Gay in Uganda – where is Joshua?

The airport lounge in Entebbe airport, just outside Kampala in Uganda, ten years ago.  I’m bored and waiting for a flight after two week’s long, hard work in the country, ready to go home to London.  Then Joshua ambles straight over to me and engages me in conversation.  I didn’t know his name at that moment of course, since this is the first time I’ve ever seen him.  But he has that easy, charming, social manner that I’ve been embraced by so many times in my many long periods in Africa.

He works in the airport, is on a break and says, get this, that he came over to talk to me because he knew I was gay!  Ugandan gaydar works just as well as my home town obviously.  As ever I’m astounded what it is that I give off that marks me out as gay, but never mind that for now.

We talk, Joshua and I, like old friends almost, and he tells me of the struggles, the fear and the oppression faced by people like him who live with the constant awfulness of bigotry and discrimination experienced by gay people in his country.  It almost breaks my heart when he asks if there’s any way I can help him to leave the country and get to the UK.  Impossible for him, but that’s exactly what I am so easily just about to do.

I can see him now as I walked away towards the gate; not a scintilla of sadness, regret, or resentment on his face, but a broad and generous smile, the magic of our short but oh so sweet connection sparking between us as we moved away.  I got on my plane and came home.

I wonder where he is now; Joshua.  How does he cope with the hatred of an hysterically homophobic church, and a government seeking to scapegoat gays as part of their desperate attempt to deflect attention from their own profound political failures?

I don’t know what I can do, on my own, to prevent this terror that is the legal drive to stigmatise and destroy gay people in Uganda, I really don’t. I will sign that petition, and I hope it works.

But, today, I think of Joshua, wherever he is; and pay tribute to a staggeringly brave and beautiful gay man in Uganda.

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