Monday, July 25, 2011

Gays Call For End To Homophobia

This article was originally published in the Trinidad Express Newspapers on May 18 2011.

PORT OF SPAIN- There were no rainbow-coloured flags, flamboyant costumes or shouts of "we are here" yesterday. Instead, there was a quiet message delivered to six government ministries advocating policy change toward the gay and lesbian communities in Trinidad and Tobago. Yesterday, more than 50 countries around the world celebrated, IDAHO (the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia). It is the date which marks the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Colin Robinson, president of the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), told reporters at the International Waterfront Centre that he had handed over to ministers’ representatives "six politically feasible steps that our government can take to end and to address homophobia in Trinidad and Tobago". These steps include Government speaking forcefully about embracing the full citizenship and humanity of Trinbagonians who are gay. The other steps include equal opportunity for members of the community, reduction or eradication of crime against the gay and lesbian community and the police’s treatment of members of this group. The other three proposals include the creating of measures which would steer members of the gay and lesbian community away from sex work, a solid gender policy for the gay and lesbian community and safe schools for all sexual orientations. Robinson said that yesterday morning they encountered, "some hostility", but were able to "charm" their way through to the ministers’ representatives.
Journalist Gyasi Gonzales.
For this article and other stories visit the IDAHO website


The following is my response to the article above.

"Gays call for an end to homophobia" the headline in a local newspaper and therein lies the problem. Tuesday 17th May IDAHO: The International Day Against Homophobia is recognised by over 50 countries worldwide, with 2011 being T&T first year. CAISO: The Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation organised members of the LBGT (Lesbian Gay BI sexual Transgender) community, as well as its allies to present various Ministers with packages including information about IDAHO, a gift and document entitled "Six in Six", outlining six things that the government can do to ensure safety and equal access to services for all citizens ... including members of the LGBT.

To the journalists credit, he did attempt to outline some of the issues surrounding the day and the effort but I'm afraid his aticle may have done more harm than good. The opening remarks of the absence of rainbow colours and flambouyant costumes can be overlooked, despite the fact that that type of activism has never been a part of our history here in the Caribbean and in seemed like a poor attempt at humour and/or ridicule. Either way, the title of the article gives way to a larger issue of mis-representation... "GAYS call for end to homophobia". My first question would be - How in tarnation does he know the sexuality of all who were present and furthermore why does it matter? In the two pages previous was an article about anti-Manning PNM protesters and there was no reference to the sexual orientation of those protesters. Even as I posted information on my own page about IDAHO I was careful not to use anything with the very rainbow colours that the journalist pointed out were absent from our dress code, in a pointed attempt not to alienate anybody from the cause. In my caption above a video entitled "Homophobia" I wrote this a HUMAN ISSUE not a GAY one. Hate affects us all.

The constant association with LGBT causes with only gay persons/activsts is ignorant and more importantly damaging. LGBTQIA is the extended acronym (too long for everyday use), with the A referring to allies - who can usually be found in Human Rights and Women's Orgs. At yesterday's 'march' there were two individuals, one a member of the LGBT and one not, both representing various NGOs or "allies". Both of them refused to be recorded on camera or have their pictures taken for fear of being labelled gay. I guess their fears weren't unfounded. My observation is by no means an endorsement of their beahviour but the article was almost like a self fulfilling prophecy. Whether or not the media is aware, they play into these fears and hinder so many people from standing up because they are afraid that there sexuality will be questioned if they do. HOw many people are willing to put themselves out there for a cause when they are being fought from all angles, including the media. A woman remarked to me that even the reporters holding the cameras and microphones were ducking for fear thaT their faces were being shown.

My message is both to those who are afraid as well as to those who exploit the fear of others- If you are comfortable with who you are it shouldn't where you are, with whom, what causes you fight or what people say about you.

One God, One Love, One Destiny.
For more information on the LGBT community in Trinidad, visit the Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation on Facebook.
To hear the response of the journalist and others, can also follow this thread on Facebook.

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