Risking Death By Exiting The Closet

Mac McClelland spent some time hanging out with the gay community in Uganda, – the country of "Kill The Gays" legislation fame:

Dennis, as he is known, is the 27-year-old programs manager of Icebreakers, a grassroots organization that does everything from youth advocacy to AIDS-test drives to lube distribution. "We all need to come out aggressively," he says, and he puts his money where his fucking mouth is: He's got a blog and goes on TV, even though he both worries about using public transportation in case a bigot standing nearby recognizes him and he gets nervous when someone stares at him too long. He knows that if he'd come out as a kid, not only would he have been called names, but he also would've been expelled so all the other parents wouldn't take their kids out of his school; when he came out as a university student in 2006, he lost all his friends and had to get all new, all gay ones.

He's got a scar near his eye from having a bottle broken across his face—a sort of mirror image of my old boss in New Orleans, who lost his right eye after being beaten when he left a gay bar. "Ugandans take situations as they come," Dennis says. "If they see a transgender person and they want to beat them up, they will, whether the bill exists or not." (My fixer, Geoffrey, echoed this same general idea, though his example was that if I stole his cellphone and ran, a mob would chase me down, strip me of the stolen goods and all my clothes, and send me on my shamed and naked way. "It's the public's favorite way to do it.")