By Angela Thomas
Julius Kaggwa, director of Support Initiative for People with Atypical
Sex Development, was one of thousands in town last week for the
Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, bringing his experience
advocating for LGBT people in his home country of Uganda.
Kaggwa is intersex and focuses his work on Uganda’s intersex
adolescent and adult populations, drawing on his own life experiences.
Kaggwa said his coming out started when he informed his family that he
was male, although they had been raising him as female for the first
several years of his life.
“I went to missionary school and it was an all-girls school. I was in
that school not as a girl, but dressed as a girl, so that was really
huge,” he said. “It was a very well-known school and I went to a very
well-known evangelical church as well, so news of the fact that this
prestigious girls school had a boy in there was huge and many people
received it differently.”
Kaggwa said people on the street would often ask him where his sister was.
“It was very difficult and on several occasions I actually felt
suicidal because I didn’t think what I see now was possible. I didn’t
even think I would be able to live in my own country,” he said. “But
sharing my story and my experiences with my own friends helped and
then I started to get support from my own family and I think that was
the major positive for me. My family was very supportive right from my
childhood when they were hiding me and trying to figure out how to
handle this intersex issue. I’ve always been very supported.”
Kaggwa has been at the forefront of the fight against the “Kill the
Gays” bill, which would instate the death penalty for some violations
of the country’s anti-homosexuality law, that has been debated in
Uganda and testified in front of Congress in 2010 about his
Although Kaggwa does not identify as gay, he said he feels passionate
about this bill because it could affect his friends and colleagues.
“I cannot imagine someone telling me that they are going to kill my
lesbian friend just for being who they are. There is no reason why I
am going to keep quiet about this. I may not be gay, but I am a sexual
minority and I know what it is like to be pushed around and actually
feel like taking your own life and if someone is making it easier by
telling legislators to take your life for you, I don’t think that is
something I can keep quiet about. It is both a passion and a duty.”
In Uganda, Kaggwa said the environment for LGBT men and women is
different, with men often seeing the most outward violence, yet women
often subjected to sexual violence.
“Most of the hatred targets gay men and I think that might have
something to do with our culture. We think men should be a symbol of
strength and they should be dominating and asserting their maleness
and having sex with women and making lots of children. So when a gay
male, especially an effeminate gay male, comes across as wanting to
defy this norm, society is more up in arms. Then, in many circles when
it comes to abuse and violence, it is mostly the women because men
rape them to try and normalize them. They try to assert that
Kaggwa said increased American support is needed to ensure the bill
does not become a reality.
“We need to put pressure on faith extremists here who are sending hate
influence back to our country and engage our parliamentarians and make
sure the bill never goes through and is never debated,” he said.
Copyright © 2013 PGN-The Philadelphia Gay News