Gay Games 3: Activist and swimmer competes in Paris

“I was so proud to wear the Ugandan flag,” said swimmer and LGBTI rights activist Clare Byarugaba about her attire during the Gay Games in Paris. This is the third of four articles about gay athletes from repressive societies who competed there last month.

Swimmer and LGBTI rights activist Clare Byarugaba (Lucas Barioulet photo courtesy of AFP)
Swimmer and LGBTI rights activist Clare Byarugaba (Lucas Barioulet photo courtesy of AFP)

Agence France-Presse reported:

More problems?

For swimmer Clare Byarugaba, the joy of competing for the first time in the Gay Games could come at a price.

Clare Byarugaba in Los Angeles (Photo by Joe Kohen courtesy of The Daily Beast)
Clare Byarugaba in 2014 (Photo by Joe Kohen courtesy of The Daily Beast)

[Years ago] She was forced to come out as gay in her native Uganda, after a local newspaper named her as lesbian.

“In my hometown, I can’t take the bus, I have to drive everywhere with my car. I am afraid that people will recognise me,” she said.

The LGBTQ activist is elated to be representing her country, but she can’t help of thinking of her return home.

[Publicity about the Gay Games might put her back in the spotlight, which often focused on her when she was a prominent leader of the Uganda’s Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which fought against Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014. Later she worked for human rights at Chapter 4 Uganda and the Ugandan chapter of PFLAG.]

“I was so proud to wear the Uganda flag during the opening ceremony at this gay event. But now, I may face more problems when I return home.”

This is an account from 2014 about the first publicity she and others endured about their sexual orientation:

After Byarugaba was involuntarily outed by a Ugandan tabloid “witch hunt” earlier this year, she had to take a week off from work to cope with the personal fallout. “Coming out was supposed to be my journey,” she said. “Unfortunately the media did it for me when I was not ready.” She has seen friends lose their jobs and get assaulted by the police. “A transgender friend, a mob attacked her and undressed her in public,” Byarugaba said. “I know people who have tried to commit suicide. People call me on a daily basis and say, ‘Give me five reasons why I shouldn’t kill myself.’ ”

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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, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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