Yesterday, I went to see a friend. He is gay. He lives and works about 30km from Kampala. And he is lonely.
Being gay in Uganda has its great things- especially if you have your own crowd. But being gay and alone is a peculiar kind of loneliness. I have experienced it, when I was coming out (to myself), and later when I was struggling to come get to know other people out there. That is what caused me to first build the site, translating my loneliness into the motto 'you are not alone, we are many'.
It is not a need for sex, though that may mean a great deal. It is being with the mass of others, when you cannot say anything about what is on your mind. It is noting a guy who attracts you, and you check yourself not to blurt out your appreciation. It is walking the tight rope of conforming, as others talk about opposite sex conquests. It is coming to terms with others significant events; the weddings, marriages and their marital challenges. It is not knowing what may act to out you, and what may not.
My friend is studying. He has been out to himself for some time, and he is relatively comfortable with what he is. But upon a time, he walked the edge of exposure. He was distraught when some 'well meaning' friends threatened to tell the world about his presumed sexual orientation. Telling his world that he is homosexual would have meant loss of job, possibly his position in school, and a rejection from the people that he calls relatives. He stared that in the face and balked, was distressed. Luckily, it cooled down, but not before he had been forced into an engagement of sorts. Engaged to be married, an engagement that his friends went ahead to broadcast to the whole world to save him from the taint and rumour of being a homosexual.
There is always an unconscious siege mentality to the person who lives in this kind of situation. You are constantly monitoring yourself, and it becomes second nature. But it does not take away the loneliness. Paradoxically, if you are able to get a lover, the conditions may make that love very precious, because it has to be so hidden from the world.
Today, I heard on one of the FM stations that the catholic archbishop of Kampala was condemning South Africa for having legalised homosexual marriages. I realised that the man himself does not understand much about what it is to be gay. He is horrified by the idea of a man loving another man, and a woman loving another woman. And he does not understand the official Catholic church point of view! I remembered my friend, alone out in the countryside. That kind of news is very common. To most Ugandans, it is another churchman condemning a vice. To the gay Ugandan, it is his church elders condemning him for what he is. And demonstrating that they do not understand what a homosexual is. Apart from thinking of him as the lowest of sinners.
Time out on all this counting of our curses. I am gay, and I am a Ugandan. If I lie back and start counting all the bad things that can or might happen to me, I will not only spoil my day, I will also leave you with the impression that being gay in Uganda is impossible. I know that it is not. I have just left my lover in bed. Indeed we had some wonderful time of intimacy. We make love as often as we can and we have not yet figured out how that will hurt another Ugandan. Until we do, we have promised ourselves to enjoy this most impressive times of physical intimacy and communion.
We are planning for the round of parties and Christmas cheer, and if you have someone that is dear to you, wish him or her a beautiful season.