Showing Pride in Uganda

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Last week in the Ugandan city of Entebbe, LGBT activist staged the country’s first Pride Parade. According to The New Yorker, nearly a hundred people came out, despite threats of arrest and safety concerns, to celebrate. The crowd was decorated in glitter, paint, rainbow flags, and more as they marched. The event also showed that it is not completely “hell for gays” as the media has portrayed it to be, the Ugandans were tired of hearing a story that ignored experiences of joy.  Uganda’s Pride was a weekend-long event, made up of film screenings, a drag fashion show, and all-night parties. “We couldn’t have done this kind of thing two years ago, and for those that were here back then, they almost can’t believe things are safer and better now,” a trans woman named Cleo said. The first two days of Pride went off without a hitch, and more people showed up for the evening festivities.

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As the parade began, cars were blasting music and people held up signs like “African and Gay. Not a Choice.” Children who lived nearby flocked to the parade, and adults stared stunned, and, in some cases, amused. The marchers chanted, “We are here” (as a reference to those who say that there are no gays in Africa), and danced and sang in a chorus that was at once moving and exciting under a rainstorm of ribbons and flags.

Hours after the parade ended, police raided the gathering, supposedly because they had heard a gay wedding was taking place, and arrested three participants, detained a photographer, and demanded statements from others. The station police chief eventually released them, and celebrations continued in Kampala. On Sunday, closing events went as planned. One participant, Ambrose, who was in charge of selling Pride-themed T-shirts, explained that the dynamics of being gay in Uganda have changed: “This is who we are. We are here to stay. And we are not going anywhere.”

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