Silenced but existing: Commemorating Our LGBTQ Identity in Uganda

BY THE ADMINISTRATOR

Each year me and friends, choose a month to celebrate our identity, more on a rotating basis. Unfortunately, unlike our friends in the west, we celebrate in silence just like attending a silent disco. It’s an indoor affair, but more with a spirit of defiance, announcing and celebrating who we are and deliberating on how our voice can be heard.

This year we chose March as our Pride month. Pride is about being yourself, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. This year, we welcomed our new fulltime member in the area of information science.  To that end, our meeting was about coming up with new and innovative ways, on how LGBTQ books and media can be accessed by those in need, given our closed space in Uganda. We are brainstorming on how we can fundraise to start a digital library that can be access from anywhere and yet safely by our local member, given the repressive laws against LGBTQ community here in Uganda.

Sandra, recommended “Queer Eye” on Netflix, and we also hope to acquire a recent copy of the book, “Queer Eye: Love Yourself, Love Your Life”. The book is full of tips and ideas from hairstyling to clothing, as well as cooking and decorating your home.

She also noted that there will soon be more info in a form of a Guide on the Sexual and Social Health for LGBTQ Youth. Readers will be guided on how to promote healthy, positive, and safe behavior as an LGBTQ person.

Other resources will include, Ashley Mardell’s “The ABC’s of LGBT+” a great book for those who might be questioning their identity and seeking knowledge of the many varied identities that exist. This book provides in-depth definitions of these as well as personal anecdotes.

“Oddly Normal: One Family’s Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality” by John Schwartz is a moving account of his son Joe’s suicide attempt after he attempted to come out to classmates at school. Schwartz recounts the school’s inability to address Joe’s needs and how he and his wife launched their own search for services and groups that could help Joe know he wasn’t alone. Father and son collaborated on this book and today Joe is a happy and thriving teenager. The book ends with an original children’s book written and illustrated by Joe.

Other important LGBT books are Merle Miller’s “On Being Different: What It Means to be Homosexual” Published in 1971, it is a pioneering and thought-provoking memoir, just two years after the Stonewall riots

A recent book, “When Brooklyn Was Queer,” by Hugh Ryan is a fascinating and profound account of LGBT life in Brooklyn from the 1850’s to the present. Many figures abound here such as a late-19th century actress Ella Wesner, a transgender performer and the poet Hart Crane, who wrote “The Bridge,” an epic six-part poem set around the Brooklyn Bridge.

Ryan discusses the social changes in the area after World War II, when homophobia and gentrification of the 1950s helped to obliterate LGBT communities in Brooklyn, and more recently a resurgence.

One of the two hosts, Jonathan shared his honest memories of growing up in a Masaka town and attending Kasasa Secondary school, where he first discovered his sexual identity. However, he also recounted his painful episodes of ridicule and trauma that he suffered and still suffers especially from his close peers at work, and how it never dumped his spirit.

Jonathan, who likes cooking and is a chef, shared tips and some of his different favorite recipes in preparing “Mulokoni” cow legs. These recipes are easy and make great food especially for the bachelors.

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