Dear Gil, A few days ago Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the anti-homosexuality bill, which now becomes law and sentences anyone convicted of a homosexual offense to life in prison and a person who “aids and abets” homosexuality to seven years. Gil, I have thought about your questions from your last post about what it is that motivates some white people to hate and deny the dignity of black people. I would add, “Why is it that some people have such hatred for and repulsion to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people?”
The situation for LGBT people in Uganda is dire. I cannot fully fathom the tenor of the atmosphere there right now. President Museveni says that the West or pro-gay outsiders will not sway him, and prominent Ugandan ministers are organizing prayer celebrations in thanksgiving to God that the law has been passed. How can they celebrate what will be death to their fellow citizens? They can only by denying the humanity of those they see as “the other” and by successfully creating false testimony against LGBT people.
As I have thought about your questions, I realized that in the LGBT Equal Rights Movement we’ve spent a lot of time considering the motivation of anti-gay people. Maybe it is because there is a key source to the fuel that feeds homophobia and LGBT-hatred, religious abuse of the Bible. But if we go behind the screen of using religion to deny the dignity of LGBT persons, we see fear, ignorance, and intolerance of difference. The inclusion of rape, incest, and prostitution as homosexuality is a familiar tactic; it effectively breeds ignorance and fear with those already predisposed to hatred. These just add a layer to the mixed messages about sexuality’s goodness and sinfulness. Add to that the distorted views of gender roles and the persistence of sexism. It is not okay for a man to act like a woman (man submit to a man) or for a woman to act as a man (can’t have women experiencing pleasure all on their own).
These dreadful beliefs poison people's views of same gender love and sexuality. Put to a vote, when there is a powerful anti-gay power base to appease, bigotry and hatred win and many people tragically lose their safety and freedom.
Museveni claims that before homosexuality was brought to his attention, he’d not thought about it or even known a homosexual, “I had not concentrated my mind on homosexuality all these years. I thought electricity, roads, were more urgent things. Moreover, I had never seen a homosexual.” Really? This is all too familiar an argument.
There is thought that Museveni was simply playing the political trade system. He signed the bill for certain political capital even though he knew it will likely be challenged in court and be declared unconstitutional. Meanwhile LGBT people, their families and loved ones suffer. Again, this is all too familiar, but no less dangerous. A Ugandan newspaper has published a list of the 200 "top" LGBT people in their paper. This is like a death warrant.
What makes some people demean others? What makes some people see themselves as superior and act to legalize discrimination, to contain those they fear? And what do we do with the answers to those questions? In the LGBT community we have used that knowledge to change hearts and minds, to come out in the open to dispel stereotypes and re-educate. Now we must reach out to those who are facing a dangerous and fear-filled journey, to the LGBT people in Uganda and the other 75 countries that criminalize homosexuality. We must also look at our own backyard to Arizona and the anti-gay bill there. Anytime discrimination is legalized it gives a green light for victimization.
I wish I had a magic wand. I hate the fear, the violence, and the public exposure that puts LGBT people in harm's way. We must distill lessons from you and others who lived through the time of Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights Movement, and still contend with racist landscapes. We must also learn from leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu who sees the anti-gay law in Uganda as equal to Nazi Germany and apartheid-era South Africa. We must listen to those who have survived beatings, firings, and estrangement from families and faith for being LGBT.
Most of all, we must dare to cross barriers and join forces so that our voices are stronger, louder, and more powerful. Yes, those of us who have been wounded by discrimination and the many and assorted travesties of life must become healers, Nouwen’s “wounded healers.” We must not be slow to this. Now is the time to speak out.
In hope and solidarity,
P.s. We are now looking for a list of ways to make your voice heard and will post them soon.
Click here for Part I: Inside of Hate by Gil.
Click here for the Guest Column: "Love Heals Homophobia: American Christians FIGHTING anti-gay laws in 76 countries" by Lindy Miller
More news from Uganda here.