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Rainbow Riots: Alicia Houston on Fighting for Equality in Uganda

We’re currently shining a spotlight on Rainbow Riots, an important organisation helping support the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda and East Africa. Laws in the country still fuel discrimination and a state of inequality, so it’s up to groups like Rainbow Riots to lead the charge and fight for the rights of so many people so they can proudly be themselves.

Following our interviews with Petter Wallenberg and Kowa Tigs, we’re now talking to one very inspirational human being: Alicia Houston.

Taking her name from two of her musical idols, Alicia Houston is a 22-year-old HIV positive trans woman. Having known she was transgender since the age of 7, she has had to figure her life out whilst surrounded by discrimination and inequality. Having been rejected by her parents from a young age, Alicia was forced to do illegal sex work from the age of 18 – leading her to eventually be diagnosed as HIV positive.

In Uganda, Alicia has to dress as a male in order to avoid violent discrimination on a daily basis. She is campaigning for equality and the same rights as any other human being. Being a part of Rainbow Riots has helped Alicia express her identity through music and performance and has given her the strength to believe in herself.

What was it like growing up in Africa and realising you were transgender?

It’s not easy being transgender in Uganda, and we face persecution, discrimination and violence all the time. It’s hard to survive because we have no other options than sex work.

Finding a job isn’t easy because they always tell us that we are trying to promote homosexuality. This makes us hopeless, depressed and traumatized because we can’t turn to anyone for help and our laws are not favourable towards us.

How did you find Rainbow Riots and how has the organisation helped you?

Rainbow Riots is my family. When Petter Wallenberg came to Uganda, he noticed me and encouraged me to be part of this creative project. Performing was the only way to express myself and they have helped me do it. The organization has launched me to the world and helped me with money to look after myself.

They have taught me how to share my life experiences in order to help others to overcome the
situations they go through. They have also made me a star in the LGBTQ+ movement in Uganda.

Whenever I am down, they always support me, and they always encourage me that all will be well, so Rainbow Riots means a lot to me.

What’s your favourite thing about Rainbow Riots?

My favourite thing about Rainbow Riots is that we work together, we are one family. They have put me in a place where I couldn’t be in now. I am known around the world because I was the main performer in the Rainbow Riots song ‘Freedom’. I thank Rainbow Riots so much for believing in me.

You’re an inspiration to so many for how you have battled for your rights and for having equality. What does equality mean to you? How can it be achieved in Africa?

To me, equality means being equal regardless of race, sex and gender. I believe the only way equality can be achieved in Africa is for people to not be judgmental and not treat others any less because of their sexuality and gender identity.

Help Rainbow Riots open Uganda’s first LGBT community centre by donating here: http://rainbowriots.com/portfolio_page/east-africas-first-lgbt-community-center/

You can also follow Rainbow Riots on Facebook.

Read our interview with Kowa Tigs here.

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