They preach anti-gay sentiments and long-debunked myths in their own backyards — but they don’t stop there. These same anti-gay activists then export their scare tactics and stereotypes to places like Uganda, where they foment misinformation and extreme anti-LGBT beliefs, then ride those beliefs to power and prominence.
As leaders in the global movement for LGBT equality, we know all too well that elected officials have a big impact on people who are targeted for discrimination based on whom they love and how they express their gender. That is why it is critical that we examine how politics and religion are used to pit Africans and African Americans against our own.
We must continue reaching out and talking to one another. We must expose the blatant manipulation of our highest religious commitments to turn us against our sons and daughters who are gay or transgender. And we must recognize when political and religious figures try to exploit our deeply held beliefs (and perhaps our even more deeply held anxieties and stigmas) for the sake of power, monetary gain or both.
From Harlem to Kampala, as black people of African descent, we must have these conversations. Our children and their children are depending on us to find reconciliation and healing. From Harlem to Kampala, David Kato’s life and legacy must be honored so that his tragic death will not have been in vain.
Joseph Tolton is a pastor in Harlem (Rehoboth Temple) and the managing director of Blur Advertising, which provides consulting services to Sexual Minorities Uganda and St. Paul’s Reconciliation & Equality Center in Uganda. Tolton is also the national minister for global justice for the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries & the Global Justice Institute. Frank Mugisha is the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda. Mugisha was honored with the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, as well as the 2011 Rafto Prize/Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize for work in human rights.