In a time where the spaces and voices of LBT women are slowly shrinking by the day, there is a hunger for us to engage and get involved in societal activities and forums where our issues can be discussed and advocated for. The use of sports as an advocacy tool is perceived to be significant to the LGBTI community in Uganda today since most key population organizations are aligned with economic and political empowerment. The social factor is fast fading out yet it greatly contributed to the start of the movement back in the day. Sports could be an avenue to reintroduce the relevance of social space within the community. It encourages inclusiveness and enables engagement especially with members of the community who are in the closet and would not wish to be a part of political activism.
It is on this foundation that the idea of the Uganda Kuchu Aquatic Team (UKAT) was birthed on 3rd March 2016, after a friend to the community pitched it to Diane Bakuraira Sydney, a swimmer and human rights activist in Uganda. The participation of the LGBTI community in the International Gay and Lesbian Acquatic later on that same year was to boost the visibility of the LGBTI community on the international scene. 18 years of rest from swimming after she was expelled from the National team because her sexual orientation was a factor, Diane felt that it was a great opportunity to use the sport as an advocacy tool. A small group of LGBTI persons passionate about swimming was mobilised and training sessions were immediately started in preparation for the Eaglet World Championships in Edmonton- Canada that took place in August 2016. Nate Freiman, a human rights lawyer working in Kampala largely contributed to the process of taking 5 members of the UKAT to the competition in which they collected approximately 30 medals in the International Gay and Lesbian Acquatic World Championships. Capital Sports TV on the CCE sports network based in Canada best described the Uganda Kuchu Aquatic Team as “The Hit Of The Meet”. Later on, UKAT represented the Ugandan LGBTI community in the World Out Games in May 2017 that happened in Miami and again in the World Out Gay Games in August 2018 in Paris together with the rugby and basketball teams.
Currently, UKAT boasts of 12 active members. It is due to financial constraints that more members can’t be facilitated to join the team. According to Diana Bakuraira Sydney, UKAT plans to participate in all tournaments not only internationally, but at home and regional competitions. Strides have been made towards this achievement. In efforts to penetrate the Ugandan league, the team leads have discussed with the Uganda Swimming Federation on their interest to be a part of it which will widen their scope to mainstream tournaments (Bombastic Magazine, 2016). Another core area for the team is to establish structures that will organize activities to enable transfer of swimming skills to other community members. Their hope is to achieve a fully registered club with more membership and funding opportunities to help address it’s challenges.
Homophobia hasn’t been out of context for UKAT through verbal attacks. Another instance of a certain health club where it’s members held a meeting in regards to their admission to the pool. They reported to the manager who asked them not to use the pool services because they risked to lose clientele due to the team’s presence (Sexual Minorities Uganda, 2017).
About LBT women empowerment, Diane Bakuraira attributes the formation of clusters within our community as factor that has contributed to many people being left out of the movement. Patriarchy as well has also taken the driver seat in our community while the women are slowly being forgotten as “the helm of the struggle” for the rights of LGBTI persons in Uganda. “We have forgotten how powerful we are and if we could rally together around pushing our femininity forward, we could turn the trend around. We should be involved in forums where women issues are discussed and stop limiting ourselves to only LGBTI issues like other issues don’t concern us,” she stressed. Also the fact that other feminists try to gag LBT women, saying that issues of LBT women should take the backseat as it is not yet time to openly discuss them. She suggested that there must be a desire to become aggressive or else we shall find ourselves relegated to a non-existent stance (Bombastic Magazine, 2016).