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.


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