If you are truly democratic, protect gay people

There is no halfway house to democracy. Either one accepts that all people have a voice in the running of their country or one accepts some degree of tyranny.

Demonising homosexuals is a barrier to self-determination. It protects those in power and forces the rest of us to do the dirty work of totalitarianism.

Denouncing gay people is like abusing women, discriminating against some regions, expelling Asians or beating up Catholics. Men often see women as objects or property. To understand this just visit a nightclub or hear testimony of domestic violence. The Acholi and Langi didn’t choose their parents, and we fight against the political marginalisation of their region.

In 1972 Idi Amin uprooted an entire ethnic group because he could. The struggle between UPC and DP and their affiliated churches during the first and second Obote regimes legitimised parochial hatred. These are all instances where fear begat hate, which made violence acceptable.

Gay is something that you are, not something that you do, so when you attack gay people you are really attacking their identity. And if you do this you are admitting you don’t want democracy. Because identity could mean sexual orientation, but it could also mean gender, ethnicity, race or religion.

Discrimination of this sort was the foundation of colonialism, fascism and apartheid. All are ideologies of exclusion, which work by repression. Democracy is inclusive, and one measure of how much of it you could have is society’s willingness to tolerate difference.

The cheapest way to control a society is to exploit little things that divide people. Make them afraid of each other or make them fear a common enemy. Then, those pulling the strings can watch while the people vent anger which might otherwise be directed at their rulers. It is far easier to encourage people to shackle themselves with hate than to keep tanks in the streets.

This is why the government will appoint itself guardian of the public morality or co-opt religious and community leaders whom the people trust. When we accept authority without questioning it, we surrender the tools which we need to rule ourselves.

The trouble with this is that hate needs to be stoked like a fire. Social violence burns itself out. If all the people you are supposed to hate are dead or gone, killing or harassment will stop. Or it will turn on other sources of fear, like the government. In order to keep popular anger pointing away from those in power, violence must be reinvigorated periodically.

When we are in the habit of merely discharging anger instead of reflecting on it, we are more apt to be led about like attack dogs than to resist calls to further hatred.

You will hear arguments about the need to punish homosexuals because they are corrupting children or infiltrating schools. But people who are tempting young children into sexual acts of any sort, or people who are distributing pornography in schools should be punished as paedophiles.

They perform these acts not because they are homosexual but because they are abusers of children. In these instances we ought to be asking where the schools and parents have failed by creating conditions in which children are vulnerable to paedophilia and pornography rather than flogging a scapegoat.

The way out of the problem, which will return us to the path of democracy generally and better protect children particularly, is to build a society which accepts people as they are. We should accommodate gay people as we accommodate everyone else in a real democracy- equally. We should accept all of our citizens as full participants in the creation of our future. Then we will be signalling the willingness to finally exercise power in our interest instead of suffering others to exercise it in theirs.

A society can only accomplish this if it can overcome its obsession with difference and stop talking about Us and Them. If you are really interested in democracy you will protect gay people.

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Comment by It's just Matt on May 11, 2009 at 2:48pm
Best intelligent article I've read in sometime. The points made will be things I use in my conversations from now on, right with the one about Jon Stewart asking Huckabee, " So Senator, when did you choose not to be gay?"
Comment by Micheal on May 11, 2009 at 1:42pm
Angie, I live in Kampala currently,thats very far away from you.Its in East Africa
Comment by Angie Jackson on May 11, 2009 at 7:08am
Great essay. Where do you live?



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