Africa / Commentary

Uganda Pride: ‘Passionate believer’ tells why it’s important

By Stella Nyanzi

My custom of preparing for Uganda’s Pride activities starts a week before the annual event. Today, I am starting my excited posts about ‪#PrideUganda2015‬. I have posted about each year’s activities, starting with the first one in 2012.

As an ally of the organised political LGBTIQ movement, as well as the social LGBTIQ communities in Uganda, I am also a passionate believer in Pride. Many members of the movement and communities do NOT believe in Pride celebrations; that is their prerogative, their right and their entitlement. For me, I looooove Pride. I am always an ardent participant in the entire program of activities.

Post advertising Pride Uganda 2015

Post advertising Pride Uganda 2015

This year’s logo focuses on family. “We are Family”, the poster announcing Uganda’s 2015 Pride events boldly asserts. Although family values and the heterosexual family are two ideas that are used to alienate homosexuals from society world-over, family is an important construct in Ugandan society.

I am glad that the ‪#‎PrideUgandaTeam‬ chose to look inwards into what Ugandan LGBTIQ people value. Families of origin are important. While some members may reject individuals for their sexual orientation, many other family members offer support, protection and refuge to their homosexual relatives. Familial relationships of Papa, Mzee*, Mama, Auntie, Uncle, Ssenga*, Kojja*, Jaja*, Son, Daughter, Niece and Nephew are recreated within the LGBTIQ communities – offering support to individuals without close family ties. And indeed there are many homosexual people who have families in which they are the household head, or the co-parent.

As an ally of the LGBTIQ community in Uganda, I am fortunate to have been adopted as a Mama, Ssenga*, Sister, Auntie, Daughter, Wife and even Co-Wife by people needing relationship. And thus, I appreciate the centering of family in this year’s Pride events. A luta continua! [“The struggle continues!”]


Uganda Pride activitiesIt is important that the Uganda Pride Committee listened to what different members were saying and framed this year’s Pride around family. It is unsettling for many people who may think that family is always oppressive, family is only about the heterosexual family, family is only biological, family values are necessarily anti-queer, etc. etc. etc. I love how the theme causes one to think deeply!

* Translations of Mzee, Ssenga, Kojja, and Jaja

The translations are not straightforward. For me as an observer, I think it is interesting to find that many gay men are actually referred to as Ssenga – which is the title for paternal aunt. AND many senior lesbians are referred to as Papa or Baba or Taata. These three titles are for Father, depending on which local language one is using.

Mzee is a title of respect given to the elderly or someone in authority. It is often given to men, but some women are also referred to as Mzee. It is both Luganda and Kiswahili.

Ssenga is paternal aunt. This title is also often given to people who routinely offer sexual advice, sexual education and sexual mediation for couples having trouble in their relationships. That is the customary role of Ssengas in Buganda.

Kojja is the Luganda title for maternal uncle.

Stella Nyanzi is a Ugandan anthropologist and social science researcher at the Makerere Institute of Social Research at Makerere University in Uganda and  a prolific commentator on Facebook.




4 thoughts on “Uganda Pride: ‘Passionate believer’ tells why it’s important

  1. Pingback: Peacefully, LGBTI Ugandans celebrate 4th annual Pride | 76 CRIMES

  2. Pingback: Uganda targets LGBTI ally Stella Nyanzi | 76 CRIMES

  3. Pingback: How to help Stella Nyanzi, activist now teaching and learning in jail | 76 CRIMES

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