I’m out and loud. Therefore, people feel compelled to hear my opinion on anything Queer. I find it endearing and I answer any of their questions with no problems. However, when my father called me to hear my opinion of the recent gay bashing in Uganda I was stupefied. I had no stance and was embarrassed. My life is dominated by all things Queer and beautiful. Yet, I had problems over how I should feel about the horrid incident.
David Kato, a gay rights activist in Uganda, was brutally beaten to death in his home. Shortly before his death, he received death threats after a major magazine listed suspected gay people with the front page’s title stating “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leaked” and a horrific subtitle “Hang them”. The situation gets even more disgusting. His village refused to bury him and during the funeral a priest had the gumption to decry “homosexuality” on a microphone. This occurred in a country where there is a pending piece of legislation changing the maximum penalty of homosexuality from 14 years in prison to the death penalty.
If this incident occurred here in the US I would be marching at almost every street corner. Since the incident occurred in a foreign country the situation is more complicated. As nation with a vast amount of resources, what role should American Queers play in the internal affairs of foreign countries? How can we scoff at the poisonous climate towards Queers in Uganda when we have institutionalized homophobia in the States? Or my biggest dilemma, would it be elitist or ethnocentric to impose on another country’s culture?
This is an important dialogue to have considering our country’s imperialistic history. If as a nation we take a stance on another nation’s internal affairs, we take caution and respect their autonomy. However, this situation is different. While the Queer communities in various western nations are debating our global role in the movement, the religious right is mobilized in Uganda fueling anti-queer sentiment. According to the New York Times, evangelical organizations have been preaching to the Ugandan people myths about gays and lesbians. Considering the US’s position in the world, our opinions carry a lot of weight. Those evangelical organizations recognize this.
Moreover, there is an effort to inflict violence and obliterate Queer people in Uganda. Kato’s incident is one of many. This is genocide. Targeting a certain demographic (Queer people) and attempting to wipe them out (making homosexuality punishable by death and massive violence targeted towards Queer peoples) is genocide. Our country in the past has stood up against this atrocity.
Since we are in a position of power and privilege in the US, we need to use it for good and help our Queer brethren in countries where the threat of death hangs over their community. Or else the forces of bigotry will.