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

7 September, 2010

Have you been discriminated against…

Have you been discriminated against
because of your sexual orientation or gender expression

when you went to the doctor? by your employer or coworkers? by the police? in your school? by a landlord? in some other way?

Have you felt afraid or unsafe

on the streets? in your neighbourhood? in your home?

Have you been physically threatened, or attacked?

Have you been taunted or harassed?

These are violations of your human rights!

CAISO is travelling to Washington DC
to report on violations of gay/lesbian/bi/trans people’s human rights in Trinidad and Tobago
at a special hearing before the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights

We need to know your stories
Stop by this Saturday, have lunch, learn more about the InterAmerican human rights system, and have our volunteer human rights professionals document your story confidentially

Saturday 11th September
12:00 noon to 5:00pm

4 O’Connor Street, Woodbrook
street beside the Stadium
(blue two-storey building opposite Woodbrook Youth Facility
upstairs of the doctor’s office)

Lunch served

Call ahead: 758-7676


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!

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!

scan0001

1 August, 2009

Emancipation time?

Will GLBTs be heard at CHOGM?

Will GLBTs be heard at CHOGM?

On human rights for gays, T&T makes great promises abroad and breaks them at home. Will November’s Summit help bring gay rights home?

by Colin Robinson

We all remember the recent crackdown on citizens’ free speech and assembly in order to make the country safe for visiting foreign leaders during April’s OAS summit. And Prime Minister Manning in a rare appearance in the Senate in July said that the upcoming Commonwealth Summit would prevent the country from holding local government elections before November.

Are our leaders more focused on pappyshowing for an international audience than doing the right thing by us here at home? On the question of sexual orientation and human rights, that certainly seems to be the case.

In one of the steps that facilitated CAISO’s formation last month, at the end of 2007 Trinidad & Tobago became part of a hemispheric coalition of  NGOs working through the InterAmerican/OAS human rights system to strengthen the enjoyment of human rights and equality by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual and Tranvestite and Intersex (LGBTTTI) people. Mulabi in Buenos Aires serves as the Coalition’s Secretariat; and Global Rights in Washington DC is a key partner.

Look out for Angela's report on the trip, coming soon

Look out for Angela's report on the trip, coming soon

Local GLBT groups agreed to collaborate informally to maintain T&T’s seat in the coalition. So when we were invited to participate with 23 other NGOs from 16 countries in meetings around the Organization of American States (OAS) 39th General Assembly in San Pedro Sula, Honduras last month, Velvet Underground founder Angela Francis agreed to represent us.

In San Pedro Sula, the NGOs met with and lobbied countries’ representatives to the OAS. They were successful in getting the Assembly, including Trinidad & Tobago and every other country in the Caribbean, to unanimously adopt the following resolution:

20090611oas

R to L: Angela Francis, Namela Baynes-Henry (Guyana), OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza at the civil society dialogue in San Pedro Sula

AG/RES.  2504 (XXXIX-O/09) HUMAN RIGHTS, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, AND GENDER IDENTITY (Adopted at the fourth plenary session, held on June 4, 2009)

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,

BEARING IN MIND resolution AG/RES.. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08), entitled “Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity”;

REAFFIRMING:

That the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in that Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status; and

That the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man establishes that every human being has the right to life, liberty, and the security of the person;

CONSIDERING that the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) proclaims that the historic mission of America is to offer to man a land of liberty and a favorable environment for the development of his personality and the realization of his just aspirations;

REAFFIRMING the principles of universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of human rights; TAKING NOTE of the Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity presented to the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 2008; and

NOTING WITH CONCERN acts of violence and related human rights violations perpetrated against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, RESOLVES:

  1. To condemn acts of violence and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  2. To urge states to ensure that acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals because of sexual orientation and gender identity are investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice.
  3. To urge states to ensure adequate protection for human rights defenders who work on the issue of acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals because of sexual orientation and gender identity.
  4. To request the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the other organs of the inter-American system to continue to pay sufficient attention to this issue.
  5. To reiterate its request for the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs (CAJP) to include on its agenda, before the fortieth regular session of the General Assembly, the topic of “Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
  6. To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its fortieth regular session on the implementation of this resolution, the execution of which shall be subject to the availability of financial resources in the program-budget of the Organization and other resources.
Celebrating....prematurely?

Celebrating....prematurely? (Photos: sasod.org.gy)

In other words, at the beginning of June, the Government of Trinidad & Tobago stood up in front of all our fellow nations in the Americas and for the second time pledged with them to protect its citizens from violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Then they came home and at the end of the month bluntly refused to put this commitment into the National Gender Policy and Action Plan.

The second time? Yes: the 2009 resolution references a very similar resolution that Trinidad & Tobago also supported the year before, the first time in the history of the hemisphere that the words sexual orientation and gender identity appeared in an official document approved by the 34 countries of the Americas:

  • The Commonwealth summit in Port of Spain this November poses a fascinating opportunity for GLBT Trinbagonians. British Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant wants gay rights to be a focus of the meeting and of UK foreign policy. And across the Commonwealth, human rights lawyers and activists are strategizing together to bring an end to the buggery laws we all inherited from colonization. When India’s was overturned in the courts in early July, the question was: will Trinidad & Tobago be next? Click below to find out.

(more…)

27 July, 2009

Dating site crimes against MSM in T&T raised with international human rights body

As we approach Emancipation Day, the international celebration of one of the biggest and longest human rights struggles ever, gspottt turns our attention, in a series of pieces over the next several days, to  questions of human rights.

Since late last year, GLBT groups in Trinidad & Tobago have deepened our participation in a coalition of 17 Latin American and Caribbean organizations and networks that since 2007 has been working on gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation issues in the Inter-American Human Rights system, in partnership with Global Rights, a human rights advocacy group in Washington DC. Next weekend we will update you on our participation in the OAS (Organization of American States) 39th General Assembly meeting in Honduras last month, and what the T&T Government promised to do there.

Through this Latin American coalition and another, Commonwealth-focused one, Trinidad & Tobago citizens and our organizations are part of ongoing collaborative efforts to advance human rights for GLBT people and address the ways in which the criminalization of same-sex intimacy in our laws violates those rights.

On October 24 of last year, the Latin American and Caribbean coalition was granted a hearing by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the first time in its history that the Commission (which has been in the news here of late) held a thematic hearing on human rights violations related to gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. The specific focus of the hearing was on the intersections between discrimination and violence based on gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation, and other forms of intolerance, namely those based on gender, age, socio-economic status and race/ethnicity.

The presentation to the Commission on the Anglophone Caribbean by human rights lawyer (and former T&T resident) Joel Simpson focused on the region’s sodomy laws and their impact on human rights. The violence many in the gay community here are aware  has happened, largely unchecked, to many local users of a well-known website was raised before this international forum in order to illustrate how in Trinidad & Tobago these laws prevent victims from seeking justice. The presentation also drew attention to the intersection between our sodomy laws and access to health.

T&T Police and Ministry of National Security officials had no response when the pattern of attacks was brought to their attention in January 2008. (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.

(more…)

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