Profile of a busy queer Ugandan sex worker activist

Frank Kamya (Kanobana Mwanje Franco). (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)
Frank Kamya (Kanobana Mwanje Franco). (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi)

Ugandan anthropologist and social science researcher Stella Nyanzi writes here about Frank Kamya (Kanobana Mwanje Franco), a queer sex worker activist who has been a driving force behind two activist organizations fighting HIV in Kampala’s poorest neighborhoods, the Youth on Rock Foundation and the Come Out Post-Test Club. She wrote this commentary in advance of the March 28 concert that Kamya organized to raise money to help beleaguered Ugandan LGBTQ asylum seekers in Kenya. Kamya has since moved on to organize an LGBTI and sex workers’ celebration for May 16, in conjunction with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. By Stella Nyanzi This morning, I celebrate Kanobana Mwanje Franco – one of the young fiery LGBTIQ rights defenders in Uganda today. Secretary of a slum-based support association for same-sex loving individuals living in Uganda, Franco is also a transgender activist who was at the helm of organising the first self-support organisation for HIV-infected transgender women who are HIV-infected and sell sex to men on the streets of cities in Uganda. As a gay man/ trans-woman, sex worker, human rights activist who is Born Again and living in Kampala, Franco has variously mobilised resources and outreach missions to Ugandan refugees currently based in Kenya where they are at different stages of the process of applying for resettlement into a third country because of persecution on grounds of their sexual orientation or non-conforming gender identity. Suffering a range of challenges as they wait for their refugee status determination, assessments for resettlement and eventual travel out of Kenya, these asylum seekers often lack multiple forms of support back home in Uganda as well as in their host country.

Frank Kamya (Photo by Colin Stewart)
Frank Kamya during an earlier trip to Kenya. (Photo by Colin Stewart)

Recent stoppages of monthly funding allowances for Ugandan LGBTIQ asylum seekers have yielded a chain of several challenges from food shortages, failure to meet rent payments, lack of adequate clothing to stand the coming Kenyan winter, security and emergency evacuations, bond and bail in case of arrests, blackmail and extortion by citizens, all of which have led individuals to sell their sexual bodies in order to make ends meet. Franco in collaboration with other Uganda-based LGBTIQ performers specialised in music, dance, drama and fashion is putting up a fundraising drive to collect money to provide some basic support to Ugandan asylum seekers faced with challenges in different parts of Kenya. Franco is not waiting for the assistance of wealthy foreigners, but rather utilising skills to collect money and offer a local Ugandan hand to our folk suffering in Kenya.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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