Sunday, December 7, 2014

Uganda and Transgender's time!

By Sabrina Samone, TMP

Ugandan Transgender Activist Cleopatra Kambugu

First there was Nazi Germany, then Russia passed a national right to hate bill, now Uganda is trying. A upcoming documentary, "The Pearl of Africa", has already caught a major media buzz as it portrays, Cleopatra; a transgender activist in the midst of a violent climate in Africa towards LGBTQ people. Earlier this year parliamentarian proposed a bill that would make her very existence punishable by death. The law would have made her life null and void simply because she is Transgender and it would have been government law to do so. Luckily for many LGBT people, the bill failed.

Unfortunately because of her visibility fighting on the front lines of trans equality, Kambugu was singled out to be outed as Trans by a local tabloid magazine that does so in order for neighbors and towns to take their own form of vigilante  justice as they see it, up local LGBT people. Kambugu did loose her job and was forced to escape to Kenya.

Filmmaker Jonny von Wallström shadowed Cleo for 18 months amidst mounting anti-gay discrimination as she worked towards improving the welfare of  Uganda’s LGBTI community. In an essay written for the Huffington Post, von Wallström indicated that his impulse behind the creation of the film was to show other LGBTI Ugandans that they are not alone while “telling a story that humanizes the trans community” in an effort to change the prejudiced perceptions held by many. To avoid drawing attention to Cleo and the project at large, von Wallström moved into the Kampala apartment that Cleo shared with her boyfriend Nelson to create a moving, personal portrait of an African woman’s desire to navigate her gender expression and identity on her own terms.

Cleopatra and her boyfriend Nelson

Although the Anti-Homosexuality Act was struck down by the Constitutional Court of Uganda in August, the continued persecution of Uganda’s LGBTI community has left its members fraught with anxiety at the possibility of being the target of a hate crime with no hope for legal or social protection. The film was completed recently amid talk of a new anti-homosexuality bill being drafted by the Ugandan Parliament. This new bill, titled The Prohibition of Promotion of Unnatural Sexual Practices Bill of 2014, extends the criminalization of queerness by the Ugandan government set in motion since 2009 to include landlords who provide housing to “suspected homosexuals” and civil rights groups working to promote LGBTI equality in Uganda.

The Pearl of Africa will be rolled out in six short episodes starting December 8th on Huffington Post, Youtube and Ryot News. For more information on the feature length project, follow the film on Facebook and Twitter.

While the incidents of crimes against humanity seem a million miles away as many American LGBT celebrate marriage equality and Transgender going mainstream. Let's  us not forget that for nearly 3/4 of the world LGBTQ people are still put to death for who they are, imprisoned or shunned to live isolated lives. What we fight and how we live visible here today, echoes like the wings of a butterfly in far away lands like a tornado at the walls of hate. So it is our duty to live visible and proudly so that they may live or at least have hope too.


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