The Christian Science Monitor

There’s safety in the family fold for rural LGBT people in Uganda

On a small farm in eastern Uganda, a baby boy named JoJo was born. Skinny with thin lips and cute ears, JoJo grew up hanging out only with the girls, singing and braiding hair. “People used to call me names, and I hated it,” says JoJo. But at home, that wasn’t a problem. “Most the time I did housecleaning, cooking, taking care of young ones,” JoJo says – traditionally girls’ work.

There’s no word for transgender in the local Lumasaaba language. But JoJo’s mom, “she knew,” says JoJo, who identifies today as a woman.

“What can I do?” JoJo remembers her saying. “It is my child.”

At age 22, JoJo, a committed church member, confessed to her pastor that she had feelings for boys. To her relief, he didn’t rebuke her. He said he would pray for her, to help her become “normal.” But when the pastor’s wife got wind, she outed JoJo in front of the congregation. She said “I am demonic – possessed,” recalls JoJo, who ran from the pews.

Since 2009, Uganda has made international headlines

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