From my fieldnotes (Kampala, 2015).
I went to an HIV support organization on the edge of the city to meet with the research admin about my project. I went in and he came out to look over my application. I briefly told him that I would be researching “sexuality, stigma, and HIV.” He started smiling — he was slightly uncomfortable.
I continued by explaining what I wanted to do (surveys, interviews, participant observations, etc.) He asked what do you mean by “Sexuality?” — His face changed.
Then he asked if I want to research “those other genders and such?” I said “other genders, sexual orientations, etc.”
But he told me, “We don’t have very many transgender here.” He scrunched his face when he said this. He was visibly uncomfortable.
Later the Executive Director walks into the reception area carrying a laptop and bag. She says to a small child looking at the donation box “she knows the value of money” in a somewhat authoritative tone. The mother of the child did not respond.
We went into the Executive’s office and sat at a conference table. The research admin doesn’t talk much throughout the meeting. I begin to repeat my research intentions.
I say that I am doing research on “sexuality” and their eyes widen. I continue explaining.
She then asked me, “What do you mean sexual orientation?” She smiles and pauses uncomfortably. They both laugh to themselves. “That may mean something different in your country” she said.
I asked “Oh, what does it mean in Uganda?”
The research admin looks down and the Executive asks me “you do know about our homosexuality act don’t you?” She adds “Its a sensitive topic” and “You don’t just go around saying it because some people wont work with you if you say that.”