Call Me Kuchu, a new brilliant documentary that tells the story of queer community activists in the Eastern African nation of Uganda, and their struggle for their human rights. As a queer human rights activist, I was enraged and inspired by their story. It’s been over a week since I saw the film and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Even with all the gay marriage excitement this past week, I couldn’t help but think about the Kuchus, those who identify as LGBT, of Uganda and their continued fight for safety, recognition and equality.
Call Me Kuchu, which just wrapped up screening here in Los Angeles, chronicles the story of queer activists in Uganda as they fight against an enormous tide of ignorance and hatred in their country. What these activists lack in number they make up in determination and fierceness. The film documents the personal incidents of violence and oppression of LGBT Ugandans as well as the institutional hatred of LGBT people, highlighting the now infamous “Kill The Gays” Bill introduced in the Ugandan Parliament.
The film prominently features, David Kato, widely known in Uganda and around the world, as the first openly gay Ugandan and the initial force behind the human rights struggle for LGBT Ugandans. Kato, a passionate and outspoken advocate for LGBT rights becomes a leader in Uganda’s queer community. As seen in the film, Kato advocates extensively for LGBT rights and inspires others in the community as well, thus building a coalition of queer activists. The existence of extreme hatred in Uganda becomes all too real when, during the filming of Call Me Kuchu, David Kato was murdered in his home due to his gay rights activism.
As an openly gay man and human rights activist, I am outraged at the current state of LGBT rights in many parts of the world, particularly on the continent of Africa. My heart aches for queer people around the world that are stripped of their right to be free. To be who they are. And my own humanity is degraded when queer folks in other parts of the world are not afforded basic freedoms and human dignity.
Yet, after seeing Call Me Kuchu, I am inspired. For the story of LGBT rights in Uganda, is ultimately a story of hope. For me, this hope comes from knowing that community activism in Uganda is making a real difference in the lives of others. The Kuchus of Uganda show the world that passionate people can stand up in the face of oppression and hatred, fight for their rights and create social change. And it is the queer community activists in Uganda and around the world that are making the difference in local communities, promoting acceptance and dignity.
David Kato and the Kuchu’s of Uganda, remind us that the LGBT rights movement is a global movement. It is a movement that at its core is about basic human rights and the dignity of queer peoples everywhere. It is a movement that cannot tolerate the murder of LGBT individuals and human rights defenders, whether they live down the street or in a small African village. And it is movement that must stand in solidarity and fight with those LGBT people’s, whose society and government is intent of criminalizing their very identity, thus fueling ignorance and hatred in their own communities.
As our LGBT rights movement pushes forward, basic human rights, such as recognition, freedom and safety, must be at the forefront of our collective struggle. A collective struggle that in the end symbolizes the depths of love and humanity we all share. For we are all Kuchus.
Frank McAlpin, social worker and human rights activist
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