Thursday, March 30, 2023

State of Siege

 

You want to know what the conditions are like for a kuchu in Uganda at the moment?

Surreal, actually. A virtual state of internal siege.

Maybe I should try to describe the normal?
But, what is normal for a queer Ugandan?
We are just the average Ugandan. Few of us are rich, most of us are bone grinding poor, stumbling day to day from one piece of wage earning scrap to another. A lot of us are jobless and depend on our relatives and friends. And lucky lovers. We are just the average Ugandan, limping on in a severe economy.
Those lucky to be rich don’t define us.., though it seems in popular street myth, we are all powerful and rich.

We are always in a state of heightened alert.
Though children of the soil, we are all hyper aware of how precarious, how unsteady our state of existence usually is.
Very few of us have the privilege of being out at all. Closeted, at home, at work, in the street; it is important that the walls of our closets are as perfect as possible.
We grin and bear it as casual insults are hurled. We duck when our sexuality is hinted at in any way.

Of course it is impossible to hide completely.
Our lives and our means are too close to others. The one-room rentals we have are thin walled. In our cities and towns, Ugandans live literally with little expectation of privacy. Neighbours wonder when ‘friends’ visit and we close the doors. Or when we change our friends too quickly, or when we have ‘peculiar’ friends.
Being kuchu is life long. We cant switch it off, chances of a slip are cumulative and high. We have to have ‘straight’ acquaintances. And sometimes these come to know that there is something different about us. Maybe we just don’t seem enthusiastic enough when talking about the opposite sex. Or too enthusiastic?! Relatives can be a bane. They always get to know…!
And of course lovers, same sex or not. Our most damning secret is always just beneath the surface of our smiles and laughter.

A thick skin is a necessity, as a gay Ugandan.
Crocodile skin thick. Yet a thin skin too, mind tuned to the social nuances, to know as soon as possible when others are suspicious of us.

[I borrow this pic from the BBC, a nice article by Patience Atuhaire]

When one is blessed with a long time lover in this environment, it can be simply out of this world. Love is love, straight and protected, or illicit and gay. [Its more when it is this kind of secret love, knowing another love you, and cares. That in this sea of mistrust, you have at least one you trust, implicitly.] Love is just love.

Love is just one of those things that turn us mushy and careless. We are just simple, normal human beings. A long time relationship can be impossible to hide, always visible, and our interactions can become ‘suspicious’ to even the most clueless Ugandan.
And lovers can fall out of love, and lash out. Kuchus are so boringly human that I wish we had the superpowers that our detractors believe we do.

Check out this couple in Jinja.
Did this start as a lovers’ tiff? I find it hard to believe that, in today’s Uganda, under conditions of panicked homophobia, even a jealous lover would dare go to police in Uganda to out her lover. Actually, the story on the Monitor website states that the arrests happened after the panic at the school. 

“The angry parents, who were blocked fromentering the school, were demanding to take away their children after severalsocial media reports accused the teacher of spoiling their daughters.”

Unfortunately, the rest of the stuff is too believable. The accusations of ‘recruiting’, especially when there are students in the mix. The panic, fuelled by social media messages, leading to a mob raiding the school. Parents panicking to remove their children from maligning influence. Homosexuality a disease, spreading like wildfire. It is really incredible how many Ugandans seem to have this sense that a sexuality is contagious. Like Corvid-19, or the more scary, mysterious Ebola. It is time to panic..! Unfortunately, Ugandans are that na├»ve. When political and religious leaders are spouting the same nonsense, when they are ready to interprete, mis-interprete or simply mis-inform in their interests, the news that my sexuality is contagious is taken as gospel truth. The pastor said so. The president said so. What greater source is there?

The Jinja lovers. What’s the real story behind the news headlines? The very sensational news headlines. Some papers seem to rein themselves in. Reporting more objectively than others.
Two lovers, both gainfully employed. One a teacher, another a merchant of some sort, a timber dealer. Was it a lover’s tiff and one reported to police? Some reports quote the police saying so. Others seem to suggest not.

Of the two ladies, one is quite butch, a fact that is being loudly discussed. With all the leers and smirks. They are in a long term relationship, and have been ‘suspected’ within the community for some time. 

“Meanwhile, the teacher and her allegedfemale lover are said to have fled from “Big Daddy”, a local bar in Danida,Masese, Jinja City South Division, where they used to drink malwa, a localbrew.Their prolonged disappearance came after the pair allegedly wanted tospend a night in one of the lodges, but were denied admission by management.”

 But that doesn’t seem to have been the trigger. The bill got to parliament. Anti-gay activists organised to ‘have our bill passed’. Ostensibly. 

On February 24, thousands of Muslimdemonstrators including students from different schools took to the streets ofJinja City condemning the act of homosexuality

Its subsequent to this that somehow, social media took a decided hand in the affair. Social media led to a stampede, to save the children.

“Hundreds of parents with children at PMM Girls’ School in Jinja Cityon Friday stormed the school, protesting against the alleged existence of ateacher promoting homsexuality. The angry parents, who were blocked fromentering the school, were demanding for the release of their children in schooldormitories after several social media reports accused the teacher of spoilingtheir daughters.”

The teacher was only arrested after that reported mob. And the partner was arrested later

Evidence is being gathered..,

“The only person we got is a lady who was staying with this deputy head teacher as husband and wife, although they are both females. We got sex toys, condoms in their home and inquiries are continuing,” Mr Enanga [police] said.

Meanwhile, they have apparently been remanded and the case extendedas the ‘authorities try to decide what to charge them with, [in spite of the distinct lack of evidence!]

Fact. They have been charged and condemned, in the court of public opinion. They are kuchu, and all the evidence needed for their conviction is ‘the public believes they are homosexuals’. Period.

 

gug

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Criminalising touch; the Ugandan way

Uganda’s ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ is truly desperate and draconian. The people who wrote it, [fronted by Hon Asuman Basalirwa MP of Bugiri Municipality] went out of their way to make life as difficult as possible for gay Ugandans. I appreciate the kind of effort that goes into trying to literally erase who I am, legally. And not having it pointed out that it is actually genocidal.

I have written about the criminalisation of me identifying as gay. Here.

Criminalising the sexual act was obvious. We used to point out that under the old [British Empire] ‘sodomy’ law, I as a gay Ugandan was not a criminal. Now, I have to admit that I am a proud kuchu, which automatically criminalises me under the new bill…!
But that was not enough. They [anti-gay activists] needed to make sure that I have no wiggle room.

Touch is criminalised. Meticulously.

How in hell does one criminalise touch?
This is the Ugandan way.

THE (UGANDAN) ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL, 2023

Part 1; Preliminary

Clause 1. Interpretation

“touching” includes touching

a)    with any part of the body;

b)   with anything else;

c)    through anything;

and in particular includes touching amounting to penetration of any sexual organ, anus or mouth;

Part 2; Homosexuality and Related Practices

Clause 2. The Offence of homosexuality

(2) A Person commits the offence of homosexuality if the person

(c) touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.

(1)          A person who commits an offence under this section is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for ten years.

Oh my! I am so bad that my very touch is outlawed.

Or would a lawyer argue that it is my intent that is outlawed, and not my touch?

Truthfully, if anyone was to read my mind, mine is a very evil mind, relative to poor, pure Ugandans. Reading my mind should convict me of homosexuality anytime, and all the time. Maybe it is better that it is my touch that is criminalised!

But, even my touch is precious.
I am a touchy feely person. I like- strike that-, I love touching. When I am with a lover, touching is part of the whole deal. Touching and massaging and kissing…
[wasn’t kissing outlawed?] . I love touching. All sorts of touching. All of touching.

I bet Hon Basalirwa just wanted for the sake of thoroughness to throw a very fine net, to catch as many of us homosexuals as possible.
But, I ask, very curiously, how is this going to be proven in court, of all places? That I touched someone, and I touched with intent..,

Ahem, I try not to touch without consent. Destroys the magic, indeed!

But, there is inherent danger in the lack of precision.
To me, not to Basalirwa. Anyone can claim that I have touched them, with intent. How do I prove a negative? Basalirwa, [and Parliament, and the President] has empowered, greatly that pernicious staple of all criminalised communities. The blackmailer.

And, the notoriously corrupt police. Our unfortunate friends, deal makers and extortionists.

Masseurs and massage therapists and medical doctors wouldn’t fall into the Basalirwa homosexual catching net? Well, they routinely touch ‘any and all parts of the body’, with ‘various other things’, even ‘through anything’. These are Honourable Basalirwa’s homosexuals. Good hunting, Rt Honourable!

 

gug

Uganda; Anti-gay Witch hunts

 


With the bill at the President’s desk, of course we expect flustered, concerned Ugandans to, err, find and deal with those big, bad, dangerous homosexuals.

And, they are. In different ways.

One prominent pastor and televangelist was on his radio and television station Sunday [his church]. Calling out another prominent pastor and televangelist.
These ‘Pastors Wars’ as I called them before are uniquely Ugandan. Or African. Or whatever!

So, I don’t know whether or not Pastor Televangelist Robert Kayanja is gay or not. Fellow pastors seem obsessed with ‘outing’ him. And I am not sure what they achieve by outing him…, he seems Teflon coated.
In 2014-5, the Pastors Wars went right up to court. The inimitable Pastor Ssempa was the vanguard. Accusing Kayanja of being gay, Kayanja denying, and taking Ssempa to court. The witness(ses) proved Ssempa in the wrong… or that is what court seemed to agree

Personally, I think the whole outrage is the big green devil jealous. Kayanja has been remarkably successful at his business. Its not much of a surprise that his peers would be jealous. It is not real anger at a ‘man of god’s improprieties. Our dear pastors are all scandal magnets. Always attacking one another.

This time, it is the SALT media mogul pastor and televangelist, Aloysius Buggingo lobbing the accusations. Blast from his pulpit.

Now, this dude (Buggingo) has his own issues. Living with one lady, (customary marriage), married to another (ahem, legal marriage, since a divorce was not granted?). Apparently a life of celibacy and an African man are not mutually compatible! The law is a wondrous, ponderous thing. Loopholes were made to be exploited.
And, he is coming out loud voiced calling on Kayanja to do what? Am not clear on what Pastor Kayanja should do to convince the Pastor Buggingo of his lack of alternative sexuality. Specifics…

Isnt it a Bible verse that cautions against trying to remove a stick in another’s eye when you have a log in yours? Irony is sweet!

That singular debate spilled out just outside my window.
Two acquaintances. One apparently a ‘mulokole’, and listening to SALT media mogul excoriate Kayanja on the radio. At first it was clearly an anti-gay sermon, but it was not clear who the target was. Then Buggingo named names.

Surprise, surprise; of the two guys listening to the radio program, the ‘saved’ guy came out flatly against Buggingo. Wondering why they was a biff about two adults having sex, even if they were men. It is the other guy who was supportive of the message. [for him all gays are pederasts]
I was amazed. Seems as if when it hits home, the homophobia is not fully accepted as given.

Those are the pastor wars. Pastor against pastor.
Not immensely edifying, but they are an important part of Uganda’s anti-gay environment. And complications.

[My sexuality…, so many people demand a say in my sexuality that I wonder whether it is ‘my sexuality’ or ‘our sexuality. Whose ‘sexuality is it?]

But, even less prominent witch hunts are spilling off into the papers.
Apparently 6 youths were arrested in Jinja, within this month. The story from the papers is a bit confusing, but apparently a gay porn flick they made went viral and was noticed. And someone reported to police, and they were raided.

 

A group of guys who were streaming themselves having sex? In Jinja. Apparently a porn movie they featured in was circulating. Reports are not clear whether the circulating porn movie was or wasn’t historical. .
Or a disgruntled lover setting off a mob at another school again in Jinja, where a teacher was rumoured to be lesbian Or even lynching when a couple checkedinto a lodge

Any gay story in Uganda is hot news at the moment. And the media here is not that discriminating on the accuracy of news that they report on. But, it is evident that kuchus anywhere are not safe. Yes, of course it also means that any ‘rumoured’ to be kuchu is the one who is at risk.

Yeah, seems as if it one shouldn’t have to tell kuchus to lie low [am I the only one on the downlow here?], but maybe it should be actually articulated. The environment in Uganda is such that state and non-state actors are going to kick in a presumed Kuchu’s doors. Be careful!

Kuchu in Uganda alert; Be Careful in your carelessness!

 

gug

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Angst...

 

Venting. Venting, indeed. Just obsessing on the why, for the blog.

What does it mean, being rejected…, again.

No, we kuchus were never ‘accepted’. Not in Uganda.
Certainly not in much of Africa.
Much of the time we push that aside. Frankly, life is too tough, too grinding down rough and tough to obsess on the hate that seems to pervade everything around us.
For a very simple reason. We are (surprisingly) like each and every other Ugandan. And if my loves and lovers don’t mind my loving them…!

What I want to say is that it is so tough being Ugandan in the day to day economic grind that we forget that we are different.

Until we are faced by hate codified into law.

Here is part of the bill, now awaiting the President of the Republic’s assent. And, yes, of course it will become law.

~~~

THE ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL, 2023

Clause 2. The Offence of homosexuality

(1)          A Person commits the offence of homosexuality if the person-

(d) holds out as a lesbian, gay, transgender, a queer or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female.

(2)         A person who commits an offence under this section is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for ten years.

~~~

You know, the sex stuff I kind of expected. Our past colonial masters, the British, were quite unaware of what truly constitutes homosexuality. They thought it was only anal sex between men! That outdated law needs replacing. Nevermind that it took more than 60 years..

Homosexuality as defined in Uganda, by Ugandans..,
Also includes any identity that dares to challenge traditional heterosexual binary definitions of male and female.

Ahem!

I guess saying here that I am gay…
Well, I guess the language in the law must mean what it says. No?
So, I am a gay Ugandan. Means that I am liable to be imprisoned for ten years. Just because I admit that I am gay. Or queer. Or Kuchu.

What if I say that I am Gay, Kuchu, Queer and Proud?

Oh, the bill has made provision for that. For serial offenders like me who have a high recidivism rate, as serial offenders, the crime is ‘Aggravated Homosexuality’. The punishment is ., ahem; only ten years. [Uh, need to see that bill again]

I guess I should point out that there is a mistake in that…, last time it was life imprisonment. Or death?

Lil Nas X is making some waves. He heard of gays in Africa and wanted to err, visit. Maybe Uganda. He is a beautiful, beautiful person. Just check out this pic.


 
Flamboyant, indeed.

But, what if he visits?
In that regalia, at Entebbe International. Blowing and glowing a pretty pink.
We might forget that he is African-(American); drop the American part and welcome him in with cuffs. [Ahem, ahem, dirty mind!]

Good laugh that, how would he be welcomed at Entebbe? Would he draw a crowd? Would they start throwing stones? You know, stone them all, a scriptural accurate mandate.

Oh well, we Ugandans are known for our hypocrisy. If we were not known for it, Lil Nas X might go straight to Ugandan prison for the crime of ‘Aggravated Homosexuality’, Ugandan definition. No jump out of jail card, until he is reformed.., to the correct ‘binary’ definitions.

You shine, Lil Nas X. Be well, and just continue glowing!

 

gug

Congratulations, Uganda?

 

Chest thumping, congratulatory time for many of my country mates

Fighting the horror of homosexuality, the Parliament of the Republic has managed to pass a ‘great and wonderful’ Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
It is currently at the President’s Desk. And of course he will sign it.

And even if he doenst, Parliament is quite sure that in this fight to uphold the sanctity of the Traditional Family, it will pass its very first over ride of the President’s Veto.

Good politics all around. The President must sign. The bill is too popular…
And even if he doesn’t, Parliament will show it can be better than a rubberstamp. [Which it has been, all the time]
And the President can claim impotence. [Ahem, his ego militates against that!]

My people believe that the legislating successfully anti-gay laws makes them special..,
In a way it does. In a way.., just goes to show how ‘advanced’ we are in protecting the ‘Traditional Family’. Most of us don’t even know that a man called Hitler executed gay people, or that apartheid South Africa persecuted us too.

My people are quite insular.

And, well, they are still my people. And gay people, down the ages, are still my people.
To my lovers past and present in Uganda, a poem by Cavafy  , reminder that our circumstances are not actually new, or that special. What is special is the fact that we do know that we can do better!

 

 

On The Stairs

 

As I was going down those ill-famed stairs

you were coming through the door, and for a second

I saw your unfamiliar face and you saw mine.

Then I hid so you wouldn't see me again,

and you hurried past me, hiding your face,

and slipped inside the ill-famed house

where you couldn't have found pleasure any more than I did.

And yet the love you were looking for, I had to give you;

the love I was looking for -so your tired, knowing eyes

implied

you had to give me.

Our bodies sensed and sought each other:

our blood and skin understood.

But we both hid ourselves, flustered.

 

 

Dude captured the moment. He died in 1933. Amazed that he felt what I feel. Oh poetry!

 

 

gug