Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Gay Wedding. In Uganda!

Reckless Courage

If you are not aware, in the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda is a bill, designed to ‘wipe out homosexuality’ from the country.
The bill has huge, terrible punishments for the homosexual Ugandan. They are life imprisonment, and the death penalty, for any acts that are deemed to be ‘homosexual’, ranging from simple touch, to lovely, consensual sex.

The mood amongst the gay community at the moment?
Well, we have been demonized, for years. But this year has been special. More than usual. Our lives hang in balance, yet we cannot defend ourselves. We have been branded traitors to the country, un-African, un-Ugandan, we are under attack as ‘recruiters’ working under the aegis of ‘foreign homosexuals’. The bill in parliament is a vicious attack on the human rights in the country, yet those who would have dared to speak up are also cowed. They fear being labeled homosexuals. Or, supporters. Recruiters.

Yet, this is an account of a Gay Wedding in Uganda. It happened yesterday.

We are a multi-ethnic country. Our marriage ceremonies differ from tribe to tribe. We are proud of them. They define us, define the start of a new generation, the final flight of the nestlings from the home. They are usually a big community event.

For most of us, the basic traditional wedding ceremony is when the girl introduces the boy to her parents. The Introduction Ceremony. With the coming of formal religion, this is taken as the first, before a Church or mosque wedding, or whatever.
The ‘Introduction’ Ceremony is a must. Many don’t go beyond that, for various reasons. But, once the Introduction is done, the man and woman are one, family, in the eyes of the community. It is our most important ceremony.

This is December marriage season, when students are back from school, holidays are in for office workers, and such. It is the season of weddings and introduction ceremonies. The season of parties.

Two guys, two kuchus wanted to cerebrate their love. And, they did it yesterday.

Of course they are aware of the bill in parliament. They are aware of the current climate of hostility and homophobia, frank violence in the country. But, they still wanted to cerebrate the joining.
They did come out to their parents. An amazing thing indeed, because, for most of us kuchus, it never, ever happens. Too dangerous. We risk being thrown out of our clan, tribe. Everything.

And, with their parents permission, they planned and did the wedding. A gay wedding in Uganda, at this particular time.

Plans have been on for most of the year. Despite all the impediments, the fear, the risks. They were determined to do it.
They gathered the money. Traditionally here, the whole community pitches in, to fundraise for the couple. These guys couldn’t risk that. They did it on their own.

They informed their parents. Who acceded. I wish I was there in that particular meeting. Hon. Bahati has a son, and, he is always telling audiences his worst nightmare- his son introducing another man as his partner. It’s a punch-line, bringing a gasp of incredulous laughter to the audience in Uganda. Unfailing.

They informed a few other kuchus, who fell into the preparations whole heartedly.

Let it be known all over the world that, we kuchus are always, unfailingly good in the party organizing business. Increadibly, the secret still held. That is another impossibility. Kuchus are notoriously bad at keeping secrets. Don’t know why…!

Came a week to the wedding, invitations were given out. No, no cards. Face to face.
Was interesting. I, and my partner were informed by one of the grooms. He was being introduced. He wanted us to grace his ceremony with our presence, at the ceremony as those who have come in from the groom’s side. He insisted we be there. I couldn’t. Prior commitments. My partner could, and he reluctantly decided to attend without me. But, we are used to kuchus being introduced, by women. It is part of kuchu life here in Uganda. There comes a time that the family, the clan demands that a man gets married. And, we do get married, to women.
Oh, we are African men. Marriage has never meant marital faithfulness. That is a foreign concept. Polygamy is part of a man’s heritage. For a kuchu man in Uganda to be married to a woman, well, we take it as part of life. A necessary rite, even when we know we are different. It is necessary.

That is what me and my partner assumed. That it was a conventional wedding ceremony that we were invited to. The prospective groom didn’t bother to tell us otherwise.

Came the day, I was at work, my partner attended.
My partner tells me what happened
An enclosed compound, which was secured. Two armed policemen at the gate. Well, we can hire the police, like all other Ugandans. The details of the ceremony is our damned business. As long as they keep out inquisitive others. And, they did try to.

Guys arrived in their ‘introduction ceremony’ specials. Traditionally, it is traditional wear. It is a traditional ceremony. ‘Kanzus’ for the men, ankle length shirt like dress, white, with a jacket over them. A little tuck in at the waist, to expose the ankles, discreetly, to allow the man to walk without impendiment. The best, the most expensive are silk. Very smart. Women in ‘gomesis’, another very Ugandan piece of wear.

My partner arrived at the compound, and was let in.

On time, the ceremony started. It is long, with lots of gift giving, hyperbole, laughter. The grooms are not on show. Not at all. It is an elaborate ritual of give and take, laughter, noise, story telling. Introductions, rules of ceremony. With a master of ceremony on both sides (groom and groom), whose job is to make it as lively, as interesting as possible. The two compete to out do the other.

It is at the end, when the shy bride is brought out of the house. The one who is introducing her man to the prospective parents.
That is when my partner realized that, it was a groom introducing a groom. A gay introduction ceremony. In Uganda, at this particular moment.

Fact is, the secret had been so well kept that, well, a number of people didn’t know!

My partner, well, his anxiety levels shot into the stratosphere. The buzz was, strong.

People were peeping in at the fence, and, the secret was out. A crowd was gathering, and the policemen were overwhelmed. A gay introductory ceremony was taking place, and, that was news indeed.

Music, talking, ritualized counseling. They happened, the kuchus now happy that the secret was out. They were delirious with joy. Two of their number were actually coming out and making their partnership official. In the traditional way.
Such gossip has wings. Crowd at the gate grew big. They wanted to know what was happening inside, in the compound. The rumours were too tantalizing. The music, the atmosphere of gaiety too tempting. They wanted to know.

Pure, absolute madness. Reckless, foolish, wonderful courage.

My partner decided it was time to leave, before it got violent. Signs were that it would.

Later, those kuchus who stayed told us that they started sneaking out, one by one. Cameras, that was the first fear. In all our finery, photos in the local tabloids can be damning. They left the food, drinks on the tables.

Getting out, for most it was evening. And, hearing the buzz of the crowd, many decided to disguise the fact that they had been at the wedding. Off the kanzus, for the guys. Too identifying. They took them off, mingled with the crowd outside, slipped away.

Sadly, one of us was attacked. He was foolish enough to remain in his kanzu. It was torn off his body by the crowd outside.

How are the grooms? Fine, for now.

Pure madness. Absolute, shrieking madness, to have such a ceremony in Uganda at this moment. No amount of security can keep such a happening secret. Never. It was madness.

Pure, sweet madness, that I identify with. I know, I am also mad. Raving.

We kuchus, we gay Ugandans, we are also human beings. Seeking the simple, the wonderful small pleasures that all other Ugandans have. And, nothing shows that like our desire to be known, in the eyes of our parents, as a couple. Acknowledged, in the ultimate way. Groom and groom, husband and husband, wife and wife.

They were stupid. They were human. I love their stupidity and humanity.

Err, the punishment for this ‘gay marriage’ in the Bahati/Benson Anti-Homosexuality Bill in parliament now?

Life imprisonment for the Happy Couple. For us the celebrants, 3 years in prison if we fail to reveal the marriage to police within 24 hours.
If we are not lynched by the enraged crowd.
Sadly, now we have to deal with the backlash.

It was an exceedingly stupid, incredibly foolish thing to do.

It was, and is, human. Poignantly, absolutely, completely human.


gug

31 comments:

Tobias said...

First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians 13:1-13:

Love is patient,
love is kind;
love is not jealous or boastful;
it is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

gayuganda said...

Tobias,

A fervent Amen to that

gug

Tobias said...

Ditto

AfroGay said...

Sounds very interesting ... but also undignified. Good luck to the happy couple.

And GUG: are you sure it was due to "prior commitments" that you didn't attend? Or was it the cowardice you have have admitted to recently?

Smile. No need to answer the question.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Amazing...sometimes the under-ground-activities turn out to be very memorable and held sacred...I wish the best to the courageous ones, grooms, families and friends!

We are like China, we´ll always be there/here.

D-Place said...

That was very brave of the couple. I wonder if in such a situation would I have the same courage.

natt said...

These courageous men are an inspiration. I desperately hope their marriage will be a long & happy one.

Lorenzo said...

Thank you for sharing with the world this statement of courage and hope.

The war against homosexuality is one of utopian cruelty: a war against people as they are in the name of people as they are allegedly supposed to be.

And the notion that same-sex marriage is some "new idea" is also quite wrong: same-sex marriage has a long history in human cultures, including African cultures.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed reading this courageous act of LOVE. I wish all the best for their marriage! Thank you for sharing!

LisaNanetteAllender said...

May the Universe/God extend much happiness and Blessings to you, and to the happy couple!
What a show of bravery. :)

Randy B said...

I cannot help but think of another nation at another time which passed laws against it's citizens. It took the entire world to end it's reign of hate.

MadPriest said...

On behalf of the OCICBW... community I send our most fervent best wishes to the happy couple. May our God and all gods of good will bless and protect them throughout their life together. If we had known beforehand we would have sent them a toaster (this is an English joke).

And thank you. Thank you to the couple, their parents and all the guests for their courage and for giving the world hope and an example that will inspire countless others. And thank you for bringing this story to us. God bless you all.

Father Jonathan Hagger

Iwaya said...

life is never going to be the same for the parents in that community.

gayuganda said...

Thanks, everyone for the good wishes.

Iwaya, I think I have realised that our coming out as Gay will always affect our families.

We are, but, we lie about it, till we cant do it, and...

But the truth can hurt as well as heal. And, ultimately, when our people, our families embrace us, they give us all the blessings of being with us in such a country as ours.

Emma Jo said...

Wow
what a brave couple! This brought me to tears. There are still humans left in the world. there is still LOVE.

To those afraid of homosexuals I must say there are bigger things to be afraid of that will actually hurt the community like poverty, corrupt leadership, deceases, criminals and so on.

And Gug, I don't know you but I wish you the best. Thank you for sharing! Love from sweden

Ken Harvey said...

What an extraordinary story. It defines bravery for me and raises the bar for what many of us could and should be doing to protect human rights. Many of us have no idea what it is like to put our lives on the line. These two men and their guests did. All I can say is thank you for sharing the story.

Anonymous said...

I pray that the Universe will intervene in on our cruel and mortal ways. The fact two human beings cannot live their lives that donot affect anyone regardless of country, race or culture is just sad. I can hear the roar of the crowd beating down on me through the words of this story. I think there comes a time when human free will is too much for them to handle and I pray/plead that such freedom and freedom to hate will be silenced!!!!

Reverend Richard Thornburgh said...

Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy! Amazing stuff.

Maajour Ricci said...

That was an amazing story and well written! And to the comment man named AfroGay, why do spoil this man's story with your "smiling" insults to his character? Are you the coward for using a fake name? Shame to your family.

Maajour Ricci said...

So yes, shame to AfroGay and great praises to the person who wrote the article! I loved it and walked through every word as if I were at the ceremony. It made me smile, it made me proud. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

love

Hardy Haberman said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. Perhaps some day in happier times this will be told again and again.

Rain said...

They may inspire a nation and touch the human heart of the whole world.

I wish them the joy of living out their love together.

Automatic Prince said...

It's a very inspirational story.
I want to feel a love this intense, that will make me strong enough to brave just about anything.
We're a long way from acceptance, but as long as people believe and show that this is all about love, there is hope :-)

Bhaktivedanta Vaisnava Maharaja said...

Thank you for this lovely report of this very brave wedding. I wish the couple all happiness. May they be kept safe and together.

Same sex love and our couples are indeed part of humanity's history. Until the world can accept all its diverse parts it will never know the beauty of true harmony and spiritual reality. True love is Unity in Diversity.

Please visit the website of the Gay & Lesbian Vaisnava Association for more from the Vedic perspective: www.galva108.org

With all blessings and love to LGBT people evrywhere,

Bhaktivedanta Vaisnava Maharaja

jp5040 said...

From my perspective in the most liberal of regions in Canada (maybe one of the earth's most liberal countries) I actually cried when I found out that men weren't allowed to be married (I was 13). In my lifetime we have corrected this situation here, but as I said, we are a most liberal nation. I can't imagine how it is for people in Uganda It saddens and demoralizes all of us.

In my life I have had relationships with both men and women and have only ever suffered minor consequences for my "gay" activities. I have been the victim of personal attacks in my youth but I never feared a state reprisal of my personal life. In fact I could always turn to the police for protection! It is a sad state of affairs.

I suspect as one commentator posted that it took (and will take) the whole world to oust a dictatorship regime so bound as to kill all the gays along with any other undesirables. I feel strongly that the world looks on Africa as a very alien world. No direct information is brought to the forefront and concerns of human rights go un-noticed. I feel it is imperative that all of us who live in Canada, the US, Britain, Australia, and any western nation need to TALK about Uganda. We need to get the word out. Not just because it's about other gay people, but because of the utmost right of humanity to live and love as free as we are! This is not about political right. It is about human dignity.

Thank-you for sharing your story. I fear for your friends and even for you for having posted this. I fear our numb media drenched minds will not react until there has been serious bloodshed.

I promise to speak about this issue with as many people I know. I will make it a topic of discussion at my Christmas party tomorrow. I will call the news and ask - "what about Uganda? I want to know about Uganda." In this time of modernity it seems Africans are still second class citizens of the world. It is really lunacy!

Good Luck. Peace be with you.
Jason

Anonymous said...

A wonderful, brave story well told. It's heartwarming to read of such pioneering efforts in the face of such hostility. I wish everyone well and that some day common sense will reign.

gdog355 said...

God bless you guys in your hour of torment

Mark Caponigro said...

May the Protomartyr Saint Stephen remember you among all the brave people for whom he must intercede.

It is very sad, that gay people in Uganda are discredited, precisely because their supremely just cause is supported by gay people (and others) in Europe and North America.

Amberdawn said...

Wow, that was very brave.

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