Steven Muleme

The story of Steven Muleme (he/him) is one of courage, resilience, and unwavering commitment to the rights and well-being of queer and trans individuals, particularly in Uganda. 

Steven’s journey began with the founding of Visual Echoes for Human Rights Advocacy (VEHRA) in 2017, where he serves as the founder and director. VEHRA’s mission is to protect and support queer rights in Uganda through sports and economic empowerment, as well as mental health programs.

Queer and trans individuals in Uganda face stigma and discrimination and often have limited access to healthcare services due to the stringent anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the country. The team at VEHRA face daunting obstacles in providing essential HIV services to queer and trans individuals in Uganda. The government’s hostility towards organizations perceived to be promoting homosexuality posed significant threats, yet Steven and his team persisted, driven by their unwavering commitment to the well-being of the queer and trans community, particularly the youth.

Steven’s work extends beyond Uganda, as he represents queer activists globally, advocating for their rights and access to essential services. He serves on the Global Advisory Council for InterPride, a network for pride organizers across the globe, and sits on the board of Refugee America in New York City.

“Pride means to be free. To me, pride is to be happy as you are,” says Steven, reflecting on the progress made in the fight for queer rights while recognizing the ongoing challenges. He emphasizes the importance of queer and trans equity, envisioning a world where all individuals can access services, be heard, and respected regardless of their identity. Steven spoke passionately about the importance of queer and trans equity, envisioning a world where individuals could access services regardless of their identities and live authentically without fear of discrimination or violence.

As an activist and immigrant in New York City, Steven says he struggled to find the right place to seek mental health support with providers he can trust with his story and his struggles. But Callen-Lorde makes him feel hopeful for the future. “A place like Callen-Lorde is like a family. It feels like a beacon of hope and a place that LGBTQ+ individuals can call home,” he says. “The work that Callen-Lorde does is very important.” 

Despite the many adversities, Steven remains hopeful for the future, both in the United States and Uganda. He believes in the power of education, advocacy, and community to uplift the queer and trans individuals worldwide. Through his advocacy, Steven continues to pave the way forward for a future where all LGBTQ+ individuals can live proudly and without fear.