen Harold used the pronoun she.
For those who knew Queen Harold, they knew she was a fierce and unapologetic drag queen. She was a strong LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex) activist in Sierra Leone and refused to live in fear. She was a beacon of hope and inspiration to many.
In this series, the stories of four LGBTQI Sierra Leoneans will be told every Sunday in the month of July. All interviewees' identities are falsified; their names have been changed to protect their identities but their stories are real. It is their hope that through their stories they can empower others to live their truth, embrace who they are and love who they are.
Musu Conteh* (name changed) is a 25 year old woman who identifies as bisexual though she has no sexual attraction for men and would prefer to be with women. She comes from Northern Sierra Leone and moved to Freetown as a teenager. She works in the entertainment industry and is a human rights advocate. She wants those to know who are struggling with their sexuality and are trapped by society to know there is hope and that her life path may be different but she wants others to choose and own their path.
Q: Tell me, what was your upbringing like?
A: I come from a traditional family. My family is very conservative and we are Muslim. I grew up in a polygamous household having three moms where girls were expected to do certain roles because they are the "girl child" and boys doing their own thing. Since I was born I was groomed to aspire to marriage and to be married to a man. I couldn't tell my family who I was. Only those in my circle and my siblings know who I really am.
Q: As an entertainer, do you use your platform to talk about LGBTQI issues?
A: I would want to use my platform to talk about these issues but I can't. I don't wanna go against what society wants, I don't want to be judged. But I do talk to people who I know are struggling with their sexuality.
Q: How do you identify as?
A: Well.... *nervous laugh* although I love women and have known since I was teenager I was attracted to women, I identify as bisexual because my current partner is a man. If I were to live in a country that same sex relationships were encouraged and I was not judged I would identify as a lesbian.
Q: Does your partner know your sexual orientation?
A: He knows, we have talked about it a few times but interestingly he thinks I am joking. He knows I identify as bisexual and that is all he knows. But he thinks it is a phase or that I am joking. It hurts telling your partner who you are and him not understanding who you are attracted to. He makes jokes about having threesomes but that is the extent of what we discuss in regards to my sexuality.
Q: With all the familial expectations you have discussed and society's as well, do you see yourself marrying your current partner or a man?
A: I do. I have to. I have been with him for 3 years and my family knows him and they expect me to marry him. In some of their eyes they are surprised we have not yet married. I know I will one day end up being married to a man and that is something I will learn to live with.
Q: Why did you decide to talk to me today and share your story?
A: You know, I have never told anyone who I am outside of my close family and friends. It is very nerve wrecking talking about this and to you, but I decided to because I knew you would tell my story anonymously but more importantly I want others to know that they are not alone and this feeling is normal and natural.
Q: What would you like others to know and learn from you? What is your vision for Sierra Leone?
A: People should be able to live how they want, love who they want and be who they want to be. I want people know that my story is different but yours does not have to. I want Sierra Leone to become a more tolerant place for people like me, that is the Sierra Leone I would love to be apart of.
This is Musu Conteh*. Please share her story.
And to other Musus out there, you are not alone.
For more information on LGBTQI safe spaces and organizations in Sierra Leone, please visit the following websites:
Pride Equality - http://prideequality.org
Human Dignity Trust - https://www.humandignitytrust.org/country-profile/sierra-leone/
Youth Arise - https://youthariselgbtsl.wixsite.com/website