Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kuchu Identities


We call ourselves Kuchus, us gay Ugandans.

Kuchus. An interesting term. It was a secret term before, but now that the Red rug published it, why hide? We are.

Kuchu. The term is apparently derived from Swahili. Not any of our local languages, but the why of it is lost. Some of us think it derogative. To others it is a sign of pride.
The best translation to English would be ‘Queer’. I got across this interesting article on homosexuality and Queer theory. It was of interest because it captured the essence of our identities and differences so well.

The girls are Kuchus, and so are the guys. The transgenders are also Kuchus. We all are kuchus. So, instead of going into the terms gay or lesbian which seem to confuse us so much in the community, we just say that we are kuchu. And that is taken as a member of the family. All inclusive and welcoming, or so we think.

Yet we are different amongst ourselves.

First time that I met Victor was at a party. There was this cute boy, (I thought), who the other guys were hitting on outrageously. Victor later came and talked to me, a few minutes. Apparently enough to rouse my lover’s irritation. Until I told him that the cute boy was a girl.
Victor laughed as she corrected my mistake, telling me that she was flirting with the others just for fun, because they all thought that she was a man. She loved it.
Later, I was to know a few others like her. Girls, women who hated being women, but loved women.

To my shock there were guys like them too.
At first I was a bit irritated. Getting out of my closet, I was quite firm in my gender identity. I knew I was a man who was attracted to men. That was ok. But I did not want to become a woman. So when I saw a guy who acted like a woman, I was irritated. Remember I am an African male. Born and brought up in Africa. And in our firmly patriarchal upbringing, it is early on impressed on us that a man is not a woman, and for a man to be mistaken for a woman is an insult of considerable magnitude. So I was shocked that there were kuchus who actually acted like women. And others who took on the mannerisms of women, and some who identified as women. They amazed me. I knew I did not want to be like them. They actually did not attract me, till I had the chance to fall in love with one like that. That (ahem) was a while ago! It was a considerable learning experience for me. I realized that though superficially similar, we kuchus were very different.

That was about the time that I started reading up medical texts on sexuality. Interesting stuff actually. We have a saying that one who has not traveled is the one who praises his mom’s cooking. Reading on sexuality opened my eyes to a lot of possibilities.

And I realized, that as a kuchu, or queer, we were not only diverse, we were a proudly diverse community. It is not only the straight who think that they are the epitome of normality. Even us kuchus have those delusions.

But we can embrace the fact of our differences. And so can those who are straight understand that we are different, but still human.

GayUganda

7 comments:

SpecialK261 said...

I really like this article, very scholarly and thought provoking...thanx for the insight..sometime we need to step out of the developed world and see things froma different prospective..

Anonymous said...

I have nothing against gay people, but would you somtimes just blog as a human being? I mean can you for once just not blog about how gay you are?

gayuganda said...

Hi Anonymous

Actually you can leave your name here. No big deal.

Thanks for the backhanded compliment. So you like the blog but not the fact that I blog about being gay?
But I have blogged on other things. Human rights (women etc), writing, Eid Day, Poems about Kampala, Uganda, etc. Of course the over-riding theme on this blog of mine is my sexuality. Big deal for me where I am. I am letting off steam, in a way. I am saying all the things that I cannot say in my country without some repercussions that I would not like!!

Yeah, I will blog as a human being. And not how gay I am!!!! Whoops, but I must blog about how gay I am too. Cant leave it out, don’t you think?

SpecialK261, you are welcome.

Gug

Robert said...

Hi Anonymous,

funny choice of words. Blog like a human being?

Isnt a gay person a human being?

Anonymous said...

I liked this one. Cuz me to have come to realise that discrimination and being judgemental within our own community happens alot, which is too bad, because on the long run we're all kuchus, and human-beings that needs to be treated as such.
But nice blog entery though...I could relate to this.
/babyphat

DON CHARLES aka "STUFFED ANIMAL" said...

I am told on good authority that "kuchu" does not mean "queer"! It most closely means "transgender" in the broadest sense of the word. "Queer" is a hateful, heterosexist term that foolish Western Gay activists have tried to "reclaim". People are trying to popularize it in Africa, and that's appalling. According to Frank Mugisha, chairman of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Ugandans tend to shun the derogatory terms Straight people label them with.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I'm living in the Netherlands and a real 'kuchu', because I'm a known crossdresser or transvestite. Nowadays we will mostly use the word 'transgender'. It seems to sound better.

Your blog is short. but it raises a number of interesting issues. I would like to comment on some of these issues.

You wrote: "And so can those who are straight understand that we are different, but still human." I think, you are making here an important and possible fatal error.

You are assuming here, that we are 'human'. That we are the same as ordinary human beings and that we should have the same rights. The reason for you to state this, is not an empirical fact, but only your wish to be considered as a normal human being. So, this statement is not about the word as it is, but as you think, it should be.

As a transgendered person I have lived more than 40 years out of the closet and by doing so, I learned a difficult lesson the hard way. It is not important, how I think the world should be. It is important to understand how other people think, the world is and should be. Because even in the Netherlands, a lot of people think that transgendered people do not fit into their category system and should be 'deleted' as soon as possible. As a transgendered person you should be aware of this all the time.

Therefor we are not 'human', we are 'kuchu'. So, accept that you are considered to be different and realise that might cause a lot of trouble.

At the start of your blog, you wrote: "... why hide? We are."

For transgendered people in the Netherlands living in the closet is totally different from living outside the closet. So, what I think to see, is that a lot of transgendered people who at last came out of the closet, just don't make it in the long run. Living in the closet they might have a nice job, a beautiful wife, a nice house, kids. But coming out into the open, will often mean they will lose almost everything. In the long run most transgendered people who are out, will often not survive, due to the continuing social stress.

Because the situation in the Netherlands is much and much better for LGBT peope than in Uganda, being outed has to be taken very seriously indeed.

A third issue in your blog are the differences between LGBT people. Yes, very true. We are all very different. Heterosexual transgendered males usually feel opposed to homosexual males. As a 'showgirl' my transgender friends are often shocked by the way I sometimes dress, and so on.

The point however is that we have to join forces if we want to survive. So, it is not important that other LGBT are totally different. Our first and only priority should be: survival. To survive you need to work together. As a loner, your chances for survival are as a kuchu not too well. As a group we might survive, if we can organize ourselves. But that might be a big if.

Summary:
1. We are not 'human', we are 'kuchu'.
2. Life outside the closet is totally different from life inside the closet.
3. Survival should be our first priority and to do so, we need other kuchus.

Mik van Es




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