Is Uganda a good place to be gay?

I’m always amazed by how much people share with me when all I’ve done is ask. But when I went to Uganda a month ago, I was especially astounded. At a time when an anti-homosexuality bill threatens to criminalize loving and living, several gay friends nonetheless invited me to their homes and allowed me to take their photos, to write down their names, to risk further exposure.

That is Scarlett Lion. See her photos here and Time article here. Uganda’s parliament will vote on an anti-homosexuality bill in the coming weeks.

It’s hard to find a news story that fails to mention Uganda’s conservative and religious culture, solidly anti-homosexual. It’s impossible to find one that suggests Uganda is a gay African’s best hope. But that may just be true.

Homophobia is real and widespread. Yet Uganda boasts a vibrant gay rights movement, and nowhere else in Africa have I seen a more open and public debate. Gay men and women tell their stories in the newspapers; protests and legal battles get fair and often favorable coverage in the press. Every single editorial board of every major newspaper is solidly behind the gay rights movement.

The anti-homosexuality bill, simply put, is a backlash. A backlash from a group that, in the long run, is losing the battle of ideas.

Last week, This American Life replayed the story how a small group of American psychologists transformed their profession in just three years, ultimately removing homosexuality from the list of diseases and disorders. That the change could happen so quickly was unimaginable even to them at the time. Indeed, the American shift in attitudes towards gays, while far from complete, must be among the most rapid social transformations in human history. It has spread to Uganda.

Like most countries, Uganda remains a terrible and difficult place to be gay. But far from a losing war, Uganda is the front line in the battle for gay rights.

I think they are winning.