Uganda’s LGBTI people are putting up a fight for their right to a safe place

a woman in a white dress and short hair, wearing a tiara. She is standing side on to the camera holding a colourful open umbrella over her shoulder

So many times when Uganda’s LGBTI community has tried to hold public events, like a Pride parade or a film festival, police have stormed in leaving people scared for their lives.

Gay sex is illegal in Uganda and LGBTI people face extreme persecution and violence.

‘Life for LGBT persons is harsh, it’s very difficult to survive. It’s especially hard to find a job when people know that you’re LGBT,’ 24-year old artist Alicia Nalunkuma told Gay Star News.

Everyday in Uganda, LGBTI people live in fear.

‘It’s very traumatizing and depressing. You feel hopeless because you can’t run or turn to any body because the laws don’t protect you and the police can’t be trusted with your story,’ Nalunkuma said.

a woman with short hear wearing a silver tiara and white dress standing in front of a concrete wall

Ugandan artist, Alicia Houston Nalunkuma. | Photo: Supplied

We refuse to be silent

But despite the fear and persecution, Uganda’s LGBTI people are putting up a fight. Under the name of Rainbow Riots, LGBTI activists in Uganda are using music to protest transphobia, biphobia, and homophobia.

Performing artist, Madam J said LGBTI people don’t have the same opportunities as heterosexual people. But ‘on the other hand many LGBTI people have come out to fight for their rights’.

‘They have refused to be silenced by those against their rights and freedom,’ the 29-year-old said.

‘LGBTI and human rights organizations have continued to do their work without giving up easily.’

One idea the LGBTI advocates came up with is to open a dedicated safe space for the rainbow community. The Rainbow Riots LGBTI Center will become the first permanent place the east African country for the community to meet and seek refuge. It will also provide shelter for homeless LGBTI people.

‘There are few places in Uganda where LGBTI persons can go to be openly LGBTI without the fear of violence and insults,’ Madam J said.

‘Most community activities and workshops take place hotels, public places which in most cases are raided by police. Rainbow Riots’ idea of setting up the center is to increase the quality and safety of the LGBTI community.’

Rainbow Riots center

The LGBTI center is the brainchild of Uganda’s LGBTI advocates and Swedish music producer, Petter Wallenberg. The producer founded Rainbow Riots and has worked closely with LGBTI Ugandans.

‘I wanted to create this centre for my Ugandan LGBT brothers and sisters. Since I founded Rainbow Riots I have seen with my own eyes how cruel life is for Ugandan LGBT people – most significantly the time we were all held hostage in the violent Police raid of Pride Uganda 2016,‘ he said.’

‘This has made me dedicated to do strive for a change. As a gay man who has lived through modern day liberation in Europe I know that change can happen if we all band together and fight for our rights.

‘Now I want everyone around the world to help us fight against the horrific injustice against LGBT people in Uganda. By creating this centre we can take a stand for every human’s right to equality and love.’

A group of people leaning into a camera raising their rights hands into a fist. it is a sunny day and there is barbed wire on a fence behind them

The Rainbow Riots team wants to open a dedicated LGBTI center in Uganda. | Photo: Supplied

It’s so important

The LGBTI center will be critical for the community who struggle to get by everyday.

‘This will be a feel at home space that will be an easy found destination to welcome the community and bringing to them a sense of belonging, ownership, shelter, and safety where a variety of activities will be taking place. The center will provide an environment for vision performing, socializing, meeting, and learning,’ Madam J said.

‘LGBTI people will find a nurturing place for relaxation that offers a renewal of spirit in a peaceful retreat for meditation and personal reflection.’

It will also be a space to promote creative expression. The center will encourage the creation of music, dance and all art forms. It will also have a recording studio which LGBTI people will be able to use for free.

Stand with Uganda

What the Rainbow Riots LGBTI Center really needs is support. The advocates are asking people to donate some funds to make their dream a reality.

‘The creation of the center can only be made possible if the rest of the world stands with the LGBTI community in Uganda,’ Madam J said.

‘The donation from people will not only make a real difference in the lives of LGBTI people in Uganda but also it will increase the safety and security measures if the safe space is created.’

For Nalunkuma, the reason people should donate and support the center is very simple.

‘People should donate because this centre will be a safe space for the vulnerable LGBT persons were they can belong,’ she said.

‘It will also be a creative space which will will cater for many who can’t manage money for activities and don’t have other chances to to express themselves.’

Rainbow Riots and AllOut have come together to setup a crowdfunding campaign to help make sure the vital center gets to open its doors.

These are the beautiful stories why people bike across California in the AIDS/LifeCycle

Michael Cox, an AIDS/LifeCycle rider

Every year, thousands of people get on their bicycles for an unforgettable journey. They bike 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles, all to raise awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS.

The AIDS/LifeCylce first began in 1993 as the California AIDS Ride. Since then, the ride has raised more than $200 million for the cause.

Photographer Cedric Terrell recently published portrait book about the ride.

Why We Ride is an intimate look at the people who participate in the AIDS/LifeCycle, their stories, and what motivates them. Terrell granted GSN an exclusive look inside this stunning gallery, and some of the stories featured in it.

Victor Jones

Victor Jones | Photo: Provided/Cedric Terrell

To help save lives

‘I ride because we still live in a world with HIV/AIDS,’ Victor Jones says in the book.

Jones, who’s from Washington, DC, believes there is still work to be done and stigma to end.

‘I ride to help save lives and give so many a second chance.’

Madonna Cacciatore

Madonna Cacciatore | Photo: Provided/Cedric Terrell

A personal connection

For Madonna Cacciatore of Los Angeles, it’s a personal matter. Her brother died of AIDS in 1991 and she began riding in 2013.

Last year, she became a Road Manager, meaning she helped keep the route safe for bikers.

‘Today, I still ride for my brother, Johnny, for all who died in New York in the early epidemic, and because I love the staff, riders, charities, and mission of AIDS/LifeCycle.’

Marc Malkin

Marc Malkin | Photo: Provided/Cedric Terrell

Riding to never forgot

Entertainment journalist Marc Malkin revealed his HIV-positive status earlier this year. He never thought he’d participate — that was more of his husband’s thing.

Then, in 2017, he volunteered with the media team for the event and decided he’d ride in 2018 (which he did).

‘Both of my mother’s brothers, my uncles Arthur and David, died of AIDS early in the epidemic. As a gay man now living with HIV, I owe it to my uncles to do what I can to help continue the fight against the disease,’ he explains.

‘I’m riding in honor of my uncles and all of the people we have lost. We must never forget.’

Christopher Interdonato

Christopher Interdonato | Photo: Provided/Cedric Terrell

For gratitude

The Los Angeles LGBT Center is a co-producer of the cycle and a big reason why Christopher Interdonato rides.

‘I ride because I know what it’s like to be positive with no resources to get medication. The LGBT Center saved my life,’ he recalls.

The Center gave him shelter, clothing, resources, and help when he was at one of his lowest points.

‘This agency has impacted my life in such a deep and profound way that I am willing to go to any lengths to give back to this amazing organization so that they can continue to help those in our community with their work.’

Michael Cox

Michael Cox | Photo: Provided/Cedric Terrell

To heal

Michael Cox has been living with HIV for 30 years, and it’s because of the LifeCycle that he’s been able to heal from the shame and pain. He calls it the ‘direct antithesis’ of the disease.

‘Helping to ends AIDS by doing a superhuman bike ride has been very healing for me. I am happy and healthy and thriving and my life has more purpose,’ he says.

‘I love the ride and the community and the love, and could not imagine life without it.’

Jill Dannis

Jill Dannis | Photo: Provided/Cedric Terrell

For a beautiful queer life

‘I ride to honor all of the queer people who came before me and made it possible for me to have the beautiful queer life that I have,’ Jill Dannis gives as her reason.

‘Knowing that HIV/AIDS is still a devastating disease in our society, particularly for the LGBTQ community and communities of color, and that this work will actively change the quality of life for thousands of people, gives me the drive I need to conquer the fundraising, the training, the hills, and the ride itself.’

To get the book and read more amazing stories like these, go here. More information about the ride can be found here.

Enjoy kink? Here’s how to handle the ‘drop’ you may feel after you play

Two shirtless guys in a harness with a leash at the Folsom Street East Festival

‘I tend to play pretty hard,’ Rizzo Barajas from Martinez, California told Gay Star News. ‘Usually involving blood or very hard physical impact play.’

Rizzo identifies as a queer agender person of color.

He’s also a switch, which means he alternates between taking either the submissive or dominant role during Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism (BDSM) sessions.

But sometimes after a heavy session (also known as a scene) he’ll go from extreme pleasure to an intense drop in his mood.

‘It’s kind of like extreme temperature changes,’ he said. ‘Running from the pool to the hot tub and then back to the pool.’

He continued: ‘It’s jarring for me to go from having the hell beaten out of me to sitting and having a cup of water while trying to socialize.’

Woman with rope in her mouth

Photo: Joe Abbruscato / Flickr

Marilyn Hollinger from Millbrae, California describes herself as a ‘sadist, mistress, femme top who likes to play very hard’. She’s been in the leather scene since 1986 and identifies as a lesbian.

She described a ‘drop’ as a bit like a skydive.

Marilyn said: ‘In a usual scene, I find I experience euphoria and it’s almost like an altered state – it can feel like a drug sometimes where you’re just in such a state of pleasure and extreme emotional or physical feelings.

So when you’re in this high state, at some point, you come down. You come down into this normal state but sometimes you dip and that’s called a drop,’ she said.

What is a ‘drop’?

Susan Wright from Phoenix, Arizona is the founder and spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.

She said: ‘A drop is a feeling of depression or bodily decline.’ Susan said it’s a drop from the intense emotional, physical and mental feelings you had during the scene.

Dr Brad Sagarin is the Head of the Science of BDSM Research Team at Northern Illinois University.

Their research examines the positive physiological and psychological effects of consensual BDSM activities.

Sagarin explained: ‘Both bottoms and tops show increases in relationship closeness and reductions in psychological stress from before to after their scenes.’

Bottoms show increases in cortisol (a hormone associated with physiological stress) during scenes and tops show a ‘pleasurable altered state associated with optimal experiences.’

Woman dressed up in top hat with man in full leather pup suit

Photo: Franco Folini / Flickr

Dr Richard Sprott at the California State University wrote in the 2016 Journal of Positive Sexuality that ‘drops’ can happen to anyone.

They believe there are two different types of drop – immediate after-scene drop and drops that can happen days later.

Both types can leave people in a deep psychological process that leads to feeling ‘lost, ungrounded, disconnected, unsatisfied, depressed, irritable, vulnerable, raw, sad’.

The science behind a drop

Sprott and Randall theorize a ‘drop’ can be a process of grief and bereavement. Grief ‘refers to the emotional and cognitive reactions that a person has when one experiences a loss or separation.’

They also believe drops can be the result of a person losing their identity.

They wrote: ‘One’s self, or a central identity, is changing in some way. And that change involves a loss of the old self – the old identity.’

Susan said drops can range from being very mild to very intense, boiling down to endorphins and adrenaline.

She said: ‘After a scene, my body is trying to deal with flushing those chemicals out of your system and you really feel it.’

Men in harnesses

Photo: torbakhopper / Flickr

Susan also says a person experiencing a drop might have a little internalized shame.

She said: ‘For some people, the shame of being kinky and having done what you did may be the reason for a drop. We have so much societal disapproval and perhaps what they did conflicts with what their ideas of what a good person does.’

She added: ‘It’s a terrible thing for someone to feel bad about who they are – it’s why community is so important.’

Marilyn agreed: ‘Sometimes the bottom might think: “Oh well how can I be a good person if I like being hit?” or humiliated, or whatever it is we’re doing.

‘How can I be a good person and person of value? That all hits you in a drop,’ she said.

Woman holding a leash around a man's neck

Photo: istolethetv / Flickr

Another part of feeling a drop might be a physical reaction.

During an intense scene, you might be putting your body through strenuous positions.

If you strain your muscles too hard, you might get a build up of lactic acid. This, in turn, can lead to you feeling sore.

How to prevent a drop

The best way to prevent a drop is open and honest communication with any scene partner you might have.

An important way to do this is to negotiate with your partner beforehand about what you might need after the scene.

This could be as simple as a back rub, a cuddle or sharing a meal together.

Another great way to prevent a drop is to take things slow.

Susan explained: ‘One of the ways to prevent a drop is to have a more gradual build-up in the scene and then a more gradual drop off.

For example, if you wanted to do a caning scene, you start with the spanking, you warm up with a good 15 minutes of spanking and tapping lightly with the cane. Then you might administer a stroke of the cane.

‘Then you do your caning for however long you want and then you taper off. You stroke the rest of the body as a decline or you cuddle a lot afterwards,’ she said.

Four men walking down the street in kink and fetish wear

Photo: torbakhopper / Flickr

Rizzo agreed: ‘I like to do a cool down period where the impact is not as hard but is still present. It’s a slow change instead of a hard stop.’

Vigorous stretching beforehand and taking vitamin B is also a good way to deal with lactic acid build up.

Susan also said it helps not to do drugs or drink alcohol before or during a scene.

After care: Dealing with a drop

Every good BDSM-lover knows to have good after care when your scene is done.

After care is giving your body or mind what it needs in order to alleviate or stop a drop from happening.

Marilyn is a mistress and is currently in several master/slave relationships, where she’s the authority.

Even though she’s a top, she says she still experiences a drop in ‘virtually every level of play scene’ she does.

She explained she can be doing some very intense scene work, involving inflicting high levels of pain. But this is the complete opposite to how she is in the real world.

So a form of after care for her is scheduling a check-in with her partner after the scene is done.

She said: ‘Even though I’m the top, I need reassurance that I’m not evil. So that’s the reason I personally need a check in.’

Man in leather outfit holding his phone

Photo: torbakhopper / Flickr

Rizzo agreed and said he likes to follow up with subs he plays with in the days after, via text or phone calls. He always wants to make sure they’re OK physically and mentally, and if there is anything he can do for them.

He joked: ‘Remember – if you break it, you buy it. So don’t break it!’

Susan said a great way to deal with a drop is to have some chocolate.

She explained: ‘It helps mirror the oxytocin. So it can really help. Often, at parties, they can have little tables of sweets and chocolates.’

Marilyn said: ‘If I’m doing a scene on a Sunday for example, on Tuesday I’m going to time it so I’m not doing anything emotional because I know I’m going to be in a little bit of a funk.

‘That might be the time that I go do a massage,’ she said.