The inability of LGBT people to reveal themselves to their own family is perhaps the greatest obstacle to improvement in Ugandans’ attitudes toward gay people. Uganda’s main opposition newspaper, The Monitor, has just published an amazing profile of a lesbian couple which seeks to begin to change all that.
The couple (one is out while the other remains closeted) are rightly worried about the Anti-Homosexuality Act that is now before Parliament. This interview, which The Monitor calls “the first of its kind with a newspaper journalist,” provides ordinary Ugandan readers with an extremely rare look at the day-to-day concerns of LGBT people, without the monstrous stereotypes which run rampant in the country — and which have been reinforced repeatedly by American Evangelicals who have been meddling in Uganda’s affairs.
In October 2009, around the time Mr Bahati was preparing his anti-homosexuality law, Ms (Val) Kalende’s partner, a 25-year-old woman she did not wish to name, left for the United States, where she is now a student and the regular sender of hopeful messages to a partner living thousands of miles away.
The couple met in November 2008, one openly gay and the other closeted, but soon found the connection that inspired them to exchange rings in a recent private ceremony. …These days, a typical telephone conversation between the two lovers, which happens almost daily, ends with Ms Kalende saying something like this: “I love you.” Before breaking into tears, the person on the other side answers back: “I love you, baby.”
In the intimate scheme of things, Ms Kalende plays the stronger partner, encouraging her lover, whom she affectionately calls Mimi, to be brave and allaying her concerns about safety in Uganda. “When she starts to cry, I don’t cry,” Ms Kalende said. “I want to be stronger than she is. But I feel bad, of course. She is really scared about what’s going on at home.”
Val also speaks about coping with the turmoil surrounding Uganda’s current attempt to legislate LGBT people out of existence:
“I love my country, and that means a lot to me,” she said. “But this bill is not about homosexuality. It affects everyone; my pastor, my friends. It’s not about us gays…Homosexuality is not about sodomising young boys. What about relationships among people who are not hurting anyone?”
It was Ms Kalende’s way of saying that homosexuals have people in their lives who treasure them, men and women who may not let their silent aversion to gays determine the course of their friendships. But it is difficult to predict how loved ones would react to a revelation that a daughter or sister is gay, Ms Kalende said.
“My partner is not like me,” Ms Kalende, the only child of her father and mother, offered. “She’s not yet brave enough to be open, because she doesn’t want her family to know. I can’t approach my mother-in-law and tell her I am in love with her daughter. It would give her a heart attack.”
This article is an extremely rare opportunity for Ugandans to consider that LGBT people aren’t evil aliens, but members of their own church, tribe and family. It’s a great article, and deserves reading in its entirety.