Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Coming Out and Disclosure in Uganda, other Hostile environments (1)

Coming out.
It’s a very necessary concept, to us kuchus. First studied and defined relative to ‘western’ culture it still holds true for LGBTQ+ individuals everywhere on this small ball of mud we call earth. Because we are a special grade of normal human being…!

LGBTQ+ studies have a fairly extensive tradition in the west, less so in our environment.
As kuchus, we predate colonial times in Africa. Experiences of LGBTQ+ kuchus, before the introduction of state sponsored and religion defined homophobia must have been quite different. This would definitely have defined our ‘coming out’ as the experience is culture specific. Sadly, we are left with little written down of the experienced lives of the kuchu then.

As defined at the moment, ‘Coming Out’ is a mix (conflation) of one’s personal realisation that one is different and subsequent disclosure to family and friends.
First is that realisation that even though most of one’s world is heterosexual, one is ‘other than heterosexual’. Just different.
One then presumably gathers enough understanding of their sexuality to be able to ‘come out’ and disclose or voluntarily tell significant others close to them; the nucleus family and supportive close friends. This coming out helps with continued normal growth and development of the young person.
Of course our world is freaky. This ‘happily-ever-after’ bed time story remains a bed time dream even in the fabled Kuchu (LGBTQ+) knowledgeable and friendly west. ‘Homophobia’ is a wide prejudice and lived experience. And coming out can go wrong, or be delayed.

Our environment, in Uganda and in Africa in general is hostile. You can die simply because you have told someone that you are different. Your parents, your family, your very friends can be the most dangerous of confidantes. Disclosing to them that you are kuchu, different, might mean being cast out. From friends, from family, from everything that you feel is precious in life. It might mean being pressured to the indignity of a ‘family intervention’, urged into the arms of anti-gay bigots for ‘healing and a cure’ of that which is not broken.
Disclosing that you are kuchu is simply something that we might not have the luxury of doing. You would risk prison and death too, in Uganda.

But, ‘Coming Out’ is not just ‘disclosure’ or telling people that you are kuchu. ‘Coming out’ the psychological concept, starts with us. Us as in the individual concerned.
Me, the individual, understanding and accepting and acknowledging that I am not heterosexual. That I am different. That I am kuchu.

You might be anywhere on the ‘alphabet’ (LGBTQ+). Coming out to yourself is still the first step in self-acceptance, in becoming whole as a human being, not cutting yourself off from part of what you are.
That is why it is so important.
If you don’t have this self-realisation, this self-acknowledgment, this moment of self-revelation, it is like you remain incomplete, always. And yes, that causes problems. A first step, the full journey not known, but an important first step.

Uganda, and Africa, for an LGBTQ+ individual of any shade, a kuchu, it is a supremely hostile environment. My sincere pity to the young that are kuchu like me- the journey is tough. But, that is not to only say I feel pity. You will be forged in fires. If you survive, why, you will be scarred, but strong. And that is important, in our environment.

Coming out to one’s self. That journey. When I read of this account, of someone who knew that they were gay, homosexual at 10 years of age, I shook my head in wonder. Not because I didn’t believe it. But because that depth of insight into our very self is denied us by conditions on the continent. Of course we get the usual stirrings of hormones at puberty…, but, the mind is a huge and terrible machine.

Coming out in our environment. First we know that we cannot be homosexual, before we even understand what the words mean. Then we soak in the hate and bile and wretchedness on the airwaves. And then we get to start feeling that we are different, and, horror of horrors, we are the demented, deviled, horrible and cursed, homosexuals.

No wonder our minds and selves hide from the facts.

Cruising the net, I came across this article of a lady that was morbidly obese. And, she was so deeply in denial she couldn’t ‘see’ that she was. She was aware, and the mind shunted the knowledge away safely. Even when she moved all full length mirrors out of the house, and did other things to make sure the unconscious knowledge of her obesity didn’t register in her own conscious mind.
Those extremes of denial by us kuchus are common place in Uganda, and in much of Africa, and for many LGBTQ+ individuals who can pass. We blind ourselves to who and what we are, even when that knowledge screams for attention in our minds.

That is to say, we go deep in denial, if we have the luxury of passing.

A very important distinction; the luxury of passing. Most of us kuchus in Africa have to learn very, very, very early to pass or safely mimic heterosexuals. A few of us don’t pass that crucial test. And, I can only wonder at how they surf the waves of prejudice and frank hatred in their lives.
My love and hugs to them. They bear the brunt of hostility because they are ‘effeminate’ or sissies or too manly or ‘butch’. Some might actually be heterosexual, but this world of ours is a brutal jungle for anyone perceived ‘homosexual’, whether it is true or not.

So, if most of us have learnt to hide, and hide well..,

Why the hell should we do this ‘coming out’? That is for the next post.



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