Amina / Camille Lenain, France
“And then one day, I saw my mother again.
The pigeons are a gift from my mother, we made peace not long ago. For a while, I was really at odds with my family. My mother started having a lot of health issues, and while she’s still alive, I decided to sort things out. I don’t want her to die while we’re in conflict, because her death will be like a photograph from that moment frozen for eternity.
It was during Eid, which happened to be on my little brother’s birthday. I called my father to ask him to speak to my little brother on the phone. When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he said: ‘I would like for you to come home’.
When I saw my mother she was sleeping. She woke up and looked at me for one minute where nothing happened at all. She missed me so much that she thought I was just one more hallucination, hoping that one day I would come home. I had the impression that she had become a stranger. I wanted it to be a pleasant moment where I showed joy but I was unable to do so. I made up that I had the shits to go cry every two minutes in the toilet.
She got up. She did not move. My father, he broke everything. He said: ‘What’s the matter with you two? Say hello!’ I gave her a kiss and then I went to the living room to see my brothers and sisters. I eventually fell asleep and when I woke up, it was kinda weird because there was my mom putting salt on me saying, ‘protect her, protect her…’
I realized that I was gay, when I was 11-12 years old, and already very religious. I spent the night listening to imam lectures about whether I would go to hell, and it scared me. I spent nights feeling guilty, telling myself that I was something horrible. I stopped being Muslim, except that it was everything that had built me, it was the framework for it all. My parents always raised us with the Quran as our reference, it was their guide to being good parents, even if they were stuck in cycles of violence.
One day, my mother, she took me aside and asked me if it was true that I liked girls. I told her yes. We didn’t have any more conversation about it. I don’t think that in Muslim families homophobia is a hard and fast thing. Because there are really a billion problems, often they are somewhat precarious families who have been through a lot, who have had to completely change their environment and try to adapt to a place where they are not wanted. So, knowing if your children prefer girls and boys is not the main concern. But still, when it happens, it’s not the best thing that can happen.
I find it incredible that she continues to identify me as her child. My parents are my blood, they are my flesh. That’s where I come from. They are the direct source of my origin. It is not from them that I expect the most understanding of this. In any case, when I see them, I don’t really try to talk to them about it.
She asked me for forgiveness for everything she had done. I, too, apologized for having pushed her to her limits. With everything she had done to me, I never had anger or resentment. It was always a thing of understanding because I knew where it came from, they were just the translation of the acts of violence from the colonial past and I never really managed to blame them. For me, it was already forgiven.
I told her for the first time that I loved her, since what I think had been at least ten years. She gave me the pigeons as a gift of reconciliation. My mother knows that I like pigeons like crazy. Even when I was 4 years old, I always loved pigeons. The pigeons that we often meet in the street carry all the dirt and grime that we make in the city without passing it on to us. Everyone neglects and underestimates them and can’t even imagine that they have a capacity for emotional existence.
My mother told me that these pigeons were a part of her that I could keep with me.”