Sexual Minorities Uganda had the opportunity to speak to Diane Bakuraira the team leader Uganda Kuchu Aquatics Team. She spoke to us about how Uganda Kuchu Aquatics Team-UKAT will represent Uganda in the 2018 Gay Games and what we can do to support the team.
Why and when was UKAT founded?
The LGBTI movement in Uganda is full of people who are good in various sports activities. We actually do have people who are part of various national teams despite facing homophobia from team mates. I personally was expelled from then the Uganda amateur swimming federation. Having given up competitive swimming for 18 years I met with a friend Nate Freeman in 2016 who spoke to me about international sports events and encouraged me to revamp my love for competitive swimming and that is how UKAT was birthed. We however aim to have more LGBTI people engaging in not only swimming but other types of sports train and also get the opportunity to represent Uganda in the Gay Games.
How many members do you have?
At the moment we have 12 active members. We would love to have more but due to financial constraints we cannot afford to facilitate more members to join us for training.
People always laugh when I tell them that although we are going to represent Uganda in the gay games 2018 we are doing dry training that is swimming in the air, on the ground, jumping ropes and many other activities to enable us compete favorably with people who have access to homophobic free swimming spaces.
What do the Gay Games mean to you as an LGBTIQ human rights defender and the team leader of UKAT?
Participating in the gay games helps us create visibility for the LGBTI community in Uganda away from the usual gloomy offices and conference halls. We get to advocate for our human rights in a more fun, healthy colorful and widely interactive environment. Participating in these games right from training to eventually being fit enough to compete helps our mental being.
Have you achieved any success since the group was formed?
Our first achievement was being able to mobilize a committed team under the watchful eye of Nate Freeman our lovely patron. The team attended the international gay and lesbian aquatics competitions in 2016 where we were warmly welcomed and had a great time competeing with people from various backgrounds. We created partnerships with members of some of the teams that we met, we had a chance to visit some organizations where we learned a lot, we were able to meet with LGBTIQ immigrants from Uganda were that were able to escape homophobia. They spoke to us about how their lives have changed and we share with them how much the situation in Uganda has changed. The crème de la crème for us was being awarded over 24 medals from the different competitions we won. I personally won 2 gold medals, 3 silver medals and 3 bronze medals. Who would have known that 18 years later I’d be out here winning medals!
We have encouraged other members of the community to for various sports clubs for example we now have a rugby team and a basketball team who will be present at the Gay Games.
How are you able to juggle parenting, work, going to school and swimming?
It is a struggle but because of the commitment I have to each of these components of my life I do my best to strictly time myself and make sure that one component doesn’t overwhelm the other. I’m grateful to have a dedicated support system through the people I interact with who offer me great advice on how to go about the various responsibilities that I have.
Have you faced any homophobia during training with the team and what did you do about it?
Of course we have come under verbal homophobic attacks at the pool we used to train from.
Members of the health club at the hotel held a meeting in regards to our admission to the pool and they reported to management who asked us not to use the pool services because they risk losing clients because of our presence. We are yet to get a response on whether we will ever be allowed to use that particular swimming pool ever again.
Tell us more about your fundraiser for the Gay Games in France later this year.
As a team we have been solely doing dry workouts as we prepare for the Gay Games, we need enough funds to facilitate a professional coach for an intense training marathon in a swimming pool in a safe environment where we won’t be discriminated for being who we are.
We didn’t get a full scholarship so we need money for Visa fees, health/travel insurance and upkeep while in France among others.
We believe in the cause and we really do need your support, we promise to bring the gold home!
Please click here to support UKAT. http://www.gofundme.com/get-ukat-to-gay-gamesparis-2018