Sunday 26 March 2023

I Will Not Go Back

I might have mentioned, when writing up my trip report on my recent safari to Tanzania, just how saddened I was by the fact that Tanzania is one of those African nations with a poor LGBTQIA+ tolerance record. Fundamentally, the more comfortable I become with myself, the less comfortable I feel being in the intolerant places.

Uganda, perhaps more than the other places I have visited, has consistently had the most toxic atmosphere when it comes to being gay. This week, they have once more voted to make the laws surrounding homosexuality even harsher than they already are. There's been a lot of hype surrounding the use of capital punishment, but this is meant to be only for "aggravated homosexual acts". Yes, maybe, but the wording is so vague that anything could happen to anyone.

What is much more egregious, however, is the fact that it will be illegal to even identify as gay. Just saying "I'm gay," could leave you in prison. When I travel to Africa with my friends, I'm the gay one. I'm the one with the pride badge on my sun hat and the jacket with rainbow-flag coloured, almost kissing, male lions embroidered on the back to travel in. I travel to Africa because I love the scenery and the wildlife. I don't travel to Africa looking for sex - frankly, with the HIV rates across the continent you'd be insane to do so -  but then I don't travel anywhere else looking for sex either!

Lake Mulehe and the Virunga Volcanoes, Uganda

Uganda is a wonderful country. It has stunning scenery, magnificent wildlife, welcoming people and a vibrancy that is hard to compare. I have travelled with these people, work even now with some of them and would love to go back to those places that I like so much again in the future. Like much of Africa, however, the country is dragged down time and again by corruption and self-interest.

With great sadness, I will not be going back for the foreseeable future. It's bad enough when a place has laws that makes it illegal to love, but when they step over the line and make it illegal to even say who you are, then they've gone too far.

We, the collective West - although these days that really just means Europe and the predominantly white Commonwealth nations, you are getting to the point where the USA isn't a tolerant country anymore either - will not change the minds of the people in power in Uganda. They are driven by hatred, greed and a constant desire to find someone else to blame for their own failings, politically, socially and economically.

They may change their minds, if other nations threaten to review their aid programs. They may say tourists are welcome, whatever their orientations or identities. They will, one day, come to realize that inclusive society is a better option than an exclusive one. There will be pain and there will be suffering before they realize this though.

More likely, they will simply happily stew in their religion-fuelled self-righteousness, praying to God that their wives don't find out about their mistresses and thanking Him fervently for giving them the wealth to pay for one more night with their favourite prostitute.

The world is short-sighted enough without bigotry and the only choice I can make is to leave them to it.

Farewell, Uganda, I'll miss you.