Popular LGBT activist declares she’s no longer a lesbian, shocking the community in Uganda

People waving Ugandan and rainbow flags take part in the Gay Pride parade in Entebbe on August 8, 2015. Ugandan activists gathered for a gay pride rally, celebrating one year since the overturning of a strict anti-homosexuality law but fearing more tough legislation may be on its way. Homosexuality remains illegal in Uganda, punishable by a jail sentence. AFP PHOTO/ ISAAC KASAMANI (Photo credit should read ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

A well-known Uganda LGBT+ rights activist has issued a shocking declaration on Sunday, saying she’s no longer a lesbian.

Val Kalende came out as a lesbian in 2002 and has spent more than a decade advocating for LGBT+ rights in Uganda, where homosexuality is considered an offence punishable with life in prison. The 36-year-old is also a journalist whose work has been featured for the past few years in international publications such as The Huffington Post.

Kalende appeared on local Christian channel Salt TV as part of a live broadcast of a public Sunday service featuring Pastor Aloysius Bugingo. She said she was no longer gay and she was going to get married soon, according to Uganda news outlet Edge. Her speech also detailed the difficulties she encountered for being gay.

It is illegal to be gay in Uganda (Getty)

“I’m born of Christian parents. All of them cut their ties with me for being gay. I became an orphan,” she said, quoted in Edge. “Right now, I have no peace of mind. I sometimes break down and cry wondering why am like this. I’m now back home and have been saved.”

Her Facebook profile had also been featuring more religious slogans of late. She recently posted a picture showing the stick figures of a man and a woman titled “God’s design for marriage.” Another picture she shared showed a rainbow, saying “God made the rainbow as a promise not to flood the whole earth. He didn’t make it as a gay rights symbol.”

Her latest post foreshadowed Sunday’s speech. “Transformed By God’s Love (TBGL) #overcomer #changed #freedommarch #NoConversionTherapy #MyChoice” it read, dated July 12.

Kalende has long held a public profile in the country. In 2009, she made the brave decision to let a leading Ugandan newspaper to publish her picture alongside an article explaining what life was like for a lesbian woman, one that also held deep religious beliefs, in a country where lawmakers were increasingly discriminating against LGBT+ people.

Among the responses she received, her pastor encouraged her to give another interview saying she had miraculously become heterosexual, she told Newsweek at the time. She was granted asylum in Canada in 2015 but, in her speech, she said she’d come back to Uganda.

A Ugandan man with a sticker on his face takes part on August 9, 2014 in a gay pride in Entebbe, Uganda (Isaac Kasamani/AFP/Getty)

Sunday’s declaration surprised and shocked the Ugandan LGBT+ community. Edwin Sesange, the director of the London-based African Equality Foundation, said in a statement to PinkNews that Kalende’s statement does not change what she has accomplished for the LGBT+ community in the country.

“You are a hero and your work for the movement can not be denied or scrapped. You will be missed and, above all, you are loved,” he wrote, addressing Kalende.

Others who knew the activist expressed concerns at the news, “The news is shocking to me and many of my colleagues. I am very much worried about her,” Frank Mugisha, a friend of Kalende and the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, told PinkNews. He had not been able to speak to her since her declaration.