Africa | Travel | Uganda

A Gay Traveler's Account Of His Trip To Uganda

Clark Harding in Uganda
Clark Harding, writer for Out Traveler, had been planing a trip to Africa to go primate-sighting, to have his "Sigourney moment", as he called it. The only problem was that the best destination to see gorillas in the mist is in Uganda, and Harding was leaving for the country the day after the Ugandan government announced plans to pass its "Kill the Gays" bill. Undeterred, Harding went through with his trip and wrote about it on Out Traveler.

His story contains his friends shocked reactions, farting gorillas, and observations on Ugandan social behaviors:

“This has got to be some kind of joke,” I said to Kristin as we drove through Kampala and in to the back country. Our jet lag was pretty killer. “All the men here hold hands.” Kristin looked out the window and sure enough: dudes were hand-in-hand, hand-in-butt-pocket, pinky-to-pinky...And while [Ugandan officials] fear gays to the point of needing to execute them, little do they realize their male constituents are acting gayer than Westerners.

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Comments

  1. That's hardly unusual behavior in highly sex-segregated societies in even the most socially and/or religiously conservative countries. I've observed the same in Egypt, India, Iran, Turkey, and many other countries.

    Part of the reason these stupid laws emerge is because women are gaining morsels of equality in these countries and are no longer sequestered in their homes, and because the West has made same-sex attraction and behavior more widely recognized---which threatens how these men naturally act when women aren't around, and they don't want to be identified as gay. (In most cases there is nothing sexual about such behavior, and there was no stigma about it until the Western notion of "gay" became so widely known.)

    Posted by: Paul R | Jul 30, 2013 6:29:22 PM


  2. What a stupid observation by Harding - why even post this?

    Posted by: JMC | Jul 30, 2013 7:11:07 PM


  3. The observations of a person's personal dpace preferences (even if different from one sex to the other) is really not at all inherently indicative of sexual orientation.
    I've known gay men who will greet female friends, their mother, etc., with more kisses and hugs than they would ever give a man in a non-sexual situation; I've known straight sisters who hold hands with each other on the street but wouldn't do so with a boyfriend; I've known straight guys who will greet their frat bros with big, long bear hugs and the women they're interested in with a more subtle, nod-to-say-hello style; etc., etc.
    It all depends on the style of the family they grew up in, the friends they keep and their cultural background, with the ultimate decider being their own personal style.

    I don't think it's helpful in an already homophobically-paranoid country to write anything that might persuade people that they can add more and more daily behaviors to the list of "things that must be avoided so I can prove how not-gay I am."
    Just in order to survive, gays in Uganda already have the stressful job of keeping track of everything they have to do and not do every moment of the day to "prove their heterosexuality."

    Posted by: GregV | Jul 30, 2013 7:17:52 PM


  4. Congratulations to the gay man for reinforcing homophobic stereotypes and discouraging human feelings of affection between men.

    Posted by: BobN | Jul 30, 2013 8:34:08 PM


  5. It was a stupid observation, but also stupid to publish this in a gay magazine. We're getting (rightly) all worked up about a Russian boycott but the Uganda bill is many times worse. Surely if we're pouring Russian vodka down the drain we shouldn't be rewarding Uganda with much more money by travelling there.

    Posted by: Brian1 | Jul 31, 2013 12:58:39 AM


  6. Nothing like a non-observation from an entitled white western traveller.

    Posted by: BearAspirin | Jul 31, 2013 3:38:08 AM


  7. I notice that he went with a woman. I hope they "passed" as a couple.

    Wonder if the future articles from the Ugandan prison will hurt or help the tourism. Out can do a travel article on the international gay prison circuit party scene for those who miss the old eagle.

    Posted by: Steve Talbert | Jul 31, 2013 5:23:53 AM


  8. That picture reminds me of those safari shots posed around the game. Are those two exotic creatures in the middle two local hand-in-butt men? I have lost all respect for Out Travel. Why are they promoting that country as an acceptable gay vacation place?

    Posted by: Steve Talbert | Jul 31, 2013 5:32:08 AM


  9. That picture reminds me of those safari shots posed around the game. Are those two exotic creatures in the middle two local hand-in-butt men? I have lost all respect for Out Travel. Why are they promoting that country as an acceptable gay vacation place?

    Posted by: Steve Talbert | Jul 31, 2013 5:32:09 AM


  10. Anyone up for a trip to Russia for the Presentation of Mary Nov 21? Great destination for Out Travel article. Robes are to die for.

    Posted by: Steve Talbert | Jul 31, 2013 5:48:54 AM


  11. Men in the middle east hold hands too, it's common for men to do those things because they haven't been tainted by the western idea masculinity. The only thing he accomplished is making himself look like a privileged ass hole. Furthermore if he really wanted to engage in a productive conversation he should talk about how American evangelicals have gone out of their way to spread their brand of homophobic Christianity in that region of the world. Colonialism is the worst.

    Posted by: xtincta | Jul 31, 2013 6:16:25 AM


  12. What is worse than going to a backward country that criminalizes gays while being gay? Being as ignorant as having no knowledge of cultural divergences, confusing what he sees with the very act they abhor. My gosh, education. (Education is slightly different from swallowing trite notions, whenever it comes from).

    Posted by: SAYTHETRUTH | Jul 31, 2013 9:13:20 AM


  13. Privileged western men are funny. Even the smallest things surprise them when they finally get out of their bubbles. There are many cultures in the world where same-sex affections are not seen as inappropriate and it doesn't mean they are gay either. I am a Southeast Asian and it's normal for our men to embrace each other. Although we are nothing compared to South Asians men who hold each others' hands freely without the fear of being labeled.

    Posted by: darkorient | Jul 31, 2013 10:16:02 AM


  14. Harding's observation is idiotic, and simply shows his own cultural bias and ignorance. There are lots of non-western countries where straight men or brothers hold hands. It is a common sign of friendship and platonic affection. There is nothing gay about it. Only in the west have we come to associate any sign of affection between men as gay.

    Harding's is a common reaction among gay American tourists. If you visit a country with a much different culture, your gaydar sometimes gets all messed up.

    Posted by: Reverse Polarity | Jul 31, 2013 11:37:38 AM


  15. You can also see the gorillas in Rwanda, on the other side of the same park. He didn't have Uganda's anti-gay policy by going there.

    Posted by: Sally Fitzgerald | Jul 31, 2013 2:36:51 PM


  16. I'm a British woman living in Uganda - who works in tourism, incidentally.
    From what I've heard on the radio, Russia sounds like a far more dangerous place to be gay. As for gay travellers to Uganda, I'd say: come visit, it's a fabulous country. I've had a number of gay friends working/touring here, but they've been very careful who they tell they're gay (usually not the locals). As for holding hands, it's lovely to see grown men and women (of all ages) walking down the streets of Kampala holding hands or arm in arm. I find it really refreshing. It's ironic that this is totally acceptable in Uganda whereas when I was growing up here in the UK, you'd get homophobic comments for this kind of innocent and affectionate behaviour.
    However, I wouldn't advise gay travellers see that as a green light to kiss in public in Uganda. Men & women holding hands or kissing in public is very much frowned upon too (yet Ugandans sure let it all hang out on the dancefloor! Seeing is believing!) The world can be a confusing place...

    Posted by: CharlieBeau Diary of a Muzungu | Aug 4, 2013 9:20:41 AM


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