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(Christian Week – December 10, 2010)

KAMPALA, UGANDA ✦ Two friends. One’s confessing a secret. He’s crying. Blubbering. Hyperventilating. “You’ll be surprised,” he says.

“Don’t worry,” says his friend. “I know about things. Whatever you’ve done, you can tell me.”

“You’ll be surprised,” says the first.

“No, I won’t. Don’t worry. Who is she? What’s happened?”

“You’re making assumptions.”

“It’s okay. Whatever you’ve done to her. Come on. Just tell me.”

“I’m gay.”

Silence. Disbelief. Embarrassment. “I knew I shouldn’t have told you, shouldn’t have told a Christian. You’re the last person…”

“I have loved you and I will continue to love you. You haven’t changed in who you are. You’ve shared with me a struggle you have. I struggle with things too. Let’s work together.” And the man, a Canadian pastor, hugged his gay friend.

It’s a poignant scene. But aren’t you uncomfortable? I mean, would you hug a gay man? Or a lesbian? Do you even know one?

I do. After all, I am gay. A gay Ugandan named Pius. I grew up in the church and know enough about too much. I’d trade it all for a small piece of honest love.

Honest love. Unlike what’s on those placards. Maybe they’re where you are too.

‘No tears for queers,’ or ‘God hates fags’ or ‘AIDS is God’s cure for homosexuality.’

Or is this just a caricature of the ugly Christian?

You must have your own caricatures. Of gays. Of Africans. Of gay Africans. You’ve likely heard about Uganda’s infamous bill, the one that originally called for gays here to be executed. Now it’s just jail for life.

It will never become law, I tell myself. This world is not so crazy, so hateful, so afraid. But fear is a strange thing. And Uganda’s gays—about 500,000 of 31 million people—are feared to have an agenda to destroy Uganda’s families.

Uganda’s families. They’re pretty much like yours. Some, sadly, destroy themselves.

“Hang them!” is a recent headline in one Ugandan tabloid exposing “Uganda’s Top 100 Homosexuals.” Names and addresses included. Then, naturally, CNN
coverage.

Yes, it’s an international sensation. The bill. The American Christians who, just before its creation, visited to lead a forum on homosexuality. Some spark, they lit.

The world now knows Uganda. For better or worse, it knows something, anyway.

I just keep my head down. Keep my secret. Need my job. Don’t want a beating.

Don’t want my house burned down. Don’t want the treatment, what some call “rehabilitative rape.”

No, there are no parades for gays over here. In fact, dozens of nations, many in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, already give gays at least some jail time. Thousands are killed annually according to human rights reports. Did you realize it?

So don’t pull out your Bible and tell me about Sodom. Please. Don’t. Just read it all—all of your Bible—thoughtfully. I was nursed on Scripture. I know sin. I know that you sleep with your own brokenness as much as I do.

And I know God allows any of us to be born with dysfunctions of all kinds. That’s why research on gay twins shows homosexuality can have a genetic component.

Then the family influences. And culture. It’s complex, this pull on our loins.

So what happened to me? Someone loved me is what happened. Same gender boarding schools are common in Uganda. And frightening. A friend comforted
me. More than my mother ever did. Certainly more than my father. This is how it was for many of us.

I’m now left with desires to act on. Or not. Like you. The difference is that you can fulfill yours in marriage. I’ll carry mine, likely, for the rest of my life.

I guess I’m just asking you not to believe the lies of the hypocrites and the fear-mongers. In truth, I want just what you want. To be loved. To be held. To be forgiven.

Because there is no us versus them. There is only us: beings made a little lower than the angels, fallen and stumbling some days like drunkards trying to find home, but walking, walking on.

Pius is a fictitious voice based on Uganda’s current climate on homosexuality. Thomas Froese is a Canadian author and journalist in Uganda. Uganda’s government continues to study its bill.

About Thomas Froese