Thursday, October 29, 2009

A gay man's lament

Karma, it seems, isn't done with me yet.

A few hours after posting my last blog article, I happened upon a copy of Nation's Sunday 17th October newspaper with this story.

Then this morning in a matatu on my way to campus, the debate on the radio programme our driver had us tuned into was on this.

So lemme post the article before Karma decides to get physical.

I pay my taxes. I see to it that Kampala City is kept clean by never littering. Like most Ugandans, I think Kony should have stopped at only hiding behind the bushes and never gone ahead to start smoking the leaves from those bushes as well. I have my own stereotypical perspectives on the different ethnic communities that make up my country, and I shed a tear when I got the news of the Budo fire tragedy.

I have my beef with several ministries in the Uganda government, especially the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness. [What the hell does that title even mean, let alone whether or not it actually has any relevance whatsoever?] The level of corruption sickens me and I am generally appalled by the state of public service delivery. But nonetheless, I still hold His Excellency the President in the highest esteem., and the Kisanja absurdity notwithstanding, I would still vote Movement any given Sunday, since I believe His Excellency’s assertion that he is the only one with a vision for Uganda, something those yak-yakking opposition politicians totally lack.

What I am trying to put across in so many words is simply that I am your average Ugandan, maybe not manifestly patriotic, but one who possesses a deep and enduring love for his country and wouldn’t shudder at shedding hemoglobin-rich blood for it.

That said, I believe the relationship between the individual and the State should be reciprocal, which is to say it should be two-way. This reciprocity doesn’t have to be balanced, but it should be clear and present on both sides. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was right to implore us to seek to do more for our country than we expect our country to do for us, but that doesn’t mean that a State shouldn’t seek to do more for its citizens than its citizens do for it.

So I seek as much as possible to benefit my country in whatever way I can and I follow the law to the best of my ability, but I also expect the State and the law to guarantee me a conducive environment as I go about my lifetime purpose of seeking fulfillment . so long as my pursuit of fulfillment does not infringe upon the basic rights of another individual or occasion potential for harm, I should be left alone to do what I damn well please with my life, taking responsibility for any reward or jeopardy my activities might lead me to.

It is upon this premise that I level my charge against the State of Uganda.

You see, I am a little, shall we say…different from conventional preference when it comes to my choice of sexual partnership. People like me are the kind Leviticus 18:22 has a problem with, as does a very huge fraction of Ugandan society.

My life, as you would expect under the circumstances, has never been easy. People conversant with my orientation never tire of treating me like an outcast, a pariah, an abomination. I have been called more names than a Mexican child at baptism, only unlike the Mexican child, none of the names I’m called are flattering or meant to flatter. I have been attacked more times on the street than American interests in Afghanistan, and my existence is a constant struggle.

But that, believe it or not, is the least of my worries. Most of the people that do all they can to make life hell for me are no match for me physically or intellectually, and those I can’t beat the living crap out of I silence with a withering stare. What they think or how they go about expressing what they think has no bearing whatsoever on my life, and I find it absurd that I should even consider according them anything but the overwhelming contempt they deserve.

The State, however, is a different proposition altogether, whether I like it or not the State will have a bearing on how I live my life or how I accomplish my pursuit for fulfillment, and it saddens me to observe that people of my kind, upon no rational bearing whatsoever, have been failed by the State.

Right from the grassroots, our right to be human in the only way we know how has been curtailed. Despite our orientation being natural, it is illegal in the eye of the law to be homosexual, and the government, especially through the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity, [another useless Ministry, I say with no apology,] is actively involved in persecuting us on the slightest whim. A popular radio presenter recently found himself in a lot of trouble for hosting some of our advocates in his show, and interestingly, the flak he got didn’t come from his employers, but from the government. Goes a long way to show just how dire the straits we are in are.

It would really help if the state changed this attitude. In the olden days, and even in some contemporary societies, persecution of lepers, albinos, hermaphrodites and even twins in some was actually institutionalized in the belief that these people’s peculiar traits made them bad omens and therefore outcasts. It was on due to a paradigm shift borne of better understanding of such people that led to such archaic beliefs to be discarded.

This is exactly what the State needs in order to deal with our situation—a paradigm shift on how we view those among us that are different. This is entirely possible, given the government’s track records in effecting paradigm shifts on societal issues such as affirmative action borne, of the understanding that women are not all that different from men and curtailing them was not in anyone’s best interests.

As for society, I understand why the larger section of it is uncomfortable with us, and I respect their right not to be exposed to what they don’t like. But until they come up with better argumentation as to why they are opposed to people like me, then it is only right that I treat their concerns with the negligible amount of respect due to it. True, it is unchristian. But since when have we been so zealotic in promoting Christian values? Do not kill, the Bible says. Then what are all those guns Uganda spends billions of taxpayer money on for? Private collections and target practice? Do Not Commit Adultery. How much sex that goes on in this country is actually between people whose names appear on the same marriage certificate? Do Not Steal. Hands up anyone who believes government corruption is a myth.

True, our sexual orientation could indeed be called un African. But what too is so African about this language I am addressing you in, our ‘National’ language? What is so African about the clothes we wear, the God we worship, or the kind of entertainment we prefer? Basically my point is, if we are going to be hypocrites, then at least we should be consistent in our hypocrisy!

Most of us did not choose to be how we are. Believe me, if I could, I would change my sexual orientation faster than Emma Kato’s new car at the Pearl Rally. But that is just how we are, and living with the knowledge that we are different is hard enough as it is. I really wish society and the State would understand us and accept us for who I we are, but if that is too much to ask for, then all we ask is to be left alone.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

First of all, I’d like to make one thing absolutely clear. I’m straighter than the shortest distance between any two given points, and I’m not talking geometry. So should you ask me if I’m gay after reading this, you’d better either be talking about my emotional disposition, or be sure that you have sufficient hospital insurance.

That said, let’s begin.

Sometimes, you happen upon signs and indications that seem to demand you get off your behind and do something you wouldn’t otherwise consider as warranting expeditious execution. Should you choose to ignore them, these signs then suddenly start getting more and more frequent and insistent until you eventually comply. Earl Whatshisname, that un-funny lead character in Val’s favorite comedy series, ‘My Name Is Earl,’

attributed such peculiarities to Karma. [As does the entire Hindu-speaking population within and without the Indian subcontinent, but I digress.]

Anyway, this Karma recently needed me to do something that under normal circumstances, I would consider not doing, think about it three times and then NOT do it. In a nutshell, Karma wanted me to speak out on homosexuality.

Obviously, I wasn’t favorably predisposed towards the idea. However, I wasn’t really worried because writing is not my main hobby. My main hobby is spending copious amount of time doing absolutely nothing, and this lazybones dispensation, I figured, would make it pretty hard for even Karma to find a way of getting across to me and compel me to do its dirty work.

But trust the resourcefulness of this force of nature to find its way around such little hurdles.

Remember a few weeks ago I blogged about upgrading from a Nokia 3100 to a Samsung E250? Well, that was because I recently became convinced of the immeasurable worth to be found in propagating the myth that I am a really happening dude, especially while dealing with impressionable damsels for whom I must confess an incurable weakness. The possession of sophisticated mobile gadgetry, I was told, is the main indicator for happening dudes worldwide nowadays, and since Nokia 3100 apparently doesn’t ooze sophistication, an upgrade was in order.

thus upgrade I did, and after I had acquired the Samsung,, I decided to pimp up its screen with an off-the-hook wallpaper, because I was also informed on impeccable authority that cool wallpapers on sophisticated phones are also a mainstay with happening dudes in all continents of the world including Africa. I am a big fan of Rock music, [which I am also reliably informed happens to be the music the entire global population of happening dudes listens to,] so naturally, I wanted a Rock-themed wallpaper for my phone.

And Karma, it seems, somehow was aware of my juvenile pursuit of social popularity; which was exactly where it first came for me.

For my wallpaper, I had a choice between my favorite Rock artistes, Serj Tankian of the group System of a Down and Billie Joe Armstrong of the group Green day. But Serj is, for lack of a better description, an aesthetically-challenged guy, not exactly the face you want on your phone if your intention is to hoodwink the public into believing that you were somewhere near the front row when dudes were being taught to happen. Therefore, the more worldly-looking Billie Joe [who by the way has the most hypnotic eyes you will ever see on the human male species,] got the nod.

When I raided the internet for free wallpaper, however, I mistakenly googled up the wrong alley, and instead of going to the freebies page, I landed on Billie Joe’s Wikipedia bio. Obviously, my curiosity was sufficiently aroused for me not to go away without first browsing through it, and as I did exactly that, I happened across a curious bit of information I’d hitherto been unaware of.

Apparently, my second-favorite rocker is bisexual.

As you would expect, that shocked the living daylights out of me. But, I reasoned, I did not start liking Billie Joe because I was under the misconception that he is a poster boy for conservative sexual values. Rather, I like Billie Joe because he makes the kind of music that makes me want to have him as my wallpaper image. Which was why with a shrug and a “well, you learn something new everyday!” I accessed the right page, got his wallpaper and forgot all about it.

But Karma didn’t.

A few days later, I was checking through the music files on a friend’s computer when I came across an all-time favorite song of mine that I haven’t heard in quite a long while, “Everyday I love you.” By the Irish boy band Boyzone. Immediately, I recorded it on my phone’s voice recorder and temporarily replaced Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ with it as my morning wake-up alarm.

That little incident would have been nothing but a very innocuous event of my day, but three days later, I was woken up by that very alarm, and as I started my daily morning ritual by catching the early morning news on TV, I got stunned by reports that one of Boyzone’s members, Stephen Gately, had mysteriously died the previous night while holidaying in Spain.

Stephen Gately, for the ignorant, forgetful or otherwise uninformed among you, was the Boyzone band member who during the height of their popularity in 1999, famously came out of the closet to publicly admit he was of homosexual orientation.

So this was the second time in two days that I was being confronted by a reminder of homosexuality, and I found that a tad bit intriguing. But once again, I made nothing of it and only wished Allah’s compassion and grace upon the soul of Stephen Gately before relegating all thoughts on the subject to whatever section of the brain it is that things to be forgotten are kept.

But Karma, of course, was having none of that.

The next day at campus, a colleague requested for a couple of documents I had in my possession tucked away with some old files at home. I have certain designs on this colleague, so I promised I’d give it a check when I got home that evening. [And since that is about as much information as I am willing to volunteer on the matter, please spare yourself the trouble of asking what those designs are.]

That evening as I went through my old files to find the requested documents, I noticed two sheets of typed paper I vaguely remembered putting there some time back. On closer inspection, they turned out to be the draft copies of an article I had written after a clandestine interview two years ago with a guy I met under circumstances I am not at liberty to divulge. I remembered I’d later chickened out of submitting the article to my editor because I was afraid of the reactions it would likely have elicited had it been published.

The subject of the article? An anguished, candid lament of a man leveled against a society and a government that shuns him…because he is gay.

Well, if I had earlier been skeptical about Karma being onto something here, finding that article emphatically and totally wiped out every little shred of it. So I’m posting that article here next week, [after al, I still have to show Karma I can be lazy when I want to,] andI stress once again, is not a representation of my orientation. Rather, it is my declaration of sympathy for gay rights and my own opinion on the subject of homosexuality.

In ‘My Name Is Earl,’ Karma expects that un-funny lead character to perform his tasks, and when he deviates, the reminders he gets keep getting progressively more painful until he gets down to it. If that is what Karma wants, then I figure I’ve done my part. So please, Karma, I suppose that means I won’t be getting hit by a car moments after buying a winning lottery ticket, doesn’t it?