(Audio URL: http://goo.gl/W2WnT.)San Francisco LGBT rights activists met this week, with Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, one of the most outspoken opponents of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act, also known as the Hang-the-Gays bill. The local gay activists discussed how to support Senyonjo and his work there, as well as how to arrange immigration and legal asylum for LGBT Ugandans who feel they're unsafe if they stay in their country. KPFA's Ann Garrison spoke with Kushaba Moses Mworeko, a gay Ugandan who's applied for asylum in the U.S., and she filed this report.
KPFA News Anchor Anthony Fest:
KPFA News Anchor Anthony Fest:
Kushaba Moses Mworeko left Uganda seeking asylum and to attend an HIV/AIDS conference in Texas in October 2009. Washington D.C.'s lesbian and gay Metro Weekly Magazine then interviewed him here and put his picture on their cover with the headline, "The Promised Land," referring to his pursuit of legal asylum in the U.S. Uganda's Red Pepper tabloid reprinted part of the interview with the headline "Gay Monster Raped Boys in School but Failed to Bonk Wife." Moses says that his life, as a result, would be in even greater danger now, if he were to return to Uganda.
Yeah, yes, my life would be in danger because of the extensive media coverage that I have had here and in Uganda, and the provocative coverage from the Red Pepper and other homophobic, witch hunting tabloids in Uganda that keep asking the government of Uganda to hang us.
And are all Ugandans who are out of the closet in as much danger as you are?
Yes, of course they are, especially those who have been outed in the hate newspapers like the Red Pepper, Uganda's Rolling Stone, and the Onion, which published pictures and addresses of those they called Uganda's Top Homos, including even Bishop Senyonjo, even though he is a heterosexual advocate for LGBT rights.
Why do you think Ugandan MP David Bahati and other supporters of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which seemed to have been set aside, are pushing it towards a vote in Parliament again now?
I think the major reason is that the elections are coming up at the beginning of next year, so people want to force the presidential candidates to take a stand one way or the other. For instance, these past weeks, during the AIDS celebrations, the sheikhs kept on asking the presidential candidates to take a stand and show whether they are with them or not. So I think that's why it's coming up very soon.
What would you most like the international community to understand about homophobia in Uganda and what would you like them to do?
I would like the international community to understand that LGBT Ugandans are in danger, and especially when the tabloids publish their pictures and addresses. Of course those who are working lose their jobs and cannot be able to find work. They may even be targets for mob justice, since outing them essentially means social suicide, because you won't have friends, you won't go to church, you won't have any relatives, so that is a big problem. The schoolgoing children are expelled from school and cannot go back to school, and that means they will end up on the streets, they will be homeless, and start abusing drugs, and end up having HIV and AIDS. So people are now in fear and despair. And I hope the international community will continue supporting Ugandans' local human right organizations like Sexual Minorities Uganda, Gay Uganda, and Integrity Uganda that defend LGBT rights.
Moses, thank you for coming into the KPFA Studios today.
You're welcome. Thank you for having me.
For Pacifica, KFPA Radio, I'm Ann Garrison.
32nd HARVEY MILK ASSASSINATION ANNIVERSARY:
KPFA News Anchor Anthony Fest:
Thirty two years ago, San Francisco Supervisor Dianne Feinstein delivered news that stunned the Bay Area and the nation.
(Then President of the Board of Supervisors) Dianne Feinstein:
As President of the Board of Supervisors, it's my duty to make this announcement. Both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed.
(Gasps . . . OH!!! JESUS CHRIST!!! . . . .shudders, cries. . . Police shout QUIET! QUIET! QUIET!!!)
(Then President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors) Dianne Feinstein:
The . . . (more shudders and cries) . . . the suspect is Supervisor Dan White.
Tomorrow will be the 32nd anniversary of the deaths of Harvey Milk and George Moscone. The two men gunned down on November 27th, 1978, had followed very different paths to City Hall. Moscone was a native San Franciscan who'd been a City Supervisor and State Senator before winning the 1975 mayor's race. Harvey Milk had moved to San Francisco from New Jersey in search of a more gay friendly place to live. He opened a camera store on Castro Street, but soon began spending much of his time on political organizing, including a successful campaign to have members of the Board of Supervisors elected by district, rather than citywide. Milk then won a Supervisor's seat himself in 1977, becoming one of the first openly gay elected officials anywhere in the U.S. He also touted coalition building as a key to success in local politics.
There's tremendous harmony developing. It's not perfect, by any means. At a citywide level, I think it's vital that the minorities, the traditional ethnic minorities, and the gays, and the feminists link together. Possibly the rank and file union, not the union leaders, the rank and file, link together to form a very solid, strong coalition, so that we can influence the total direction of the city.
As a City Supervisor, Milk worked on a variety of issues, from rent control to voting security, but he was best known as a passionate advocate of equal rights for gays and lesbians. He played a leading role in the defeat of Proposition 6, a state ballot measure that would have forbidden openly gay people from teaching in California schools.
Here is Milk at a debate on Prop 6:
I was born of heterosexual parents. I was taught by heterosexual teachers, in a fiercely heterosexual society, with television ads and newspaper ads. Fiercely heterosexual, a society that puts down homosexuality.
Then why am I a homosexual, If I'm affected by role models? I should have been a heterosexual. And no offense meant, but if teachers are gonna affect you as role models, there'd be a lotta nuns running around the streets today.
Meanwhile conservative Supervisor Dan White, Milk's political opposite on the Board, was becoming disgruntled with elective office. White abruptly announced his resignation, but soon afterward changed his mind, and asked Mayor Moscone for a reappointment to the now vacant seat. When White learned that Moscone intended to appoint someone else, he made his way to City Hall with a pistol. He entered the building through a window to avoid the metal detectors at the doorways, then entered Moscone's office. Following an argument, he killed Moscone, then walked down the hall and killed Milk.
Though Milk’s life and political career were cut short, members of the LGBT community say he was a pioneer whose influence endures decades later. Tommi Avicolli Mecca, a longtime writer on gay issues, assesses Milk’s legacy:
Tommi Aviola Mecca:
I think what he represents is a progressive queer voice, and I think that's an important distinction to make because I think we progressive queers don't get credited any more with the work we did in the 70s. He was a maverick in every sense of the word because, y'know, he went against the Democratic establishment. Y'know, and Harvey's whole thing was well, no, but queers should represent queer people, and that, at that time, was a radical idea.
KPFA Anthony Fest:
On the day Milk was killed, members of the San Francisco gay community gathered for a candlelight march from Castro Street to City Hall. Those memorials have continued ever since, on the anniversary of Milk’s death. Tomorrow’s event will begin at 6:00 pm at the corner of Castro and Market Streets.
Candlelight march on San Francisco’s Market Street following November 27 1978 assassination of Supervisor Harvey Milk.