Mar 3, 2011

GAY IN UGANDA/PART THREE: ¨My anger fuelled my writing and blogging....I found like-minded ´activists´ intent on doing something about the world of lies that we lived in...¨

¨...we are both gay and Ugandan without a doubt. And, we are survivors, which must count for something, right?¨
Finding a Voice

It started slowly for me. Maybe it does for all of us. Once I was convinced that I was not bad because I loved my man, it was a simple logical jump to the fact that I had been deceived, for a good part of my life by those who said that to be gay was in itself bad. I was angry, and the anger was stoked, carefully. My love of books had led me to more introspection. I realized that there was much that I didn’t know, that what I had taken to be immutable truths were in fact no more than the ill-informed opinions of a few idiots. The coming of the Internet to Uganda was like being thrown into the world's biggest library.

I was angered by what I learned.

But my partner, not as involved as I was at the time, urged caution, reminding me that we were together. Risking my own exposure meant I risked his life too. And in Uganda, the probable consequences of exposure for kuchus are frightening.

¨ Uganda the probable cosequences of exposure for kuchus are frightening.¨
My anger fuelled my writing and blogging. It was channelled into other things as well. I found like-minded “activists” intent on doing something about the world of lies that we lived in.

Being gay in Uganda is tough. Being a gay activist in Uganda is much tougher.

But the anger helped, and so did the fact that my lover was soon joining me in our activist struggle. Incensed by the seemingly unrelenting assault on us by both familiar and anonymous Ugandans, we started fighting back, if only to save our sanity. Yes, more and more people came to know that we were gay, covertly, and overtly. We have been outed a number of times in the newspapers, a risk that we ran because we were activists. “We can’t hide forever,” we opined, and continued along on our dangerous path.

My parents eventually learned the truth. I was surprised when, about three years ago, my dad came to warn us that the police had been told to arrest homosexuals. He couldn't say the words, just motioned to my partner and me.

That was his way of telling us that he knew. And, once I got enough courage to talk to him, I was met with an uncompromising demand. He needed a child from me, preferably male, to serve as an heir to the family line. Later, finding that I was not heeding his demand, even after numerous reminders and hints, he dropped his expectations—at least give him a girl child, he begged.

Meanwhile, my increasing identification with the shadowy homosexual groups was becoming more and more apparent. It got to the point when I felt I had to tell my brothers, at least some of them, that I was gay. No need to hide any longer.

Not so, said my father, now worried that the common knowledge that I was gay would undo a lifetime of his work. He is a clan leader, a respected elder in our community, and the shame that was mine would be visited upon him, he told me.

Oh, well. Tough.

I am glad that we agreed to disagree ... or is it that I was just the more stubborn of the two? I had feared telling him but, as a matter of fact, in these, his declining years, my Dad does not seem to mind so much anymore. Even the demands for a child have dropped, though I plan to have one ... although how this will happen remains uncertain right now.

An Uncertain Future

The activism of my partner and I has propelled us more and more into the spotlight. When the head of the Uganda AIDS Commission accepted that gay men existed in Uganda, stigmatizing us as one of the ”drivers” of the HIV epidemic, and then said that the government had no plans to tackle HIV prevention in gay people, we were part of the group that stormed the Implementers Meeting, an international health conference. (The late activist David Kato was with us.) Three of us were arrested, jailed, and prosecuted.1 It was only after the AIDS 2008 Conference in Mexico City, after the country came under much ridicule by the international community, that the case was finally dropped.

In 2009 three American evangelists came to Uganda to teach about the evils of the “Homosexual Agenda.” We organized a group to hear this, the latest upsurge in hate speech and lies about our sexuality. And, after that, in October 2009 came the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the Ugandan parliament.

Anglican MP David ¨Kill all the Gays¨ Bahati -- author of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill before the Parliament of Uganda
Reading the text of the bill, I remarked to my partner that, according to the proposed law, we deserved the death penalty. Well, we are “serial offenders,” aren’t we? That was the lowest ebb in our lives. I remember that I felt the worst kind of despair. There was even something called the “homosexual touch”—as if our touch could spread homosexuality like a disease. We are lepers, to be shunned. The only thing good for us was death or life imprisonment: that is what our countrymen thought of us.

That crisis was weathered, in a way: the bill stalled in parliament and we breathed a sigh of relief. Prematurely, it turned out, because this is Uganda, and gay people like us cannot be left in peace.

The Rolling Stone newspaper soon started its campaign outing gay Ugandans like never before, calling for our hanging and arrest. It was different from usual—this time our pictures were featured in the rag, captioned with what most Ugandans believed we deserved: “Hang Them.”

Anglican David Kato.  ¨At his burial, a preacher felt that it was his right to warn the crowd about the death that awaited all homos¨
David Kato was one of the three activists who dared to take the paper to court. He and his fellow plaintiffs won. The law was blind to the fact that he was gay, though the accused were ready to show proof. He paid the ultimate price, bludgeoned to death in his own home. With glee, those who had recently called for his hanging swiftly labelled his murder a robbery or an incident of “gay on gay” bashing, and accused him, even in death, of the usual crimes of “recruiting” gay men or of being gay for money.

At his burial, a preacher felt that it was his right to warn the crowd about the death that awaited all homos. Well, we are kuchus. The microphone was snatched from the preacher's hands while he was at full harangue, and we continued on to bury our fallen comrade.

Yes, it is tough, being gay, and Ugandan.

But, we are both gay and Ugandan without a doubt. And, we are survivors, which must count for something, right? HERE


· Thanks to Gay Uganda, sidebar
· Thanks to The Mantle, ¨A Forum for Progressive Critique¨

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