Getting Better In Uganda

In a nuanced piece of reporting, Graeme Wood examines how Uganda's reputation for prejudice and persecution has resulted in some successes for the movement:

Since this planet is blighted with societies where gay people are jailed (Egypt, among many others), flogged (Saudi Arabia), or stoned to death (Iran), the question might reasonably be asked: why was Uganda, a country of sickening anti-gay hatred but no executions, whippings, or anti-gay pogroms, singled out as the worst of the bunch? …

For a while, it might well have seemed to outsiders as if anti-gay pogroms were imminent. But with the deft sidestep of a martial artist, the gay rights movement in Uganda has used that moment of ghastly bigotry to raise its public profile, and some of the more extreme elements of the anti-homosexuality brigade have retreated into strategic silence. The situation is still volatile, but the roles have switched in an unpredictable way.

How the narrative is changing:

The gay rights cause in Uganda started with violent persecution, which escalated with the [tabloid newspaper] Red Pepper and Rolling Stone outings, the ridiculous and self-defeating anti-homosexuality bill, and the murder of David Kato, however ambiguous the motive. That persecution was originally wholly terrible. Then it became terrible, but also useful. Once the persecution had provoked a certain level of outrage, especially internationally, the tide reversed dramatically. Now status as a public victim is a protective talisman as well as an income-generating activity, and there is a perverse incentive to revel in it for the cameras, or, when meeting with journalists like me, to report it as a perpetual crisis.

(Trailer for Call Me Kuchu, which Wood describes as "the latest and best of the documentaries about gay life in Uganda.")