Ugandan mother who was once ashamed of her gay son

People wearing masks and rainbow stickers

Gay sex can be punished for life imprisonment in Uganda

When Rita heard rumors that her son was gay, she refused to believe it.

At that time, she thought homosexuality was abominable. This is a “problem” that happened elsewhere, not in Uganda.

When she finally realized the truth, she felt something bad had invaded her house.

“When I confirmed it, I cried. I cried because I couldn’t believe it … I locked myself in and cried,” she told the BBC podcast The Comb.

Uganda’s hostility to homosexuality is well known.

Gay sex is punished for life imprisonment, and LGBTI people often face discrimination, intimidation, and harassment.

However, the conflict over homosexual rights is often thought of as having two distinct aspects: the LGBTI individual and the homophobic community.

The reality is more troublesome, with parents like Rita sandwiched between the strong beliefs they grew up in and the plight of their loved ones.

“Rumors about my son”

Ugandan groups are trying to help parents like Rita understand and accept their children and address the challenges and trauma of living with homophobia.

Rita learned about rumors surrounding her son from a friend who heard people say he was gay.

She was confused and began to wonder if there were any signs she had missed.

In the end, her son confirmed that it was true that he was gay.

As friends and neighbors talked about her family, Rita was trapped in her house to escape gossip and public shame, and her son’s father accused her of failing as a mother.

Eventually, she said she “calmed herself”, realized that no one else cares about her son, and tried to find a way to deal with the situation.

Rita realized she was completely alone when she needed advice and support. A big turning point came for her when her son heard about the new support group and encouraged her to join.

This group is called PFLAGUganda and stands for lesbian and gay parents and families. The purpose is to create a safe space where parents can ask questions and have conversations that they would never dare to do with others in the same situation.

The founder of the group is Clare Byarugaba, an openly lesbian LGBTI activist inspired by her own family experience.

Claire was chased by a local tabloid before telling her family about her sexuality. She had no warnings and no way for her parents to learn the truth and prepare to deal with the shame that accompanies revelation.

Ugandan swimmer Claire Byargaba poses for the 2018 Gay Games Swimming Tournament

Claire Byargaba participated in the 2018 gay game in Paris four years after appearing in the newspaper.

For gay Ugandans, one of the most painful sacrifices of their sexuality can be family rejection.

Claire’s belief is that for already very vulnerable LGBTI people in a homophobic country, the home must always be the safest place to return and feel fully accepted. That is.

But to achieve that, Claire realized that her parents also needed help.

She felt compassionate about what her parents were experiencing and was essentially taken out as a parent of an LGBTI child. This is considered one of the greatest sources of shame in Uganda.

Not just one

She found that the types of support and solidarity she had available within the LGBTI community were not available to parents who had very different experiences and perspectives.

Claire turned to the PFLAG movement that began in the United States and adapted it to suit the local situation.

The purpose is to provide a safe place for parents to talk to clinical psychologists, progressive religious leaders, and their fellow parents.

The meeting will be held in Luganda, and as with peer support, the group will provide access to accurate information about homosexuality and practical advice on how to deal with it in a homophobic environment.

The group met for the first time at the end of 2019 and was attended by nine mothers and one father.

Each member talked about their story-how they learned the child’s sexuality or gender identity, how they felt at the time, and how they are doing now.

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Claire remembers her feelings when she saw her parents in the room very nervous. The way they first met, after hearing a very similar experience, realized that they were not alone.

She describes the emotions they shared in the session as mourning the children.

Rita was one of the first members of the group, and attending the meeting changed her.

“Even our parents couldn’t believe the organization was taking care of it.

“I was very happy to see other parents like me sitting at one table. Everyone you saw gave birth to a child like me.”

& Quot; Initially, they used derogatory terms to describe their children. Now their language has changed as follows: & # 39; Yes, it's my kid. It's my child. Source: Clare Byarugaba, Source Description: PFLAG Uganda Founder, Image: Clare Byarugaba

“Initially, they used derogatory terms to describe their children. Now their language has changed to:” Yes, it’s my child. It’s my child. “”, Source: Clare Byarugaba, Source Description: PFLAG Uganda Founder, Image: Clare Byarugaba

The support of other parents helped her stop listening to rumors and reestablish the mother-son relationship that she felt lost.

She started giving him relationship advice again, just like any other child.

Claire says the group’s progress was visible in simple things like changing the type of language used by parents.

“Initially, they used derogatory terms to describe their children. Now their language has changed to:” Yes, it’s my child. It’s my child. “She says.

For some members like Rita, understanding their children has led parents to think differently about other LGBTI communities in Uganda.

Initially thought that homosexuality was abominable, Rita now feels protection for all LGBTI individuals in Uganda.

Homophobic discrimination increased last year, and measures against the coronavirus pandemic increased attacks and harassment under the guise of public health measures.

& Quot; Accept your child who knows that this is them and will not change.If you don't accept them, the world won't do that either.

“Accept your child who knows that this is them and will not change. If you do not accept them, the world will not change”, Source: Rita, Source Description: PFLAG Member, Image: Masked Man

Uganda’s LGBTI community is even more vulnerable than usual, so Rita has welcomed some individuals into her home.

She is also confident in talking to other parents and helps them deal with situations where they find themselves.

“I advise parents who have such children to accept them first.

“Accept your child who knows this is them and will not change … they are not the children of others. If you do not accept them, the world will not.

“It is your power and acceptance as a mother that empowers your child.”

* Rita’s name has been changed to protect her identity