Uganda’s Anti-Gay Hysteria: An Eyewitness Account

Uganda Flag on MapOn May 7, 2014 The Gay & Lesbian Review reported: AS A GAY VIDEO HISTORIAN, I hate being late, because documenting the “before” is just as important as the actual event and the aftermath. So I was pissed when Haji, my driver, arrived an hour late because he didn’t know how to set the alarm on the new phone to wake up. His phone had been stolen when he dropped off Pepe at home a couple nights before. So I missed Pastor Martin Ssempa and his anti-gay march from Freedom Square to Kololo Independence Grounds.

The National Thanksgiving Service to celebrate the passage of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexual Law was planned by the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda and broadcast live across Uganda. Kololo is where theBritish returned sovereignty to Uganda over fifty years ago. This place has real significance to Ugandans in their fight against Western economic imperialism. The theme today was the fight against a different kind of Western imperialism: what they see as homosexual “exploiters” and “promoters.”

To get in, you had to pass through metal detectors and large numbers of police and army units with automatic weapons and side arms, creating a real militarized feeling. When I tried to enter the rally, I was denied because I was white and wasn’t on the list for approved cameras. I called Haji and he came back with the car. As we were driving down the road looking for parking, Haji saw Georgina, a former transwoman who is now the chairman of Ex-Gay Uganda. Haji called him (since he was presenting in male drag) over. Haji introduced us and let him know that I wanted to go to the rally and couldn’t get in. Georgina (he asked us to call him that) said he was to speak at the rally and meet with the President. I could come along if I wanted to and document the Ex-Gays. I jumped out of the car immediately. He had VIP guest invitations that he personalized with my name.

Georgina was waiting on the street for some of the Ex-Gay members to show up. When they didn’t, he and three others jumped into the very small back seat of Haji’s car, and we drove to the slum where they lived. When we arrived, Georgina asked me to come with him. We walked right up to God’s Mercy Barber Shop, and there he asked the two barbers to close up shop. They were grooming each other at the time and had to put their shirts back on. Georgina rounded up about ten of them. But it took such a long time and to arrange transportation for them. They all put on their Ex-Gay T-shirts and came with us. I had bought two of the Ex-Gay T-shirts for Haji and me to wear as camouflage.

When we arrived again, they wouldn’t let me in with the camera. While Georgina trooped the ex-gays into the event, I patiently waited in my Ex-Gay T-shirt and Team USA Olympic hat for Georgina to get permission for me to come in. Many Christians approached and tried to intimidate me. I told them to calm down; everything was okay. I chatted up the Army soldiers, who were nice to me, and they offered me a chair in the shade. It was clearly a very carefully planned and managed event, a rarity in Uganda.

Finally, a top Christian and an army major came up to ask me what I was doing there. I explained that I was waiting for Georgina, the chairman of Ex-Gay Uganda. Again, Georgina had asked me to use that name, but the officious Christian was startled by it. He asked my name and to see my ID.  Continued


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