LGBTIQ Ugandans mourn Orlando victims

Members of Uganda's LGBTIQ community and allies gather for yesterday's vigil for victims of the June 12 massacre in Orlando. (Photo courtesy of Kasha Jacqueline via Twitter)
Members of Uganda’s LGBTIQ community and allies gather for yesterday’s vigil for victims of the June 12 massacre in Orlando. (Photo courtesy of Kasha Jacqueline via Twitter)

Ugandan activist Stella Nyanzi describes yesterday’s Uganda Is Orlando vigil in Kampala.

By Stella Nyanzi

Logo of the Uganda Is Orlando vigil.
Logo of the Uganda Is Orlando vigil.

A beautiful Ugandan gay man stood beside an American man as they sang to us the national anthem of the USA. Immediately after, a handsome Ugandan gay man led us into singing the national anthem of Uganda. We lit candles, and observed a long moment of silence as we remembered the people whose lives were murdered in Orlando.

We then gathered in front of a long rainbow banner and took pictures to remember the ‪#‎UgandaIsOrlando‬ vigil. Wines, bottled water, and soda were shared to push down the meal of beef samosas, vegetable samosas, and halal sausages. Some of us huddled around cocktail tables covered with black satin cloth and continued to discuss the lives of the murdered and wounded victims. Others sat on white chairs and conversed about life. Candles lighting up the garden flickered and danced as the cold evening turned into night.

I poured a libation of red wine to all our departed.

Earlier on, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo had opened the vigil in Kampala city with reading of Bible scripture and a sermon of encouragement. He highlighted how widespread ignorance of human sexuality forces people to reduce sexualities to only heterosexuality. Thus they fear alternative ways of being sexual. They hate people of alternative sexualities. And yet God is love. God loves us all no matter our sexual orientation. We are all created in God’s image.

Thereafter, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, who co-organised the vigil, welcomed us. She appreciated the hosts who provided the venue for us to collectively mourn the deaths and celebrate the lives of the 49 people murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. We all mourn differently, but it was necessary to come together and reflect about what Orlando means to us. She briefly remembered the early beginnings of queer activism in Uganda.

Participants in the June 18 vigil for victims of the June 12 massacre in Orlando: (from left to right) Richard Lusimbo, master of ceremonies; activist Stella Nyanzi; organizer Kasha Jacqueline; and activist Sandra Ntebi. (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi via Facebook)
Participants in the June 18 vigil for victims of the June 12 massacre in Orlando: (from left to right) Richard Lusimbo, master of ceremonies; activist Stella Nyanzi; organizer Kasha Jacqueline; and activist Sandra Ntebi. (Photo courtesy of Stella Nyanzi via Facebook)

And then a diverse rainbow of people gave speeches about what Orlando means to us. A heterosexual ally spoke about the necessary illusion of safe spaces and the need to allow children to know about alternative gender expressions and alternative sexual orientations. A gay man leading the committee for the upcoming 2016 Pride in Uganda activities read a statement condemning the murders.

A transgender woman who is a sex worker compared and contrasted between Orlando and Kampala’s community responses to the massacre. Police officers take hours upon hours to respond to civilian crises in Uganda. What if the murderer had stormed one of our own safe spaces in Kampala?

A lesbian who was co-coordinator for the coalition that fought against anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda encouraged us to defy the hatred of homophobia. A transgender man read to us the moving story of support given by passengers on an aircraft to a mother travelling to the burial of her child murdered at the Pulse nightclub.

The vigil in Kampala was important for community building. As Umulugele Richard Lusimbo, the master of ceremonies, reminded us, love always wins and solidarity gives strength. It is important to know that we are all connected. All humans are human!

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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 info@76crimes.com.

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