By King Mukasa – Kóco (They/Them).
My name is Mukasa King, but you can also call me Kóco from Uganda, East Africa. I identify as non-binary and my pronouns are they/them or Kóco. I first realised I was different when I was in high school, but I continuously ran away from the fact and denied because of the stigma attached to homosexuality and the continued abuse of human rights in Uganda. Coming from a strict Christian background, the thought of my family finding out brought me so much anxiety and fear, this made me to focus more on my books and to avoid conversations around homosexuality. I would dress, talk and walk like a heterosexual to try and fit in the society and this denial lasted until my last year at campus when I met a boy my same age at an event. We were happy but this same sex relationship had to be a discreet relationship.
In 2014, Uganda still had queer bars like Ram, Underground among others. People never really paid much attention to care what people are doing who or who they are dating! This helped me learn more and navigate the social scenes of Kampala night life, queer safe spaces, bars and restaurants that were available then. The relationship had to still be discreet because I and my partner then hadn’t come out to our parents and families. The relationship ended 3 months later as this guy was in an open circus of taste and chill. I feared that if my parents found out from anybody, I would be beaten and thrown out! It has been made such a taboo that one would wish for ground to swallow them rather than coming out or being caught.
I left Uganda after receiving continuous threats of persecution later in 2018. By then I was dating a certain boy and when his ex-boyfriend found out, he decided to tell the boy’s parents. I was warned never to contact nor be seen with the boy, I kept receiving harassing messages on social media and anonymous calls with hopes it would pass. I tried to report, the police officers said they couldn’t do anything for me unless I got the people that were harassing me, and I took them to the police for cyber harassment. A few days later, I was attacked at my workplace. I had to run and figure out how to flee the country which left me borrowing money and selling a few items to raise money. I flew into South Africa in September 2018. I never told my family members the major reason for leaving so soon and many were confused how I could leave everything behind and just go to a random place for a new start. I told my best friend what had happened and for the sake of my safety, she agreed that this was the right decision after being told that the boy was severely beaten by his parents and grounded.
As a refugee in South Africa, I have had cherished memories like work experiences, attending pride, dating, exploring cultures on the other side, I have also encountered some very bad experiences like not being able to get assistance when I spent the 2020 winter in an abandoned house and not being able to get medical attention when I got raped or robbed. Getting the right documentation for a sustainable job to be able to support myself has also been a draining situation with some of these dark episodes, some days became thoughtfully cloudy. Which led me into having acute high blood pressure and migraines.
April to August 2021 was a very painful period of my life as I had been sick for over 9 months, this drained me physically and psychologically being unable to work, get supplies, a doctor’s assistance and therapy, made me loose hope. I had no idea of how to get help nor how to get money for the nearest medical practitioners.
A friend of mine, Arnold, called one early morning to check on me only to hear that I was sick in an abandoned house, without food, medicine nor warm clothes. He immediately promised to speak to someone and get back to me. It was then that he gave me The fruit basket details which I contacted and was given some money to get medication and the next month I was offered a voucher for groceries. Later that month I moved in with my friend, which helped me a lot.
As a black person, I don’t think religion is the problem, the religious leaders that have twisted doctrines for their own benefits, brain washing many people making them think that queer communities and cultures never existed in the African traditional society are the problem to the progress of queer cultures in communities.
“Being Queer is in one’s DNA, some call it a calling, others behaviour adoption, others think it’s satanic! I say, it’s a blessing.”
If the Anti-homosexuality law has existed in constitutions of most African countries from colonial rule era, then parliamentary leaders need to know and acknowledge that LGBTQIA+ people have existed before our African countries got independence.
The Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni recently signed an anti-homosexuality bill into law. The Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023 violates multiple fundamental rights guaranteed under the country’s constitution and breaks commitments made by the government as a signatory to several international human rights agreements.