In the face of deep prejudice and persecution, the Ugandan gay rights movement has crafted a surprising victory

Graeme Wood in Aeon:

ScreenHunter_24 Nov. 09 14.50For a while, it might well have seemed to outsiders as if anti-gay pogroms were imminent. But with the deft sidestep of a martial artist, the gay rights movement in Uganda has used that moment of ghastly bigotry to raise its public profile, and some of the more extreme elements of the anti-homosexuality brigade have retreated into strategic silence. The situation is still volatile, but the roles have switched in an unpredictable way. I came to Uganda to find out why.

I arrived in Kampala with the recommendations and introductions of Malika Zouhali-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright, who made Call Me Kuchu, the latest and best of the documentaries about gay life in Uganda. Their film has debuted in festivals and cinemas across Europe and the United States, and the gay activists whom it features have often been present to introduce it to the audience in person. ‘Kuchu’ is slang for ‘gay’, and a term that gay Ugandans have appropriated for themselves — something like the word ‘queer’. On 19 June 2012, it premiered at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco — the centre of gay cinematic culture in the US — and the Ugandan guest at the event was Longjones.

When I met him later, back in Uganda, I heard a voice familiar from the film (and, I later realised, from a gay-bar scene in the BBC documentary, too). It was a soft tenor with a Fozzie Bear tone, very hard to mistake. The Castro Theatre audience moved him profoundly, he told me. ‘They gave me standing applause, and I cried and cried.’

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