Monday, December 29, 2008

Kuchu Bar

Uh, this is suspicious. The days of Christmas have not had the blazing sunlight customary here. Dry and summery days, that is what my mind associates with Christmas. But not this time.

An overcast has been around over the last three or so days. There was a drizzle yesterday. Not enough to say that it rained, and lasting just a few minutes. Not enough to make us forget that we are in the dry season.

Beautiful Uganda.

Last night we were in our bar, the ‘kuchu’ bar. Remember that this is Uganda. It is not officially a gay bar. It is a kuchu bar just because we decide to go there and feel comfortable when we are there.

It was lovely, soothing. Just being with people who know we are gay, and have no problem with it. Because they are also gay.

There is a sense of belonging which beats many of the other places that we find ourselves visiting. In all the other places, our anonymity is the best protection that we have. We do not flaunt ourselves, our identity. A few may suspect what we are, but, not having ‘proof’, we are left to our devices.

Last Monday was when the Victor case judgment was read. A win for the kuchu community. And it was a sweet one. There was a sense of euphoria. Precedent set, we had actually affirmed our rights as Ugandans. Challenged the state on its treatment of us as under class citizens, and actually WON! It was fantastic.

But, it was inevitable that there would be backlash.

We had exposed ourselves. Some people (including Nsaba Buturo) claim that there were no homosexuals in Uganda, that it is a recent phenomenon. No friend, I am quoting what I heard him say on Tuesday at a press conference. In the last couple of years, we have dealt that myth a death blow.

In the court on Monday, there were cameras. Journalists just took hundreds of photos. When the judgment was read, the joy of the kuchus could not be contained. There was ululation, jumping around, hugging and shouting. In the heat of the moment, people ‘knew’ who was kuchu and who was not. The fact that homosexuals had won a case was on the news bulletins on at least 3 of the television stations. Including the government owned ‘big network’. Surprisingly, it did not get into the print media. (Something to do with the regulatory body desperate to deny us any sort of access? I know, I am paranoid.)

The next day, Tuesday, Nsaba-Buturo came out with his dooms-day prophesy. A press conference. 2008 was a bad year for Ugandans. Homosexuals came out. And they won a case in the courts!

Imagine!!!! Unfortunately, the law is weak. It allows homosexuals to come out in Uganda and do such things. But anyway, the government would not appeal the judgment.

For the second day running, we were on television stations. With Nsaba-Buturo, and flashbacks showing the shameless homosexuals. Lingering shots on our faces.

That was Tuesday last week.

That evening, some guys went out, to celebrate our victory. ‘Stake Out’. A popular joint in Wandegeya, one of the suburbs here.

The kuchus were identified. And very quickly, they were invited out of the place. They were making the other clients ‘uncomfortable’. Huh, the price of fame.

Another of our own, a trans, also had the experience of being informed that gay money seems to have less value. Was in a supermarket, and was informed that, well, he was making other customers uncomfortable. So, will you not do your shopping here please!

Pariahs we are. Especially when recognized. The fact that we look so much like the other Ugandans makes us ‘hide’ very effectively. Especially in public- in the bars, clubs, social places.

A few years ago, me and my partner were dancing. We were told to get out of the club. Reason, one of the bouncers had recognized us. That we are gay. Or suspected that we are.

The invitation out was not very polite. Some pushing and shoving, the bouncer using his mass to intimidate and loom over us, and well, with my partner livid, he was literally thrown out- shoved out of that bar.

It was my first time to experience overt discrimination, and it did hurt. We never went back to that bar.

That is why we love ‘our’ kuchu bar.

It is not perfect. Not very conveniently located, off the usual beat. The music is too loud, it is not cheap to enter. But we do belong.

We are not perfect. Some of us love to flaunt our identities. Cross dressing, cross acting. When we get high, we do forget the constant need to hide and disguise ourselves. And, there are those who are not kuchu in the place.

But, and it is a big but, we feel comfortable. I can hold my partner’s hand there. Unobtrusively, yes. But I can. I cannot do that in other bars, which can be a strain because, for some reason, I am a touchy-feely person. I am comfortable in the kuchu bar.

Kuchus dance, talk, meet and make connections there. And they love it. Because, in that bar, we feel that we belong. Not all of us can get to the place- it is not free. Not all of us can make it all the time. But we belong.

And that makes it a beautiful place for us.

This year has been long and eventful. Lovely. Hope you make it through, and continue enjoying the holiday season.



Princess said...

It's always easy to read you when you're happy.
I'm happy you're happy.
Yay to progress!

WhozHe said...

We all need a place where we feel we belong.

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