A topic that has arisen on more than one occasion as we talk to people about the Uganda Marathon is the attitudes to homosexuality in the country. In the last few years, Uganda has received a fair amount of bad press in this area, largely due to the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act. What didn’t receive nearly as much press attention was news of the act being overthrown by the courts in 2014.

The Uganda Marathon is not a political organisation, we are a social enterprise that is completely concerned with the people and communities of Uganda. These are the people and communities where many rejoiced at the successful overturning of Anti-Homosexuality Act and are entirely unconcerned about who you love, so long as you show the same respect as you would in any other country.

So if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and considering joining us for this great adventure, read this first hand account from our very own Lizzie Wright, who has spent a great deal of time in Uganda, and let that inform your decision.

I think it’s fair to say that the Brits are culturally pretty uptight about public displays of affection- not least when it comes to displays amongst those of the same sex. As with many places across the world it is common in Uganda to see men holding hands. They hug for longer than most of our man folk would find comfortable. They sit with their hands on each other’s legs.

Culture is never failing in its unique and fascinating manifestation. Think of the current debate around breastfeeding, a debate which whenever I’ve shared with a Ugandan has been met with pure astonishment and unabashed amusement.

One of the first women I met out in Uganda identified herself as a lesbian. Ashamedly, I was somewhat shocked. My friends back home hail from across the LGBT community but I just didn’t expect to meet an openly gay Ugandan. I should have known better. The portrayal of Africa in mainstream western media is often largely amiss with the reality of life in these varied and diverse countries. The anti – homosexual law was overturned in the Ugandan courts last year and indeed Entebbe hosted its first ever gay pride. About 100 courageous Uganda’s turned up to show their support and nobody batted an eyelid.

I thought people would be venomous in their opinions about homosexuality, there would be no campaigners and the scene would have been pushed so far underground that I would never get close to it. My experience was somewhat different; most Ugandans I spoke to held pretty noncommittal views on homosexuality, only gathering speed when asked what their reaction would be to their own son or daughters sexuality being called into question. Can we say we haven’t met similar reactions when talking to adults back home? The ‘not in my backyard’ mentality is universal – however the open hearts of Ugandans means that, with more regularity than not, you meet the ‘live and let live’ believers.

Yes, across the world and in Uganda there are crimes committed against some of the LGBT community, as there are of other marginalised groups such as those who suffer mental health issues and disability – none of this can or should be ignored. And it isn’t. The community and its supporters continue to make great strides against the fears of homosexuality that have become engrained into some parts of the culture. In the same way we have fought, and continue to fight our battles against inequality, Ugandans are fighting theirs.

Fear, as always, is the biggest barrier to success. What’s stopping you?

Read about some of the strides happening at SMUG: http://www.sexualminoritiesuganda.com/

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