Rose Frimpong, aka Ro, is a millennial with great depth. Forming one half of lesbian podcast duo Two Twos, she uses her life experiences as a gay black woman and mother to delve into issues surrounding the LBGT+ people of colour community. A quick scroll through her podcast's playlist and you’ll find frank discussions on topics like My Friends Are Homophobic or Pray The Gay Away. In honour of the postponed London Pride parade, we catch up with Ro to find out more about her personal journey with sexuality, motherhood and the societal challenges she faces at home and away…
Growing up in a traditional Ghanaian household with Christian values, Ro has faced much adversity and rejection over the years - particularly from those she felt most connected to. Friends, family and even the black community have struggled to accept her sexual orientation. “I wasn’t able to lean on anyone for support as culture was telling me I was wrong and, according to religion, an abomination," she says. "So I remained in the closet, even to myself, for a number of years.” But by her early twenties, Ro was tired of pretending to be someone else. So at this pivotal point, she decided to live authentically. Becoming a mother at a young age also played a huge part in this process: “I knew I wanted to raise my daughter with a secure sense of self and for her to always be happy with who she is. But because I wasn’t being myself, how could I even do this? I knew at this point I needed to come into my own to be the best mum I could to my daughter and lead by example. That meant everything to me!”
So, what did Ro do? “I dated women and I loved it," she says. "When it came to my dress sense, I started presenting myself the way I wanted to and I loved that even more. I finally started to love myself for the first time.”
'Mum I'm gay'
Ro's change in appearance did not go unnoticed and her mum began to suspect her sexuality. Eventually their relationship took a downward turn and this had a domino effect on how other family members treated her too. Soon Ro was no longer invited to gatherings while aunties who'd once hailed her as the ‘favourite’ no longer accepted her.
Grappling with feelings of hurt, loss and rejection, Ro did not lose sight of the fact that she wanted to live her life openly and proudly as a gay black woman. A test for this came in 2018 when she visited family in Ghana. This was the first time they were being introduced to the ‘lesbian version’ of Ro. “They stared and I smiled back," she says. "Clearly, they didn’t know what to say. I heard they didn’t want to offend me in their language and that’s why they chose to be minimal.”
Unfortunately, seeking comfort from her friends wasn’t an option for Ro either: “When I first came out I had a group of friends who I considered to be like sisters," she says. "I couldn’t envision a life without them. But I found that when I came out they started to drift away. I noticed that we would argue about things we wouldn’t have in the past and eventually they said I had changed too much. This came as a shock but I managed it very well because of how self-assured I was. I was at the point in my personal journey where nobody else held the key to my happiness.”
Finding a true safe space
While Ro now has full acceptance of her sexual orientation, she has had to turn over many stones to find her true safe space. “Many fear the unknown and this was definitely the case when it came to looking for support within the black community,” she says.
But rather than feeling resentful, Ro takes a measured approach and calls it ‘the battle of two worlds.’ She says she understands how cultural constraints and religious dogma can dictate how a person reacts to someone coming out. This understanding has enabled her to rebuild her relationship with her mum today: “She isn’t excited about it but she has been able to find a peace within herself to accept who I am, which is more than what I expected,” Ro says.
However, finding love and acceptance within the gay community has opened the door to a new family, community and - perhaps above all - an improved sense of self: “They accepted me for who I am; no explanations and no confrontations," Ro says. "That’s when I realised I wasn’t at a loss, but I had gained.”