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Living like a criminal in Uganda


I was warned before the interview that what I see is what I will get. When I meet Jay Abang she is wearing a red T-shirt, loose black jeans and casual shoes. Her T-shirt read : ‘’ some people are gay, deal with it.’’ The 5’9, tall 29 year old straight away says she does not want to be associated with the wrong perceptive of the ‘community’. Nerves kick in my stomach at the possibility of a dead end story.

Jay came out when she was 14. After being expelled from school for being a lesbian. She was paraded before the school and treated like a criminal. She faced ridicule and segregation even in the next school and lived feeling less a person than others. Jay does not find comfort even at home, she was accused of promoting homosexuality, and her brother hates her and her father is torn about the person she is and worries about her. I unwittingly bring up old wounds by saying; ‘’surely your mother is on your side, she should be the one person that gets it’’ Jay replies emotionally, ‘I wish Patsy, I only wish’’

Her deceased mother was the only person who understood her she says. ‘’she noticed I was different from the time I was a little girl playing football with the boys’’ A smile forms on Jay’s lips but I also see doubt clouding her eyes. I think about how proud her mother would be to see what an honorable, selfless and confident woman she has become. Despite being treated harshly in the past she has opened the door of her home to her sibling. She has been physically and emotionally abused but still believes in humanity. She was ostracized in her home town of Lira in Northern Uganda yet she returns after with the aptly named ‘hate me no more campaign’.

She is the Program Manager of LBTI (lesbian, Bisexual , Transgender and intersex) rights group Freedom and Roam Uganda [FARUG] an organization set up by a group of lesbians who were constantly harassed, insulted and discriminated by misinformed members of the society. They hope to help sisters who share their plight.
Along with other members of the group Jay sets out to educate the masses about their existence and also calls for tolerance and understanding and sexual orientation. They teach sex practices to curb increase in sexual diseases. They also discuss security measures to deal with emergencies and encourage one another in what seems like an endless struggle.

There shouldn’t be a single place in the world one is held captive in one’s own house. When Jay visits her home, she stays indoors most of the time for fear of causing trouble and endangering her life.

Uganda offers no protection for lesbians, gays , bisexuals, transgender and intersex persons. Lesbians are raped by their parents and siblings to ‘cure’ them of homosexuality, you are a criminal if you conceal information about homosexuals. It is touching meeting someone like Jay who has vow to bring social and political change in their communities – a person who is always looking forward to the future against all unjustified man made odds.
Call me naïve but am surprised when Jay talks of violence in lesbian relations. This is the first time I have heard of a woman thrashing a knife into her partners back in the heat of the moment. This is why there is need to recognize LGBTI rights in my community and country. Because such cases of abuse are left in the closet like sexuality is. The proposed Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009, will criminalize homosexuality and approve 25 years in prison up to life imprisonment. Every person should feel protected, not just a section of society. Jay also asks what gay rights are any way. ‘’There should be no such thing as gay rights. Its human rights!’’

Homosexuals demand the same rights stipulated for Ugandan citizens. They want unfair laws to be repealed, for those who spread homophobia to be held accountable, students to stop being expelled from school, families to stop disowning them and to be included in national HIV/AIDS programs and other empowering initiatives. When you are pushed up against a wall, sometimes all that is left to do is ask. Ask, ask and never stop hoping.
Jay is also very tough on some members of the LGBTI community for creating ‘’self made problems’’. She says they should be more careful with how they carry themselves as the laws are not so liberating and even straight people can’t afford public display of affection.

In a conservative culture like Uganda, most problems are caused by society’s assumptions stemming from luck of education and understanding of sexuality. People refuse to believe this is not a choice. This is why cases of termination from employment, expulsion and belittling homosexuals in school are still prevalent. Sometimes charity does begin at home and if children can be taught that not everyone is made the same way, it can come a long way in ensuring gay rights.

Jay’s goals are simple – to be happy, hopefully have a child someday, have proper medical care.

When I leave, I know I have made a friend and ally. This is my first interview and I come expecting a tale of triumph , but I ended up humbled by the story of a woman who chooses to stay optimistic in the face of struggles.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.



Nakinti's picture

You are rock star Jay Abang!

My God, Patsy,
Goosebumps arrested my body as I read through Jay's Story!
At first, looking at the photo, I was like "What the hell did Patsy do - she just interviewed a guy?
And then reading through the captivating first paragraph, I was waiting to see a 'her' most obviously.
Finally I caught up with a "...Jay Abang she is wearing a red T-shirt," and Oh my! I turn over to the pic again and said to myself "What a wonderful selection of a piece, and wonderful selection of the subject"
Hoola to Jay for speaking out and telling it like it is. I am proud of her.
I am waiting for that day when Cameroonians will openly talk about their sexuality like Jay...taboo subject still here.
Patsy I am proud of you for bringing Jay's story to life.
Tell Jay I have sent my honest love to her, from Cameroon.
Stay blessed.
One Love.

Nakinti B. Nofuru
2013 VOF Correspondent
Reporter for Global Press Institute
Bamenda - Cameroon

Tash's picture

Hey Nakinti, haha yes! Jay

Hey Nakinti,
haha yes! Jay is quite a character, thank you so much !, i stand and pray with Cameroon too! Some things must be confronted in our fight for equality.
Jay will read your comment her self, she will greatly appreciate your love and concern.

Kind Regards,

olutosin's picture

Good job


Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town


Tash's picture

Hey Olutosin, thanks! And may

Hey Olutosin, thanks! And may more thanks for sharing Jay's story. It goes along way in the contribution for advocacy for human rights!

Kind Regards,

MaNnenna's picture


We are so proud of you for staying true to who you are. Being born and raise in Nigeria, Homosexuality is a Tabooand in most African Continent. I pray that oneday our society, will be more accepting for LGBTI Groups.

Tash's picture

Hey MaNnenna,yeah, sadly

Hwy MaNnenna,
yeah, sadly simple things like basic rights are still a taboo due to luck of education, pretexts of bowing to religion, culture. One day surely things will be okay, am as optimistic as Jay !

Kind Regards,

Nadz's picture

Sounds familiar

So much of your story is familiar, only in Jamaica where I live subtle nuances of class and colour would have seen a different storyline.

Good job, loved the story, very gripping.

Life is just for living

Tash's picture

Hey Nadz, thanks reading my

Hey Nadz, thanks reading my story, what kind of story line are you talking about? racism in sexuality? do black people face a harder time?

Kind Regards,

Nadz's picture

Yes I think so

The idea of racism and sexuality, how they intertwine and further marginalize.

Life is just for living

Klaudia Mexico's picture

Great topic, I'm very glad

Great topic, I'm very glad you have choosen Jay to portray her struggle. She's not alone because every one of us is fighting for better lifes,

Klaudia González

Tash's picture

Hey Klaudia , thanks for the

Hey Klaudia , thanks for the kind words!
Yes , aren't we all?! haha well, we soldier on!

Kind Regards,

Nechesa's picture

Such an important story to tell

The story of LGBTI around the world and, in particular, Africa and Uganda has moved me beyond measure. I think my business is the only one on the internet that sells David Kato T-shirts.

I'm so glad you covered this story. It's very important and Jay is truly courageous.

Kudos Sister,

Achiro (for this post I'll sign off with my Ugandan middle name:)

Tash's picture

Hey Achiro (GIGGLES ), thank

Hey Achiro (GIGGLES ), thank you!
Yeah, Uganda is and will still be in the spotlight for harsh laws towards Homosexuals! Stories like Jay's need to be told to create more awareness to this often ignored subject. They need to be told until someone actually listens.

Kind Regards,

A great profile of a women fighting for basic human rights.

Your style of getting the reader into your profile is great. I was holding on to my seat while I kept reading. :)

And to read about the pain people have to go through is just heart wrenching.
There is so much more pain hidden behind this little quote: "Lesbians are raped by their parents and siblings to ‘cure’ them of homosexuality"

My heart goes out to her, and others fighting the same fight.

Keep up the great work.


Tash's picture

Hey Aminah, thank you so

Hey Aminah, thank you so much!
that little quote u made, i remember asking Jay over and over again if this was true! It was equally touching for me to find out that the people who are supposed to support you the most and encourage you are the ones that betray you in the worst way!

Kind Regards,

JaniceW's picture

Well written and informative

You captured Jay's spirit beautifully in this interview, revealing her strong and inspiring character while also providing background information on her challenges. We get a sense of who she is beyond the label. Well done. I look forward to reading more from you.

Tash's picture

Hey JaniceW, thanks for the

Hey JaniceW,
thanks for the kind words! Jay is all those things you say! thank you!

Kind Regards,

libudsuroy's picture

Dear Patsy, Jay is brave. You

Dear Patsy,
Jay is brave. You are brave. In a country that criminalizes sexual orientation, a human-rights advocate like Jay and the citizen journalist that you are, who chooses -- despite the risks -- to give voice to someone like Jay, are both breaking taboos. You have catalogued not only the heaps of challenges that people who are different from the norm have to go through but also how advocates and activists are dealing with them.

And yet, Jay is not sentimental or romantic about the gay world, she knows its problems and underbelly and still embraces all these as part of the struggles.

Just a few minutes ago, the breaking news over at Reuters news agency is that of the murder of a gay-rights activist in Cameroon. I think of you and Jay... how precarious the conditions are, how pitiless the government can be, how it takes eons to change the negative aspect of one's 'culture'...and yet you continue to flicker hope and courage..
I salute you for your bravery. Sappho had said, "Someday, someone will remember us." Paraphrasing Sappho, I say, someday the world will remember both of you."

libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

Tash's picture

Hey Libudsuroy, Ahhhhhh,

Hey Libudsuroy,

Ahhhhhh, thanks for such strong kind words! I had no doubts whatsoever knowing the person i wanted to pick for the interview. The governments can be challenged but there is noting as terrifying as being in the same space with homophobic people, i talk a lot about gay rights in my little mini struggle for equality for gay people and some times i leave feeling like my tongue has been pulled right out of my throat!
The hate people have towards homosexuals often leaves me in shock, it surely isn't so hard being human.

Very sad to hear about the reporter in Cameroon! I pray for the family.!

Kind Regards,

Iryna's picture

Strong and provocative

Very strong and very provocative story, Patsy! Also very well written. I am completely agree with Jay, it's not about rights of gays, it's about human rights. The only difference is with whom they sleep. Sorry, but this issue must me private, even intimate. All the rest - pure human rights.

My big compliments to this article, Patsy,
Best wishes,

Tash's picture

Hey Iryna, thank you! Very

Hey Iryna, thank you!
Very true, no one ought to be bothered with what two consenting adults choose to do in the confines of their homes!

Kind Regards,

Patsy, It is incredible how you were able to humanize Jay and in a few words dismantle the existing system in Uganda when it comes to the oppression of LGBTQ. I love how you inserted yourself in the story. Professional journalists often say that it is important not to include yourself in the story to show your objectivity. Reading about your feelings and reactions as you recount Jay's story is so powerful because you are modeling what everyone should do. Sit down and listen to the experience of one person. If people did that, of course they will change their minds. And you show us how to do that, how to show compassion and how to be changed by one individual.
Well done!

Delphine Criscenzo

Tash's picture

Hey Delphine , thanks for

Hey Delphine , thanks for saying that, i appreciate it! . I find it hard not being emotional in anything i write . I wish people that assent to laws oppressing people would sit and listen more...!

Thank you

Kind Regards,

SamihaN's picture

Thank you

Patsy, I am so happy you could share your work and your message about this strong woman and her powerful cause. Your words strike a chord because when you spoke to Jay and got to know her, we also became acquainted with her through you. What she is saying is of utmost importance and the world deserves to know how repressive laws affect an innocent person and change the course of her day-to-day life.
Thank you for bringing Jay to us.
I am glad to have been a part of your efforts and hope to watch you blossom even more into a voice of the present and future.

Tash's picture

hello Samiha, Thank you, and

hello Samiha,
Thank you, and thanks for giving this important story a life! It is so great working with an experienced and liberal person like you. Am looking forward to it all.x

Kind Regards,

SanPatagonia's picture

Thank you for this insight

We need so much more understanding... LGBTQ issue is very close to my family life and it means a world to find people like you, that just sit down and listen, and has the sensibility to translate everything as it is - a human right.

"There shouldn’t be a single place in the world one is held captive in one’s own house. When Jay visits her home, she stays indoors most of the time for fear of causing trouble and endangering her life."

This line was very hard to read 'cause -even when I live in a country that has passed very important laws on the matter- I know there are still a lot of people who feel they can't be who they really are, not even at home.

Again, we need so many eyes and hearts like yours!


Be a voice, tell a story, start the fire. | Sé una voz, cuenta una historia, enciende el fuego.

Tash's picture

Hi SanPatagonia,Thanks for

Hi SanPatagonia,
Thanks for reading my piece .This is an issue that is close to my heart as well.
thank you.

Kind Regards,

Maura Bogue's picture

Good Work!

Great lead! You grabbed my attention right from the beginning.

Next time, make sure the most important information is at the beginning. That way your readers know the key facts right off the bat.

Keep up the good work!


Tash's picture

Thanks Maura, I appreciate

Thanks Maura, I appreciate the feed back.

Kind Regards,

Tash's picture

Thanks Maura, I appreciate

Thanks Maura, I appreciate the feedback.

Kind Regards,

Y's picture

It is true that there should

It is true that there should be no question of gay rights; there should only be all human rights.


Tash's picture

couldn't agree more! thank

couldn't agree more! thank you!

Kind Regards,

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