Kampala Uganda: Supporting Parents With Gender Expansive Children In Uganda (SUPAGEC-Uganda)

Supporting parents with gender expansive children in Uganda was a project that started under the Good Samaritan Uganda in the late 90’s. By the early 2000’s we had talked to 15 Nursing Officers and 3 Medical officers who were willing to support LGBTIQQ then to make life preserving decisions. 

But, we realized there was more to it and one major factor then was the stress that came with coming out and not receiving attendant counselling. 

This stress scenario had to be dealt with immediately. If stress was not dealt with, then we would be doing a disservice. But before we go on, we need to understand what stress is. According to different authors, it generally refers to two things: the psychological perception of pressure, on the one hand, and the body's response to it, on the other, which involves multiple systems, from metabolism to muscles to memory. Through hormonal signaling, the perception of danger sets off an automatic response system, known as the fight- fright-or-flight response, that prepares all animals to meet a challenge or flee from it. In the case of LGBTIQQ, it means being introverted or getting to adopt a closeted life. Closeted life is a stressful event —because it is triggered by fear from what the community may perceive of one who is not heteronormative. It is also an internal event like the fear of losing parents’ love, being evicted from a house or expelled from school. The constantly guarded life triggers a cascade of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, that surge through the body constantly. This puts one on tension and may be a cause of depression.In most cases it may lead to speeding heartbeat and the circulation of blood, mobilizing fat and sugar for fast energy, inability to focus attention on particular activities. This makes one a less reliable person who may abandon given duties or become a derelict. 

As seen earlier, prolonged or repeated arousal of the stress response, has harmful physical and psychological effects, including heart disease and depression.

What can parents of children with Gender Expansive characteristics or LGBTIQQ do to address stress?

Studies have demonstrated the value of regularly engaging in activities that blunt the stress response. The activities include: joining support clubs, meeting other parents of children with Gender Expansive characteristics or LGBTIQQ; meditation; yoga; and strenuous physical activity. Another way is to encourage pushback activities such as initiating and implementing support clubs’ activities. Activities change the perception of certain types of situations so that they are not seen as stressful in the first place. Studies show that helping people see certain experiences such as a gay, lesbian or gender nonconforming child, as children who need to be supported rather than rejected or expelled from homes, protects them from the negative effects. Some of these may also impact on life preserving practices There is need to change the mindset of policy makers, political leaders, religious leaders, community leaders, educationists and other people in influential positions. A child with supportive parents can play, engage in self care activities, is more perceptive to responsible conduct and it enhances performance and productivity.


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