Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Conversation with an Elder

I told you about the ‘request’ from my neighbours. That their children should not be allowed to play in our compound. That request conveyed through my dad….

When he told me this, Sunday morning, I listened. And, I didn’t say anything much in reply. He went away.
My lover had seen us talking. Saw the thunderous cast of my brow. Asked me what was the problem. ‘We are homosexuals’. I answered.
‘We are homosexuals. They fear that we will rape their children.’

I think the dominant emotion in me was anger. I have been kind of expecting it. We have been more or less completely exposed, outed. Media, out of media. And, we have lived in this place throughout our partnership. Doesn’t take long to connect the dotted lines. Especially with the red rug helping so well.

But, I was angry. Truly angry. And bitter, and disappointed.

I know my dad knows about my sexuality. One of those things that we don’t discuss. It is him who came to tell me that the police was looking for us. This was back in the days when we had the very first press conference (2007), when gay Ugandans came out. Later, when there was so much heat early in 2009, he expressed some concern, delicately suggested that maybe it was time we thought of leaving the country.

Is he still that concerned?

For 24 hours, I stewed and fumed, and thought. Yes, anger was the predominant emotion. I am gay. And, I know I have been closeted, me and my partner. We don’t exactly shout it out for all to know.
But, I am also a human being. I didn’t feel that my dad should come to me with the intimation that I would rape a child. Yeah, I know he was conveying a message second hand, and, the mood of the country is murderous towards gay people at the moment.
Doesn’t make me forget that HE IS MY DAD. That has obligations both ways. He to me, me to him, and, I am not ready to take him off the hook just because I am gay in Uganda.

So, come Monday morning, and I had decided that enough was enough. No more hiding.

I didn’t discuss what I was going to do with my lover. He would try to dissuade me, and I was in no mood for that, for more thought.
So, I go over to where Dad was. And, I was tongue tied.

Didn’t know how to broach the subject. Didn’t want the anger to interfere. Wanted a communication, a dialogue, to put across my point of view. Didn’t want any shouting. Was ready, but, the first words were the hardest.

Lucky for me, some kids again went to the compound, our compound. Started playing, shouting.
He commented about them. I laughed, and then had the opening.

‘You do know that I am gay?’

Yes, I used the word gay. Not homosexual, or the more perjorative equivalent in the local tongue.

He looked down. ‘Yes. You don’t take any trouble to hide it.’

Uh? I thought we were taking all this trouble to hide it! Anyway, besides the point at the moment.

Then, I gave him a piece of my mind. Condensed, bitter, direct. I and my partner are gay. We are not paedophiles. We have lived here 9 years. For someone to come and say that they fear their children to be raped by us was an insult. For him to kind of believe it was also insulting. And, unappreciated. Yes, I do understand the mood in the country. But, I also was, I am, we are human beings.

He was defensive. No, he wouldn’t tell me who had given the warning. I wasn’t asking that, I told him. That was besides the point.
If they believe that we are going to hurt their children, it is up to them to make sure the children don’t come to play in our compound. If the children ask for the permission, why, I will decide whether or not to give it. That is my prerogative.
I, we have no control over what our neighbours choose to think, to believe of what we are. But, we have a right to demand that they also take into account what we are, the fact that we have been living here for all those years. And, for heaven’s sake, we are not paedophiles.

Yes, I do know that it is a dangerous thing.
But, once we are out, we are out. No taking that secret back into the closet with us. And, we can use that as a weapon.

Later in the evening, I informed my partner that I was going to tell my brothers and sisters too. Better for them to know that I know they know. Better to have them raise any objections to my face. Or not.

No more hiding.

With the neighbours? I cannot predict or prevent anonymous violence. Of course I do hope that they do use their brains. But that is something that is hard to predict.
For now, I will inform those who are. No need to hide, not anymore.

Anger. Defiance. Healthy mix of fear in everything.

But life has to go on.

Of course it is not yet over. I would be very naive to think that. Better to take the initiative, to think ahead. I am damned if I will be made to run. Not yet at least.



Gay Nairobi Man said...

Wow..that took balls(no pun intended)

Sometimes one gets frustrated by the hiding and the need to take matters on.

Well done.

Warren Throckmorton said...

Gug: I believe you know I mean this sincerely that I am praying for your safety.

Jean-Paul, Canada said...


All you did was follow the advice of a very wise gay activist: Harvey Milk.

Coming out is our best defense. The crippling fear is gone; an incalculable amount of inner energy is released. We can't fly, but we can smile with dignity and pride in who we are; and we are no better or worse than anybody else.

I don't pray because I am an agnostic. We forge our future and not the other way round.

Your father will be proud of you, you'll see.

spiralx said...

Yes. Well done. Very hard thing to do! It's hard for him, too, because he is as in the dark over it all as everyone else.

But - as I said before - he knows you from when you were only a sperm - his! So he should trust to what he knows in his heart, about who you are.

Your brothers and sisters, the same. Your neighbours - the same.

Though be prepared for them not to!

Hélder António said...

You, gug, and your lover are on my mind too.
Good wishes.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

You always amaze me with the way you think things through...including, and probably especially, this ¨outting¨...I think you´re brave, emotionally wholesome and have take then best defense...the honest one as personal matters are starting to ¨close in...if I were there, and living as you do, I would share this ¨timing¨ and my every action with relieable, yet vocal, sources on the ground in Uganda...Dr. Tamale comes to mind but some of those editorial folks might be worthy speakers as things progress...your solid ¨being¨ I think gives strength to the REALITY of helping FEAR and HATE fall away...intelligent voices must start to tell the real LGBT story and try and diffuse this pogrom...I keep wondering if there is someone near the President who would welcome an opportunity to present a more realist and healthier view regarding the ACTUAL lives LGBT human beings in Uganda? There has to be a starting place to stop this deadly propaganda of Ssempa and other filthspewing liars.

Hold on tight.

Anengiyefa said...

Its surprising that with all which has transpired, you Gug, would think that your sexual orientation would come as 'news' to him. You have yourself confirmed that he knew about it well before you told him.

In my view, what he would have found challenging is the audacity that you have demonstrated over the years, which has now only been reaffirmed. I have always maintained the position that much of the lack of understanding of homosexuality in Africa derives from the fact that gay men and women have remained out of sight for so long that there is no accommodation for us in the minds of the heterosexual majority, save for the condemnation that they have imbibed. The more they know who we are, the better for us and for those of the generations that are following us.

Bravo Gug. I did the same thing too, but seeing as I had managed to escape to safety before I told them, I guess I'm somewhat cowardly when compared to you.. That said, there has been no indication from those who matter in my life, that my sexual orientation is an impediment to their love for me. Like you said, he is your Dad, so be gentle with him and try to be understanding of his position. It won't be easy for him either. Best wishes.

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