How I Went Undercover with ‘Ex-Gay Uganda’ to Attend the Launch of the President’s War on Homosexuality


When we arrived at security again, they wouldn’t let me in with the camera. While Georgina trooped the Ex Gays into the event, I patiently waited in my Ex Gay t-shirt and 'TEAM USA' Olympic hat for him to get permission for me to come in. Many Christians came up to me trying to intimidate me. I told them to calm down, everything was okay. I chatted up the army soldiers who were nice to me and they offered me a chair in the shade. It was clearly a very carefully planned and managed event, — a rarity in Uganda.

Finally a top Christian and an army major came up to me to ask what I was doing there. I explained that I was waiting for Georgina, the Chairman of Ex Gay Uganda. Again, Georgina had asked me to use that name, but the officious Christian was startled by it. He asked my name and to see my ID. My Massachusetts drivers license has a picture of me with my hair. So when I presented my ID to the Christian he looked at it, looked at my t-shirt and then looked at my face and asked “Are you ex gay?”

This was the first real test for me. How far would I go in denying myself to play out this charade? Instinctively, I said no, I was wearing the t-shirt in support of Georgina. Then as if in a Hollywood film I heard Georgina’s lilting voice call my name out from behind me. The Christian and the army officer immediately looked at him prancing down the hill, with very confused expressions. While they were transfixed by the ex transwoman-cum-Chairman of Ex Gay Uganda, I slowly took my ID back. Georgina convinced them to allow me in without my cameras. So I left my camera with Haji. But In Uganda everyone has at least two cell phones. So they had no problem with me taking in my two cells and mobile wifi. They didn’t realize my American cell phone was a video and still camera as well.

Next thing you know I am in the rally and sitting next to Georgina surrounded by all the Ex Gays, thankfully under a tent, but in 100+ degree heat. And I had boots on because the last time I went to a demonstration in Uganda the riot police attacked us and I had to jump over a sewer to get away. The rally was presided over by President Museveni and every religious and cultural leader in Uganda.  Everything was in yellow. From the school kids' choir outfits to the tents covering the at least 30,000 people, to the very Ex Gay t-shirt I was wearing. Yellow is the color of the NRM, Museveni’s political party. This was more a political rally then a religious celebration.


I looked at the faces of the Ugandans as they passed our group, first fixed with confusion from reading the t-shirts, then hatred. I just smiled back. It just confused them even more. But I was also one of the handful of whites at this event.  I talked with some of the Ex Gays later and they confirmed that they felt unsafe there. That they thought some people were going to attack them then and there. Why not? The President of Uganda told the people he was ready for the war with the gays. Sounded like 'open season' to me.

We were so late in arriving that Georgina missed his chance to speak on national TV because we were not seated with the VIPs. He handed me his speech and I tweeted a photo of it. I thought how very fortunate that he never got to give this speech. It is one thing for straight homophobes to get up there and spew hate but for an ex transwoman to do it would be another story indeed. The damage he would have done would have been profound.


At this point the adrenaline rush of being admitted to the event was wearing off. I looked at how the Ex Gays were all relating to each other. They were friends and smiled a lot at each other. They were all handsome, fit, polite, soft spoken and very poor. According to Haji, Georgina was there for the money.  But the others? Each of them had their 'seduction by a foreigner' story, which at times, also sounded like the tales of jilted lovers. Another common element of their stories was the loss of family and community for being gay.

Because there are no jobs in Uganda they depend economically and emotionally on their families and community. There is no real organized gay community to rely on or be a part of. They were being Ex Gay because they couldn’t live without their family or community. It was better to lie to even themselves, than to be hungry, homeless and alone. Even with this sacrifice of their gayness, they believe they are still in danger. That being Ex Gay won’t save them. All of them felt frightened that day, except Georgina. They wanted to know about asylum in other countries. I truly felt pity and love for them. I could only be kind and warm with them. The only medicine for their internalized hate is unconditional love. Georgina aside, I believe these Ex Gays are the victims of homophobia. And that the law will create many more. It will pervert the souls of the next generation of LGBTI Ugandans now growing up. Talk about child molestation. The suicides have already begun.


Hours of hateful speeches by the religious leaders and kids groups singing songs like “Bye Bye Homosexuality”. The Ex Gays were singing it as well. When Pepe and I had discussed my attending this event I told him that I needed to feel with my own heart the hatred that he felt every minute of the day in his country. I was very much feeling the hate and realizing that this event would forever change how Ugandan society deals with LGBTI people. This was the start of a Ugandan LGBTI genocide.

Finally, Museveni drove up on the stage in his version of the 'Pope mobile'. I stood up, not out of respect, but because I wanted to see him with my own eyes and feel his hate in my heart. Clearly the gay issue is being used by him and his party to divert attention from the poverty, unemployment, terrible roads, poor schools, lack of healthcare and all the oil money and USAID money he is stealing.

Museveni told the crowd:

“I want to thank honourable (David) Bahati and his group. I didn’t pay attention because I was involved in other sectors and little did I know it was a big issue. However, when big countries started giving us orders, I don’t like orders, especially from outside and I don’t know why these people became preachers for others?”

"I came to learn that homosexuality was unhealthy and this is because they go to a wrong address(anal). Sexual organs of a human being are highly specialised."

"Oral sex is an idiocy, the mouth is for eating not gonnorhea."

“There is a fundamental misunderstanding between us and the liberal west. They say that homosexuality is sex. But it is not sex…. if you take homosexuality, they (the Ugandan people) don’t call it ‘sex’. They call itekifire.”  

Translated, it means gay sex is zombie sex, not dead and not alive. Other words used that day were criminal, animal and devil, all code words to dehumanize gays. Ugandans now have permission from all their “leaders and God” to wage war on the homosexuals. Mob justice is an ever-present danger here. Mobs of men attack women for wearing outlawed mini skirts. The police parade and undress trans women on TV to prove they are not women. The pageantry, the stage management, the propaganda, the manipulation of the people, all hauntingly Nazi-like. This National Thanksgiving was the kickoff of Uganda’s Final Solution for gays.  


When it was over Georgina pushed us all through the crowd to get to the VIP section so we could get photos with all the top homophobes. I couldn’t resist getting in the photos. They  were all congratulating each other. Very happy and satisfied that they did their Gods work that day that the evil was clearly pointed out and a stand was taken.

I left there quite drained by the whole thing. I had to get to the car so I could take off the t-shirt both because of what it said and because it was new with the chemicals in it and i was sweating so badly. I showered the first chance I got. I will frame the t-shirt in double sided glass. I know in my heart that this was the beginning of a LGBTI genocide in Uganda.

Voices of the Abasiyazzi – Sharing Hope + Creating Allies is, at the heart of it, a visibility project. We supply Ugandans with the tools they need to create change and to seize control of the dialogue around sexuality and gender identity. We have been distributing cameras and editing equipment to LGBTI Ugandans to conduct interviews with LGBTI Ugandans. The interviews are edited into very short video clips that share hope with LGBTI Ugandans and creates straight allies. All accessible via cell phones which is how Ugandans get their internet.

Please visit Voices of the Abasiyazzi – Sharing Hope + Creating Allies.


  1. GB says

    Many have left historical legacies behind for future generations of gays. The question is if they are read or understood. The Nate Berkus wedding might make interesting historical fodder.

  2. harv says

    We should send out troops to Uganda, remove all the bigots from power, and maybe take a souvenir (i.e. some oil)

  3. Jake P. says

    This is an interesting report and I appreciate the effort and expense that went into it.

    There are a few points that didn’t make sense to me and which would benefit from clarification.

    – Why were Christians trying to intimidate Mr. McCarthy? And why were other Christians hostile to the ex-gays? Do these Christians disbelieve that gays can change, or that these particular ex-gays had changed? How would they square that disbelief with their support for the law, which is premised on the idea that homosexuals can change?

    – What is the advantage of identifying as “ex-gay”? Why not simply identify as straight in order to avoid persecution?

    – What is the source of the 30,000 crowd estimate? I hadn’t seen that reported elsewhere and the photos I have seen of that event did not show anything close to 30,000.

    I don’t think it was helpful for Mr. McCarthy to tell Ugandan gays that they are “queer.” That is what their entire society says about them; they didn’t need to hear it from him. And this is neither the time nor the place for “reclaiming” terminology or engaging in wordplay exercises from the bowels of US academia.

    Finally, I think it is ridiculous to say that a Holocaust-style genocide has begun in Uganda. Obviously, they are in a period of severe, nationwide repression. There will be discrimination, arrests, and violence. The response by gays likely will consist of hiding, emigrating, surreptitious organizing, collaborating, and self-harm. Eventually, this wave of hysteria will no longer be useful to Ugandan elites and will be allowed to pass. As awful as this is, it is not the same as systematically rounding up and gassing all gays. If Mr. McCarthy wants his reports to be taken seriously, he should avoid hyperbole.

  4. Stojef says

    And when the tribes start hacking each other to death in a future civil war, don’t come to the great, evil, immoral US looking for a handout. Hack yourselves back to the 3rd century. The African continent is the most backwards and ignorant place on earth.

  5. emjayay says

    Wow. I can imagine the whole thing was an incredible (not in a good way exactly) experience for Tim. He paints a very vivid picture.

    Obviously every Western country should (and probably will, assuming they are aware of the level of organized government promoted hate in this country) make it easy for gay people from Uganda to gain asylum. I hope some rich Western gay people are helping them get out, which can’t be easy in a country where a few people are super oil rich and 99% are dirt poor.

    The whole anti-Western kleptocracy nationalistic anti-gay thing is like Russia, only times 1000.

  6. jaker says

    @anon. jake p is right. and you contribute to “troll” losing all its original meaning.

  7. Liam says

    I agree with Jaker. Jake P is no troll. I think you misunderstand what a troll is. Jake P’s response was well reasoned. It was not attacking the guy who wrote the article personally. He was asking for clarification and pointing out areas of weakness in his reporting style.
    I personally thought inserting his own struggles into the story detracted from not added to the story. He should have just covered the story instead of wasting so much space talking about his drivers alarm clock and all that. Who cares about that? The story is the rally and the homophobia. Not the driver or the eccentricities of the ex gays.
    If he wanted to cover that he should write a separate story about the ex gays and how conflicted and fearful they are. Trying to cover it all in one article is just bad journalism.