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27 July, 2012

Joshua Hamlet, an unlikely voice for LGBT rights on an unlikely platform

We’re always talking about young people taking the lead on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, and politicians acknowledging that the LGBT community needs protection against discrimination in Trinidad & Tobago. Just this week, we might’ve got both. At a People’s National Movement rally in St. Barb’s, Laventille, youth speaker Joshua Hamlet went on the podium to say that LGBT people need the Equal Opportunity Act, and that “we cannot make it about people (individuals), it needs to about the issues of the everyday person”.

Not only does this mean that people – especially young people – are taking stands in their own ways to speak out against discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation, but that politicians (at least within the PNM) can’t ignore that this is a real issue in our country. Remember in 2009 when their then Gender Minister and current Chief Whip, Marlene McDonald, said that they were “quite categorically” against dealing with our issues? Now these same issues are coming back on their own platform in a completely different way. CAISO has its own fair share of young members, and I speak not only as one of those youth but as someone who knows Mr. Hamlet personally. As a student, and activist and a friend, Joshua has always been the kind of guy that I thought our country needed on gender and sexual orientation issues, because of his insight and willingness to put himself out there for a cause no matter the arena, much like he has done here.

CAISO believes that every political party here in Trinidad & Tobago should be focusing on the issues of every single member of its society, and that the human rights of those members should not be ignored. And that is why it feels so good that a young man would stand from within a party of his own accord and say what he said. With the country approaching its 50th birthday, we should be talking about ways our country and democracy truly include every single person regardless to creed, race or sexual orientation. And it may very well be happening, in some small way, now.

We at CAISO salute you, Mr. Hamlet, for the courage to speak up on these issues in one of the places it matters the most. We truly hope that people in the PNM, and in fact every politician, is listening.

10 June, 2012

Put change into your hands: CAISO is recruiting for a community organiser to join our staff team.

The job is to build hope and capacity for making change in our communities, to help forge alliances with others, and to manage training, meetings and advocacy campaigns, actions and communication.

You’ll have to coordinate logistics, coach and inspire community advocates, travel, build your political knowledge and analysis, be savvy about computer and communications technology, keep up with administrative tasks, and work flexible hours. That means thinking ahead, having people and team skills, and being self-starting and adaptive.

Candidates should have done organising and mobilisation work in T&T or elsewhere in the Caribbean, understand political processes, know how to get around our communities, and have a depth of knowledge and comfort working with GLBT issues. The strongest candidates will have managed volunteers, have existing ties to issue and political work, be competent at facilitation and training, and bring new skills and diversity to the CAISO team.

Email us a resume and at least two references who can speak to your ability to meet the criteria above. Feel free to call us to chat about your interest: 758-7676.

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

26 July, 2010

CAISO calls on the new Government

On Thursday July 8, six representatives of CAISO met at the Eric Williams Financial Complex with Sen. Mary King, Minister of Planning, Economic & Social Restructuring and Gender Affairs; Parliamentary Secretary Ramona Ramdial, UNC Member of Parliament for Couva North; staff leaders in the Ministry; in its Gender Affairs Division; and in the Youth Affairs Division of the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs. CAISO’s representatives included women and men, GBLT people and allies. The Minister’s goal was for the new Government and our communities to begin to understand each other. It is likely the first time in the history of Trinidad & Tobago that an official meeting has taken place between a GLBT group and high-level political officials.

Our hope is that the meeting has initiated a sense of partnership between Government and our communities. On our part, we introduced ourselves as the leading national advocacy voice for GLBT issues; described the levels and history of organising activity taking place in our community; educated our Government about policy, legislation and programmes that affect GLBT citizens; and discussed the action plan for a new Government that CAISO had promoted during the election campaign. These points include:

  • leadership in speaking out against discrimination and bias violence
  • building greater respect for minority rights, and expanding the protection of the Equal Opportunity Act to more groups who are targeted for discrimination
  • training and sensitising key government personnel with contact with the GLBT community (e.g. the protective services, social workers, health care workers) and the staff of the Gender Affairs Division
  • building a culture of tolerance in our nation’s schools, and protecting all young people, regardless of their sexual orientation, from bullying, and from homophobia and its clear impact on male underachievement and healthy youth development
  • addressing the homelessness and joblessness young GLBT people experience as a consequence of discrimination, and often of family and institutional abuse
  • training the protective services to ensure equality under the law, instead of ridicule, for GLBT crime victims, and to improve responsiveness to hate crimes
  • including sexual orientation in the Gender Policy, and facilitating public discussion about sexuality, gender identity and citizenship
  • building the government’s capacity to understand and respond to the needs of thousands of its GLBT citizens.

We shared leadership actions that other Caribbean politicians have taken on sexual orientation and gender identity; and we pointed out changes in attitudes to sexual orientation and gender identity that have taken place locally over time. We raised concerns about an election campaign proposal that seemed to suggest that the Government’s commitment to protect some citizens’ human rights might be determined by other citizens, through a referendum.

We agreed to work together with the Government to create further opportunities for Government to listen to the concerns and experiences of GLBT citizens with regard to violence, exploitation, inequality, discrimination and ill-treatment, in daily life and in our attempts to access basic services and benefits, including employment, education and housing, or to exercise our fundamental rights.

And that is where you come in. Stay tuned for details about our town hall meeting, planned for late September or early October. And please turn out, with your friends and family, and tell your stories to the Government.

20 May, 2010

The Opposition may flirt with gay rights ideas, but the PNM “quite categorically” will not

Well, here we are… In two television interviews earlier in the election campaign, she had hedged her answers somewhat, but last night People’s National Movement Gender Minister Marlene McDonald used the party’s Women’s Platform to state quite categorically that her Party does not support policy measures dealing with or relating to the issues of same-sex unions, homosexuality or sexual orientation – and that will not change if they return to government after May 24th.

In a half-hour address on the evening of May 19th on the People’s National Movement Women’s Platform at Bournes Rd., St. James, a sweating Marlene McDonald joined other speakers in burnishing the party’s conservative stance on sexual and reproductive rights. She called the Opposition [08:17] “a sorry bunch of mamapoules”, and claimed the PNM is [09:18] “the only political party that respects and cares for…all the citizens in Trinidad & Tobago”.

Robert Codallo, Express

Moments after noting [11:14] “I am proud to say that our policy is much more comprehensive and far-reaching and cuts across every facet of national life”, she made crystal clear that [11:40] “Our draft National Policy on Gender and Development is also unique in one particular way – that is, it does not support measures dealing with or relating to the issues of termination of pregnancy, same-sex unions, homosexuality or sexual orientation. The Opposition may flirt with these ideas if they wish, but this PNM government will not. We have stated our case quite categorically. This nation has always been and will continue to be guided by the highest principles and standards of ethical and moral behaviour, and that will not change when the PNM returns to government after May 24th.”

We love you, so we take good care of you – if you’re heterosexual

The overall goal of the policy, she boasted, nonetheless, is [13:14] “to promote gender equity, gender equality, social justice and sustainable development” and “to improve the quality of life of men and women, boys and girls at all levels of society”. And she criticized the opposition’s approach to gender policy as [13:48] “very discriminatory” for not recognising men – inconsistent with a twenty-first century view of gender and “a fundamental flaw in the interpretation of what is gender issue”, she said. She later went on to show off how girls were significantly outperforming boys academically, an issue researchers have linked to homophobia.

Both sides in the election have been engaged in what one PNM candidate (who, despite a progressive record, declined a request by CAISO to offer a vision on GLBT issues to prospective voters) characterised off-the-record as “a posturing competition” that is “not in my view how such a serious matter should be dealt with”. This same PNM Government in which McDonald is Gender Minister has, for example, voluntarily undertaken commitments to protect people from human rights violations and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity in international fora on two separate occasions in the past two yearsa record we recently sought to draw attention to, in an attempt to reset the bar and make “the starting point for election campaign debate among the parties…how they will work to fulfil those existing commitments”.

Pastor Winston Cuffie embraces Kamla (Anil Rampersad, Newsday)

On Tuesday afternoon, TV6 News reported, Opposition People’s Partnership leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar attended a worship session to accept prayers and blessings for the election from the full gospel (“born-again”) Central Ministers’ Fellowship that Carolyn Kissoon of the Express reports included “over 100 leaders…[a]mong them…Pastor Winston Cuffie of Miracle Ministries, Pastor Judy Karim of Greater Love Christian Fellowship and Reverend Keith Ramdass chairman”. “But before she got their blessings”, TV6 reported,  “Mrs. Persad-Bissessar was called on to clarify her position on some controversial issues – namely same-sex marriages, the death penalty and abortion. She says these will be determined by the national referendum her Partnership has promised.” With hand on her heart, Persad-Bissessar said:

“With respect to the abortion, the same sex, and the capital punishment, I say this: As far as the law of Trinidad &Tobago stands, we must be bound and guided by the law as it stands on these issues. And if it is that the law is to be changed, then that is not a…decision of Kamla Persad-Bissessar. I share with you the view that life is sacred. But if the people of Trinidad & Tobago want to change the law, then that is why we have advocated that a People’s Partnership government would allow for what is known as a referendum.”

Innis Francis, Guardian

Increasingly hounded by the PNM to declare a stance on abortion (in their attempt to inject and exploit divisive, hot-button sexual issues in the campaign, paint her coalition as having a liberal stance and win religious voters), Persad-Bissessar had staked out this hugely problematic position in a primetime television interview on Monday night, saying in effect that she would subject decisions about a stigmatised minority’s rights to the vote of a majority vote by popular referendum.

And, according to reports by Newsday‘s Richardson Dalai and CNews, the political leader of the United National Congress actually went much further when courting the evangelical endorsement, “saying a People’s Partnership Administration did not have any intention of changing the laws of Trinidad and Tobago including that relating to marriages”, boasting “that it was a UNC Administration which had introduced a ‘faith- based and values-based education’ into the school curriculum. ‘We had begun to put into place that the curriculum should be infused with values based education’” – and appearing to justify the UNC’s exclusion of sexual orientation from discrimination protections in the Equal Opportunity Act when it was introduced in 1999:

“She recalled that while drafting the Equal Opportunities legislation, several groups had lobbied the UNC administration to include provision for same sex marriages but this was not included in the legislation.

‘We did not include that in our equal opportunity legislation. We must be bound by the laws of Trinidad and Tobago as it stands on these issues and if it is that the law is to be changed then that is not a position of Kamla Persad-Bissessar or Jack Warner or any member of the People’s Partnership, that will have to be a decision of the people…’”

Shastri Boodan, Guardian

We will rise! (You will rise only if we vote for you to)

CAISO feels proud that we’ve succeeded in some small way in making GLBT concerns a legitimate question in this election campaign, especially with the national media, who have raised our issues as policy matters in visible ways with party leaders. There’s no question that we are part of the national community and the electorate. One breathtaking but small symbol of that achievement was Marlene McDonald’s interview with CNews’s Jessie-May Ventour. Responding to Ventour’s question about policy regarding gay and lesbian citizens and repeal of the nation’s discriminatory laws, McDonald began by characterising these as “veeery sensitive issues”. “They’re human rights issues,” Ventour shot back instantly.

We recognised some risk in raising GLBT issues in a high-stakes election: that we might lose, provoke reactionary responses, harden opposition,  suffer setbacks. Time will tell. But we also recognise that our intervention has prodded both parties to take positions, define some measure of difference between them; and that may be better than the protracted waffling that had characterised both sides.

The work will continue as GLBT voters gain greater knowledge and courage to raise our issues directly with the individual candidates who want to represent us, as one brave lesbian voter did with both Keith Rowley (PNM) and Rocky Garcia (COP) earlier this week as they visited her home in the Diego Martin West constituency. Both candidates’ responses demonstrate how much work needs to be done. But they also demonstrate that it is possible to start the conversation.

Do you know where your candidates stand? Have you asked?

As Verna St. Rose-Greaves has reminded us each time we have heard her talk about GLBT issues during this election, there is still much figuring out to do regarding how we best conduct this political discourse – how GLBT communities partner with others in contributing to building a new democracy that is respectful of diversity and sexual citizenship – how we avoid the media’s interest in us becoming a two-edged sword – and how we recognise that this project is a long-term, incremental effort, and not only about Monday’s outcome. That was the powerful lesson in what happened last night when Gayelle’s upstart WE News show engaged Keith Rowley with our voter’s story, and he, sadly, called her a liar. If he wins, Dr. Rowley’s will be one of the first doors CAISO knocks on after May 25th.

Vote your vision this Monday!

15 May, 2010

Candidate for St. Ann’s East: “I don’t want to be popular; but to do what’s right”

Of the almost 100 candidates running to represent the people in Parliament in the May 24th general election, United National Congress (UNC) Senator Verna St. Rose-Greaves, the People’s Partnership candidate for St. Ann’s East, is the only one to date to make positive references to sexual orientation on a campaign platform.

On the People's Partnership Women's Platform in Diamond Vale. PHOTO: SEAN DRAKES/BLUE MANGO

Fielding a question from CAISO at a Congress of the People (COP) forum in March, before the election became a reality, her People’s Partnership colleague and National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) political leader, Makandal Daaga, suggested that he was open to including GLBT people in the vision for national change that led to the formation of the Opposition coalition. But on a political platform on Harris Promenade two months later, in a screeching lament that “every single institution” in the country had failed, Daaga, now COP candidate for Laventille West, listed as his first example of that failure: “Our schools are producing homosexuals”. The People’s National Movement candidate for re-election to her Port of Spain South seat did no better. In two television interviews a day apart, Marlene McDonald, who as Minister of Community Development, Culture & Gender Affairs has managed the contested gender policy for the current government,  squirmed out of any commitments to ensuring full citizenship for gay and lesbian people. But St. Rose-Greaves, UNC-People’s Partnership candidate for St. Ann’s East, is clear where she stands, and unafraid to say so. “I don’t want to be popular, but to do what’s right,” she told CAISO.

On May 4th, CAISO ran into her at Gayelle’s television studios, where she has featured GLBT issues on her show on more than one occasion. We asked her about the People’s Partnership stance on our issues and what would help prompt a positive statement on them from UNC political leader and Partnership Prime Ministerial candidate Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

“Why do you want a campaign promise?” she immediately asked, suggesting that substance and quiet work on our issues might be more strategic than rhetoric. “It tells people they are valuable”, we countered. She was non-committal regarding her party’s leadership. “I’m clear where I stand. I’ll say it”, she declared, got into her trademark yellow car moments later, drove to the Congress of the People rally in West Mall and did just so. On that platform she talked about the election as a “big” one that is about “craft[ing] the kind of country that we want to build”, including a new democracy with a political culture inclusive of sexual orientation. In doing so, she responded to attacks against the viability and integrity of political coalition-building in Trinidad & Tobago across different interests:

“This coalition will work; it can work; and it must work. It depends on every one of us to make it work. This is not about a few people. This is about the country and people who believe in taking this country forward. This coalition or coming together is not just an organization. It is an energy. An energy which cannot be destroyed. It can only change in form. It is us up to you the people to make use of that energy, to build and strengthen and protect this joining of forces across lines of race, gender, sexual orientation, class and religious persuasion. This, my friends, is the beginning of a new order, a new ethic, a new political culture, a new democracy, a dismantling of an oppressive system and an oppressive regime.”

On Friday, in their effort to reach out to various segments of her constituency, her campaign staff contacted CAISO to make sure that the GLBT community knows where she is on our issues. They also drew attention to her record on HIV.

And St. Rose-Greaves herself called this weekend to tell us what she stands for:

Framing at the outset that she did not speak on behalf of the party, she described her own commitment to GLBT issues as grounded in a track record of efforts to preserve people’s rights, and made clear that a rights-based approach cannot be selective as to whose rights it chooses or rejects.

She was quick to admit that she too had more to learn about GLBT issues. So does the nation, she said. “There’s a lot of misunderstanding about gay rights” that requires education, clarifying, she shared. Homosexuality is wrongly associated with pathology – paedophilia, rape, molestation – with gay people seen in the public eye as both its perpetrators and its victims, instead of merely as humans, citizens who are free to choose and express their sexuality. “Open discussion on these matters is needed”, she urged, including with parents. And “one doesn’t need everybody to go along”.

St. Rose-Greaves shared her sense of the “inordinate amount of courage” it takes to come out in Trinidad & Tobago. She made clear that she was prepared to defend people’s right, as citizens, to choose to do so, and to be respected. She added later: The difficulty of coming out has “too many people…getting into marriages, having children, living unhappily…wives…husbands…the entire family is unhappy, cannot function”.

She also took account of the kinds of support gay people need, in particular young people she’s worked with who are struggling with their sexuality, and who have no facility where they can sort this out. In existing programmes for youth on sexual matters, she observed, facilitators talk to boys about girls, and girls about boys, and “never leave space” for anything else.

When asked whether she would support our “6 in 6” platform (six steps CAISO proposes a new government take in its first six months), and about what she would do “if elected”, she countered that there was no need to predicate anything on being elected, because she would continue to do what she always had: “People know that that is my life’s work. I’ve never been silent. I won’t support people who beat up on people.” And “if I should have a say in any of the ministries, I would continue to treat” with issues in the same manner. Pressed as to whether she found CAISO’s  proposals (which include an amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act and steps for four ministries to take) “reasonable”, she said yes. But she asked whether there “are ways of fighting other than to take on the big bacchanal”, suggesting an approach of “encounters”, as opposed to engagements “where we shout at each other”. “A lot of those fights take away from the substance…you have to be very strategic”, she offered, noting that a sound gender policy should resolve a lot of these questions.

The St. Ann’s East constituency stretches from Maracas and Tyrico Bays on the North Coast of Trinidad, down through the Santa Cruz valley, and back up into Maracas Valley-St. Joseph.

17 April, 2010

6 in 6: What CAISO wants a new government to do by Nov. 25, 2010

6 in 6
Six Suggested Policy and Leadership Steps
on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
for a New Trinidad & Tobago Government
to take in its First Half-Year in Office

CAISO is sharing this platform, and seeking meetings, with all of the parties likely to be part of the new Parliament after the May 24th election. We are also asking them to commit to voting to add sexual orientation to the Equal Opportunity Act, whether they form the majority in Parliament or not. This is a living document that we are continuing to revise in response to your feedback. Help build and amend the platform. Are these your top six issues? What would you add/change? If you are Lesbian, bi or Trans, what’s your top “to-do” for a new Government? Post a comment or email us at caisott@gmail.com.

PRINCIPAL STEPS

1. LEADERSHIP. The Prime Minister and the Attorney General should speak out forcefully early in the life of the new Government to embrace the full citizenship and humanity of Trinbagonians who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT). Send a clear message to the GLBT community that they enjoy the full protection of the Government and that they deserve and have equal access to Government services and support, according to their needs. Also send a strong leadership message to public servants, unions, corporations and individuals that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in Trinidad & Tobago is inhumane and wrong:

  • that the Constitution protects persons against discrimination by the State, and
  • that discrimination and stigma of any kind on the part of State entities and their employees is an offence that Government takes seriously and will respond to with prompt action, including corrective and disciplinary measures.

Throughout its term, the Government may further evidence its leadership on these issues through visible consultation with accountable representatives of the GLBT community; and the hire of qualified persons knowledgeable about GLBT community interests to policy roles in the Office of the Prime Minister and other relevant Government units.

Kee-Chanona Ltd.

2. EQUAL OPPORTUNITY. As a key and principal initiative to effect the protection of GLBT persons from discrimination and violence (consistent with the State’s existing commitments under Organization of American States General Assembly Resolutions 2504 of 2009 and 2435 of 2008 on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity), the Attorney General must take prompt steps to draft legislation in consultation with affected communities, and to introduce and shepherd its passage in the Parliament. Such legislation should at minimum reflect the addition of protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender/gender identity to §3 of the existing Equal Opportunity Act.

Throughout its term, the Government may work further to build a strong culture of recognition and protection of minority rights, including sexual rights (as outlined in Sexual Rights: an IPPF Declaration and through the Yogyakarta Principles) by strengthening the machinery and funding for the Equal Opportunity Commission. In the immediate wake of the election, the Government may also move promptly to signal its strong commitment to anti- discrimination through the simultaneous addition of several protected statuses to the EOA, including political affiliation, sexual orientation and gender/gender identity.

ADDITIONAL STEPS

(one each for four key Ministries)

T&T Police Service

3. CRIME. The Ministry of National Security and the Commissioners of Police and Prisons may take leadership action and institute training across the protective services to ensure that officers understand sexual orientation and gender identity, and respect and protect the right to equal access to justice, safety and security of person for GLBT people. The Police Service must provide a level of stigma-free responsiveness to GLBT people that is equal to the quality of protection provided to the general public, especially in the case of victims of bias-related or opportunistic crime that is related to their sexuality or identity.

Reparative measures, including marketing efforts and designation of community officers, may be taken to counter GLBT fears of similar prejudice at the hands of the police as they encounter from attackers. Throughout the Government’s term, the Ministry may work: to more diligently investigate and prosecute well-known patterns of syndicated crime targeting gay men; to ensure murderers of GLBT people receive justice, especially in cases where an unwelcome sexual advance is used as a defence; and to ensure that comprehensive prison reform measures provide strong protections from sexual abuse.

tkon04, panoramio.com

4. HOMELESSNESS. The Ministry of Social Development may pilot a small initiative to provide a bridge to self-sufficiency and a meaningful alternative to sex work for a uniquely vulnerable population – young persons (some minors, some adults) made homeless and unemployed by stigma and discrimination related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. These young people have critical housing, health, emotional, training and developmental needs; and a troubling number of them have been victims of sexual and physical abuse in their families and in group homes.

Such efforts may be implemented in partnership with the Ministries of Planning, Housing & the Environment and Science, Technology & Tertiary Education. Throughout the Government’s term, the Ministry may also: take measures to mainstream competence in understanding and responding to the needs of GLBT persons into its hiring criteria, training initiatives, performance assessment, management portfolio, and policy initiatives; undertake a review, leading to recommendations, of the best way to deliver effective services to GLBT persons, including GLBT persons living with HIV; and include in broad-based efforts to strengthen protections of children from abuse specific measures aimed at ending the culture of sexual abuse of boys at children’s homes.

5. GENDER POLICY. The Ministry of Community Development, Culture & Gender Affairs should establish and staff a Sexual Orientation/‌Gender Identity (SOGI) Desk, aimed at building Government capacity to develop sound policy and programming on SOGI issues by:

  • soliciting and accepting offers of technical assistance from other governments and intergovernmental bodies, (e.g. Brazil’s Federal Special Secretariat for Human Rights, CENESEX: Cuba’s Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual, the Sexual Diversity Practice at the United Nations Development Programme)
  • mainstreaming sensitivity and competence on SOGI issues into gender awareness and training initiatives across the Government
  • providing support to local tertiary institutions, other accomplished researchers and community gatekeepers to conduct demographic, policy and programme research on local GLBT issues
  • facilitating public debate on the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms of all persons, irrespective of sexual preference or orientation
  • including violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in the Ministry’s gender-based violence measures and initiatives; and mitigation of homophobia in the Ministry’s Defining Masculine Excellence programme.

All the above measures should be included in the final version of the National Policy on Gender and Development, including designation of GLBT persons as a Special Interest Group.

6. SAFE SCHOOLSThe Ministry of Education’s Student Support Services Division should partner with the Trinidad & Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association to develop the competence of all teachers and school administrators in the areas of youth sexual development, sexual orientation and gender identity. The Division needs to develop and implement effective interventions that pay specific attention to SOGI issues and recognise homophobia’s contribution to male underperformance. Such interventions should promote a culture of tolerance and diversity among students into adult citizenship, and foster school environments in which bullying based on gender expression and perceived sexual orientation cease.

Throughout the Government’s term, the Division may support school personnel in strengthening skills at effectively managing faith beliefs in a professional environment whose core ethical values are non-discrimination and student-centred development.

VOTE on
MAY 24

The Ministry of Social Development may pilot a small initiative to provide a bridge to self-sufficiency and a meaningful alternative to sex work for a uniquely vulnerable population – young persons (some minors, some adults) made homeless and unemployed by stigma and discrimination related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. These young people have critical housing, health, emotional, training and developmental needs; and a troubling number of them have been victims of sexual and physical abuse in their families and in group homes.Such efforts may be implemented in partnership with the Ministries of Planning, Housing & the Environment and Science, Technology & Tertiary Education. Throughout the Government’s term, the Ministry may also: take measures to mainstream competence in understanding and responding to the needs of GLBT persons into its hiring criteria, training initiatives, performance assessment, management portfolio, and policy initiatives; undertake a review, leading to recommendations, of the best way to deliver effective services to GLBT persons, including GLBT persons living with HIV; and include in broad-based efforts to strengthen protections of children from abuse specific measures aimed at ending the culture of sexual abuse of boys at children’s homes.

23 March, 2010

Sexual rights: protection of sexuality as something good, natural, precious, essential – at the core of human expression…human freedom…human community

“Too often denied and too long neglected, sexual rights deserve our attention and priority. It is time to respect them. It is time to demand them.” – Jacqueline Sharpe, IPPF President

Nine-month-old CAISO was invited by our partner, the 53-year-old Family Planning Association of Trinidad & Tobago (FPATT), to be part of the first Caribbean region launch of Sexual Rights: An IPPF Declaration, a powerful new international human rights document developed by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, under the leadership of FPATT’s President Dr. Jacqueline Sharpe.
UNIFEM, UNFPA and IPPF representatives joined CAISO as speakers at the March 22 forum at the Hyatt, and distinguished guests included former First Lady Zalayhar Hassanali, Minister of Social Development Dr. Amery Browne, Opposition Senator Verna St. Rose-Greaves, University of the West Indies-St. Augustine School for Graduate Studies & Research Campus Coordinator Prof. Patricia Mohammed, and several of CAISO’s NGO and government partners, including ASPIRE, CCNAPC, Friends for Life and PANCAP.
It was a wonderful experience of coalition and celebration around the forward-thinking and thoughtfully crafted vision of sexual rights that the Declaration advances. It is a bold and thorough tool that employs human rights to advance sexual autonomy, dignity and pleasure free from discrimination, and to strengthen protections from sexual violation and vulnerability. The 32-page page document is available for download in English and 2o other languages, as are an abridged version and a pocket guide in English. It articulates seven broad principles of sexual rights: sexuality as an integral part of personhood; the balance between the guarantee of protection of the rights of children and their “evolving capacity” to exercise rights on their own behalf; the core role of non-discrimination in human rights; the separability of pleasure from reproduction; the critical role of protection from harm; the relationship of individual rights to the rights of others, and limits on their limitation; and the State’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfill sexual rights and freedoms. And it enumerates ten core clusters of sexual rights: equality and equal protection; participation; life, liberty, security and bodily integrity; privacy; autonomy; health; education; choice regarding marriage and reproduction; redress; and a tenth, which CAISO organizer Colin Robinson was asked to reflect on:

Respecting the Right to Freedom of Thought, Opinion and Expression of One’s Sexuality.

https://vimeo.com/41121522 w=727&h=409

These images have repeatedly landed in my e-mail inbox over the past two years, persistently labelled “Gay beating in Laventille”. The tone of the multiple senders who have received them before me (you know those e-mail forwards go…) is usually one of alarm. But occasionally I detect a hint of satisfaction or righteousness.

The images are of a real incident that happened on April 27, 2007. But not in Laventille. In Falmouth, a town a few miles from Usain Bolt’s birthplace in Trelawny, Jamaica. And you breathe a sigh of relief: Oh, Jamaica!

I am honoured that CAISO and I have been asked to join with all of you today in celebrating this wonderful international document, developed under Trinidad & Tobago and Dr. Jacqui Sharpe’s leadership of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation, a document which affirms our shared values and beliefs about humanity and sexuality.

I am proud to live in Trinidad and Tobago, and to be part of this wonderful legacy: Of a 53-year-old Family Planning and sexual health movement. Of a feminist movement that has demonstrated leadership on gender and sexuality issues not just for women but for men and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

I am proud that none of our teenagers were detained last year and put to death by the state after having had homosexual sex, as has happened in Iran. Although, how many teenagers in Cocorite or Ste. Madeleine, D’Abadie or Rockley Vale are isolated, bullied and beat up and taunted every day at school? Or robbed as they make their way home through their neighbourhoods? Because they are seen as gay, regardless to what their actual sexual orientation or experience may be. How many of them have tried to kill themselves? This is what we fight against when we fight together for sexual rights.

I am proud that no one I know of is in hiding from the Islamic police, like one woman in oil-rich Nigeria, threatened with being hauled before a sharia court for lesbianism, and sentenced to stoning. But I can turn on Isaac and other radio stations any day and hear calls from fundamentalist faith leaders for the state to inflict such Biblical and Koranic punishments on people who have sex in private. This is what we fight against when we fight together for sexual rights.

I am proud that we have a forward-thinking Chief Justice willing to stand up to the executive, and who leads a largely independent judiciary – the very conditions in India that led last year to the overturn (in a case defended by their Government) of the use of Section 377, a colonial-era law that criminalises “unnatural sex”. One much like our own buggery law, which can send a man to jail for 25 years for having consensual anal sex, not onlywith a man, but also with a woman – in their own home. This is what our fight is about when we fight together for sexual rights.

I am proud that police will not sweep down on the Avenue tonight, as they have in Commonwealth member Cameroon, arrest the patrons of one of our not-at-all-secret gay clubs, ordering them to be anally examined for evidence of homosexual sex. Or will they, if we do not stand together and fight for sexual rights?


I was born one of Her Majesty’s subjects in the province of Trinidad and Tobago at the sunset of that brief and bright imaginary vision of association that was the West Indian Federation. Our nation of Trinidad and Tobago, now heading like me for 50, was forged in the fires of overcoming several forms of domination and repression: Colonialism, that says your land and decisionmaking do not belong to you. Imperialism, that says your resources do not belong to you and you do not think for yourself. Indentureship, that says your labour does not belong to you. And slavery, that says your body does not belong to you. And, as we know well from the history of miscegenation during slavery, when your body does not belong to you, neither do your sexuality nor your reproduction – they belong to the master.

Now that “massa day done”, we cannot replace massa with husbands; or political leaders; or the state; or laws and policies that say: yes you are free, but we will still tell you what you may do with your free body, with your sexuality, with your reproduction. That we decide from which forms of mental slavery you will emancipate yourselves, as Alissa Trotz wrote recently in Guyana’s Stabroek News, commenting on a constitutional suit by four brave Transgender citizens against a law against cross-dressing.

What is the point of a free body if it is not ours to enjoy and to share? of a free mind if we are not free to engage in fantasy and desire? of the lack of bondage if we are not free to come together in ways limited only by imagination, technology, the exercise of choice, and the rights of others. And, of course, by our age and maturity.

(more…)

5 March, 2010

Government must set policy for its GLBT citizens’ needs: CAISO comments on the Gender Policy


It was Cabinet’s announcement on June 25th of last year that Trinidad & Tobago’s Gender Policy would exclude “issues related to…same-sex unions, homosexuality or sexual orientation” that led to CAISO’s formation two days later.

The Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs solicited public comment on the Government’s draft of the National Policy on Gender and Development, which was released to the public in September; and responses were due last Sunday, February 28. Over the past six months, CAISO took a detailed look at the draft, participated in forums and discussions on the Policy, and reviewed comparisons between it and the document widely circulated in 2004 that is now described as the University of the West Indies-St. Augustine Institute for Gender and Development Studies consultants’ report.

Speaking as “a voice for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) Trinidadians and Tobagonians”, we submitted a 1,400-word commentary on the new document last week. Friends for Life also submitted comments.

CAISO’s key message is that our Government cannot shirk its responsibility to set clear domestic policy to address the concerns of the tens of thousands of GLBTI citizens of Trinidad & Tobago.

We said our Gender Policy cannot exclude sexual orientation:

Rather than offering a laundry list of things to fix or add in the Policy, or listing scores of places where our issues were omitted, we made just five very feasible proposals for changes to the document that Government could take as a first step to setting national policy on sexual orientation and gender identity issues:

  1. Reinsert the two (and there were only two) policy measures on sexual orientation contained in the 2004 document:
    • §1.14 Restore the following 33 innocent words that were expunged: “In keeping with its international legal obligations, the state should facilitate public debate on the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms of all persons, irrespective of sexual preference or orientation”
    • §1.7 Extend marital rape and domestic violence protections in the Sexual Offences Act to all couples, regardless to gender or sexual orientation – something Barbados has already moved to do
  2. §1.10 In programmes aimed at fostering healthier masculine roles, address the ways homophobia limits the opportunities and harms the health of all men and boys – Caribbean Studies Association President Prof. Linden Lewis discussed this cogently in delivering the Ministry’s distinguished lecture in January
  3. §1.7 Include violence based on perceived sexual orientation or whether someone is “acting how a man/woman ‘should’” in gender-based violence initiatives and policy
  4. §1.11 Name the GLBTI community as a special interest population, as the Policy does for youth, the elderly, and disabled people
  5. §1.12 Build government’s capacity to deal with these issues of sexual orientation and gender identity and to make the nation ready to do so
    • hire staff with relevant expertise
    • get technical assistance from international agencies and other governments (e.g. Cuba, Brazil)
    • support local research on these issues
    • train everyone.

We offered again to sit down with the Ministry, and hope we will meet with the Minister herself and with other Cabinet-level decisionmakers to discuss how we work in partnership on these issues.

23 February, 2010

Guyanese transpeople file a landmark constitutional motion to overturn a law against crossdressing: Caribbean GLBT law reform work begins

Okay. The secret’s out. There’s going to be sexual orientation law reform in Trinidad & Tobago. We don’t know what, when or how, but the work here began last year. And it’s not just here. Across the Caribbean region, GLBT people have been working to write ourselves into our nations as full citizens. In different ways, with different strategies, at different paces. And soon you’ll be a part of it.
Our friends in Guyana took a tremendous step in this direction last week when four MtF transgenders (who had been rounded up, arrested, stripped, mistreated in detention, fined for crossdressing and lectured by the Chief Magistrate from the bench to give their lives to Jesus) in Rosa Parks fashion filed a historic constitutional motion for redress and to overturn a colonial-era law that makes it illegal if someone “being a man, in any public way or public place, for any improper purpose, appears in female attire, or being a woman, in any public way or public place, for any improper purpose, appears in male attire”.
CAISO released the following statement applauding their landmark case today. In it we also indicate that we’re ready to follow in their steps, but would prefer to partner with Government to bring our country to “developed nation status” with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. And we try to move the hard work forward of helping others grasp this question of gender identity that is at the centre of the case.

T&T ACTIVISTS SAY GUYANA CROSSDRESSING LAWSUIT IS A SIGN OF POSITIVE CHANGES TO COME

In what Trinidad & Tobago activists say is just the first step in a regionwide effort to eliminate remaining colonial-era laws that criminalise same-sex intimacy and gender expression, transgender Guyanese citizens and human rights lawyers across the region collaborated last Friday to file a constitutional challenge to a law criminalising ‘crossdressing’ in that country’s high court. The motion was filed February 19, with the support of Guyana NGO Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination and lawyers in Guyana, St. Lucia and at the University of the West Indies Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) on the Cave Hill, Barbados campus.

Peaches (née Joseph Fraser), one of the litigants in the case, introduces herself at the first Caribbean regional transgender human rights and health conference, held in Curaçao in September 2009

The litigants were four MtF transgender Guyanese who were rounded up in a crackdown, stripped, denied medical attention, detained over a weekend, and fined $7,500 under §153(1)(xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, Chapter 8.02. Appearing unrepresented before Guyanese Chief Magistrate Melissa Robertson in February of 2009, they were ridiculed by her from the bench, lectured that they were men, not women, admonished that they were confused, and instructed to go to church and give their lives to Jesus Christ. The 2009 cases generated considerable publicity, and there were many domestic and international appeals to the Guyanese Government to remove the law. After these went unheeded, the constitutional motion was filed Friday. In addition to raising due process issues, the complaint says the law is irrational, discriminatory, undemocratic, contrary to the rule of law and infringes the constitutional rights to freedom of expression, equality before the law and protection from discrimination.

Organisers at CAISO (Trinidad & Tobago’s Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation), who since their founding seven months ago have collaborated closely with other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) advocates across the region, applauded the Guyanese move. “The way I dress is a fundamental part of who I am, my way of life,” said Beverly Alvarez, who participated along with one of the Guyanese litigants in the first Caribbean regional transgender human rights and health conference in September of last year. “This case that Peaches and others in Guyana have filed goes to the heart of freedom of expression, our freedom to express our gender identity.”

Ashily Dior, another transgender activist with the group added, “It’s a well recognised medical fact that, for transpeople like me, who I am just doesn’t fit with the sex of the body I was born into. This is not a vice. Some of us are lucky to afford hormones and surgery; but many of us just can’t.” Dior recently represented Trinidad & Tobago at a regional meeting of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, where she was elected an alternate delegate for the Caribbean; and she is hoping to find work educating the public about gender identity issues. “At any rate,” she continued, “who is harmed when transgenders dress up? We are simply expressing our gender in non-traditional ways.”

Trinidad & Tobago transpeople have been on the map internationally since 1998. In a landmark case that year, after police officer Eric George arrested and attempted to strip search a 27-year-old transgender woman in San Fernando when she shoved a photographer harassing her, Lynette Maharaj, wife of the then Attorney-General, both clients of her business, represented her in a successful lawsuit.

"It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life," said Falatama, one of the litigants. "I felt like I was less than human." She joined three other Guyanese transpeople, like those pictured here, in suing the State.

“Trinidad and Tobago may not be next in line for GLBT law reform, but we’re definitely in the queue,” said University of the West Indies (UWI) law graduate Kareem Griffith, another member of CAISO, reflecting on the case. Griffith played a key role in an international meeting held during the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting last year where representatives of 12 countries planned strategy for sexual orientation and gender identity legal reform efforts. In a session of that meeting held at UWI’s Institute of International Relations and featured on the evening news, Tracy Robinson, one of the U-RAP lawyers in the Guyanese case spoke about the strong prospects for a challenge to Trinidad & Tobago’s buggery laws. One of the lawyers in the recent case that overturned India’s criminalisation of same-sex intimacy also participated in the meeting.

“We’d rather work with the Government and Opposition to create thoughtful policy and amend the old laws, than use the courts,” Griffith emphasised. “We’ve begun this process with an overture to the Gender Minister to work with us, and we’re following up on that this week. But I’m afraid our politicians may be cowards on these issues. Questions of sexual orientation and gender expression must be dealt with in a mature and forward-thinking way if Trinidad & Tobago intends to achieve its 2020 vision and status as a developed and inclusive nation. It is our politicians who will determine if the road to these changes is a litigious one or a collaborative one.”

CAISO was launched last June in response to Government’s move to exclude sexual orientation from the draft Gender Policy, a move the group said reflected a “1919 vision”.

Media coverage:  Reuters (kudos for amending the language from the initial release!)New York TimesStabroek News, GuyanaKaieteur News, GuyanaWMJX Radio 100.5 FM, Trinidad & TobagoPress AssociationThe AdvocateAssociated PressSydney Morning HeraldExpress, Trinidad & TobagoBBC Caribbean NewsAlissa Trotz, The Diaspora Column

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