Even when things appear incredibly dark, there are those who rise up to the challenge and lead, even while risking their own personal safety in the process.
Such is the case with Val Kalende. A rare case of an out gay person in Uganda, who is not only willing to be interviewed, but photographed in a Ugandan paper, as well.
The Monitor, a Ugandan daily, printed the story of her and her lover, pictured here. Her partner, who only 2 months came to America to study, has part of the picture blacked out, because she is not out to her family. Considering other information that was provided to the paper, I would think that enough of her face shows to probably identify her now.
As the proposed Ugandan legislation currently stands, both of them have serious reasons to be afraid.
Some interesting revelations
Kalende had some revealing things to say.
On going for HIV tests with her partner (in Uganda, it is considered primarily a heterosexual disease):
...asked by a counsellor if her partner had been using a condom.
“In my mind, I was like, ‘Dude?’ I felt useless. He was giving me the wrong kind of counselling. I wanted to tell him: 'The lady you see there is my girlfriend,'"
On wanting to bond with her closeted partner's mother:
“My partner is not like me,” Ms Kalende, the only child of her father and mother, offered. “She’s not yet brave enough to be open, because she doesn’t want her family to know. I can’t approach my mother-in-law and tell her I am in love with her daughter. It would give her a heart attack.”
On her reasons for speaking out:
...midway through her interview with Saturday Monitor, Ms Kalende seemed to remember her lover’s words, asking: “How is this [interview] going to help me?” Then, moments later, she found her rhythm, saying firmly that “she was doing it for the whole LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community”.
Most chillingly, on her future safety:
“Even with the existing law, things have never been this serious. I don’t know if things will ever be normal for us. Tell me, what will happen to us?”
Kalende was referring to existing laws, which already have criminalized homosexuality.
As the interview reported early on, Kalende had already been harassed, due to her appearance:
Ms Kalende’s standard attire --- she is comfortable in a pair of denim jeans and does not wear skirts at all --- turned her into a favourite target for the boda-boda cyclists, once upsetting her so deeply that she had to report her tormentors to the authorities.
You can access the full interview here.
The voice of anti-gay hatred
Anti-gay hatred did not have to be exported to Uganda. It is already there. I will devote a full column in the near future, consisting entirely of reader comments from this same paper. It should be noted that The Monitor will, and does, print comments from readers in other parts of the world that condemn their sanctioning of bigotry and hate.
Kalende's story is too new to have comments attached to it. For now I will leave you with a few that appeared in a story less than 2 weeks ago. If you look at any of the stories the Monitor has written on gay issues, you will find the same exact thing. Actually, you will often find worse.
Keep in mind, these comments are actually moderated:
Yasin cheptai said at 12/01/2009, 00:40
I say no no no no to homosexuality in our mother land Uganda. No No is enough whoever is a gay guy or supports it should leave this country .we hate you gays and we shall continue hating you.
nakitende said at 11/30/2009, 11:15
i still strongly stand by the nortion that weakening of child's or an adult's anal sphincter muscle through forceful anal intercourse is not a human right
walter amey said at 11/30/2009, 04:17
I strongly support the the case of a law criminalizing gay activities. its a serious crime against nature and humanity. Rwanda has my support in this. The western nations are trying to destroy the world with this human right sermons.
John said at 11/30/2009, 13:54
What ever these so-called developed nations tell us, Uganda should not bow down to their pressure.....take those rejected homosexuals and lesbians to your own countries to populate your vast countries! We do not need such people here.
Nowhere is it spelt that Commonwealth organisation should include homosexuality as one of its major objectives- whether social, developmental, scientific...
Please our elected members of Parliament, be proud and vote that law whether these europeans want it or not. They can not turn our country into a breeding ground.
UPDATE: There is a blog, which I am now adding to my links, called GayUganda. The blogger has a terrific story about what it felt like for members of the gay community in Uganda to see The Monitor headline a story like this...seeing the paper being sold on the streets had a definite impact.
Reading that blog will provide an invaluable insight into the lives of the Ugandan lgbt community. Additionally, they definitely need our encouragement and support.