Saturday 7 November 2009

Is it possible to be Gay and Christian in Uganda?

I find myself bursting to write about this. Yet, how can I be qualified to do so? I am not a believer.

So, how can I do it without letting my feelings of bitterness through? I will do this. I will share the stories of a few of us. They are my friends and lovers, so they will remain anonymous. Like I am.

For me it has been a bitter journey. A journey made bitter by betrayal. Because I believed with the whole of my heart.

I was born and baptized in the Church of Uganda, Anglican. Well, apart from the Catholic church, it commands the allegiance of most Ugandans.

We are a very religious people. Discount our hypocrisy. We are still religious. And very, very partisan about our religious views. A Christian is a Christian. A protestant is a protestant, etc. I grew up knowing firmly my identity as a Christian of the Anglican faith.

My journey has been long. I became ‘saved’. Maybe at that time I should say I was a Pentecostal. At that time, I believed, with all my heart, and mind, and soul. I believed in the goodness of the values of Christianity. But, growing up, I also started understanding that I was different. I was gay. Well, at least homosexual!

How is it like growing up gay in Uganda? The closeting, the lack of information, the lack of company, the belief that you are alone in the world… all those are facts.

The personal search, the fumbling for truth. What about the incessant condemnation and hate speech from prominent religious leaders of all faiths? If there is a universal evil according to Uganda’s religious leaders, it is homosexuality.

Well, I lost my faith. I will not justify or defend that. I am a non-believer. Period. Of course that increases my pariah status. But I am a bit of a rebel. I like watching the double take when I mention that I don’t believe.

Yes, anyone who follows my blog will detect my partiality to Christian ideals. That is a matter of fact. I defend myself by saying those ideals are human, universal. Not only Christian.

My boyfriend is Christian

He was baptized a catholic. His mum was a protestant. The dad is catholic. Their marriage was not formalized for a long time because at that time here, one or the other had to convert to the other’s religion. Yes, this is fact.

My mother-in-law converted to her husband’s religion, and had her children all baptized Catholic. She is a very staunch Christian and Catholic. A leader. My boyfriend, being a mother-doting son, followed her in her devotion to the church. He was a very, very strong Catholic. A leader. At one time, he wanted to become a Catholic priest.

As he tells it, my boyfriend didn’t have the luxury to think that he could be heterosexual. He knew what he was, as a child, and thought that he was the only one in the world. A celibate life seems to be a blessed life in Catholic teaching here. And he followed that.

When we met, more than eight years ago, I was careful to tell him that I didn’t believe. Truth to say, I hated Christianity at that time. But I was also honest enough to tell him that I respected his right to believe.

So, he would leave me in bed to go to church, every Sunday. He was very, very regular. We would joke that we would make love, and he would go to confess it to his priest. Was a joke. I don’t think any Ugandan Catholics who are gay actually confess that they had gay sex! That (in my view of course) would be suicide! Not in Uganda.

We used to joke that we never, ever discussed religion in our family. Because we were poles apart.

But over the years, the country has become increasingly homophobic and open about that. I don’t think homosexuality has always been such a big deal. I mean, the homophobia was tolerable just a few years ago. We stayed hidden and no one complained. We hid right out there in the light. None saw us. None complained.

But over the years, there has been an increase in homophobia in the country. I used to wonder who the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda was fighting. There were no homosexuals in Uganda. But it was this huge evil that they became louder and louder in condemning - the Pentecostals also and the Catholics. Homosexuality started to feature more and more in the sermons in Church.

Two, three years ago, I suddenly realized that my partner was not as fervent in his Church going as before. Even his mum noticed. I asked him about it, and he told me he was still Catholic, but he was not happy with what was being discussed in church.

When Pope Benedict came out with a Christmas statement condemning gay people, my boyfriend lost his temper. He raged about this for some time. And since then, he has never been reticent showing his contempt of the Church leadership. And he happens to have followed me into activism. There are no ideals in a church that persecutes him. He doesn’t really like the cut-throat business of gay activism. It leaves a hole in him. But he does it.

He says there is no Christianity in Uganda. The leaders are just after money and political power. And he doesn’t like them for condemning him without trying to understand him. But he still identifies Catholic.

Another lover…

Yeah, I can’t lie that I have been without lovers. I had a lover, about my age. He is an AIDS orphan brought up by a Church of Uganda Reverend.

I admit that I had a hard time accepting my sexuality. But, I had it easy, compared to this guy.

By the time we met, he had not really accepted his sexuality. He knew what he was. It was way out there, impossible to ignore. But he was celibate, not admitting his thoughts, hiding out there and persecuted.

He is Anglican. And we used to make love in his tiny room, with a poster that said, ‘I am a Proud Anglican’. I asked him about that, and he told me that his sexuality didn’t stop him from being proud of that. His faith was strong. But, I argued, we are having gay sex. He never answered that adequately. I know sometimes I delve too closely into other people’s business. At that time the Church of Uganda was forming something called the Global South or something like that to counter the evil of the West’s promotion of homosexuality in the Anglican Communion. He was in the thick of it. I thought he was being hypocritical.

Sadly, he was caught.

Yeah, an e-mail of mine was seen on his computer. Gossip started. His guardian was informed. What followed was the worst kind of farce.

The guy was informed that it was time to get married. A girl was introduced to him - in his guardian’s home. Like, here is your bride to be. According to him, he couldn’t say anything. Before the nuptials, he came to me, desperate. He had tried to make love with her and had failed. I couldn’t offer any advice he could take. He was a man and, according to me, he needed to come right out and say what he was. Maybe I was putting myself in his shoes. I don’t know. I cannot judge.

He got married to the lady - and invited me to his marital bed. I was not amused, and not ready to step into that kind of problem. He came to me, desperate again. He couldn’t have sex with his wife. I referred him to a doctor.

He was very happy when the wife got pregnant. And, he was no longer obligated to fulfill marital duties. But, he was getting desperate. He couldn’t deny himself. He was what he was. Before the wife gave birth, he looked for and got a job outside the country. He was at peace, away from home.

When he came back, the problems recurred. This time, I had to tell him what I thought. He is gay. Hiding from that fact doesn’t help. He decided to leave the country again. Leave his young family.

How will he resolve this? I don’t know. Yes, I do care. But, his choices in life have not been mine.

I have another friend

He is Christian, a protestant, Anglican. He comes from a very religious family, a very religious family. He is not out to them. Impossible to be. And he is a very, very tortured soul.

He has compromised by living an almost celibate life. He believes that having a relationship and living like he is married with a lover would offset the sinfulness of having gay sex. But that is a very difficult thing to do. Not in Uganda. Who would like to expose themselves as gay by living as a couple? Well, we have done it, me and my lover. But we are the exception rather than the rule.

This third friend of mine is still deeply conflicted. He knows he is gay, without a doubt. But he believes his sexual impulses are evil, sinful. He goes to church, and comes back conflicted when the sermon is about his sexuality.

What can I do for him? Just to hope that he comes to respect himself.

So, is it possible to be Christian and Gay in Uganda? I don’t know. All those I know are people who are struggling with the depth of their faith and the fact that their sexuality is taken as a very, very big evil.

Where is the famed love and counseling of the Christian family? Well, as a non believer, I will say, truthfully, that what I have seen so far is condemnation, and more condemnation, and more condemnation.

I am told Father Musaala, the Catholic priest who was condemned as homosexual (it was front page news here, earlier in the year), that he was actually counseling some gay Ugandans. That was why he was labeled gay. Maybe it was true. Maybe not… I cannot swear to that.

I can say as a matter of fact that Bishop Ssenyonjo is one person one can talk to. I will have to remember to refer my third friend to him. But you know that the Bishop is no longer a Bishop because he does not follow the official Church of Uganda (Anglican) position on homosexuality? I even heard that he was excommunicated. But, I am not very sure of that. But he can talk to my friend. If I can get him there.

Christian and gay in Uganda? I am sincerely glad I am not that. The conflict would tear me apart.


My Blog, The Gay Uganda Blog;

1 comment:

  1. Gug, imagine, all these months and months of visiting your blog I didn´t know you were/had been Anglican like me...I thought you had Muslim background...fascinating commenting above. Thank you, Leonardo