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Ugandan Lesbian Goes Public: “Tell Me, What Will Happen To Us?”

Jim Burroway

December 12th, 2009
"I'm brave." Although Val Kalende (L) is open about her sexuality; her partner is not. (via The Sunday Monitor)

"I'm brave." Although Val Kalende (L) is open about her sexuality, her partner is not. (via The Monitor)

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.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of the past year’s anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Comments

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Ben
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

“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.”

Sweet nothingness. Meaningless fluff.

The fact that homosexuals exist in churches, tribes and families means less than nothing. Pedophiles are in churches, tribes, and families as well.

Ben in Oakland
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

…as are bigot boys.

Amazing, isn’t it?

wackadoodle
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

Idiotic bigots like Ben exist everywhere to, infact just the other day I saw a racist and a sexist, you should go join them for a prejudiced 3-way. They can circlejerk each other over how those evil scientists are lying when every remotely credible scientific institution agrees women, blacks and gays are just as smart, healthy and sane as the rest of us.

Richard Rush
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

Ben (not in Oakland, of course), instead of spending so much time here, wouldn’t you feel more at home being out among the most ignorant people in America attending tea parties, birther rallies, and Sarah Palin book-signings?

Priya Lynn
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

Ben, pedophiles hurt people and gays do not. You’re attempt to equate the two is a classic example of the evil you represent.

Ben in Oakland
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

Thanks, richard. :)

Meanwhile, i am wondering why it is that our boy Ben is so obsessed with the evil of homosexuality.

Hmmmmmm…………

joey
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

As much as Ben is an a$$hole, he does frequently bring up good points. I’m saying this as a gay man.

Personally, I don’t care if someone else has a moral objection to what I do with my partner. I should be free to pursue my sex life, and they should be free to disapprove of it till their heart’s content. I certainly don’t support any coercive measures to force people to approve of what I do.

In fact, it’s none of their business and I’d like to keep it that way. When I go to work, I don’t make a big deal out of the fact that I’m gay. I don’t even mention it. My personal life is irrelevant to my professional life.

As far as his comment about child molesters–he’s all wrong about the comparison. But the strictly emotional appeal of the gays-are-in-our-churches-families-tribes-communities isn’t very persuasive. Lots of people are in our churches, tribes, and families. I even have people in my family who stridently object to what I do! You could call them homophobes; that’s one way of putting it. Turn it around this way–“This article is an extremely rare opportunity for Americans to consider that homophobic people aren’t evil aliens, but members of their own church, tribe and family.”

Somehow I don’t think that BTB readers would suddenly see homophobia as okay, simply because it is practiced by members of their churches, tribes or families.

Eric in Oakland
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

Joey,

One difference is that gay people are not trying to put homophobes in jail, give them the death penalty, or make it a crime for them to be housed or married. Another difference is that the people supporting the “Kill Gays Bill” have a false image of gays being foreign predators and uncommitted sex fiends, which this interview shatters to some extent. The more they can put a real face to the people they are condemning, the harder it should be to dehumanize them.

Lynn David
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

Well, we will have to see if the Ugandan government fines the Monitor for promoting immorality now like they fine that radio station in 2004(?) for airing the inequities for gay Ugandans in getting HIV/AIDS counselling/treatment.

Elise
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

Yup. Gay lives and loves and humanity are all so much meaningless fluff. The only thing that matters is Ben’s irrational hatred. That’s meaningful. That’s real.

Jim Burroway
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

Since it is now apparent that Ben’s only interest in commenting here is for his trolling opportunities instead of engaging in respectful, civil discourse. Since his repeated conduct is in violation of our Comments Policy, he will be placed on moderation. Comments which conform to our Comments Policy will be approved.

Ben in Oakland
December 13th, 2009 | LINK

ohnoohnoohnoohnohono.

Another good Christian victimized and shut down.

At least we know what dog Quo has in this race.

Symonds
December 13th, 2009 | LINK

Joey,

The ‘gays in church’ argument is not intellectually persuasive, no. But then, this is not an intellectual or logical discussion. Anti-gay prejudice comes mostly from anti-gay theology, and anti-gay theology is an arbitrary claim that gays are bad. No logic to it.

So articles like this are, in Uganda and everywhere else, the most useful tool in fighting homophobia that we’ve got. David Bahati depends on one thing to pass this bill- making sure that gays stay a cartoon, so they can be safely drawn as pedophiles, monsters, predators… whatever he needs at the moment. You don’t argue against that logically, not if you want to make any headway. You come out.

Timothy Kincaid
December 14th, 2009 | LINK

But the strictly emotional appeal of the gays-are-in-our-churches-families-tribes-communities isn’t very persuasive.

Joey,

You, like Ben, assume that because you would see this appeal as “emotional” that it therefore is strictly emotional. You assume that everyone already knows that gays are in their churches, families, and tribes and therefore there is no real intellectual argument made.

You are wrong.

In Uganda, the populace is told by its government, its churches, and its newspapers that gays are rich foreigners who prey on Ugandan children. They believe that the only reason there is homosexual activity in the nation is because foreigners pay Ugandans for gay sex and get them hooked.

They are entirely unaware that real Ugandans are same-sex attracted. They do not know that orientation is not addictive. They have never heard of loving same-sex relationships.

This is not just an emotional appeal – though it does touch on emotions. This is also a factual appeal, providing information that Ugandans are never told and do not know.

Timothy Kincaid
December 14th, 2009 | LINK

Joey,

I hope some day that you will be free of feeling shame for simply being same-sex attracted. I hope that you will no longer feel the need to hide and build walls and shut out coworkers and clients and others who would like to know you.

When you do, you will be much less likely to readily feel dismissive towards other gay people. And you will also be much happier and, ironically, much more successful as a professional.

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