Gay pride: a celebration of life and hope in Uganda
June is known as pride mouth, In many countries in Africa, Pride is still a myth. This can be explained by the cruel fact of the hardship Sarah Hegazi an Egyptian activist passed through after she raised a rainbow flag during a Mashrou concert in Cairo in 2017. Due to the violence, she faced in prison it became an unforgettable nightmare which resulted to cause her suicide on 14th June in Montreal where she had asked an asylum. However, in other countries, it is a reality celebrated in a hidden way but still explodes emotions within and brings the LGBTQ+ community together regardless of the fear that reigns in society. An of Courage that many cannot understand. This the story of Qwin F Mbabazi , Community Engagement Manager – GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), who gives us the picture of celebrating gay pride in Uganda and explains how 2015 Pride Uganda is his favorite pride moment and memory.
In the previous years, I always looked forward to attending our Pride. But 2015 was different for me; I was part of the main organizing team so shoes changed from the excitement of when is it getting here to the anticipation of running logistics so that everything is in place for our community members to have a memorable pride.
Our traditional Saturday march brings memorable smiles to my soul. I was up by 6am calling bus drivers that were to ferry participants to the venue to be on time. Come 8am, groups of happy gay people started to arrive at our meeting point. I think every straight person needs a gay friend in their life. We are the source of vibrant happiness! It is hard to be sad when you are around us. Honestly, as the buses set off, the mood was too jovial that even though I was so nervous and worried if everything will go well, that gay happy vibe just kept flowing from them in to my veins.
We had not anticipated a big turn up since the nullification of the Anti-homosexuality Act in 2014 was still fresh and fear lingered in the air. But my Rainbow people showed up in hundreds and hundreds. Looking back at all the smiling faces, people hugging and just being who they are fills my heart with so much Pride. We knew the dangerous possibility of police showing up and arresting us, but we showed up. Previously, people had showed up with masks but 2015 had less masks. We had members who had travelled from all corners of the country and across borders to be part of this event. Even though my mind was running about trying to order for more food, drinks and looking out for everyone’s safety, I was at home with my rainbow family. At some point, I was nick named “headmistress” because I was calling up on anyone nearby to help with a task and everyone would jump in willingly. By the end of the day, the organizers left at 1am because the number had tripled and we had to sort out extra transport charges.
The spirit of togetherness that bonds Ugandan gay people is something that not even signed homophobic laws can easily break. And if you want to witness this, then attend any of our Pride events. I have so much respect and admiration for my Ugandan LGBTIQ community; we know who we are, where we have come from, what danger looms in our day to day lives and hence value the importance of celebrating our existence, struggles and victories.
When I accepted to join the Pride leadership that year, I had no idea what to expect or how I was going to go about it. But by the end, I left as an empowered voice. The experience is one I would recommend for anyone that truly wants to understand, learn and become a good grassroot organizer. Skills like fundraising, in-person advocacy, strategizing, implementing, researching, relationship building, teamwork and project management can all be achieved through that experience. It did not matter which issue or particular population one’s organization worked for. With Pride Uganda, we are ONE FAMILY.” –