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The story of a young Ugandan gay couple

Discussion in 'Mahusiano, mapenzi, urafiki' started by ByaseL, Jan 11, 2010.

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    ByaseL JF-Expert Member

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    Jan 11, 2010
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    A proposed anti-gay law could make Uganda perhaps the most dangerous place for homosexuals and drive the gays of Uganda further underground. In a rare interview, the first of its kind with a newspaper journalist, a lesbian told Saturday Monitor’s Rodney Muhumuza why she is very scared



    The Sunday before last, Val Kalende listened quietly as her pastor’s sermon digressed into a soft tirade against homosexuals. “We may even have one in our midst,” the cleric told a congregation of about 50 born-again Christians.

    If Ms Kalende did not know her pastor to be an honourable man, a father figure, his sudden anti-gay remarks would have left her shifting uncomfortably in her chair, wondering if those dreaded words were meant for her.


    In the end, the woman who also serves as a minister, regularly taking her place on the worship team at her church of eight months, chose to let it go. It would not be her last time there.



    Ms Kalende’s chosen place of worship is a small church somewhere in Zana, in Wakiso, not too far from her Namasuba house, past a stage for motorcyclists who have made it a habit to ask if she is a man or a woman.

    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.


    On the afternoon I met Ms Kalende, 27, she had just returned from attending service. The television in her living room was tuned to a station named Top, a Christian broadcaster, and a pastor was wedding heterosexual couples as elated witnesses chanted loudly in the background.

    As she readied herself for a new conversation, Ms Kalende grabbed the remote control to reduce the volume, creating artificial silence that would be broken by the occasional sound of cutlery dropped in a kitchen sink.




    A teenage girl, a relative of Ms Kalende, was doing the dishes as some children lazed around the house. Then Ms Kalende headed for the door, leading the way to her veranda, away from the children she considered too young to know she was gay, for the sake of children she wanted to protect.

    In a narration of the kinds of people she was not too comfortable around, Ms Kalende’s account would include inquisitive children, illiterate motorcyclists, gossipy parishioners, bigoted employers and, most recently, a lawmaker named David Bahati. “My first reaction was, ‘Who is Bahati?’ He is the last person I knew,” Ms Kalende said, launching into a decidedly personal explanation for why, “for the first time, I am very scared”.




    In October, Ndorwa West MP Bahati brought an anti-gay law to the House, proposing in his document a new felony called “aggravated homosexuality”, committed when the offender has sex with a person who is disabled or underage, or when there is HIV transmission. The crime should attract the death penalty, he proposed, while consenting homosexuals should be imprisoned for life.



    The proposed law, which has the tacit approval of President Museveni, would also penalise a third party for failing to report homosexual activity, as well as criminalise the actions of a reporter who, for example, interviews a gay couple.



    irst meeting
    In October 2009, around the time Mr Bahati was preparing his anti-homosexuality law, Ms Kalende’s partner, a 25-year-old woman she did not wish to name, left for the United States, where she is now a student and the regular sender of hopeful messages to a partner living thousands of miles away.



    The couple met in November 2008, one openly gay and the other closeted, but soon found the connection that inspired them to exchange rings in a recent private ceremony. They enjoyed each other’s company, even going for an HIV test together.



    Ms Kalende, smiling wryly, recalled being 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,'" she said.




    These days, a typical telephone conversation between the two lovers, which happens almost daily, ends with Ms Kalende saying something like this: “I love you.” Before breaking into tears, the person on the other side answers back: “I love you, baby.”




    Feeling strong
    In the intimate scheme of things, Ms Kalende plays the stronger partner, encouraging her lover, whom she affectionately calls Mimi, to be brave and allaying her concerns about safety in Uganda. “When she starts to cry, I don’t cry,” Ms Kalende said. “I want to be stronger than she is. But I feel bad, of course. She is really scared about what’s going on at home.”



     
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