Friday, December 25, 2009

This Journey has only just begun!

This year has almost come and gone, and what a year it was! Sitting in the afterglow and still digesting all excesses of the festivities I can’t help but reflect on the last 12 months. This has been a year saturated with an abundance of experience, some more pleasant than others. I have learned and grown a great deal and was lucky enough to share it with all of you. This journey has only just begun and on our path to this present reminiscence we laughed, we cried, got angry, threw tantrums and together we made a difference. During January I started this blog being blissfully unaware of the impact a simple little website can have. Dipping My Toes into Fire would become prophetic words of what was to come...

The pursuit of perfection and beauty always intrigued me and I never realized people would find the grooming habits of gay men interesting, and the term Crack & Sack not only confused a few but also left me wondering how many people actually had the misfortune of waxing their private parts and was cursing my name while in excruciating pain! Also not being partial to ageing gracefully I ventured into the world of non-invasive cosmetic procedures now being a proud member of the Botox club, and for all those wondering, yes... I still have movement in my face… at least the muscles from my eyebrows down... This year I again went through being Thick and Thin, losing some weight and looking fabulous to now having again gained a few pounds, and unlike Oprah flabby additions to my midsection did absolutely nothing for my ratings. As the recession hit the world we also mourned the Death of the Metro-Sexual Man, an illusive creature which to my great disappointment I learned heterosexual women absolutely hated.

Many friends this year found themselves single having had to endure terrible breakups notably grouping Condoms, Pepper Spray and True Love into an unlikely combination to surviving modern dating. I found the Queer Mating Rituals of Heterosexuals fascinating, and was forced to ponder on issues like Cyber Fidelity and Why Should Only Straight People have to Suffer Marriage. And then there were the SEX… Dildos, Handcuffs, Leather and Porn still seems taboo, as many of us still find it dreadfully uncomfortable to not only talk about sex but be open and honest about our own sexual needs and desires. Some people, on the other hand, took things too far with Sex Tape Scandals, but in all the need for Sex Education and being comfortable with our own sexuality became quite evident. This was just the simple issues but when it came to Intersexuality and Hermaphrodites it became quite controversial and complex.

Ageism in the gay community landed me in some hot water as no self-respecting queer would like to be referred to as a King or Queen of Yesterday and Fabulous Fairies and Ghastly Goblins clearly made their voices heard. I learned that the gay community is diverse and even wondered whether Gay Men are from Venus and Lesbians from Mars? I also discovered some Homophobic Homos in our midst and discovered that Coming Out may just be the route of all their self-loathing. For some the coming out process seemed so daunting that one friend even suggested he’d Rather be Black than Gay. In my own coming out process I also had to deal with some ignorance and being asked stupid questions like Why Don’t you Sleep with Lesbians?
Not being quite the social butterfly but rather a Stepford Fag, I did attend some great events this year. I had 3 Tons of Fun watching my fabulously talented hairstylists win a prestigious competition. I attended Fashion week and gazed upon some Perfect Creatures being a VIP guest and just as I started to feel Life’s a Drag I was amazed with the talent of our local Drag Queens. But unfortunately work pretty much dominated my year with Spy Bosses, Drug Trafficking and Murder seeing me make the 8 o’clock news and several front pages of news papers. With all of this happening I was also Rear Ended and the chain of events that followed had me scream What the F! No Wonder I am a Bitch!

Not being immune to scary diseases I became a statistic this year as I too contracted The Swine Flu - a nasty flu with a nasty name. It Will Never Happen to Me is something we feel comfort in thinking. This year a colleague of mine was diagnosed with cancer and is fighting the battle of her life; her diagnoses caught her off guard and turned her world upside down. Being a strong willed woman, she’s putting up a brave fight. Another friend who’s HIV+ learned that he needs to start with ARV treatment in the New Year – a prospect he finds daunting, but at least HIV no longer is a death sentence nor is it The Gift of Death.

Being a peace loving person, you could imagine my shock when I started getting hate mail. It seems some Christians think I am The Abomination of Humanity, fearing The Sodomites Wants to Recruit You and even proclaiming God Hates Fags. Clearly I struck a nerve and they like reminding me of this at least 2 to 6 times a week in their “love” letters. Intolerance and hate was further prevalent when the Gay Witch Hunt started in Uganda, with the lives of countless homosexuals being at risk as a Genocide may be looming. The Fag Hating Illuminati seems hell bent on eradicating homosexuality in Africa, and I will be damned if that happens. The Gay Plague didn’t kill us and neither will ignorance!

With all the ups and down this year I had the one person that stood by my side and have been my pillar of strength – my husband. Together we dispelled The Myth of the Super Gay Couple; we found the Needle in the Gaystack and will be moving into our new home in January 2010. Husband had to put up with a hell of allot of my tantrums, bitching, my hectic work schedule and activism. For all of this he deserves a medal for husband of the year!
2009 has been a busy year, a difficult year and a fulfilling year. Thank you for sharing this year with me, and I loved sharing it with you.

My wish to you for 2010: Make it your intention to pursue only what is honorable, what is good, and what is true… Don’t forget to walk gently, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically, love truly, give cheerfully and accept gratefully.

Now I am off to a week of peace and quiet and will be seeing in the New Year on an Island off the mainland of Madagascar. So for at least a week, in the famous words of Greta Garbo “uh.. uh.. I want to be alone….”

Till next time, see you in 2010. Happy New Year!

Feel so different by Sinead O'Connor

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fag Hating Illuminati

Waking up this morning, on my first day of my holiday, I felt that everything was right with the world. No meetings, no frantic phone calls just some rest and relaxation. Still relishing in this tranquil thought, I stumbled out of bed and went about my normal morning routine. Then I checked my e-mail. Another country is about to criminalize homosexuality, and it is Rwanda of all places. After surviving a genocide Rwanda now wants to follow the example of Uganda. I was shocked! What is happening in Africa? Has the world gone mad?
Today the Rwandan government will be voting to introduce Article 217 into their penal code. This article states that:

Any person who practices, encourages or sensitizes people of the same sex, to sexual relation or any sexual practice, shall be liable for a term of imprisonment ranging from five (5) to ten (10) years and fine ranging from Two Hundred thousand Rwanda Francs (200.000 RwF) to one million (1,000,000)Rwanda francs”.

I have to admit I am not an expert on African politics but when I did a little research on Uganda and now Rwanda regarding the Genocide Bill and Article 217, one person’s name seems to keep popping up – Rick Warren. Warren is a “successful” pastor who apparently has close ties to a not-so secret, secret society known as “The Family” or "The Fellowship". "The Family" is a Christian fundamentalist group, it is large and powerful, with tentacles that reach every corner of the world with its members including several high-ranking political figures in the United States. Their goal in Africa – Eradicate homosexuality! The means of doing so – Provide funding to economically challenged governments and pressure them to enforce stricter laws against homosexuality. Their real motive for doing this – UNKNOW…

This sounds like one of those conspiracy theories from a blockbuster Hollywood movie. Naturally, I also dismissed this as farfetched as I did not wanted to stir up images of boogey men or fag hating Illuminati types. However, the reality remains. Two African countries now want stricter laws criminalizing homosexuality, both laws violently infringes on the human rights of gay people and one ominous group seems to be behind this – “The Family”. It would appear gay people around the world now have a new enemy. A group of people who wants us eradicated. A Fag Hating Illuminati hell bent on destroying us.
Unfortunately for this group, they vastly underestimate us queer folk. We are not like the dinosaurs and it will take more than an asteroid or a few powerful, misguided bureaucrats to force us into extinction. Our “depraved lifestyle” and having to hide who and what we really are has made us quite a tenacious bunch of abominations. We are organized, focused and our tentacles also reach well beyond what they expect. What makes us even more dangerous is the fact that we can hide in plain sight, and when they least expect it we will mount them from behind, penetrate their well oiled machinery of hateful propaganda and thrust our collective dissident beliefs down their throats. Our stamina will outlast theirs.

When I read the actual bills and articles these ignoramuses want to introduce to law, I can but only roll my eyes. In the Genocide Bill the poor old dildo, vibrator and strap-on have all been collectively described as a “sexual contraption” reducing it to sounding like some kind of medieval instrument. Gay sex is described as “unlawful carnal knowledge”. So fags according to them no more unlawful carnal knowledge for us especially not with sexual contraptions, rather stick to chaste stupidity! Never has any literature ever encapsulate the eroticism of gay sex quite as eloquently as that of the Fag Hating Illuminati….
Being a community bound by our own “brotherhood” our society is not a secret one. We often profess we are queer and we are here and nothing will stop this or silence us. Have they never seen a Drama Queen throw a tantrum; a Drag Queen getting into a bitch fight at a pageant or a Dyke blowing her lid after catching her girlfriend kissing someone else? Have they never seen the wrath a homosexual can unleash? The combined anger of the queer world will make the atom bomb seem pale in comparison. We do not fight our wars with guns, the weapons we use is far less complex but much more effective and of greater devastation. We have our voices, passion, compassion, the truth and a flare for the dramatics. No matter where we are we will speak out, we will expose the injustice inflicted on our queer family; we will oppose homophobia and resist any pressure to the turn a blind eye. We will continue having carnal knowledge and use whatever damn contraptions we want.
Fag Hating Illuminati, as you are watching us, so too are we keeping a queer eye on you. You are busy in Africa. Uganda and now Rwanda is at risk and we do not know where you will spread your cancer next. Just remember one thing, we will not go quietly, we will not go peacefully and we will not crawl back into the crevices of the closets in which you imprisoned us. It’s not over until the fat Drag Queen’s song is finished or the sexual contraption’s batteries runs out!

'The Family' and Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Story of a Young Ugandan Gay Couple

(Originally published on Daily Monitor article by Rodney Muhumuza )

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.

Although Mr Bahati said he was not in a hate campaign, he could not explain the lack of facts to back his case - the proposed law seeks to improve on the penalties prescribed in the Penal Code, which already criminalises homosexuality -or provide evidence to back claims that European gays were recruiting in Uganda.In a country where homosexuality is still taboo, the bill had excited the homophobic sentiments of many Ugandans, and it also looked set to shrug off human rights concerns.

As the Canadian government called the law “vile and hateful”, and as the Swedish government threatened to cut aid over a law a minister described as “appalling”, the authorities in Kampala were saying they would push for the introduction of legislation that would make Uganda one of the most dangerous places for gay people.

Ms Kalende has been openly gay since 2002, several years before she became a rights activist with the group Freedom and Roam-Uganda, six years before she met the woman she calls the love of her life.

WORRIED: Ms Kalende faces an uncertain future after the tabling of an anti-gay law in Parliament. 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.” The couple met through a mutual friend, with Ms Kalende as the more enthusiastic partner, until their relationship grew strong enough for them to start sharing a house. “She is a very beautiful woman,” Ms Kalende said. “It’s about her heart, her beauty, and the fact that we share the same faith.”

Ms Kalende keeps in her wallet a picture from October 2009, taken days before her partner left Uganda. They are looking straight in the camera, no smiles, with Ms Kalende’s partner extending an arm over her lover to create the only sign of intimacy between them. It is a beautiful, if cheerless, photograph, yet one that captures the character of a relationship that is steeped in trust, respect and commitment. “Before I met her, she was already in the process of leaving,” Ms Kalende said. “I couldn’t stop her, and I think that was the best for her. She wasn’t my first partner, but I know that she is the last…I was her first serious partner.”

In press conferences hastily called to condemn the gays of Uganda, Ethics Minister Nsaba Buturo has been revving up the rhetoric, telling reporters that homosexuals can “forget about human rights”. In a recent press briefing, Dr Buturo asked homosexuals to “leave us alone”. Offensive statement. It is the kind of statement that offends Ms Kalende, who professes love for Uganda but retains a keen understanding of her society. “I love my country, and that means a lot to me,” she said. “But this bill is not about homosexuality. It affects everyone; my pastor, my friends. It’s not about us gays…Homosexuality is not about sodomising young boys. What about relationships among people who are not hurting anyone?” It was Ms Kalende’s way of saying that homosexuals have people in their lives who treasure them, men and women who may not let their silent aversion to gays determine the course of their friendships. But it is difficult to predict how loved ones would react to a revelation that a daughter or sister is gay, Ms Kalende said. “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.

When Ms Kalende agreed to talk to a journalist about how the proposed law made her feel, she first sought the consent of her partner. She said yes, but with the caveat that “you don’t put me out there”. Before she left Uganda, Ms Kalende’s partner had sought to convince her lover to go slow with her activism, to keep a low profile, to just hang in there. It was the kind of advice Ms Kalende was always reluctant to accept.

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”. Necessary law? Mr Bahati’s proposed law, the human rights lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi has noted, is “not needed” in Uganda.

Yet few people doubt the bill would be passed without much opposition. Already, Speaker Edward Sekandi has spoken out to say Uganda should do whatever is necessary “to stop” homosexual relationships in Uganda. If passed in its current shape, the law would drive Ugandan homosexuals - there are no reliable figures on their numbers, and most gays appear in public wearing masks - further underground.

In one of those moments when Ms Kalende would stop to give a thoughtful response, she came across as resigned to a destiny she had no way of foretelling. “We’ve never been through this,” she said, preparing to ask a question for which she would get no answer.
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?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hating Christmas

It’s that time of year. Bells, shiny balls, frosted windows, mistletoe, fat jolly bearded men and Christmas trees are taking over our shopping malls, office buildings and family homes. Seasonal jingles and music are resonating in every shop, elevator and accompanies every second television advertisement. If you don’t like it – tough eggnog! We will be stuck surrounded with festive seasonal paraphernalia well into January 2010. After bitching to my husband about feeling harassed by Christmas he annoyingly responded by saying “Well you never did liked Christmas anyway!”. His response made me sound like Ebenezer Scrooge from the Charles Dickens novel “A Christmas Carol”. It’s not that I don’t like Christmas and needs an urgent visit from the three Ghosts of Christmas, I just find some parts of it intolerably irritating.

The first time I was disillusioned by Christmas was at age 5. You see I may have been a small child but I wasn’t stupid. I figured out that Santa Clause did not really exist by means of logical deduction. For him to be real there could only be one of him, yet I saw many of him in malls. Secondly, he was fat so how the hell could he fit down a chimney and manage to emerge clean as a whistle and not make a mess. Thirdly, his elves was suppose to make my gifts and Santa was suppose to deliver them on Christmas day, yet I saw what I wanted in the toy shops and later discovered my presents, a week in advance, hidden away in my parents’ closet.

Armed with these three primary facts I confronted my mother. She fervently defended his existence up to the point when she realized I was not going to budge. She finally asked me "If Santa really didn’t exist would it spoil your Christmas?" to which I responded "Only if that meant I was not going to be getting my presents". A brief further discussion settled the matter and no family member had to impersonate Santa Clause again after this.

I find the fact frightening that Christmas advertisements and decorations start appearing as early as mid November with the full onslaught the beginning of December. It’s like a countdown to one massive shopping spree that is being forced upon me. Naturally I want to spoil my loved ones with something special; I just don’t like the pressure! Being an enormous procrastinator when it comes to Christmas shopping I always find myself in the unfortunate circumstance of having to do my shopping a couple of days before Christmas.

Reaching the mall you never find parking in under an hour and once you have, going into any mall, during this time, is like being dropped in the Amazon River during a piranha feeding frenzy. Not being fond of big crowds and being well aware that I am not the only stressed out shopper, I have noticed that this brings out the worst in people. I once saw two women actually fighting over the last Tickle-Me-Elmo toy which was all the rage for kids that year, it was a vicious fight and at the end of the day neither got the toy and security escorted them out of the shop. I too have done the same. I am not proud of it, but it’s like the demon spirit of Christmas shopping overwhelms you and you just can’t help yourself. The stress of shopping, the background music, the decorations and angst all combines to turn normal people into raging idiots with credit cards.

Christmas is all about the joy of giving, or so they say... Yes, I do enjoy giving presents and seeing the joy of the recipients. However, getting to that point is the annoying bit - I cannot gift wrap anything! In the past I have made some brave attempts but always failed as the gifts usually ended up looking as if they were in a car wreck. If the item has an odd shape never attempt gift wrapping it yourself, one such endeavor took two hours of my life which I will never get back and I can’t recall ever cursing any inanimate object that much in my life before or after that day.

Luckily I am married to a brilliantly creative man who can gift wrap a garden fork and make it look spectacular. The planning he puts into the theme, color scheme and gift wrapping accessories is just insane, and all the presents we give are uniquely branded after he’s done with them and puts all the other gifts to shame no matter what their content.

Food is the one thing I truly love about Christmas and I enjoy preparing it. This is the one thing I can honestly say I am good at during the festive season. Give me a budget, a well equipped kitchen and hungry mouths and I am quite content. Unfortunately this is also the one territory off which I am fiercely competitive and brings out the Martha Steward Bitch in me.

When the family gathers and each member have to bring a different dish, mine absolutely MUST be the best! So screw desert, screw starters and side dishes I will do the main course and it will be bloody magnificent!! Many members of my family have tried to upstage my dishes in the past and all have failed miserably, but on the upside this rivalry always makes for a fabulous feast.

Christmas is a time of joy, giving and spending time with one’s family. Admittedly there are aspects leading up to the actual day that I find tedious and irritating. I don’t like Santa Clause even though he’s not real I still think the fat bastard should go on a diet. I don’t like the fact that I have to spend an hour looking for parking at a mall and then have to fight off other shoppers to purchase the presents I’m looking for. I don’t like gift wrapping or having to stand in a queue to have it done professionally, but luckily I have a husband who does that with flair, enthusiasm and for free.

I am no Ebenezer Scrooge hating Christmas as I actually love it, I just don’t like the technicalities and the buildup. But once the day arrives, all annoyances are soon forgotten and festivity fulls the air with joy and peace.

Till next time.

Jackie Beat-Santa's Baby

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