Coming out among the LGBT community in Uganda

Herbert Ayesiga Nov. 22, 2021

"Coming out is a very brave thing to do, and it’s extremely personal and different for everyone. Your emotions when coming out may range from scared and anxious to elated and relieved."

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Coming out refers to the process that people who are LGBTQ go through as they work to accept their sexual orientation or gender identity and share that identity openly with other people.

Coming out is a very brave thing to do, and it’s extremely personal and different for everyone. Your emotions when coming out may range from scared and anxious to elated and relieved.

There’s no one right way to come out. It can feel better to be open and honest about your sexual orientation than to hide it, but there are many factors to consider before coming out.

What drives us LGBTIQ community members to come out?

In Uganda coming out is very difficult whereby it could be a place of happiness but it ends up being a place of fear. Most of the LGBT people who have come out in Uganda have faced a lot of stigma and discrimination from friends, family and the society. They have been evicted from homes, beaten up, violated, “correct-raped” by friends and family members. This forces other community members to stay in the closet, as the only option to avoid that kind of mistreatment.

Some of the LGBT community members come out due to different reasons, sometimes not even by choice, but by being outed from others. For example LGBTIQ people are outed by social media, blackmailed by people they know, being forced into action by people they know. Even their behavior within the society can out them through calling names like “tom boy” meaning a girl behaving like a boy or “boy girl” meaning a boy who behaves like a girl. But also peer pressure or the dream to be independent can be the reason.

Others come out to express their sexual orientation by choice . This can be due to family members forcing them to date or get married to people like do not like. They seek to be happy to date who they want, too, and most especially the transgender people who would like to express themselves fully than hiding in the bodies which they feel they do not belong to.

“I smile, not because I am happy but I have managed to know who I am.

I smile, not for your own good but because I know I can no longer hide who I am

I smile not because you smile but because the doors to my closet have now opened” by Mahipso an organization in greater Masaka district.

Feedback from the community members who have come out and those who are still in the closet.

“Coming out” is a personal Journey” by Dr. Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda

I came out because I was tired of hiding my true identity since I was young. I should get attracted to men. At first I thought it was sin to like a few men but later I discovered this is me and nothing is going to change. Since I came out I have lost some of my family members and friends but at least I am happy now with myself.

Coming out for me, it was due to the fact that I was out by social media when I was arrested and the media house published us on social media and my friends and family got to know who I was and also when my family came to jail they told the police I should stay there and learn that being gay is not nice but at the end of the day I was able to get out through the help of community lawyers.

I can never come out from the closet from what I have seen my friends going through the stigma and discrimination, I don’t think I can handle that pressure from my family and society currently am happy being in the closet but I hope one day I can outcome and be myself.

Coming out to me has been the happiest moment in my life because there is no feeling you will never feel like being free to do whatever you want. Am able to date a girl I am in love with, hold her and share with her my dreams instead of being with a man who I would not love.

It took me took time to come to terms with to my sexuality but now am very proud to be a transgender women who is out there living the life I was meant to live although with some challenges but I am happy I am out of the closet and a mentor to the young trans women in Uganda. If you don’t love yourself, who is going to love you?

No one had an idea of who I was. We could not talk about it. I always felt different from the rest, because I was so attracted to the same sex. But I had no idea how I could define this. When it became clear that I feel for people of my same sex, I was rejected by my extended family.

When I grew up, we had no information at all. Every once in a while, there would be a story about a man being arrested for “sodomising” another man. There was no distinction between gay, lesbian or trans people. People said that homosexuality was not part of the African tradition or culture and that “perversions” were being imported from the west. Things were very confusing and frightening for young gay people like me. There has been some progress, however, and the year 2014 was an important turning point in the history of the LGBT movement in Uganda.