gspottt•t&t's triggersite for sogi passion & advocacy

18 February, 2011

We don’t need debate on gay marriage, Mary King. We need Government action on violence and discrimination.

“No thank you!” CAISO has responded to Government’s proposal the day after Valentine’s Day for a national debate and referendum on same-sex marriage, made by Minister of Planning, Economic & Social Restructuring and Gender Affairs during Senate debate on the Statutory Authorities (Amendment) Bill. That legislation seeks to extend a death benefit available to public servants’ next of kin to the employees of statutory authorities. It goes further, to include in the potential beneficiaries common-law partners of unmarried employees and their children born out of wedlock – but restricts the benefit to only partners “of the opposite sex”. In floor debate, Government Senators defended on “religious” and “cultural” grounds their decision to recognize fornicators, but not sodomites.

Illustrating the circus such a proposed debate would be, Leader of Government Business in the Senate Subhas Panday, a Hindu, interrupted an Independent Senator, Corinne Baptiste-McKnight, as she criticized the bill for “entrenching” this discriminatory provision and bucking where the world was moving, by shouting a reference to an imaginary verse of Leviticus: 52. (Leviticus has only 27 chapters.) CAISO doesn’t trust that this debate proposal won’t simply take Trinidad & Tobago down the same path of national conflict and global embarrassment as Uganda, ironically as we too chair the Commonwealth of Nations. Holding a popular “referendum” (the word the Government used) on whether citizens who are a minority group have equal rights would also make the nation a laughingstock in the international community.

The proposal is a distraction, Government clearly isn’t listening, and has its priorities on GLBT issues wrong. CAISO has consistently given the Government six politically feasible national priorities for action; and same-sex unions or debate on them was never one. We’ve written the Prime Minister, and we met with Minister King early in the new administration to share these six items.

Three of them address responses to areas where social vulnerability is highest for members of the GLBT community, none requiring legislation or referenda:

We also advocated that Min. King build her own Ministry’s capacity to support the Government with planning, policy and programme development related to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), through staffing, and government-to-government technical assistance; and we submitted an FY2011 citizen’s budget proposal for a SOGI desk in the Ministry.

Most important, we asked the Government to take action to protect us from the discrimination and violence we face on a daily basis because of who we are, discrimination that is fuelled when national leaders speak of us on television and radio from the chambers of Parliament, not as citizens who have sex in our bedrooms with other adults and party and form organizations and love each other and voted for them, but as people who are controversial and sensitive and connected to illegality and whose rights and relationships require debate.

The Equal Opportunity Act, a brainchild of the UNC Government, which has just entered its second decade, is an ideal vehicle to enact those discrimination protections. (The Catholic Commission on Social Justice, which opposed the 2004 Gender Policy, agrees that we ought to be so protected.) There is furthermore measurable national consensus in Trinidad & Tobago on protecting people from discrimination in basic walks of life, regardless to their sexuality. The Equal Opportunity Commission the Act established is also an ideal vehicle to take the national look at equality, sexual orientation and discrimination, and needed responses, that Min. King is concerned with – in a sober, deliberate and apolitical fashion. In the functions the Act assigns the Commission, it provides for it to review emerging questions of discrimination, conduct research and make recommendations.

In explaining why the Government had specifically excluded unmarried same-sex partners from the bill, Minister of Public Administration Sen. Rudrawatee Nan Gosine-Ramgoolam admitted she was not a legal expert but went ahead to conclude same-sex relations were illegal. As a result, she argued (before correcting herself), Government “can’t put the horse before the cart”. This seems sadly true. Protecting GLBT citizens from discrimination and violence is the political horse our Government should be riding, not flogging gay marriage.

Finally, CAISO has repeatedly asked the Government to exercise leadership and speak out boldly against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression, and we congratulated the Prime Minister because she did so at the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha just days after the election. She has also done so on HIV. We have also acknowledged the Government for its bipartisan work on strengthening the right to privacy.

Furthermore, we have persistently asked Government to listen and to consult, and offered our help and partnership with building a nation for everyone. But our Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CAISO the reason they abstained on two UN votes late last year was because Government does not have a position on whether gay people have a right to life. Young people are still being beaten by their families and bullied in school. Crime victims of anti-gay violence are taunted as bullers by police officers. A dozen 20-something-year-olds, many of whom have nowhere to go because of who they are and who are unsafe in the shelter, were recently charged for loitering. And our humanity is seen by the Government as in need of debate.

CAISO:

We salute Independent Senators James Armstrong, Corinne Baptiste-McKnight, and notably Helen Drayton who hammered away at the Government. They all assailed the restrictive common-law provision in the bill as antiquated and inconsistent with state obligations of equal treatment. And PNM Senators Pennelope Beckles-Robinson and Terrence Deyalsingh showed welcome compassion on the issue. Sen. Beckles-Robinson, the Opposition Leader in the Senate, proposed to Government a modest amendment, which Sen. Panday rejected, that would have avoided enshrining in law new discriminatory language and simply have the bill reference the Cohabitational Relationships Act. What these Senators displayed was that many good people in Trinidad & Tobago of different political persuasions are more than ready to end the ways in which our laws and public policy discriminate unnecessarily against gay and lesbian people. They also displayed that those who do so are in the highest office, and that they are unafraid to speak out publicly. We also saw the sad display of how politicians who defend intolerance on religious grounds often can’t even cite the scriptures they are hiding their personal prejudice behind.

16 February, 2011 

Sen. Hon. Mary King
Minister of Planning, Economic & Social Restructuring & Gender Affairs
Level 14, Eric Williams Financial Complex
Independence Square, Port of Spain

Dear Minister King:

I am writing, in the wake of yesterday’s Senate debate on the Statutory Authorities (Amendment) bill, to ask you to meet again with me and other representatives of our Coalition at the earliest opportunity. We would like to discuss:

  • Government Senators’ conduct and remarks during the debate, including your own, and the damage we believe they risk doing to the cause of equality
  • the status of the community listening forum proposed in our July 8, 2010 meeting and discussions with you, MP Ramdial and other Government officials;
  • an alternative or complementary approach to the political referendum you proposed yesterday for achieving national engagement with human rights questions of sexual orientation, gender identity and discrimination, involving the Equal Opportunity Commission
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27 January, 2011

Who killed David Kato?

Filed under: faith,human rights,international,laws,violence — caiso @ 09:21

On March 5 & 6, 2009 American Christian Right evangelist Scott Lively is a key speaker at an anti-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda and meets with legislators.

On October 14, 2009 Ndorwa West MP David Bahati introduces a private member’s bill in the Uganda Parliament that would institute capital punishment for some homosexual acts.

On January 19, 2010 Pastor Martin Ssempa holds a press conference, one of several public forums, often held in churches, in which he shows pornographic films depicting gay men fisting and rimming to whip up disgust for gay people.

On October 2, 2010 Giles Muhame publishes the following issue of Uganda’s Rolling Stone, featuring activist David Kato in the photograph at left.

On January 3, 2010 Kato and two others win damages (US$650) in a court case that enjoins the paper from further outing. The victory is reported as “Rolling Stone ruling – finally a ray of hope for gay activists in Uganda”.

On January 27, 2011 Kato dies after being bludgeoned in the head at his home. The Uganda police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba says they don’t believe this is a hate crime: “It looks like theft…some things were stolen”.

Who killed David Kato? Val Kalende, Board Chair of Freedom & Roam Uganda thinks “David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by US Evangelicals in 2009. The Ugandan Government and the so-called US Evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood!”

Left to right: Kato, Lively, Bahati, Ssempa, Muhame

13 January, 2011

Who will protect you?

Feeling safe?

“Trinidad and Tobago hardly seems a likely battleground for America’s culture wars,” a Georgetown University professor wrote for the Washington Post/Newsweek recently.

“But recent months have seen a drama there involving visits by American pastors with an anti-gay agenda…[and] a response by locally based rights groups…The story begins with announcements of a planned visit by American pastors sent by His Way Out Ministries…a group based in Bakersfield, Calif. … As reported in a Trinidad and Tobago newspaper, the visit’s purpose was pretty clear: ‘Local Christian groups…have declared war on the issue of same-sex attractions…

“a local group, CAISO…were especially concerned by…plans to target young people with an anti-gay agenda. …CAISO was aware of the devastating impact U.S. evangelical groups had in Uganda, where a legislator proposed an anti-gay bill imposing the death penalty for some forms of gay sex…Trying to prevent the HWO visit seemed unwise and probably futile. CAISO alerted public health, HIV, and youth welfare officials to their concerns about the likely damage the visit could do to sexuality education and the effort to combat stigma and discrimination. They challenged leaders to stand up.”

So we did in fact:

And here’s how our Ministry of the People & Social Development – the one where the Prime Minister pledged “any interest group who believes their legitimate cause is not being heard by the relevant authorities” and “feel their needs and pleas for help are being overlooked or ignored by the authorities” can “take their grievances and be heard” – responded. We thought you wouldn’t believe it unless you read it in their own words.

Well, at least they didn’t say the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would protect us. They abstainedtwice – on the issue of whether people at heightened risk of murder, assassination or execution because of their sexual orientation deserved mention in a United Nations human rights resolution a few weeks ago. We’ll put theirs up here too when they write us another letter saying why our Government won’t protect us.

It’s a challenging year ahead educating our clueless leaders about young people’s vulnerability to homophobia and GLBT people’s vulnerability to violence. We’ll need your earnest support.

3 December, 2010

Thou shalt not bear false witness

Filed under: community organizing,faith,UWI,violence — caiso @ 10:16

“The trip ultimately concluded with Pastor Phillip speaking at the University of the West in Trinidad” Pressure, boy!!

Here is how His Way Out Ministries reports on its recent, October trip to Trinidad & Tobago. If they can’t get the name of UWI right or the fact they were in an engineering lecture room in the corner of the campus, you can imagine many of the other details are pretty imaginative. But we will make a mas again celebrating Trinidad & Tobago’s resilience to imported homophobia when Phillip comes back for Carnival.

At no time was the expression “war on same-sex attraction” ever used during the entire time in Trinidad. The wording was unfortunate and addressed by myself and Hospital Christian Fellowship through various and numerous media outlets.

Photo-Brian NgFatt, Guardian

Aside from the Prayer Breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Pastor Phillip shared in numerous schools, a Youth Rally, shared at Agape Bible Ministries Church, was a guest on two radio programs, held a training seminar for pastors and Christian leaders in Tobago, and met with the Mayor of Port of Spain in which the Mayor requested training for his staff on the complexities of homosexuality. The trip ultimately concluded with Pastor Phillip speaking at the University of the West in Trinidad which was held in the Lecture Center on the campus.

“We might be witnessing the birth of a strong grassroots LGBT movement in Trinidad and Tobago, and this is only the beginning.” Oops. That's somebody else from the US writing about the same thing…

Hospital Christian Fellowship, a Christian organization comprised of medical doctors and lawyers, could not have been more hospitable with focus and emphasis on every trip detail from beginning to end. Presently, Hospital Christian Fellowship is discussing the possibility of a return trip to Trinidad possibly in March of 2011. With the huge amount of individuals, families and church leaders approaching Pastor Phillip at each and every venue during the trip, Trinidad and Tobago stands on the threshold of birthing and offering ministry to those struggling with the complexities of same-gender attraction.

“the huge amount of individuals, families and church leaders approaching Pastor Phillip at each and every venue” – this was the signature Naparima Girls youth rally, being held in a Pentecostal church in Cocoyea

For our side of the story, read and watch:

1 November, 2010

Must-see video: CAISO’s Brendon O’Brien on ieTV’s “1 on 1” with Vernon Ramesar

The interview aired October 27th, 2010 on FLOW Channel 1. Ramesar writes:

Brendon is only 20 and, being a spoken word poet, very charismatic and a good communicator. His passion for fighting for equal rights was palpable and I think it made for an interesting interview. Heck, just having someone young talking about the subject in these parts is interesting enough. We discussed why there is suddenly a voice on the subject now and how social networking is a powerful tool for organizing young people. He seems very confident…the movement for changing the society here will grow from strength to strength as he noted that people of all orientations are joining in.

A high-resolution M4V file of the video can be downloaded on Vimeo.

29 October, 2010

Lying, ducking and hiding

This post has been repeatedly updated since its publication. It was last edited 13:27 Oct. 30.

click for a musical farewell to Pastor Lee

Lying

“We are not here to fight anybody, but make no bones about it, there is a war”

– Judith Henry-Porther, organizer of His Way Out Ministries T&T visit

Make up your mind, Judy! A few days ago you were crying foul and cussing out Debra John at the Express for saying you “have declared war on the issue of same sex attractions”, with “the first phase of the war to be fought…through media sensitisation”. “They are militant”, Judy warns about gay people. But we find gastroenterologist Judy a really angry lady. Not someone I’d ever let in my colon. Even if she never said “war”, her face and her diction did. When she says she loves you, her lips curl.

“Legislation is being introduced”

– Judy again

When asked what legislation, who is introducing it, and what it says, they trot out the 2004 Draft National Gender Policy like a bobolee, making wild claims that it is redefining five genders, will allow people to decide their gender, and several other versions of nonsense. Most telling, though, they said at one forum “masculinity will be redefined”. Let’s hope so! The Caribbean masculinities we’ve had (horning, absent fathers, incest, domestic violence, gangs, underachievement (and, of course, homophobia)) could stand some redefinition. The bottom line for them, though, is that the Gender Policy will bring confusion and “the beginning of the end of society as we know it”. So there it is: these are the same millenarian folks from 2004, with one key difference. Then the alarm was about “new standards that have been set by international bodies insensitive to, and at odds with our varied local cultures, and religious and moral beliefs”; now they’re importing their own international folks to promote ideas about homosexuality. Read the old Gender Policy yourself, nah. We’ve uploaded our copy of the 2004 version. We read it a few times and found some pretty mild stuff on abortion and sexual orientation, which we’ve highlighted. See if you can find Armageddon. At any rate, the Policy was thoroughly sanitised by Marlene McDonald in 2009 to remove any references to either issue. We should know: that’s why CAISO formed.

“Gay people like you represent the vast minority”

– ex-gay/”reformed” homosexual Phillip Lee

Nope. Those were his words, not ours; and he wasn’t talking about himself, either. He was trying to talk about CAISO and other GLBT folks who showed up Thursday for the second time, to offer a vibrant alternative voice to his at His Way Out’s activities in Trinidad & Tobago targeting young people. In other words, he’s saying the vast majority of gay people are invisible and self-hating. Clearly he didn’t read the Express online.

almost everything they said about homosexuality

– Phillip Lee, Garthlyn Pilgrim, anyone else from Hospital Christian Fellowship

85% of gays were sexually molested as kids (no citation).

The atheist psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, who championed the 1973 declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness, recanted his views and wrote a paper saying gays can change through Christ. Spitzer did conduct a controversial research project in which Lee says he was one of the subjects. But Spitzer says Lee’s organization has deliberately misrepresented his research. What Spitzer did was find 200 people (and couldn’t find any more) who in telephone interviews self-reported they had changed their sexual orientation. 97% of them were Christian. The study has been criticized because many of the subjects, like Lee, were ex-gay advocates who had political motives in participating. All Spitzer does is suggest that a very small number of people who are motivated to change their sexual orientation should not be denied reparative therapy, but in the name of client autonomy they should be supported by mental health professionals in trying to do so, once they are counselled as to the small likelihood of success and the risk of disappointment. Some critics of the study say those folks are probably bisexual, which Spitzer doesn’t factor into his analysis.

“Sexual Heath: Truth Revealed”. Our local Dr. Garthlyn Pilgrim compiled a brochure to hand out to young people that advocates against the “physical health risks of homosexuality”. The leaflet is basically premised on the idea that in gay men’s sexual “repertoire”, the main performances are unprotected anal intercourse and rimming (which for some strange reason she repeats “3. anal oral sex 4. anilingus [sic] or ‘rimming’/oral/anal contact”); and that ‘gay sex’ carries higher risks of disease than other people’s sexual practices. Well, if you use the latest big probability sample study of sexual behaviour in the US (the 2009 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior) as a guide: 40% of women 20-49 have had anal sex, the same rate as men; and receptive anal intercourse is the least popular sexual behaviour for men who have sex with men. And why not just tell gay men not to bull without condoms or not to eat ass, instead of telling them to change their sexual orientation through Christ?

8000 times. Similarly, Dr. GP cites statistics showing HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is significantly higher than in the general population. Absolutely true! And, yes, even their 8,000 times figure is “real”. Let’s take some time with this one! It comes from data from the American Red Cross seized on by the Christian Right and their media. But here’s what it means: that the proportion of gay men in the US who have HIV is 8,000 times higher than the rate of HIV among people who give blood over and over (and therefore have tested HIV-negative over and over!!). Repeat blood donors are one of the likeliest groups of people to be HIV-negative (99,999 in 100,000), since their blood is repeatedly tested, and one can no longer donate after testing positive. The general population is somewhere around 135 times more likely to be HIV-positive than repeat blood donors. Read the details for yourself, though: in AI Dayton’s presentation at a 2006 US Food & Drug Administration workshop (starting on p. 244). (When you get to the figures on pp. 250-1, however, you won’t find 8,000, but 2,000, because he’s more honest that other folks using the data). And here’s something else: Black and Latino men who have sex with men in the US have rates of HIV that are way higher than White MSM; but they don’t engage in behaviours that are any riskier. So there’s something to do with being a minority group that’s discriminated against that might be linked to HIV rates: in the Caribbean, countries with buggery laws tend to have higher HIV rates among gay men than those that don’t.

Read the studies. Added to the end of  the leaflet is a list of references from “your own” organizations, i.e. amfAR: the Foundation for AIDS Research (“ám-fuh”, according to her) and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, as well as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Society of Obstetricians and the link for the Gynaecologists of Canada website www.sexualityandu.ca. When we pressed her with questions, she kept saying go read the stuff. And you should in fact go visit all these sites and read the  specific material she’s “cited” for yourself, e.g. amfAR Issue Brief No. 4 (June 2006) and the 2007 CDC HIV/AIDS Fact Sheet on MSM. But we’re not sure she did, because the Canadian site has a piece on Overcoming Homophobia and it repeatedly says:

Today, sex researchers and doctors view homosexuality not as a sexual problem but as a normal sexual difference, much like green is a normal – if fairly unusual – eye colour. What all this means is that homosexuals are no more responsible for their homosexuality than heterosexuals are for their heterosexuality. It is not a “lifestyle” you choose for yourself as much as something you discover in yourself.

So the truth revealed might be that Dr. Garthlyn didn’t really read or find these studies: she just lifted the references from a Christian Right website, like the North Carolina Family Policy Council, which is “engaged in a battle to retain the Judeo-Christian values that are the foundation of western civilization. These are the same values which supported the establishment of the United States and which are embodied in the Ten Commandments…” And it looks like she didn’t even finish the damn pamphlet: there are four dangling headers with nothing below them.

Ducking and hiding

Thanks to CAISO’s advocacy, television took a keen interest in the past few days in His Way Out Ministries’ efforts targeting young people. We’re not ashamed of our efforts, and took pains to let the media know what young people are doing in response to the visit, giving the young people a key voice in our media appearances.

But there seems to be some ducking and hiding on the part of others with respect to young people and sexuality. A newspaper photographer and two television camerapeople showed up at the His Way Out event at the UWI campus yesterday. It appears all were turned away by event organizers. Some say it’s simply UWI’s media policy,  but others say it’s Gender Studies at the university who invited the media. But neither explains why the Family Planning Association says they were the only cheese left standing in a proposed discussion about young people and sexuality involving His Way Out and CAISO youth for a Sunday morning television show on C. All the other youth organizations and government entities responsible for youth invited, it seems, couldn’t take a position on youth sexuality. I guess this requires a referendum.

UN Right to Education Special Rapporteur Vernor Muñoz said sex education is a human right

It didn’t require a referendum, however, for something deeply troubling that happened this week, not here, but in New York. While His Way Out was advertising youth activities in secondary schools and universities, Trinidad & Tobago was speaking up for CARICOM at the United Nations opposing young people’s right to comprehensive sexual education. Joining the African bloc of nations, who at least were honest that they were being homophobic, we voiced CARICOM’s position trashing the Special Rapporteur on the right to education Vernor Muñoz, and his report in which he tries to focus on “the human right to comprehensive sexual education…by placing it in the context of patriarchy and control of sexuality”. The UN itself notes that the “Committee on the Rights of the Child had urged States to integrate sexual education into school curricula.  The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in its general comment No. 14, had interpreted the right to health as including access to education and information on sexual and reproductive health, while the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had called on States to make sex education compulsory and systematic in schools, as a means to address high abortion, adolescent pregnancies and maternal mortality rates.”

Following the Africans’ statement that “it is common knowledge that there is no universal agreement on the notions of sexual orientation, sexuality or sexual education and gender identity under existing internationally agreed human rights instruments,” CARICOM chimed in.

The representative of Trinidad and Tobago, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noted with deep concern that the former Special Rapporteur had chosen to…focus his entire deliberations on a so-called “human right to comprehensive sexual education”.  According to CARICOM’s understanding, a right to sexual education, a right to comprehensive sexual education or a right to sexuality education does not exist in any internationally agreed human rights instrument, nor indeed under international law.  … Noting that CARICOM recognized the need for sexual education, the group took umbrage at the license taken by the former Special Rapporteur in indulging his personal interests at the expense of Member States.  CARICOM was also gravely concerned by the former Special Rapporteur’s attempts to undermine the following universally accepted rights:  the right of parents to determine the quality of education and to provide appropriate direction and guidance to the child in the exercise of his rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the right of Member States to educate their citizens in a manner consistent with their own cultures; and the right of everyone to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

 

PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar addresses UN General Assembly on Millennium Development Goals in September|AFP

Research assistance by Nadine & Soraya

27 October, 2010

The real story: tune in

Filed under: allies,children/youth,community voices,faith,protest — caiso @ 16:38

on the set of IETV's "One on One" with Vernon Ramesar

When Phillip Lee gets on a plane on October 29th and leaves our shores, the story of the His Way Out Ministries’ visit to multireligious T&T will not be about a “reformed” American gay man who came to combat growing acceptance of homosexuality here…to deliver a message that homosexuality is acquired…reinforce the Lordship of Christ and the authority of scripture, which says homosexuality is a sin…and spread the news that no one has been delivered from homosexuality except through Christ.

It will instead be about three other stories:

  1. that the GLBT community in T&T is ready to organize and advocate visibly for equality;
  2. that public opinion in T&T is that gay people should be able to live their lives; and
  3. that young people care about something other than themselves, and that they hold a vision for citizenship that is about taking care of each other and standing up for what they believe in.

The mainstream media hasn’t been very interested in this last story. Even when the young people organizing to demonstrate an alternative local vision to Lee and his hosts’ visited media houses to tell their story, except in the case of Power 102, they didn’t think young people’s agency and vision that newsworthy. But a few journalists did. Catch the vision:

  • Thu 28 2:30pm Gayelle TV: Gayelle.com with Cedriann Martin & Conrad Parris
    streams live if you sign into Jump TV from gayelletv.com/livetv.html

  • Thu 28 9:00pm Power 102 Radio: Let’s Talk with Larry Lumsden
    audio and studio video stream live at power102fm.com

  • Fri 29 6:30am Gayelle TV: Gayelle.com with Cedriann Martin & Conrad Parris
    streams live if you sign into Jump TV from gayelletv.com/livetv.html

26 October, 2010

Resisting the war on love Pt. 3

Filed under: children/youth,community organizing,faith,media — caiso @ 00:08

Whew! Busy media advocacy day.

  • New release went out
  • Young people interviewed at Newsday
  • Gayelle’s We News interviewed Brandon and Colin for a long story on the 7pm newscast: Tune in again at 7am Tuesday: on television or online
  • On Larry Lumsden’s new Power 102 show “Let’s Talk”, 9pm Thursday
  • Check the dailies Tuesday for stories!
  • Desmond Tutu has a piece in Essence today where he says:
    “Today I pray for people in Africa and throughout the world who long for freedom because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. It grieves me to be retiring at this crucial moment in history, so I write to you in this open letter, to invite you to pick up the work that remains to be done. … Each of you is called to respond to God’s urgency for love and life. So whether you are in South Africa, the United States or anywhere else, humanity needs to accept its own diversity as a gift from our Creator. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are part of our family of God.”

Desmond Tutu: 'Hate Has No Place in God's House'

We are a family. Big turnout at the Emmanuel Community event. A CAISO leader’s uncle opens the event. Another one’s mom is on the panel. Church service yesterday was at a third’s dad’s church. Colin speaks during the Q&A: says the priest he first confessed being gay to told him he was okay, so did a childhood psychiatrist; so he grew up liking himself. He warns the panel that young people are terrified by the visit and heterosexual young people are organizing to protect young gay people from them as adults.

Seems they’re just as upset as we are with the Express though, which cast them as declaring war on their fellow citizens. They’ve called and complained to Debra John. They claim they’ve sent only love in their presentations. But the I95 broadcast of Judy Henry at the breakfast tells a different story.

“…he would exchange with them on any encounter the pleasantries one does in a small place where you are unstintingly connected to everyone – even everyone you did not like, you were bound to” In two days, we have a relationship with these crusading women: Wendy Hoyte is joking with Colin she wanted to give him a calpet for his comment, because he’s heard their presentations and should know better. Garthlyn Pilgrim teases him she thinks he’s pursuing her, showing up at so many of their events, but when he asks, says she doesn’t really want him. It is often painful, but this is one critical way in which we do the work: when we show up as human, in relationship with others. It’s called “coming out”.

Ruminating on the big points in Lee’s standard stump speech:

  • Homosexuality is “most definitely an acquired behaviour”
  • Too often homosexuality is elevated to a place of sin where God himself has not placed it; it’s in the middle of the list in 1 Cor. 6, e.g. (so why focus a whole ministry and this visit on it, instead of other sins that are having a much bigger impact?)
  • The Church owes an apology to the gay community (always gets applause)
  • He didn’t grow up in a Christian household; he converted at 35
  • You can’t help smiling at the double entendre in what he cried out during the miracle of his conversion: “Lord if you are real, I need you to come”
  • On October 5, 1985 (where were you?), he literally heard the chains of homosexuality snap, break and fall – and he never take man again. He said goodbye to all his gay friends and his gay support network. But heterosexual dating, romance and marriage should be tabled for later on for those coming out of homosexuality. (He’s making it clear this “way out” thing is no picnic!)
  • Seems, although he says he’s straight now, he’s not had sex since he converted
  • He was one of the 200 subjects in the controversial study by DSM-III editor Robert Spitzer of people successfully changing their sexual orientation
  • 80-85% (no citation) of people who struggle with (that’s the only verb that goes with it) homosexuality were sexually violated as children

Photo: Curtis Chase

And here’s a pick of some of the more interesting of the over 130 comments on the Sunday Express story. They’re running 3 to 1 against the visit and its message:

  • Before I read through these comments I was half expecting to see a continuous list of homophobic rants a la Uganda. What a pleasure it was to see that the people of Trinidad and Tobago are seeing this fellow for what he is, a hypocritical, right wing fundamentalist who is losing influence in his own ccountry and seeking to impose his views on yours. Love your neighbour and banish hate! (Malcanoid)
  • These people call themselves Trinbagonians? They bring a exgay foreigner to declare war on their own fellow citizens and deprive them of safety! When people start waging war on your gay children (or children people just think are gay) in the streets and schools of our nation, blood will be on Garthlyn Pilgrim and Judy Henry and Alice Yorke SooHon head, and it will not be the blood of Jesus. Why they eh bring President Obama? He just put a video on the White House website talking to young gay people saying “You didn’t do anything wrong. And there’s a whole world waiting for you, filled with possibilities. There are people out there who love and care about you just the way you are. In time you’re going to see that your differences are a source of pride and a source of strength. You’ll be more likely to help fight discrimination in all its forms. All of us are equal, and each of us deserves the freedom to pursue our own version of happiness, to be true to ourselves.” Backwards old fools! (Gay by birth)
  • well again we are faced with an issue that help to bring out the worst in many people so dis is my soultion if u are gay and looking for salvation go c if he can help (hav fun lol) if u are gay and happy wit ur choice den by all means ignore him lol and for all u self righteous people just stop no body cares about u quoting ur bible jus because ur unhappy wit ur life does not give u the right to try and make every one else life miserable and i will end wit saying let he without sin cast the first stone 🙂 lets c who still pelting LMAF (BI)
  • Why is the Express allowing a forum for backward Trinis to display their ignorance? You know how many of them will be braying their stupidity all over this page today? This page will be one embarrassing spectacle of ignorance by lunchtime, I’m sure. Shame on you, Express. There was no need to publish the rantings of this foolish pastor, and allowing his even stupider caveman ‘believers’ the opportunity to spill bile on this page! Fifth World at its best! (why?)
  • PROOF IN BLACK AND WHITE THAT THESE PEOPLE ARE HYPOCRITES. Lee talked about “God”s divine intent for human sexuality was for “heterosexual, monogamous marriage.” Now tell we this. What is the bigger problem in Trinidad, homosexuality or promiscuity and ertra-marital affairs. Yet these hypocrites would not touch the latter with a ten foot pole.
  • In the Bible God did not just say that homosexuality was a bad thing but it’s an abomination, think about it. Which would you prefer human rights or eternal life? You choose. (trini to de bone)
  • Dear Phillip Lee, Please leave our country and take along all these “christian” bigots with you. Your kind is not welcome here. (non h8r)
  • im not a follower of the bible my religion dont condemn it , question if pastor lee is so convinced he can make a difference here why didnt he try to change america and the rest of the world before he try tnt (hoochie)
  • I hope all this being said people start to boycott these doctors and lawyers who obviously cannot be trusted with giving the best care/advice since they are obviously biased in their way of thinking. (RG)
  • The only good thing about this article is that it exposes two public officials’ (Lee Sing and Yorke Soo-Hon) religious beliefs which may impact negatively on the performance of their duties. I hope that if a gay defendant comes before her, Yorke Soo-Hon will know that she has to recuse herself immediately. P.S. I’m straight and God doesn’t exist. Two facts,plain and simple. (Religions Divides)
  • Historically, homophobia has been the per view of the European Christian faiths. In fact this in one of the issues that split the orthodox church from the catholics. African and Indian societies had more positive things to do. To my gay brothers and sisters, when out American brothers and sisters were faced with the same issue, they began OUTING the hypocrites in their own society. We know they are in the Government and Opposition, in the priesthood and the revival ministries. We know where you are and the time may be drawing near when we will expose you. Be guided accordingly. (Dougla)
  • I sure i see Pastor Phillip Lee in sky last night…….. (sky boi)
  • “A former homosexual” LMAO, thank you, Trinidad Express for a much needed laugh today. Maybe all Lee needs is a little (or big) dick in his mouth, seriously! He needs to shut up and leave our little country alone! (Birdy)

25 October, 2010

Resisting the war on love, Day 2: Can young people get some credit in the media? Providence!

Disappointed that their visionary, history-making action was being shut out of news coverage of the HWOM visit (whilst the media puts youth violence and violence against youth on its pages daily), young people spent Sunday afternoon trekking from media house to media house telling the story of their alternative vision of sexual citizenship to Hospital Christian Fellowship and His Way Out Ministries – one of inclusion, and solidarity, and safety from shame and stigma about sexuality.

They stopped at the Express and spoke with Rickie Ramdass; the Guardian, where editor Anthony Wilson referred them to Bobie-lee Dixon, who conducted a lengthy interview; and Newsday, where Leiselle Maraj invited them to come back on Monday. Let’s see how their editors handle the story! At the AnsaMcAl media house, they also stopped by the television and radio studios, but no producers were in.

Getting back in the car at the end of the outing, on came Power 102 with the engine, and with it a familiar phrase: “the acidity of the vagina”. As if divinely ordained, it was Hospital Christian Fellowship live on the radio. We sped up to the Abercromby St. studio, halfway through the broadcast, and asked to join them on the air. The host declined, saying it would be rude to the guests, and referred us to producer Marcia Henville to schedule our own time. The young folks stayed around, called in to the show from the studio lobby, and then waited to greet the guests (Phillip Lee and two of the HCF advocates) at the end. “Are you following us?” they asked us. Er, yes! “We know all the tactics”, Lee smiled.

We hung out at MovieTowne after, where another group, wearing their “Homosexual Agenda” jerseys for the second day too, joined us. We joked that the first item on the homosexual agenda was “Buy multigrain Crix”, said we should send a jersey to the Bermudez Biscuits CEO, shared Crix recipes, and laughed about launching a Crix recipe cookbook (the rally that inspired the shirts, after all, was scheduled for Naparima Girls) as a CAISO fundraiser. Dinner at BurgerKing was uneventful except for a few stares; but everyone ran into someone they knew, including the sister of Godfrey Sealy (who must be smiling down on us). Doesn’t this keep sounding providential?

But the providence doesn’t end there: crossing the courtyard later, who should we run into but Judy Henry (who wasn’t on the radio) and her husband Trevor, who was wearing an HCF heterosexual logo shirt, and whisked her away soon after she began to preach about the fall of the US and the rise of Europe.

How way your day in this amazing country of ours? Did you send a letter, post a comment or make a call? Thanks!

24 October, 2010

Christians declare war on love: don’t let them outshout you!

Yesterday October 23rd may have been the largest (and perhaps the first) GLBT protest in T&T’s history. Young people and a few older ones filled a “big maxi” and two cars, dressed in jerseys that announced “The homosexual agenda” of GLBT people in T&T and their allies to

1. Buy Crix
2. Spend time with family
3. Work for equality.

They almost outnumbered other attendees at the His Way Out Ministries/Hospital Christian Fellowship/Lawyers for Jesus/Emmanuel Community meeting in South, built around the visit of “reformed” gay pastor Phillip Lee. The event, titled “Sexual Health: Truth Revealed” and billed as a “sexual health seminar”, was moved at the last minute from Naparima Girls High School (did Naps reject them, and why?) to the pentecostal Prayer and Praise Open Bible Chapel in Cocoyea.

The group of young people, assembled by two 20-year-old organizers who’ll tell you if you ask that they’re straight, had assembled at UWI for the journey. Along the highway to South, the 4:00pm news on I95 radio came on, and they turned up the volume in anticipation and listened intently. They sighed at the headline “Fears Gay Rights Movement Could Take Root” in Trinidad and Tobago (Hmm: haven’t we been celebrating Pride here for 14 years now?), and the amount of time the story spent covering the voices of people saying: gay people were “militant”; gay rights had come from Europe to the US and then to Latin America (ent we’s be all never-see-come-see about things whey come from Europe); calls for decriminalization of prostitution (what dat have to do with sexual orientation?) meant it would be offered as a career to young women. They cheered when CAISO’s spokesperson talked about the divisiveness US Christian evangelicals had sown in Uganda, and that people who cared about children in T&T needed to create a country where they could grow into their God-given sexual orientation free from shame and violence. They sighed again when they expected to hear the voice of a young person who’d organized the event follow, and it didn’t.

The event wasn’t a health seminar at all, presenters made clear very quickly, but physician Garthyln Pilgrim distributed two pamphlets she had prepared which listed references to studies she said documented the “Physical Health Risks” of homosexuality (well, receptive anal sex and rimming, in fact), studies she told questioners to look up every time anyone asked for amplification. The “seminar”‘s message was straightforward: 1. Homosexuality is most definitely an acquired behaviour. 2. Homosexuality is a just another sin, in the middle of a list of others, no lesser or worse. 3. No one has been set free from the snare of homosexuality without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Event lead organizer Dr. Judy Henry, a gastroenterologist who told the crowd “I enter colons on a daily basis” (while making a case that penises shouldn’t), was engaged by GLBT supporters after the event ended. If she and her associates cared about the health and safety about young people, would they support legislation to protect them from discrimination and violence. “Legislation doesn’t change attitudes”, she snapped back, moving away.

Henry and the groups behind the rally are trying to change attitudes, the Express story the Sunday after the event makes clear: they’re in a “war” against the love practised by some of their fellow citizens, for which they’ve imported a reformed gay American as field marshal.

It’s sad the media weren’t there to show the young people at the rally,  to see them engage the organizers peacefully and respectfully and thoughtfully. Or to see them sauntering among the Saturday night shoppers at Price Plaza in their jerseys on the way back north, during a stop for dinner. But if you did, you would have been so proud. You’ll be proud, too, that these young people spent over $1,500 out of their own pockets on advocacy.

That’s the real story of what happened when people confessing to be Christians brought Phillip Lee to town: it created one of the most powerful moments for GLBT organizing and alliance-building in many people’s memory. Young people standing up for each other across sexual orientation. Sexual rights advocates rallying to the cause: ASPIRE offered their office and their media list; Family Planning reprinted their Sexual Rights Declaration in all three newspapers.

Sadly, though, it’s the out of timing message by the folks who’ve declared “war” on same-sex love (delivered at a $165 prayer breakfast) that is still the primary one in the media’s coverage. Don’t let them outshout the voices of good people!

Read and post a comment on today’s Express story NOW! Call the Express newsroom at 623-1711 and any other media houses, and ask them why they aren’t covering GLBT voices in this story? Tell them your own views about the visit. Or give them CAISO’s number: 758-7676

Send a letter to the editor about the issue:
express@trinidadexpress.com
letters@ttol.co.tt (Guardian)
letters@newsday.co.tt
ccngroupc@tstt.net.tt (Tobago News)

Make it short (one or two paragraphs) and to the point; or it will be edited. Stick to one key point. Be bold, but don’t be abusive. Include a name (of your choosing) and the area where you live (you may ask that your name not be published). Bcc us if you’d like: caisott@gmail.com
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