At Logo TV’s inaugural “Trailblazers” special — airing on Thursday at 9 p.m. to celebrate the one-year anniversary of DOMA’s defeat — former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe honored Ugandan gay rights activist and refugee John “Longjones” Abdallah Wambere as an “International Trailblazer.”
“In the early ’80s, as a 22-year-old queer man living during the Reagan/Bush administration, I was afraid of getting tested for HIV for fear of quarantine, the threat of internment camps and having my basic civil rights stripped away,” Stipe said before welcoming Wambere to the stage. “I waited five years to get my first anonymous test. I am happy that attitudes have matured and changed, and I feel lucky that i live in a country where acceptance, tolerance and policy toward HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ issues have advanced as far as they have.”
Those in Uganda, however, don’t have it that easy. Homosexuality is illegal there — but Wambere started Spectrum Uganda Initiatives, an organization that advocates for LGBT rights and provides medical services to gay Ugandans living with HIV and AIDs.
“Thank you so much today in Uganda, this event would be illegal. We would be all arrested or closed. This event wouldn’t be here,” Wambere said. “I’m here standing before you to celebrate what I did not expect, because to me I did what was part of me and who I am and for the people I care about.”
Also being honored during Thursday night’s special will be Edie Windsor and Roberta Kaplan — two of the catalysts behind last year’s DOMA overruling — who will be honored by former President Bill Clinton.