Ugandan anthropologist and activist Stella Nyanzi explores the meaning of the third annual Pride gathering, planned for Aug. 9 at an undisclosed location Uganda:
A prominent activist in the local LGBTIQ movement in Uganda asked me if our Pride activities show any pride. After all, we are ferried away in buses from the capital city to idyllic resorts far removed from the vast majority of public, we are few in number, some of us hide our faces behind masks, and we are discrete in our plans and proceedings.
“Is this pride, at all?” s/he asked me as s/he was explaining why s/he missed attending the first two annual pride events.
Pride celebrations in Uganda are indeed pride events. The spectacle of the parade bearing multiple rainbow flags, the intricate details in each costume, the loud brazen destabilization by drag-kings and drag-queens, the solidarity and camaraderie, the bold defiant public celebration of diverse human sexualities, the array of fixed and fluid gendered bodies on display, the music and laughter, the food and drinks, the slogans and banners… Given that our pride was conceived in the dark days when our legislature was discussing stricter legal reform to further penalise homosexual Ugandans, it is a great symbol of resistance to heteronormativity. Coming together of LGBTIQ people from rural and urban areas, their allies, family and partners to visibly claim and celebrate their existence is no small feat. The organisation and coordination of every small detail attests to a budding grassroots movement.
Honoring all who fight on, or must flee
As we prepare for Uganda’s third Pride activities which will be held this Saturday under the name Post-AHA 2014, I raise a shout out to all LGBTIQ who suffered at the hands of homophobic individuals, institutions, systems and societies in this country. I silently stand still to honour our fallen kuchu comrades who were murdered by haters, committed suicide because of the pressure, succumbed to AIDS or other severe illnesses, and died a natural death.
I hail all homosexual and gender non-conforming Ugandans who fled from our motherland as exilees, asylum-seekers, refugees or forced migrants in order to save their lives. I recognise individuals who were deported for this cause. I salute everyone who was forcibly outed in the public press, publicly ridiculed, insulted, attacked, beaten, expelled from school, evicted from housing, fired from employment, denounced by family, arrested, tortured, denied public services, etc because of their non-heteronormativity.
I applaud everyone (activists, allies, supporters, friends, family, professionals, partners) who has ever dared stand for the human rights and wellbeing of LGBTIQ people in this country. I ulululate each scribe, mamarazzi, paparazzi, blogger, writer, orator, performer, artist, scholar, researcher and analyst who ever produced knowledge in the struggle for gay rights. The grassroots queer movement IS because you ARE. Aluta continua!