On International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
A Message from Frank Mugisha
(2012-05-17) Recently, I was in America for almost three weeks and met with globally recognized human rights activists, U.S. government officials, and faith leaders. In Chicago, I had the incredible opportunity to meet with respected Nobel Peace Laureates such as President Jimmy Carter, Lech Walesa of Poland, and Shirin Ebadi of Iran, to discuss the current situation for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) community in Uganda and the urgent need for a global response to protect the human rights of LGBTI people, not just in Uganda, but worldwide. Outside of the Nobel Summit, I visited the Trinity United Church of Christ, where President Obama worshipped, and even spoke with the Reverend Jesse Jackson – conversations long overdue between the progressive black church and LGBTI Africans to hold western evangelists accountable for exporting their doctrine of hate that leads to the persecution of LGBTI Africans.
I also was able to meet with students who support the human rights of LGBTI people. It warmed my heart when Hancock High School, a very progressive school in Chicago, played the Ugandan national anthem as I entered a classroom to talk about my work. Two Catholic universities – Georgetown University in Washington, DC and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana – arranged events for me to speak candidly with professors and students about my personal experiences as a gay man in Uganda. At Notre Dame, my conversation with supportive students and faculty coincided with the University’s unfortunate decision to exclude LGBTI students from its non-discrimination clause. The respectful welcomes from the students from these schools – ranging from liberal to quite conservative – remind me that despite what any politician or organization might say, just because I am gay, does not mean I am un-African or immoral. I am still a Ugandan, and I am still a Catholic.
But perhaps the most interesting part of my trip was witnessing LGBTI people’s fight for civil rights in America. On May 8, I was disappointed to learn that in North Carolina, an amendment stating that "marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state" passed 61 to 39 percent. And North Carolina is not in the minority. Thirty U.S. states have voted in favor of constitutional amendments that seek to defend "traditional" definitions of marriage as a heterosexual union. These measures do not defend civil rights; they deny civil rights. And before I left, I am happy to say, President Barack Obama publicly defended marriage as a civil right for everyone in America.
Today is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and I am reminded that advocating for the human and civil rights of LGBTI people is truly a global cause. In America, there are people who seek to limit the rights of LGBTI people, but there are advocates in the schools and even in the White House to support civil rights for LGBTI citizens. In my country, we are still fighting for basic rights. We live in a hostile environment where our Parliament has sought to pass an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would threaten my freedom, but I see progress. More and more people are coming out and reaching out for help and acceptance in Uganda.
Homophobia and Transphobia are a global challenge to human rights. We must advocate for understanding and tolerance around the world. There is much to overcome, but there are also many signs of hope.
Frank Mugisha, 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award Laureate
rfkcenter: Great article! RT @seanjcoughlan Human-rights training centre opens in Florence, teaching digital activists. http://t.co/JlUdA65A8T
rfkcenter: Archbishop Emeritus, Most Rev Michael Kpakala Francis gave refuge to the war weary & hope to a nation http://t.co/yNoauQdBq9 #liberia
rfkcenter: Archbishop Francis was a man of extraordinary courage using the pulpit to criticize the abuses of Liberia’s dictators http://t.co/yNoauQdBq9
rfkcenter: Statement on the Passing of 1999 RFK #HumanRights Award Laureate Archbishop Francis http://t.co/yNoauQdBq9 #RFKawards #liberia #monrovia