David Castillo

Americans Can Learn from Africans in the Fight for Sexual Freedom

Filed By David Castillo | September 20, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: American Prayer Hour, Bil Browning, Kushaba Moses Mworeko, marriage equality, sexual freedom day, The Family, Uganda, Woodhull Freedom Foundation

Recent polling suggests that Americans are becoming increasingly accepting of same-sex couples and their families. The second poll in as many months shows that.

This is a remarkable statistic and is no doubt a result of all the work that thousands of gay rights activists and allies have done in laying the groundwork to change hearts and minds. The fight for equality, however, should be examined through the lens of the larger fight for sexual freedom in general. 100_1689.JPGWe as LGBT people are a sexual minority and as we help this country's citizens progress in their view of the definition of what love means, we are also exceptionally poised to help them acknowledge their own sexuality and that sexual freedom is a fundamental human right.

For Kushaba Moses Mworeko, or Moses, as his friends call him, the struggle for sexual freedom has meant having to leave his home country or face potential deadly consequences. Moses' remarkable story was first told earlier this year when he was featured as a panelist at the American Prayer Hour press conference. The American Prayer Hour was an alternative interfaith service held in protest on the day of The Family's National Prayer Breakfast. Moses, who hails from Uganda, talked about his experience as a closeted gay man in Africa. His story was especially significant as Uganda's legislature was, and still is, considering passage of the homophobic Anti-Homesexuality Bill of 2009.

The pictures of Moses speaking with a paper bag over his head to hide his identity while he spoke at the National Press Club have become iconic images.

Since then, Moses has officially come out to the world revealing his face on the cover of Washington's Metro Weekly. His story has also served as a rallying call in the international fight for equality as evidenced by a recent blog post at Truth Wins Out. In it, Moses called on Anglican leaders to denounce the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

It is time for Christian leaders in Africa to start promoting peace and stop persecuting LGBT people," said Kushaba Moses Mworeko, who recently escaped to the United States. "I call on the Anglican Church to speak out forcefully against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and to support decriminalizing gay relationships across the continent. As the church grows in Africa it must choose to be a force for good and not intolerance.

To honor all this work, this week Moses will be awarded with the Victoria Woodhull Sexual Freedom Award, the "Vicki," for his bravery and for embodying the mission and vision of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, which works to affirm sexual freedom as a fundamental human right. Moses plans to work with the Woodhull Freedom Foundation to help them establish an Internet platform for global rights, which he will use to continue his advocacy/work

national_sexual_freedom_day.jpgThe award ceremony is part of Woodhull's Sexual Freedom Day, a day long event taking place at the National Press Club this Thursday. The day will be capped with the release of Woodhull's new report, "The State of Sexual Freedom in the US" at a 3 p.m. press conference. Bilerico's very own Bil Browning is a also a featured panelist.

The award is named after the group's namesake, Victoria Woodhull, a progressive suffragist who advocated for sexual freedom and who was the first woman to run for President of the United States.

Moses is humbled to be receiving the award and the attention he's received in the last year has bolstered his belief that what he is doing is right.When it comes to his own thoughts on sexual freedom, Moses is very clear about what he feels is most important.

"It is okay for people to do whatever they want to do, provided the sex is consensual and safe," he said.

Moses quoted Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood and early champion of birth control, to help explain his view: "Through sex mankind may attain the great spiritual illumination which will transform the world, which will light up the only path to an earthly paradise."

Getting to this earthly paradise is something he is confident will happen for the U.S., Africa and the world in general.

"In Uganda, internet usage isn't as prolific there as it is in the West. They do use it, but they don't do much research," he said. "My story has opened their minds and their view of the Internet, so if I keep speaking about it folks will slowly start to understand."

Though he is 31, he says that he has never felt more free than he has since going public with his true identity this past summer.

"I look at myself as a person who is now free and empowered to do whatever I want to do with my life and I think that also encompasses the sexual side of myself," he says. "I feel like I am now out of the closet and I think I am the happiest person around. I can function more normally now that I am free."

Despite this newly found freedom and the attention he has received in this country, Moses is quick to note that he does not consider himself to be the new face of the fight for equality. Rather, this humble man feels he's most effective when he's working behind the scenes of the movement.

"I'll always speak out about injustice. That's all I can do. If I've been of any help through my words then that is a good thing," he said. "I thrive on feedback when talking with the other side and I don't mind their responses to me, but the whole issue is that if I communicate with the other side that's a good thing. We have to be able to engage them."

Moses acknowledges very frankly that coming out has caused some pain for him and his family and friends, who have only recently learned of his activities here in the States. The calls from home have been endless and most are in disbelief that it is true. While he is disheartened at some of the negative reactions he has encountered, he is determined to keeping up the fight for equality here and at home in Uganda.

Moses is currently living in San Francisco where his case for asylum has been moved and he's looking forward to working with local LGBT groups there when he returns later this week as he waits for his case to be decided.

He's also working on his plans for the future which include a return to graduate school. His studies were cut short in Uganda when he had to leave and his application was positively received at Johns Hopkins University, where he hopes to soon matriculate in order to work on his other passions: social work and public health.

And, through this all, Moses says he will continue to do his part to ensure sexual freedom and equality for all. His core set of values is based on a simple yet profound idea that gets to the heart of the equality movement and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation's mission.

"All I care about is having people free to express themselves the way they want to."

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I look forward to seeing everyone at the conference. I'll be part of the second panel discussion in the afternoon.

Paige Listerud | September 21, 2010 11:49 AM

First allow me to say how strangely fortuitous that National Sexual Freedom Day is also Celebrate Bisexuality Day.

I mention this because Castillo is quick to acknowledge the "thousands of gay rights activists" who have struggled to make life more free and equal across sexualities. If he is using 'gay' in a broad umbrella way that includes all LGBTQ, then I concur.

With the broad caveat that people with fluid sexuality have been part of the general queer struggle since its inception. Gays--by this I mean gay men and lesbians--forget all too easily that bisexuals are now and always have been part of the community and important to securing LGBTQ rights and, for the most part, straight allies go right along with them forgetting.

Thursday is Celebrate Bisexuality Day. Why has Bilerico forgotten that? Why am I not seeing anything notifying or commemorating Celebrate Bisexuality Day?

David Castillo David Castillo | September 21, 2010 2:25 PM

I must confess, Paige, that I did not know Thursday was "Celebrate Bisexuality Day," but I think it totally fits in with celebrating sexual freedom.

I certainly don't forget bisexuals are part of the struggle, though I think you're probably right about gays and lesbians forgetting about the "B's", the "T's" and the "Q's" among us.

It seems you left out the Intersex folks, though. Asexuals, too. Am I to infer from your comment that the Bisexual community forgets about those groups?

I didn't come up with Sexual Freedom Day so I can't speak to the date, but I'm not sure the charge that Bilerico is forgetting bisexuals is accurate. After all, don't you think Sexual Freedom Day includes bisexuals, too? It's certainly more inclusive than Celebrate Bisexuality Day, it seems.

Either way, there's no reason the two can't happen in tandem. So, happy Sexual Freedom Day and happy Bisexuality Day! Express yourself however you see fit this Thursday.

Paige Listerud | September 21, 2010 7:19 PM

Bilerico does not have one steady bisexual or pansexual identified columnist. Yasmin Nair, thank heavens, is featured regularly and she identifies as a queer lesbian who sucks cock.

Whenever they think of it, Bilerico will have a guest bisexual columnist. Last year they had a queer identified columnist who gave her reasons for her narrow-minded dismissal of bisexual people. Her "Why I don't do bi" was extremely popular--and extremely WRONG in her assessment of the bisexual community. It took a great deal of response to the thoughts she put forth in that article to turn her around until she was actually talking and listening to bisexuals.

Whenever I mention bisexuals, please include transgender, genderqueer and intersex people in that definition. People of all different gender identities can be bisexual, pansexual or queer. Would some asexuals like to also be considered bisexual? That seems to be counterintuitive to me, but I am open to hearing from asexuals. Certainly, today, there's a post on Bilerico from a queer identified asexual woman.

Are bisexuals included in the Sexual Freedom Day conference? Are there bisexual, pansexual or queer with fluid sexuality that are included in the roster of speakers? Are their workshops devoted to discussing the role of defending fluid sexuality as part of the large struggle for sexual freedom? Is this kind of discourse noticeably missing in the programming for Sexual Freedom Day? You have to tell me, David. I see nothing on their wedsite.

AS FOR BILERICO, I completely expect to see another Celebrate Bisexuality Day go by with only meager token mention. How lovely it would be if Bilerico had a whole roster of bisexual, pansexual, and queer identified writers with fluid sexuality lined up to post on that day. They could be of all different genders, religions, backgrounds, and ages--but I really don't think the editors of Bilerico have thought that far ahead. In fact, I don't think they've thought about it--at all. And if it turns out that Sexual Freedom Day doesn't have any fluid sexuality representation, it'll be because they didn't think about it--at all.


As for me, on the 23rd, I will be giving a presentation on fluid sexuality history in the American LGBTQ movement at the Center On Halsted in Chicago. I will only be one of 7 speakers presented; we will also be covering bi/queer men's health and recovery, bi/queer women's health, bisexual media and pop culture, sexual fluidity, and activism.

Happy Celebrate Bisexuality Day, peeps. There's no sexual freedom without us.