Dangerous Liaisons




After Engle’s rally, after my ride with Oyet and Bahati and drinks with the bishop at the Sheraton, I walked down the hill from my hotel and waited for a couple of friends to take me to a gay bar called T-Cozy, allegedly the only one in Uganda. And it’s open only one night a week, on Sundays. Queer Ugandans are proud of the bar and throughout the week they’d been telling me about what an incredible time I’d have there. As it happened, Sunday night was my last in Kampala, so T-Cozy was to be my reward for a week of interviews with would-be killers.
Since frequenting T-Cozy may soon become a crime punishable with prison, I’ll call my two friends Michael and Julius. Michael is straight; Julius is gay. Michael is broad-minded on sexual orientation by Ugandan standards: He’s firmly opposed to homosexuality but not afraid of homosexuals. He doesn’t think they’re witches or pedophiles or the secret shock troops of a new colonialism. More importantly, Michael had a car.

The music at T-Cozy was no different than anything you’d find back in the States — which is to say Rihanna. If it was gay cliché, it wasn’t the DJ’s fault: That choice belonged to the dancers, T-Cozy regulars who’d prepared routines to their favorite hits. They danced on a stage a few feet off the ground, backed by burgundy drapes that were a little too long, bunched up at the bottom like saggy socks. But the effect was, well, cozy; it looked like a stage for a children’s play. The dancers were earnest and excellent. The beer was cold. If you wanted, you could get a big plate of french fries. Later, there would be greater revelry, maybe even some drag, but on this humid night in Kampala, the air still heavy with the day’s rain, this was it: the international gay conspiracy to conquer Africa in full force.

I was a little disappointed; I’d wanted a real party, an exorcism to send me back home to America free of Bahati and his nightmares. But the nightmare is still growing, Americans are still denying, and the worst may be yet to come. For now, this is what’s possible, not deliverance, but a reprieve: a sweet, happy gathering on Sunday, like a church supper with a little dancing, the sins of the world beyond T-Cozy’s courtyard for the moment, at least, forgotten.

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