Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gay Lit on the Net

The internet has played quite a part in my gay life in Kampala, in Uganda. Ok, someone complained that it seems all I think about is being gay and Ugandan. But this is the blog for that. I feel good airing off into the ether things I cannot debate with many people here.

Er, cyberworld. A place to meet people, and enjoy friendships. And a place for so much more, even in Uganda. Especially in Uganda.

And there is this treasure trove of gay literature that I have discovered on the net. I love reading. And I guess gay lit just touches me somehow. I remember the feel of awe that I had when I first understood that Shakespeare's sonnets were about a homosexual love. I was bowled over. I went over them again and again, thrilled that this wonderful poetry was about the love of one man for another. I identified, and I loved it.

I have discovered more gay lit on the net, and it is lovely.

First I stumbled across Nifty, the Nifty Erotic Stories Archive. That was way back when I was just discovering the power of the net. A distinct power. Nifty is a collection of stories on less than conventional love. It is huge, it is relatively disorganised. Yet it is like a gold and diamond mine. A huge variety of stories, of all genre. Free to read. And anyone can post. The policy is to allow anyone (anyone!) to post, and that gives one the feel of an experience of the whole world out there.

There are gay stories, bi stories, bestiality stories. There are good stories, and those you shouldn’t waste time on. It is a treasure trove, some of the findings challenging, other disgusting, and others with the purity of the glint of diamond in the morass of river mud. I have cruised that site for years, off and on. I have followed the stories, and I still love going there. It is a treasure trove to explore. Its like a microcosm of life, in its expanse, complexity, depth and sheer magnitude of experience.

Gay authors is something else. Here, it seems like only quality stories are accepted. It does not have the feel of being too wild, like Nifty is. But it has real, lovely gay literature. A treasure to explore. Recently re-organised, the stories are easier to access.

But they are really exceptional. Really lovely.

Is it true that gay people have this entente with the artistic part of life? I don't know, maybe shouldn’t think about it that way. But there is something for the literature buff out there.

To a gay Ugandan, all this is interesting. A glimpse into a world of freedom that is almost unimaginable. But it is something that we can delve in and I do so love to do just that.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Gay Community in Uganda

Last Sunday I was in a bar talking with one friend, a gay friend. His new year resolution was to end 'bar friendships'. I laughed at him when he told me.

But he was serious.'It is high time we started really knowing one another as Kuchus (gay Ugandans). Time to end superficial acquaintanceships. Time to make real friends.'

A great idea. And a very good positive development.

I have many gay friends. More 'bar acquaintances' than friends. But I do have friends amongst them. People we have invited home for a dinner or such. A far cry from the time when all were guys one knew at the bar, and had no idea of the real names. The closet is a terrible thing.

Kuchu community in Uganda is growing by leaps and bounds. People are getting out of the closets. They are affirming what they are. They are organising. They are coming up with self-help schemes and projects.

Seems like yesterday that I was looking for other gay people in Uganda. Had to search the net till I landed a true hit. Then I was dreaming up the Gay Uganda Website- with a theme that reflected my heart felt cry at the time. 'You are not alone- We are many.'

When I first got tired of the party scene and told an acquaintance that I was actually on the look out for a long term relationship, he laughed at me. We were in a bar that we frequented then. About 20 gay guys. I am (not) promiscuous(!). I had slept with only about 5 of the people in the bar. He had slept with most, and was angling for my scalp.

'Kuchus', he informed naive me, 'Kuchus do not form relationships. I don’t know of any couples.' He was disdainful in his superior knowledge of Kuchu community in Kampala.

Indeed, later, my partner and I used to be the token 'Gay Couple of the year' for a few years running.

But that was then. Now, we are not the only couple on the scene. Guys, (and girls) are moving into solid relationships. And doing well. Guess my friend was not right about what Kuchus are capable of.

It’s a good vibe. What was not possible before is tantalisingly probable now. A gay lawyer friend once laughed at me when I talked about Gay Rights in Uganda. But that is something that more gay Ugandans are more sensitive about now. We even have a lending library with Gay themed movies circulating. And they are not porn.

Maybe, just maybe, I will have the pleasure of leading my love down the aisle during my lifetime in Uganda.

Now, that would be beautiful.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Why does it matter so much, me being gay?

I could write a book about that.

It is not really me. It is about where I am, being gay, a homosexual who is Ugandan. A Ugandan who is homosexual. Or is it a human being who is homosexual?

It is that, and more. But it certainly bears little to me being what I am.

Once I told a guy, a friend, that I am gay. He was a recent acquaintance, but a friend. He is a Christian. A 'saved' Christian. Of recent it seems as if everyone is a Christian. And that is the problem.

I told this guy that I am gay. I am sure that he had not met any other guy who would affirm it, or at least that is what I think. He was stunned. He looked at me as if I had grown horns, of a sudden. But he listened to me.

A few weeks later, he asked me whether I had been serious, whether I was really a homosexual. I assented. Could see that though we had not talked about it since the first time, it had been on his mind.

Why is it such a big deal?

Mainly because of the church. From the pulpits in Uganda, being gay has been officially confirmed as the worst of sins. And no wonder that Archbishop Orombi is leading a world wide crusade to bring back the wayward Anglicans to 'biblical' Christianity.

I told my friend that it is not a moral issue. That it is an issue of being. He laughed, incredulous at my naivety, as he saw it. So I asked whether it should matter to him if I was not a Christian. Can I be a homosexual and a Christian? That he could not grasp.

I have lived my life in Uganda. I knew way back that I was gay. And I ducked it, because of my beliefs. Because of what the church believed and taught here. By the time I realized that my being gay was just a small part of me, I was already scarred. Bitter, bitten, beaten, injured and very angry.

I have had to work out a lot of that anger at the church. I have had to come to grips with my spirituality. I understand more, a bit more, those of us who dare to affirm that they are gay, and Christian.

Yet I still ask myself, why does this matter so much? Why is it such a big deal that I am a homosexual?


Thursday, January 18, 2007

My Gay Identity

I am a homosexual. And I am so much more than a homosexual, so much more than just my sexual orientation. But the world sees me as a homosexual. And that lens colours everything else that I may be, at least in the eyes of the world.

True liberation for the gay person may lie not only in embracing his or her gay persona, but also in realising that they are more than just that part of their identity. That they are fully human, with the faculties, strengths and weaknesses that all other humans manifest. I don’t have to be special because I am gay. I am special because I am what I am. I don’t have to be burdened with more special consideration because I am a homosexual. Because my sexual orientation is other than heterosexual. I just have to be accepted for what I am, a human being who is homosexual. A part of my identity, not the entirety of my identity.

Yet the world will not see this. Most of the world will not see this. Even my friends who are gay will not see this. To my friends, being gay has become a badge of honour, and that I welcome. It is a badge of identity that they welcome. To my detractors, it is the devil’s horns revealed in their glory. The essence of evil that they are fighting to exclude from their pristine world. It even affects those who may be neutral. Unconsciously, subconsciously; that I am of this sexual orientation, different from them.

Yet I am just that, a human being who is gay.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Claiming Asylum as a Gay Person

Habeeb has claimed asylum in the USA. Ndyanabo did so in Canada. All are Ugandans who have taken a chance to ask for asylum in another country, on the grounds that being gay in Uganda is detrimental to their continued wellbeing. It cannot be fun leaving one’s country because of what one is.

My attention was drawn to the discussion on this blog about that subject. The contention was that, since the UNHCR has a mandate to recognise that a person is persecuted because of his sexual orientation, then it is a bonafide reason to seek asylum. Yet few gay people from Africa do so. Why is that?

Maybe it is because we do not know about it. The lack of hope in our countries makes people trek across the Sahara for a chance of a better life in Europe, or America. They risk death, on the sea, in the desert, in being stowaways. All for the chance of a better future. So, when they get there, why don’t they claim that they are being persecuted because of their sexual orientation?

When Ndyanabo claimed asylum in Canada, his name was splashed across the papers in Uganda. I thought immediately that he has burnt his bridges behind him. He must get the asylum, because he cannot afford to come back to an outed state in Uganda. We have to consider that. If I claim asylum on the grounds that I am gay, what if I don’t get asylum? What if I am shipped back to Uganda? I will be in a worse state, outed when I would not want to be. It happened recently to a woman deported from the UK. Maybe the govt will not pursue me, but what about my family? I may find myself without the all important family support that is necessary to survive.

Yet there is another consideration. Ugandans in the diaspora live in closely knit communities. They look out for one another. They remember each other as a family abroad. And guess what would be a problem if you said you are gay? You would lose this social support. Most of us do carry our homophobia with us into the diaspora.

And another point which comes out very clearly in the discussion here is this. How many gay Ugandans are comfortable with that identity? The answer is very few. Most of us would rather have the ground swallow us than admit to our love for people of the same sex. We have little knowledge of who we are. We know it feels right, we are continuously bombarded by information from church, family, mosque, government and society that it is not right. Would we claim that identity? Read the Habeeb story. It gives a pretty good summary of what is.

Would I claim asylum on account of being a homosexual from Uganda? I would think about it a lot. I would certainly not leave this country on a whim. I love it. I would leave only when forced by circumstances. And claiming asylum because I am gay would be something to do under some considerable duress. Speak of being between a rock and a hard place. But survival is what matters, and Ugandans are masters of survival.


The Pain of a Censor

Last week I caught the tail end of a discussion. The Minister of Ethics and Integrity, the Hon. James Nsaba Buturo was not happy with DSTV, the satellite TV provider from South Africa. What was irking him was the fact that DSTV had in its bouquet some series and films dealing with homosexuality. The L Word, etc, etc.

Now, beyond from Pastor Sempa, this gentleman is irked by homosexuals. Last year he wrestled the production of the Vagina Monologues to a stop because it was a lesbian play. (according to him). Then later in the year, he had a problem with the man who is forcing some poor Ugandans to sell their birthright for a mess of pottage. Hornsleith. His problem with him was that the guy is a homosexual.

Dr Nsaba Buturo is a PhD in economics. He is also a born again Christian, and for some reason, above many others, he is irked by homosexuality. And he has used his position in government to do all he can to stop the spread of that virtue!

I pity him, in a way.

Homosexuals are arguably a minority. We are only about 3% of the population. I know that more optimistic calculations come up with the 10% figure, which is a possibility. Gay sex is a taboo in a whole lot of communities and few would like to admit to it.

Yet, this small minority seems to have a proportion of achievers that the world has recognised. Why? A question for an evolutionary psychologist. There must be something, a survival advantage to this sexual orientation.

Back to Nsaba Buturo. If we are to censor everything with a homosexual bent (that is, apart from approved hate materials) we would have to censor Shakespeare, Alexander the Great, Allan Turing (Father of Computers), Oscar Wilde, Leornado da Vinci. Have you ever thought of the irony that His Holiness Ratsinger was elected Pope under the Sistine Chapel roof, with Michelangelo masterpieces in attendance? And of course contemporaries like Elton John and others.

What a world it would be, without the genius of these guys. They happened to be gay. A hated thing.

Pastor Sempa wants us to go further. We should also censor gay lovers- Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Mbeki. Because they are lovers of gays. What a heaven on earth we would make.

So, we shall love the sinner, but frown on the sin. We shall make use of the computer, and forget our sins against the ‘Father of Computers’. We need to make a world that has no support for homosexuals. So help us god.

Will that work for you?


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Mother's Anguish: Tale of Three Mothers

I was impressed by this lady’s reaction to the knowledge of her son's homosexuality. She took some time to understand the boy, but she did. She watched his struggle. She understood the challenges of being different in a homophobic society brought. She understood the inner struggles and related to the pain of growing up. And she still understands him, now that he is an adult. And she dares to challenge the unthinking hatred of those who believe that her son's homosexuality is a challenge to their state of wellbeing. His sexuality did not change her sexuality. The challenge was the understanding that it was not her under siege, but the son who needed to be understood and respected. And loved because that was him. That story is here.

But this mother was different. She did not understand her son. She did not even make an attempt to. He is her only son, but when he came out as a homosexual, after years of hiding the fact, she rejected him. She disowned him and threatens to sue anyone who refers to him as her son. To her, the difference in his sexual orientation defined the whole of him. This is the mother of the Indian Prince I wrote about here. And the link to the article in the paper.

There is another mother on my mind. My mom.

She doesn’t know that I am gay. She doesn’t know that I am a homosexual.

My lover has come out to his mum. She was ok with it, and she knows that I am his partner. My mum is another matter.

Do I love her? Yes, I do. Does she love me? Yes she does.

Then why don't I tell her? There may come a time when she will have to know. I am too out, too comfortable with my sexuality. Too many people know me as a gay man with my partner. And in Uganda, such an outing is news worth enough to hit the headlines in some of the dreaded tabloids.

But it boils down to this; will she react like Mom One or Mom Two?

I have thrown enough hints. I have prepared the ground as thoroughly as I can, but whenever I come to the point of telling her, I fear to lose her love.

She is a religious person. And I cannot help thinking that her church is constantly harping at how sinful I must be to be a homosexual. The Anglican crowd is splitting because of that. The cardinal is of the same mind. The Moslems think I should be stoned. The government is adamant. I don’t know about the traditional healers view of this, but then, they are re-known for being on the fringes of society. It may not matter much.

I will tell Mama. I need to tell her. But for the time being, I will enjoy the love that we can share. Funny, I am almost sure of how Daddy will react. Most likely disavowal and disinheritance. Being sure of that means I will not tell him if I can help it. He does love me, so I may be mistaken.


Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Tale from India

This is a beautiful, exotic, romantic tale from India.
There was a Prince, a royal. Born to privilege, natured from birth to be the heir to a kingdom. His parents doted on him. His subjects knew him as the most beautiful jewel in the whole of the empire.
He grew up in his surreal world of privilege and comfort till something happened when he was around 12. His body was maturing, like any other young man, privileged or not. And he found that he was attracted to other young men. He didn’t know what it meant, but later, he found that he was homosexual. He fell in love with a servant boy his age, and they were together till he had to leave for school at 18.
Surprise. This is a true story.
The prince found life different with the separation from his love, and the new world. He found that being a homosexual is a big deal. So he had to hide. Or else indulge in a forbidden love. He found that he was expected to get married and father children, heirs to the throne. He got married, and after a brief, loveless time, they broke off. It was too much for him. He found other gay people and slowly came to a self realisation. He started working with less privileged gay people, counselling them and helping in HIV prevention. Then he had a nervous breakdown, and a helpful counsellor arranged for him to talk to doting Mom and Dad. Their reaction was stupendous. They ranted and raved. Mommy disowned him. Daddy disinherited him.
But the Prince is okay with that. He is happy. He is what he is. And he is free.
A beautiful true story. And the Prince is living today. Here is the link.
What I found so striking is the similarity to our lives. I am no prince- serious. Except to my mom and my lover, maybe! But the circumstances, the fears, the pressures, the compromises, the self realisation, the fight to accent that I am a human being as well as a lover. That being a homosexual is a part of me that does not take away from the whole of me. It takes one who has lived that life to connect with that as a love story.
I have done so in Uganda. Different circumstances, but hell, this could as well be India.
And of course there is the same kind of pressures elsewhere. This link is of a Mother’s Love for her son in America. Check it out, because there is something there for everyone. Gay, straight, ambivalent.
We are all human beings, and one thing does cement that for the homosexual. The struggle to self acceptance. If you have done that for you, you are privileged. If you have not, like a majority of my brothers and sisters in Uganda; it is a long journey, but you can make it.


Monday, January 8, 2007

I am what I am

An interesting concept. I am what I am. I do not have to apologize for it. I do not have to tell someone sorry, I am different.
I do not have to believe what you believe. I do not have to have your prejudices. Because I am a different entity from what you are. A complete human being. Because I am gay, a homosexual living in Uganda, I have had to live a sort of apologetic lifestyle. I have to hide myself from the people that are closest to me. Hide the fact that I am what I am because of the fear that I will be held to account for what I am.
What has set off this train of thought was a unique occurrence. I have just come back from a party. A gay party. A party where homosexuals living in Uganda, and Kampala were specifically invited to meet other guys. It was organised by gay guys who are positive, living with HIV.
They have to hide their identities because of the simple fact of a heavy double stigma. They have to hide from their communities the fact that they are gay, and they have to hide from their fellow gay guys the fact that they are positive to HIV.
What a hard time that they have.
At the same time, why do we have to go through this kind of thing?
We are what we are. There is no end to the apologies that we have to give to the world for being homosexuals. So, why go ahead and give them. I read this story of Helen Degeneres. Of how she came to coming out on her show. How she faced the fact that her sexual orientation was not just a matter of personal concern. But that it was something that mattered to her enough to come out and say, hell, I am gay, and that is part of my identity. I also remembered the story of Dick Cheney’s daughter, how, after being outed by Edwards the presidential candidate, she felt like crawling into her shell, and the only call that she wanted to answer was one from Degeneres. Coming out to ourselves creates a bond. A strength. I do not have to go to Archbishop Orombi and say I am sorry that I am gay. I do not have to go to Akinola and apologise. I just have to know that, this is what I am. If I believe in god, then this is what he made me to be. I will not change it, I will not duck it.
Some believe that because I am gay, I should accept that and stay celibate because I may commit a sin. But don’t I commit a bigger sin in not accepting what god made me to be? Twisted logic. But I am what I am. Sorry for borrowing that from the bible, scripture to some?No, because I am what I am.
And I am happy being what I am. And I will not get to the point of apologising for what I am. I am simply what I am.
Accept me, reject me, I am what I am.


Sunday, January 7, 2007

He calls me Husband

And I call him husband. We met a few years back, enough to make it exceptional. Yet we still do love each other. I treasure the time that we are together, and he wants to be with me all the time. All the time if I were to have it so.
Sometimes, many times I find it incredible that our community would be offended by our love. Oh, they know that we live together. They see us move in and out of the house, always together, yet most do not understand how close we are, how close we can be. A blessing to us. Were they to figure it out, they would not be indifferent.
Yet to us, the current indifference is incredible.
Don't they see the smile on my face when I look at him? Don't they see the look in his eyes when he smiles at me? Why would they see it as deplorable? Why is it so offensive that I love him as I do?
Recently, a neighbour of ours went to do a 'Kwanjula'. It is the traditional marriage ceremony. He has lived with his lady for more than 15 years. He had not done this, the current 'precursor' to the legal, church wedding ceremony. Yet, in the eyes of the community, they are man and wife. They just needed to wrap up the societal obligations. It is normal, it is usual, marriage starts with years of co-habitation and many children.
But for me and mine, we are illegal. From our love, our making love, our being humans who are different. We are different, because he calls me husband.