[Hey, you thought I was done? No...!]
When I tell people that we have been together, me and my man for nine good years, I always hear the exclamation mark, the disbelief when they first hear it.
How? That, usually, is the incredulous next question.
Truth is I don’t know how. I just know that it is fact. We have been together nine good years.
A gay relationship in
. Almost impossible to believe, but, it has all the luck stacked up against it. Uganda
We are African men. Brought up to be what we are, in our distinctly African society. Different tribes, or ethnic groups. With living family and relations. Clans that expect of us what they expect African men. Marriage, children, family, relations. The pressure to have children is intense.
Yes, of course it is very, very homophobic. Has gotten worse the last couple of years.
We walk together, most of the time. We are careful not to touch, not to hold hands, not to kiss, of course. Never in public. Constant vigilance. Constantly looking over our shoulders.
To the frequent curiosity about our friendship? A shrug, a smile, and a distinct shake of the head not to pry. Friends we are, it is taken. More than friends? Well, figure it out.
they got to know. Gradually. They know now. For some, we told. I remember the time that he went to tell his mom. And, the day that my dad came to tell me that the police were looking for me, for us. But, with most of those, we never talk about it. They know. That, for most, is enough. We are African men, with the arrogance that suggests in our communities. They may talk, in private. No confronting of us.
How did it happen?
I am half of the couple. And, I am truthful when I say I don’t know. It happened day by day, minute by minute. I don’t know what I have contributed to the partnership. I am less idealistic, more pragmatic. I wanted a relationship, but, I was never, ever sure it would last. Over the years, it is I who has been more likely to stray, to want out, to want more ‘freedom’. I am an African male. Tiger Woods/Els episodes are kind of part of life. And, I have been responsible for my fair share.
He is idealistic.
Meant it when he said we were married. I was skeptical.
He took me to his home, to meet the parents. The in-laws. It was an occasion for him. For I? I went to please him. Matter of fact.
Then, he decided to come out to his mum. Just like that. He went to the village, told her. And, that was that. She has even come to visit us at our home, my mom-in-law.
To him the trappings of social life matter a lot. The anniversaries, the big days, Valentines, birthdays. And of course, the Anniversary.
Oh? He is extremely jealous.
Legendary in fact. Sometimes, people ask, cautiously, how I manage to bear that level of possessiveness? I shrug. He is what he is, I say. What I don’t say is that jealousy in a relationship is kind of a sop. Reminds one that, the other does care.
I do mind when he throws a fit because I have talked to someone in a bar, someone he does not approve. But, my kind of uncaring attitude would have been the death blow to the relationship long ago, if he didn’t have enough jealousy for both of us. And, it keeps off the pesky flies!
He is practical, I am a dreamer.
He cares about his in-laws. Is incensed at the smallest slight, real or imagined. I shrug them off. Cool him down.
When my brothers, my sisters will not visit, he is mad at them. I don’t care. When it is necessary, I will, and do assert my self. He says not enough, I am sure of myself.
He is Catholic. A staunch Catholic when I met him.
I believe in nothing. Had given up on belief, and was actually extremely bitter when we met. I have worked out some of that bile off on this blog, posting, crying, whinging. It has been good.
My steady non belief has eroded his beliefs. And, the challenge to the authority figures of the church that I present has put questions in his mind. But, he is still a confessing Catholic. No, religion would have driven us apart. We decided early on that it was one of the things we never discussed. Because we were more likely to butt our heads on unyielding walls of our own prejudices.
The activism has helped.
I started it as a joke. At first, I was in fear of what I am. Gay.
With the days, months, years, my self confidence, my pride in my humanity has actually grown. At first I wanted to reach out and help other gay people in
. Life is extremely, absolutely challenging. Somehow, we do try to get through it, because we are human. Uganda
But, there are always casualties. Always. Those who drop on the wayside, those who cannot make it. Those who, ultimately, have to succumb to the harsh realities of our existence. Some like Brian Pande, arrested, jailed, dead on leaving jail. His partner with a court case pending for ‘un-natural’ relations. Others, like a former boyfriend of mine, who died, committed suicide. He reportedly had HIV.
Prison, jail, extortion, murders, blackmail. Social ostracism and ridicule. The harsh consequences of being outed, forced into marriage, forced into unwanted relationships. Or, the ever present possibility of being caught making love, arrested, beaten up, mob justice. It is funny, when I do articulate all those things, I do wonder how it has been possible to stick together this long.
But, we have.
It has also helped that a nascent gay community is growing. Even in our circumstances. We are kuchus. We are in the closet, hiding, hidden, unaccepted, pariahs. Many of us don’t even dare to come out. But, those of us who can, rejoice in meeting, now and again. In knowing those who are like us, those who will rejoice, with us, when we celebrate a day like our anniversary.
My lover was not ready at first to go into activism.
He thought it led to unacceptable levels of exposure. Why tell more people than necessary that we are gay? It multiplies the danger. It brings you to the attention of the government. Then people like Ssempa want to out you, prominently, in the papers, on radios. They want to embarrass, shame you. They want to harm you.
Thing is, when I have a bee in the bonnet… I did have my way. And, he joined me. After some time. Nowadays, I think he is more fierce than I am. More apt to challenge, very eloquently, those who deny his humanity because he is, we are, gay.
It helps that he is more street wise than I am.
How was it possible?
I don’t know, yet I have lived the nine years.
He knows. He loves sitting and counseling others, couples. He is the ‘senga’ of kuchu relationships in
, I joke. Marital counselor. They go to him when they are having relationship difficulties. Both the boys, and the girls. Yes I know, we are all in the same boat. It is a matter of fact that human beings seek companionship. Free sex is good. Great. But, most, if not all of us, have that dream of finding that perfect other that will synch, and live happily thereafter. A very human dream. Uganda
And, of course there is love.
It was the single, most concrete cement at the beginning of our relationship. We were both young, exploring. We did learn of each other. We compromised, we searched, we explored. Not only with sex. We have had our hard times, and lush times. We have gone through sickness, and health. We are together, and we have been a team….
Maybe that IS the trick.
I am not sure. But, of this I am sure. Nine years it has been. Nine years, and counting.