ActivismSex & Gender

rainbow riots, a global haven for lgbtq+ expression

September 6, 2018

India’s decriminalization of homosexuality on Wednesday is a bittersweet reminder that the fight for the LGBTQ+ community still has a way to go on the international stage. Uganda’s criminalization of the LGBTQ+ community also dates back to colonial rule; and in 2013, the Ugandan parliament even tried to pass a law that would make same-sex relationships punishable by death. Yet Uganda’s Queer community still shows up and shows out, resisting in subtle yet powerful ways, through initiatives like Rainbow Riots – a groundbreaking group of LGBTQ+ people from countries where it is dangerous or illegal to be gay.

Rainbow Riots was started by Swedish artist and activist Petter Wallenberg. The organization uses music and art to protest transmisia, biphobia, and homophobia in regions of the world where it IS dangerous for Queer people to live in their truth. Following the release of their internationally acclaimed album ‘Rainbow Riots’, the group held a secret celebration in Uganda after the official Pride event was shut down by homophobic authorities. The secret event served as the catalyst for the organization’s next effort, opening an LGBTQ+ community center in Uganda. Rainbow Riots is currently fundraising and campaigning towards the construction of the center in hopes that crowdfunding efforts will collect enough for it to be completed by the end of the year.

Says Wallenberg:

”We want to open Uganda’s first LGBT community centre, which will be a safe pace to welcome the Ugandan LGBT community. With creative expression at the core we will keep fighting against hatred whilst giving Ugandan LGBT people an important voice in the world. To make this happen, we need your help. Be a part of this historic project by donating today.”

Rainbow Riot has provided a haven for Queer Ugandans who have been abandoned by their families and cast out by their communities. The organization has allowed people to find a community where they don’t have to perform heteronormativity in order to avoid being jailed by the Ugandan authorities. They can freely be themselves.

Read about some of the amazing Rainbow Rioters below:

Meet Kowa Tigs

A campaigner who has been dubbed ‘The Rainbow Martin Luther King of Uganda’. Kowa helps marginalized people in her country access vital health services. Kowa identifies as gay and is all too familiar with the discrimination which is rife in Uganda. Growing up, she was torn between either coming out – or keeping a secret but being able to keep her family and her work. At one point, the police discovered Kowa’s ‘alternative’ lifestyle and she was arrested – 15 police officers arrived at her home, searched the entire property and locked her in a cell. When she was eventually freed, her landlady evicted her, stating that the whole village wanted to burn the house down – so Kowa was to go.’

Meet Alicia Houston

A 22-year-old HIV positive trans woman who’s taken her name from her idols Alicia Keys and Whitney Houston. She has known she was transgender since the age of 7 and was rejected by her parents from a very young age – she now has no access to her family at all. Alicia was forced to do illegal sex work from the age of 18 in order to support herself and it was at this time she tested positive for HIV. In Uganda, Alicia has to continue to dress as a male in order to avoid violent discrimination on a daily basis. She is campaigning for equality and the same rights as any other human being. Rainbow Riots has allowed Alicia to express her identity through music and performance, and since being involved with the group, she has appeared on their album release last year, as well as performing at Pride events around the world.’

Donate to their cause, follow thier social media accounts, listen to their music, watch their videos and support support support this amazing initiative!