18 Jul

Amy Na: Rejected First By My Family And Finally My Country For Being Who I Am – A Friends Ugandan Safe Transport Story

22 years is a very prime age for any young woman with good life aspirations. At my age I have endured agony and untold suffering as I was growing.

Both my father and mother are professional teachers with a very strong Anglican background.

I have 2 sisters and 1 brother who are all older than me, meaning I should have enjoyed the pampering that comes with being the last-born. This pampering is typically given to first and last-borns. However, in my case, this was never the case.

While I was in primary 3 at an only girls’ school not far away from the capital Kampala, I realized that I was more inclined to male behaviour. I recall always being dominant over other classmates just like any male being would conduct themselves, especially around female beings. All my mannerisms centred around mimicking our daddy who was very authoritative so to say.

Little did I know that this rapidly changing behaviour would also manifest shortly in body changes that are unusual for a female straight. I remember, I could get a few canes here and there for behaving in what my teachers and prefects regarded stray behaviours.

Although it took a year or so for my family to notice my boyish ways, little concern was accorded. This gave me leeway to enjoy and live the way I wanted. I admired being a boy. However, this fun-filled life was short lived considering that my mother started rebuking me. I had started preferring to put on male shorts. I found my elder brother’s old shorts stashed away in an old box. I selected the ones that fitted me and had them washed. I started putting on shorts while at home and also got a few T-shirts to go along with my new home dressing code.

On realizing my new me, my mother started being extremely harsh and would constantly remind me that I was a girl and should behave and conduct myself as one. I could hear none of what she said regarding my boyish behaviour. Sorry to admit this, but I started hating my mum for being harsh to me for who I was.

It was a protracted struggle for me to exert myself among my family members. My mom one time convened a meeting and informed my dad and siblings that it was increasingly getting unbearable for her to continue looking at a disgrace. She emphasised that as far as she recalls, she had borne a girl and not a boy as manifested in my behaviour. Most critical and basic supplies were cut off for me from both my dad and mum. My dad started accusing my mom for being responsible for my behaviour. He insisted that in his entire lineage nothing of the sort had ever been cited, so it could have emerged from my mother’s side.

These accusations and counter-accusations just worsened life for me. I became an outcast in my own family with my siblings as well joining the fray to make fun of me. I endured 4 solid years of suffering, beatings were the order of the day.

Painfully and begrudgingly my parents at the urging of our local priest paid for my school fees for me to join form 1 at still a girls’ only school. I had performed excellently well scoring a distinction 1 in 3 subjects and a distinction 2 in one subject. This meant I could be admitted in any school of my choice. I had wished to joined a top-notch girls’ only school at the time of filling our admission forms before we sat the final national exam. My wish was granted on merit and was admitted to the school of my choice. Little did I know that this was the genesis of my suffering phase two.

My dad and mom protested my joining a top-notch school on the simple premise that I had become an embarrassment to their “well respected family” As a punishment for my being me, my parents decided that they could not pay any more school fees for me and surely did fulfil their promise. I could be left home doing household chores as my siblings went to school.

I am naturally a fighter and while at home, I came across a newspaper that profiled the work of a charitable organization that helped disadvantaged girls go to school. I read the article from start to end and realized this was a perfect fit for me to have my educational predicaments sorted. Indeed, I was right and my three times escapes from home to visit the organization and explain my case yielded positive results. I scooped a scholarship fully paid for with scholastic materials provided. It was supposed to be a four-year scholarship. I grabbed it with two hands.

Remember, I did all this without the consent of my parents and did not wish them to know either. The sponsoring organization had a residential programme for girls who had nowhere to stay. This gave me a chance to escape from home to go and reside at the home of this organization for two weeks prior to official opening of school. My offer of admission at the top-notch school still stood firmly. The organization gracefully paid everything and on the day of reporting, I was delivered to school. Fitting in in this school was the toughest thing I have ever encountered in my life. I was strangely looked at by the girls. My walking gait and the voice were always a matter of concern. One day I overheard a pair of girls saying “She is a tom-boy”. I was almost isolated and was usually used as a guinea pig for exemplifying bad manners that other girls should not emulate. One time my headteacher commented that “none of my girls should ever admire to be like this Amy who does not know who she is.”

Long story short, my stay at this school saw me get more brutally assaulted for being who I am. On many occasions during the 4 years of my stay I had more than 6 suspensions of not less than 2 weeks each. Common sense demanded that I tone down but this was very hard for me considering it was not a made-up behaviour. I behaved the way I felt would bring out who I am. The several distractions I got kind of affected my performance and I managed to score a third grade. I ended up joining a nursing course also on sponsorship from the same organization.

Long story short, my stay at this school saw me get more brutally assaulted for being who I am. On many occasions during the 4 years of my stay I had more than 6 suspensions of not less than 2 weeks each. Common sense demanded that I tone down but this was very hard for me considering it was not a made-up behaviour. I behaved the way I felt would bring out who I am.

The nursing course is a 2-year course and my stay at the college was as short lived as eating an apple. Luckily when I joined the college last year, little did I know that I could not complete my course.

Unlike other places of learning I had been to before, it was at the nursing college that I realized that people who are like me exist in multitudes. There is an informal group at the college whereby LGBTs know each other. An informal leadership structure exists but operates more clandestinely. My confidence was re-built and I knew there would be nothing to stand in my way of attaining my nursing qualification after two years. However, my girlfriend who now was in second year shared some saddening news of how women had been expelled from the college every year for being lesbians, transgenders and bisexuals.

The college was extremely intolerant on what they termed “Animalism”. The so-called straight students would abuse, insult and assault those they considered stray human beings. I saw students who were brutally battered in bathrooms. On this the school management paid a deaf ear and we learnt that realized a list of 32 women had been generated and was secretly circulating with clear and precise instructions to have them “punished”. Although the punishment was not well defined, we smelt a rat having seen our names on the hit-list.

My girl-friend and I appeared on the hit-list and had to silently find a soft and safe exit from the college before we would be harmed. Six other women joined the group of escapees. In total 8 women left in the night and found ourselves at a safe haven that had been referred to us by women who left before us.

My girl-friend and I appeared on the hit-list and had to silently find a soft and safe exit from the college before we would be harmed.

Now almost 2 weeks in hiding, we believe by conviction that our lives are still in likely danger. We have temporally relief from the jaws of the radicals at the college and want to find our way out of our mother-land. Our own country has rejected us and in my case my family rejected me before anybody else could.

Good and kind-hearted people are rare but they exist. The guy who is volunteering to have as many of persecuted LGBTs leave for safety is doing us a good service at the expense of his dear life.

I mentioned earlier that 32 women were listed and 8 women escaped to the volunteer. We are not sure what can happen any time. The number of women escaping and finding safe haven where we are could rise soon.

I and on behalf of my friends, appeal to whoever can support financially the effort of our local volunteer to continue helping more persecuted people flee the country.

I also want to heartily thank all those kind-hearted people who made contributions to have our group of 8 women now ready to flee any time soon.

Amy Na (not their real name) has now been transported out of Uganda along with the seven other passengers. But there are always more who need our help. Please make a donation to help Friends Ugandan Safe Transport continue to support the brave Ugandans who help LGBT Ugandans like Amy to find a new safer life.