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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!

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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.

11 January, 2010

Linden Lewis focuses Gender Ministry’s distinguished lecture on homophobia

To judge by the energy in the packed ballroom at the Crowne Plaza on Wrightson Rd. tonight, 2010 is off to a promising start. Even before the programme started, the room was filled close to capacity…with men – most of them African, many of them very young. The lobby was full, too, with a crowd browsing the agency tables with materials on men’s health and wellness. (Hmmm: they didn’t invite us to table…)

The fifth? “distinguished lecture” by the Trinidad & Tobago government’s gender ministry focused on masculinity and violence. The grey-bearded 56-year-old Guyanese university professor began his talk, “Abandoning Old Shibboleths of Masculinity in the Struggle against Violence”, by explaining the funny word in the title. He cited the Old Testament’s Judges 12: 5-6, where the term originates, then hauntingly brought the story of the lisp that kills home to Hispaniola in the Caribbean and the 20th-century Parsley Massacre – both cautionary tales of how social groups try to police who does and doesn’t “belong” with violence and with snap judgements about people’s behaviour that don’t always get it right.

Then sociologist Linden Lewis, president of the Caribbean Studies Association, former UWI instructor, international consultant, and current chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Bucknell University in the US, addressed another “concept” in his title: violence. He wanted to highlight three aspects of violence – structural violence; symbolic violence; and denial of rights – though he wasn’t saying that these three things were more important than what we normally think about as violence, issues like domestic violence, kidnapping, rape; but they were aspects of violence that don’t usually get talked about. They could offer us different conceptual lenses on violence than the ones we are accustomed to.

He started off reminding us that the explosive Small Arms Survey report was published by an independent research institute in Switzerland and of its statistic that East Port of Spain is more deadly than Baghdad. He recapped the per capita murder rates in Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica. He cited that the Caribbean has three of the top ten rape rates in the world. He noted that prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Trinidad & Tobago – exceeding breast cancer.

Then dry, dry so, according to UWI gender scholar and activist Gabrielle Hosein, the man start talking about homophobia. And talking about homophobia. And talking about homophobia.

That the incidence of prostate cancer is linked to the fact that Caribbean men refuse to undergo rectal exams because they associate a doctor’s finger in their ass with bulling. The story of the 80-year-old blind man who would rather pee on the floor every time than sit down to do so – because if men stoop, the whole ideological infrastructure falls down. Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, a Puerto Rican 19-year-old from Cayey stabbed, decapitated, dismembered and burned by a man who took him home without realizing he was a man. So you get vex; but then you cut off his head and his limbs and you set him on fire… Then he lingered on Jamaica: MP Ernest Smith’s Parliamentary rantings about gays organizing, carrying licensed firearms and serving in the police; PM Bruce Golding’s “Not in my Cabinet” statement on BBC television; still images of the April 2007 mob beating of a Trans person in Falmouth, Trelawny. And then he just let the entire cellphone video of the same noisy attack that had horrified folks around the world play, pointing out at the end how many of the assailants were women, who responded equally to the young victim’s trangression of masculinity with violence.

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22 September, 2009

Lord, hear our prayer

In what some participants described in eager anticipation with terms like “This is our Stonewall” and “Today I’m proud to be Trinidadian”, last Friday evening about 50 Trans, lesbian, gay, bi and straight Trinbagonians, mostly laypeople but a few clergy from other denominations, were welcomed by one of the most senior officials of the Anglican church and one of its youngest woman priests into a church in Curepe. The two priests celebrated a mass targeted to GLBT people and their loved ones on the theme of peace, human rights and inclusion. It was a simple service. Its biggest stroke was the lip-synched performance of the offertory hymn. The sermon challenged GLBT people to not see our struggle as so unique, to hold on to and learn from similar struggles of Biblical characters like Esther, Joseph, Mary and Jesus, and to recognize that inclusion requires hard work and not just telling a victim story and expecting to get a bligh.

service 2

Following on a July conversation between clergy and GLBT laypeople about Biblical interpretation, faith community and reconciliation with the Church, it is one of the ways in which GLBT Trinbagonians are claiming our right to faith and partnering with those willing to practise a theology of inclusion to create safe spaces for us to worship and heal from the spiritual violence organized religion has inflicted on our lives. No demonstrations in Tamarind Square, no full-page paid ads in the Express, no foreign evangelists or donations, no grand statements by faith leaders, no letters to the editor to Pastor Cuffie. Just a small action step that proves that our nation is capable of “dealing” with sexual orientation, and that people of faith of all sexualities can work together to build faith communities of inclusion.

Here are the prayers that GLBT community members offered at the service:

As members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered community and as children of God, we bow not only our heads but our hearts in prayer.

We pray that we will know that there is a place for each one of us in you. That you provide not only strength, hope and comfort but there is peace, security and safety in your loving arms. We pray that in our times of danger, in times when we feel that there is no one else there, that we will know that your love is non-judgemental, and in your eyes we are all your creation.

We especially pray for those among us who choose to cross-dress and be on the streets at night until the wee hours of the morning. We pray that you will keep them safe and in their times of terror that they will feel your strength.

We pray for those who have been cast out of their homes, those who have been victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. We pray that you keep them safe in a world that can be cruel, brutal and exploit their vulnerablities.

Above all, we pray that you rekindle a spirit of community within all of us, so that we can be our brother’s keepers.

In your name we pray. Amen

crop

Click to link to Cedriann Martin's TnT Times story

O Powerful, Wondrous and Loving God, who has overseen humans’ creation of law and order, hear our prayers.

Creator of all nations and all times, who manifests in so many different forms in this multicultural and multireligious land of ours, we call on you in our Christian traditions to fill the hearts and acts of all those who hold political, judicial and law enforcement power in Trinidad & Tobago with the compassion and simplicity of our New Covenant. May they govern with the sense Jesus Christ laid out two thousand years ago, long before our young nation was born, that the core of justice is not the retribution of the Old Testament but the redemption and reconciliation of the New.

In the spirit of Christ’s words, similarly recounted in the Gospel by his disciple Matthew – “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” – keep our leaders firmly on a path that separates their administration of secular justice from the judgments that are only yours, o God, to make.

O Jesus, who called out hypocrites and ran usurers from your father’s temple, drive religious bigots and panderers and those who use your name falsely out of our courts and legislatures, ministries of government and state corporations.

We pray especially at this time for those officeholders whose work and vision touch our lives deeply: For Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Chief Secretary Orville London, Leader of the Opposition Basdeo Panday and Minority Leader Ashworth Jack. For Independent Senators Ali, Anisette, Baptiste-McKnight, Deosoran, Drayton, Merhair, Nicholson-Alfred, Ramkhelawan and Seetahal. For Minister of Social Development Amery Browne, Attorney General John Jeremie, Minister of National Security Martin Joseph, Minister of Gender Affairs Marlene McDonald and for Acting Chief of Police James Philbert and his force. For Ellis Clarke and others drafting our new constitution, for Chief Justice Ivor Archie and all judges and magistrates, especially newly appointed Appeals Court Justices Humphrey Stollmeyer, Gregory Smith and Rajendra Narine, and for high court judges Shafeyei Shah and Judith Jones. For the members of the Equal Opportunity Commission who will one day hear our complaints. We pray fervently for those who work to create safety for people of all genders and sexualities in this bloody country – that you will continue to bless them with integrity.

We pray for the bravery and effectiveness of the United Nations, the Organization of American States, members of all charter and treaty bodies, special rapporteurs, lawyers, advocates and all those who defend human rights and address conflict internationally, especially in places where we are persecuted in yours and other Gods’ names. We pray for safety and relief for those of us who seek asylum, and your grace and protection for those of us who are able to stand and fight.

In profound recognition that Jesus took on our humanity and of the lessons that this continues to teach us, we pray to more perfectly reflect your vision for the divinity of humankind in our own mortal commitment to ensure that no human whom God has created is alienated from the rights with which that humanity is automatically endowed.

Finally, with faith that nothing can keep us from the love of God, we pray sincerely for those who have in good faith enacted laws and rendered judgments that have violated our rights. We pray for former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, retired Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma, and for Justice Smith. We pray for the deceased colonial administrators who enacted our buggery laws, and for the members of the 1986 Parliament that enacted the gross indecency law. We pray that those among them who have entered into your kingdom and been enlightened by your grace may intercede with those still living to change their understanding of God’s wondrous purpose for sexuality and sexual diversity, so that the living may one day add their voices to our work to change policy and legislation, hearts and minds and to ensure the freedom and equality of gay, lesbian, bi and trans communities here on earth, as it is in heaven.

And we ask you to bless and keep us in that difficult work, until you welcome us into your kingdom, where we and all those who oppose our right to God’s love shall be equal in your sight, and all redeemed.

Lord, hear our prayer!

Prtz@EcuService(2)

Most Precious and Sanctifying Lord, we come before you this evening with humble hearts, seeking strength, wisdom and guidance.

For our community, that we may be open to accept ourselves for who we are. For our family and friends, that they would embrace us.

For society, that they would tolerate us and for the groups that make up our community; which seek to implement these, that you would continue to grant wisdom and courage.

Open their minds to new ideas, bless their hearts to positively contribute to our community and in turn to society as we appeal for peace, human rights and inclusion.

Continue walking with us Lord as seek to become closer to you. For in these times, whom can we turn to?

All this I ask, in no other name, but in the Most Precious Name of Jesus Christ, who is Lord forever and ever.

Lord, hear us!

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4 September, 2009

Finally: the Gender Policy gets laid

The Gender Policy green paper was laid in Parliament today. Copies were not available for non-MPs, but Minister of Community Development, Culture & Gender Affairs Marlene McDonald solicited public comment and indicated that the paper would be available to the public through her Ministry and the government’s online portal, ttconnect.

mace

As soon as gspottt is able to complete our analysis of the paper, we’ll be sure to share it with you here.

Sept. 5. Newsday reports today on the green paper, noting that the document will also be published in the papers.

Sept. 14. Copies of the green paper are available from the Library at the Ministry’s Jerningham Ave. main office. They’ll look at you suspiciously, ask you why you want it and ask you for your name, contact and organization.

PDF files of the main policy document and three other June 2007 documents describing its formulation, an action plan and a situational analysis are now available for download from a specially created Ministry website. The main document remains available through ttconnect.

24 August, 2009

Where’s the Gender Policy? And the really scary stuff on homosexuality?

Where’s the Gender Policy?

Wasn’t it two months ago today that Min. Marlene McDonald announced Government’s acceptance of a Draft National Gender Policy and Action Plan “not dealing with any issues related to…same-sex unions, homosexuality or sexual orientation”?

The Gender Policy was announced on June 24, in time for Trinidad & Tobago’s hosting of ECLAC’s 43rd Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean (a backward sense of priorities that gspottt took note of in an earlier post)—but on July 17, three weeks later, Government missed its own schedule for laying the mystery policy in Parliament, which now stands adjourned till next week. When gspottt requested a copy of the document, we were told it would be released to citizens or stakeholder groups only after it’s laid in Parliament.

So when does the public get to see what’s actually in this much-debated Policy? It’s been five years since a draft with 218 recommendations (developed in an extensive consultation process from 2002 to 2004 that involved several community meetings and scholars at UWI’s gender and development studies unit) was circulated widely for stakeholder input. The Government claims to have spent the past five years having the 2004 document undergo “tweaking” by a Technical Review Committee and “further review and editing” by the Gender Affairs Division. But National Network of NGOs coordinator Hazel Brown says Government “is playing hide and seek with their sanitised version” of the Policy, which “cannot…be hidden from the public view any more. No one knows what was removed or added in…secret. We want to see it. Why are they hiding it?” The Network has called for a user friendly version of the Draft Policy to be published in the papers.

We can’t tell you what’s in the new, “not dealing with” version of the Policy, but we can offer gspottt readers a special preview of all the really scary stuff on homosexuality that’s caused the Policy to turn into such a national mess in the first place.

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When the Policy was first released in draft form for public comment in 2004, anti-abortion Christian groups Lawyers for Jesus and Emmanuel Community and the Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ), raised a vociferous alarm. One of their key concerns was that the Policy would ease access to abortion as a reproductive choice for pregnant women. Same-sex marriage, something that was mentioned nowhere in the policy, mysteriously became a second lightning rod. Using tactics borrowed from the US Christian Right, the Policy was cast broadly as promoting “new standards that have been set by international bodies insensitive to, and at odds with our varied local cultures, and religious and moral beliefs”, which it was “glaringly evident” would compromise our laws, “Catholic News” wrote.

But what was the language about homosexuality in that 2004 draft that was so frightening or revolutionary as to provoke such sustained controversy? Where are the recommendations with which the document was supposed to be “littered…, many of which are driven by an international agenda, which are not in keeping with the religious doctrine of many of our people in TT”?

They were totally made up! The following five passages are the only ones that CCSJ, by its own admission, has been representing as “an underlying theme running through the draft policy that TT society should legitimise same sex unions/relationships between persons with alternative sexualities”.

Click and read the actual language for yourself! (more…)

29 June, 2009

Lyrics to make a politician cringe

GROUPS LABEL GAYS’ EXCLUSION FROM NATIONAL GENDER POLICY “1919” THINKING: LAUNCH NEW COALITION WITH 20/20 VISION OF CITIZENSHIP & SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Gender Minister Marlene McDonald’s comments about government policy and sexual orientation last week, and their timing days before the local GLBT community begins its fifteenth annual celebration of Gay Pride, have motivated gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens of Trinidad & Tobago and their organizations to come together to form a new advocacy coalition. The Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO) aims to educate public decisionmakers about modern understandings of sexual orientation and gender identity, and to help the public embrace the full humanity of Trinidad & Tobago citizens of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. At last Thursday’s press briefing following the acceptance of the new National Gender Policy and Action Plan by Cabinet, Min. McDonald told the media: “We are not dealing with any issues related to…same-sex unions, homosexuality or sexual orientation.”

“The Minister’s statement was, sadly, sadly 1919,” said David DK Soomarie. “Saying you ‘are not dealing’ with your own citizens is the kind of power-drunk thinking that we expect from unaccountable governments in places like Iran and Zimbabwe, not here in Trinidad & Tobago. Our vision is to build Trinidad & Tobago into a developed nation in its treatment of sexual orientation and gender identity. GLBT people are fully human, fully citizens. We’re taxpayers. And our country will never achieve developed nation status when our Government leaders can stand up boldly and declare that they intend to leave out and treat as second-class whole groups of citizens.” Soomarie is a leader of 4Change, one of the coalition’s member groups that is named after section 4 (Recognition and Declaration of Rights and Freedoms) of the Trinidad & Tobago Constitution. 4Change formed in 2007 inspired by the successful lawsuit by maxi driver Kennty Mitchell after his humiliation by police officers for being gay.

                                      a "1919" vision of sexual orientation:                                      backwards, out of touch with reality, elitist

Gender Minister Marlene Mc Donald: a "1919" vision of sexual orientation—backwards, out of touch with reality, elitist

CAISO’s plans include: a website, monthly meetings, fundraising at home and abroad, educational activities with public and religious officials, and collaboration with local and international research, advocacy and human rights groups. The group also pledged to support efforts to provide affirming opportunities for GLBT people to practise their faiths.

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