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Sunday, 3 January 2010

A gay wedding in Uganda

Source: The Changing Attitude Blog

Gug, the gay Ugandan, reports that a Gay Wedding took place in Uganda on Saturday.

A traditional Ugandan wedding begins with the Introduction Ceremony when the girl introduces the boy to her parents. This happens before the Church or mosque wedding ceremony. The ‘Introduction Ceremony’ is a must. For various reasons many don’t go beyond this stage, but, once the Introduction is done, the man and woman are one, part of the family in the eyes of the community. It is for Ugandans the most important ceremony.

Two guys, two kuchus wanted to celebrate their love. And on Saturday they did it, in full awareness of the bill in parliament and the current climate of hostility, homophobia and violence being cultivated in Uganda.

The couple came out to their parents, an amazing thing in itself because it never, ever happens for most kuchus. It is too dangerous and courts the risk of being thrown out of their tribe and losing everything.

With their parents’ permission this couple planned and went ahead with their wedding, a gay wedding in Uganda. Gug discovered they had been planning it for most of the year, despite all the impediments, fears and the risks. Traditionally the whole community fundraises for the couple but this gay couple couldn’t risk that so they raised the money on their own.

They informed their parents who acceded to the wedding. The couple informed a few other kuchus who joined whole heartedly in the preparations. The secret was closely guarded, usually an impossibility because kuchus are notoriously bad at keeping secrets – but they are unfailingly good in the party organizing business.

A week before the wedding invitations were given out, not written cards handed to people but personal invitations delivered face to face.

Gug and his partner were informed by one of the grooms. He wanted them to grace his ceremony with their presence, an invitation, though gug, delivered from the groom’s side. Gug had a prior commitment but his partner reluctantly decided to attend without him.

There comes a time when the family demands that a man gets married, straight or gay – and they do get married - to a woman. Marriage has never meant marital faithfulness, says gug - that is a foreign concept. Polygamy is part of a man’s heritage. For a kuchu man in Uganda to be married to a woman is accepted as part of life, a necessary rite even when they know they are different. Gug and his partner assumed that they had been invited to a conventional, male/female wedding ceremony - the prospective groom didn’t bother to tell them that this was going to be different.

Gug’s partner told him what happened. The wedding took place in an enclosed compound which was secured. There were two armed policemen at the gate – police can be hired – even for an event such as this turned out to be.

Guys arrived in their ‘introduction ceremony’ traditional wear. ‘Kanzus’ for the men, white ankle length shirts like a dress with a jacket over them, a little tuck in at the waist exposing the ankles discreetly and allowing the man to walk without impediment. The most expensive are silk. The women wear ‘gomesis’, another very traditional Ugandan costume.

The ceremony started on time. It was long, with lots of gift giving, hyperbole and laughter. The grooms were not visibly present. It is an elaborate ritual of give and take, laughter, noise, story telling, introductions, rules of ceremony, with a master of ceremony on both sides whose job is to make it as lively and interesting as possible. Each competes to outdo the other.

It is not until the end that the ‘shy’ bride is brought out of the house. That is when gug’s partner realized that it was a groom introducing a groom - a gay introduction ceremony. The secret had been so well kept that a number of people didn’t know. Gug’s partner’s anxiety levels shot into the stratosphere!

People were peeping through the fence and the secret was out. A crowd was gathering and the policemen were overwhelmed. The kuchus were by now happy that the secret was out, they were delirious with joy. Two kuchus were actually coming out and making their partnership official in the traditional way.

Gossip has wings and the crowd at the gate grew. They wanted to know what was happening inside the compound. The rumours were too tantalizing and the music and atmosphere of gaiety too tempting. Gug’s partner decided it was time to leave before it got violent – and the signs were that it would.

Those kuchus who stayed told gug and his partner that they started sneaking out, one by one, leaving the food and drink on the tables. They feared being photographed in all their finery, photos which would be damning if published in the local tabloids. Hearing the buzz of the crowd, many decided to disguise the fact that they had been at the wedding, taking off their kanzus, mingling with the crowd and slipping away. One who was foolish enough to remain in his kanzu was attacked. It was torn off his body by the crowd outside.

It was, says gug, pure madness, absolute, sweet madness, to have such a ceremony in Uganda at this moment. No amount of security could keep such an event secret. “We kuchus, we gay Ugandans, we are also human beings who seek the simple, wonderful small pleasures that all other Ugandans have. Nothing shows that like our desire to be known in the eyes of our parents, as a couple. We want to be acknowledged in the ultimate way, as groom and groom, husband and husband, wife and wife.”

The punishment for this ‘gay marriage’ in the Bahati/Benson Anti-Homosexuality Bill in parliament is life imprisonment for the happy couple and 3 years in prison for those who participated in the ceremony if they fail to reveal the marriage to police within 24 hours. That’s if they hadn’t already been lynched by the enraged crowd.

Now the couple have to deal with the expected backlash. The wedding was an exceedingly stupid, incredibly foolish thing to do, gug says, but it was, and is, human - poignantly, absolutely, completely human.


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