Art Has Become My Safe Haven

My name is KAB and I am a student of Psychology, currently in my final year.  I am a passionate artiste and activist for the human rights of LGBTI persons; as my way of contributing towards this movement, I am a volunteer at one of the LGBTI organizations in Uganda.

Growing up, I did not pay much attention to anything sexual but deep down, I knew was not the ordinary girl who got butterflies at the sight of a boy. In fact I can say I came into my own in one night; I read a lesbian novel and suddenly, I could relate and so many of the things and feelings that were puzzling me before started making sense, the puzzle that is my life was beginning to come together.  Coming out for me was not a matter I had a choice about because in a way, I was outed. I remember vividly, I had had an argument with my mother that day and unfortunately I left my phone lying around the house.  My brothers unfortunately got a hold of it and soon, my very deeply guarded secret was out.  They went straight to our mother and told her I was a lesbian. I was beaten and kicked out for a while; most of my basic benefits like education were cut off for a while.

It did not help that everywhere I turned to for information on outing, all that seemed to come up was violations, rebuke and hate. Thankfully, I had processed what coming out meant and I had retreated to my safety cave of self love.

Eventually, my mother reached out and asked if I was still interested in being a part of the family. At the time I wanted to get to campus and we struck a cordial understanding- I would ‘stop’ my lesbianism and see a counselor to ‘straighten me’ and my family would in turn pay my tuition fees. I fully understood that my sexuality was not something I could switch on and off like a switch but I obliged because I needed the educational support.

I had constant sessions with the counselor for a while up until he suggested sexual relations to me, as a means of curing my lesbianism. I realized then that I could no longer adhere to this part of our agreement with my family and stopped attending the counseling sessions; it was very sad that as I was dealing with someone who was very unethical in the very field I was trying to pursue as a career.

 Have a rather strange relationship with my family; I keep my private life to myself, I don’t go home unless its official business and I reach out when it’s time for my tuition fees to be paid. However, I have noticed a change in my mother in recent days; she reaches out a little more than she previously did and although she still says things like ‘I know you have your problems’ in reference to my sexuality, its great to know that our relationship can be salvaged.

I have found a way to channel my energy to a positive space by pursuing art, specifically batique. This is the kind of art where you use was and dyes to create apiece on cloth. Usually when I draw my sketches, it’s all prim and proper and then when I start the process of waxing and dying, I end up with something totally different because these materials usually end up in places you hadn’t really intended. That is the beauty with this kind of art, you watch your piece evolve into a wonder of beauty and it takes on its own life.

I don’t think I will pursue this as a profession but I know for a fact I will continue to do this because it is a therapeutic and it is an amazing way of advancing the LGBTI movement. I once created three pieces that I eventually entered into a competition and that is when it struck me that I could use my skill as an advocacy tool.

One of my greatest dreams for my art is to pass on the skill especially to LGBTI persons in Uganda; we could use the pieces for advocacy as well as channel this into an income generating project that the youths in the community are evidently very in need of. Hopefully, a space and opportunity to pass this on to my peers will come up soon.

One of the things I realize is lacking in the community is self motivation and belief in one’s  own capabilities. Many of our kuchu youths are extremely talented and simply need a nudge in the right direction; we must now pursue spaces wee we can all exploit our talents and potential to the very best of our ability.