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

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.

22 May, 2011

CAISO marks T&T’s first IDAHO

On May 17, CAISO organized the first Trinidad & Tobago observance of the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia

 CCN TV6 10pm news broadcast [17:37 to 19:46]

CNC3 7pm news

Kejan Haynes, C 7pm news 38:35-40:38 (click to link to video)

On “1 on 1” with Vernon Ramesar, ieTV

New politics means respect rights of all (click to link to story)

Hostility fails to dampen gays’ spirits on awareness march | Gail Alexander, Guardian | Photo: Karla Ramoo (click to link to story)

Gays call for end to homophobia | Gyasi Gonzalez, Express newspaper | Photo: Ishmael Sandy (click to link to story)

CAISO to PP Govt, fight discrimination | Verdel Bishop, Newsday (click to link to story)

Ministry of Justice

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Fareeda Ramkissoon, Ministry of Science, Technology & Tertiary Education

Maria Rollock, Ministry of Tourism

Ministry of Energy & Energy Affairs

Leeron Brummel, TV6

There were also:

and of course Gail Alexander's Guardian story the morning of IDAHO was the rave of the morning drive on radio

23 February, 2011

T&T’s most read newspaper: excluding sexual orientation from the Equal Opportunity Act is a “most egregious example of official backwardness”

Filed under: constitution,Equal Opportunity Act,human rights,media — caiso @ 08:17

Where does Govt stand on equality?

Express newspaper editorial: Wednesday 23 February 2011 – page 12.

If Trinidad and Tobago’s law on gay rights is finally being brought into the modern world, it would be deeply disappointing to witness any reactionary kicking and screaming by an administration that otherwise projects itself as cutting-edge in policy promptings.

For failure to admit sexual orientation as a ground of discrimination, T&T has been lagging behind the rest of the progressive world which has long been taking this development in stride. Some clarification is due on where this government stands: whether with the scripture-quoting homophobia identified with big names in reggae culture, or with the enlightened consensus holding that all human beings should be treated equally. The clarification is especially necessary in light of the fact that gay rights appeared to be immediately opposed by a Government Senator-Minister invoking, not only religion, but not even his own religion.

The issue reared its head, albeit not for the first time, in the context of an amendment to the Statutory Authorities Act, debated in the Senate last week, that would allow the next-of-kin of public servants to get one month’s salary benefit. Independent senators Corrine Baptiste-McKnight and James Armstrong made an argument that, in respect of persons cohabiting as spouses, the definition should not be restricted to persons of the opposite sex. It was Subhas Panday, Minister in the National Security Ministry and a supposed Hindu, who challenged Senator Baptiste-McKnight on this issue, asking how she would reconcile such a clause with Section 52 in the Book of Leviticus.

In fact, there is no such section, since Leviticus has only 27 chapters but, in any case, policy arguments in a multi-religious society cannot be based on theology. Desirable goals, empirical validation and ethical reasoning must inform effective policy. Besides, T&T has no law against homosexuality per se, but only an antediluvian statute against sodomy which, for obvious reasons, is unenforceable save in cases of rape. And herein lies the point: should the State interfere in sexual relationships between consenting adults?

Most citizens would say No. Yet many hold the view that, when such consent is between two adults of the same sex, the State has the right to deprive such individuals of rights enjoyed by heterosexual adults. This country’s Equal Opportunities Act, which specifically allows discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, is the most egregious example of official backwardness on this issue. Such discrimination flies in the face of the nation’s supreme law, since Section 4 (b) of the Constitution guarantees, “the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law”.

To exclude homosexuals from such protection, even by inaction, makes a mockery of rhetoric about carrying the nation forward.

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 October, 2010

Resisting the war on love Pt. 3

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

Whew! Busy media advocacy day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Curtis Chase

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

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

25 October, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 October, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 October, 2010

We take a pride in our liberty

Some dangerously out-of-touch “ex-gay” foreigners think there’s growing tolerance of GLBT people in T&T, so they’re coming here on an evangelical mission Oct. 22-29 to try to turn back the clock. And they’re going after vulnerable young people.

Sexual citizenship & nation-building in T&T. CAISO has been successful in our short year of existence in helping foster openings for inclusion of sexual orientation in many areas of national life in our independent, postcolonial nation of Trinidad & Tobago. Over the past year we have seen such national institutions and leaders as the Chief Justice, the Prime Minister, the Elections & Boundaries Commission and the Equal Opportunity Commission, as well as the University of the West Indies, church leaders and the national media, articulate an indigenous vision of equality, citizenship and democracy that includes people of different sexual orientation and raises questions about how we protect such persons from violence and discrimination. Aren’t you proud of your nation? We have also helped promote a robust conversation about how GLBT people here find spaces to practise the faith of their choosing. What has distinguished local engagement with issues of sexual citizenship and faith community from the kinds of advocacy for “gay rights” that take place in many other settings is that ours has been a fundamentally nation-building approach.

US Christian fundamentalists export a toxic gospel overseas. Yet, because of the promise that CAISO and our nation have shown for expanding the embrace of human rights and inclusion, Trinidad & Tobago has become a key target for one of the global anti-gay evangelical ministries whose fundamentalist gospel has become a new export of the United States. Some have compared these Christian Right Wing sects to the proponents of radical Islam, because they both see their mission in terms of a “culture war” against modern developments. “These fundamentalists are no different to the Iranian Ayatollahs”, South African activist Zackie Achmat wrote recently. These evangelizing ministries are deeply focused on regulating sexuality, and they primarily target poor women and GLBT people’s rights by whipping up fears about abortion, same-sex marriage and “same-sex parenting” as threats to the “traditional” family, even in places like Trinidad & Tobago where same-sex marriage is not even being debated. Their danger to the lives of GLBT people is well documented and real. What we’ve seen in Uganda alone, where these ministries have held conferences and trained local pastors and legislators, has been a destructive national campaign of public homophobia that has pitted Ugandans against each other and detracted from other national priorities. They helped draft a stunning piece of legislation that would imprison families for not turning in gay members, execute gay people with HIV for having sex, and also impose a death sentence on people for a second offence of homosexuality, which includes merely touching someone of the same sex in an attempt to become sexual.

His Way Out director Philip Lee received by the Head of State during the group's 2009 Jamaica visit (Photo: Office of the Governor General of Jamaica)

His Way Out targets T&T to turn back social progress. One US anti-gay ministry, His Way Out, based in Bakersfield, California, has set its sights on the Caribbean. After a few visits there, they now claim to have a base in Guyana; and during a high-profile visit to Jamaica in 2009 held a meeting with the head of state, Governor General Patrick Allen. They have publicly announced a mission to our shores from October 22 to 29 because they “believe…it is time to combat what seems to be a growing acceptance of homosexuality in Trinidad”. His Way Out is one a number of troubling ministries arising in the US and Canada that spread a gospel which acknowledges that many people experience same-sex desire, but preaches that such sexuality is disordered, that homosexual acts are unChristian, and that gay people should therefore live lives of self-denial, penitence and prayer “whereby sin’s power is broken”. They typically target young people struggling with their sexuality, and adults who have been hurt by other gay people or who experience deep conflict between their faith and their sexuality. His Way Out is part of the Exodus Global Alliance network, with which they claim to be partnering “in the development of ex-gay ministry in the Caribbean”. They also fundraise aggressively. Their activities here will include a $165 prayer breakfast. Exodus’s mission is to “effectively communicate the message of liberation from homosexuality”, and they believe Christian ministry can effect “reorientation of same sex attraction” and “growth towards Godly heterosexuality”. Prominent leaders of Exodus have since renounced its views, returned to an active gay life, and apologized for the harm they caused.

October 22-29 “sexual health” mission planned. His Way Out Ministries (HWOM) is led by Phillip Lee, a 60-year-old gay, HIV+ man who, by his own testimony, spent the 1970s and ’80s engaging in what he now regrets was destructive sex, partying and drug use, and who is coping with this personal experience by evangelizing others who experience same-sex desire about the unhealthiness and ungodliness of homosexual activity. As they have elsewhere, His Way Out is using a framework of “health” to characterize their messages about sexuality, stigmatizing what they hold out as “gay” sexual practices as unnatural and disease-prone. From November 22nd to 29th, HWOM plans youth-targeted events at Naparima Girls High School, the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine, and St. George’s College; media appearances on CNC3, I-95 and other stations; and a meeting with Louis LeeSing, ostensibly in his capacity as Mayor of Port of Spain. One of their advocacy strategies will be to disseminate literature (which, according to HWOM visit organizer Dr. Judith Henry, is being prepared by Dr. Garthlyn Pilgrim) to young people and others, identifying anal intercourse and rimming as gay male sexual behaviours, and linking these to health risks.

Standing up for national values. The visit is an occasion for those of us committed to building a local culture of inclusion and progress in Trinidad & Tobago to stand together and stand up for our values around sexuality and citizenship, and to contrast them with destructive messages being exported by the United States Christian Right in the name of Jesus. The timing of His Way Out Ministries’ visit could also not be more out of touch. It follows a wake of suicides by young people across the US who were made to feel that their sexuality was bad, included among them young people from the Caribbean who moved to the United States. It follows on a high-profile scandal involving Eddie Long, Bishop of the AfricanAmerican New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, one of the largest Christian Right congregations in the US. Long, who runs an ex-gay ministry at his church and organized a public march against gay rights, has been accused of grooming adolescents he recruited from his youth ministry to have sex with him, one a young man of Trini heritage. We are planning at least five responses during the week of the HWOM mission to demonstrate our local values in relationship to sexual inclusion.

Youth voices. Public messages that reinforce stigma against same-sex desire, and that teach that sexuality is pathological, damage young people’s healthy sexual development. “Spiritual violence” is how this shaming is characterized when done with the tools of faith. Public health experts in the region have for years linked stigmatization of same-sex sexuality to the Caribbean’s runaway rates of HIV. Fear- and damnation-based messages are not effective or humane approaches to sexual health education: young people need proven, science-based HFLE methods and compassionate pastoral care that affirms their self-esteem and God-given sexuality. More importantly, there is scientific consensus that young people cannot change their sexual orientation. Young people in Trinidad & Tobago are mobilizing across sexual orientation and faith to provide an alternative, homegrown vision of inclusion and hope to their peers. They will be sharing this vision of human sexuality, and democratically raising questions at HWOM’s youth-targeted events on October 23 and 28, in ways that interrogate the vision and ideology of our foreign visitors. Contact Brandon O’Brien: nova.crux@gmail.com.

Media visibility.Throughout the week of HWOM’s visit, as well as before and after, local advocates of a homegrown, inclusive vision of sexual citizenship will take that message to the media. It is, after all, this proud local culture of inclusion and partnership between GLBT and non-GLBT people that is the real story behind HWOM’s evangelizing mission here to change things. The local goal is also to “change the channel” on a foreign group intent on cynically sowing controversy and division here using the red herring of same-sex marriage, when no such local debate exists.

Accountability. Some local institutions and offices, including ones responsible for the welfare of young people, appear to have readily affiliated themselves with HWOM, their visit and their message – a message whose content has been linked in the United States to teenage suicide as well as to anti-gay bullying and violence by young people, and which seems clearly inconsistent with sound

Photo: Keith Matthews, Guardian

public health practice or the new thrust to aggressively address stigma and discrimination in T&T’s national HIV response. Those associated with the visit include Port of Spain Mayor Louis LeeSing; Naparima Girls High School, a Presbyterian assisted secondary school; St. George’s College, a government secondary school; and the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. These institutions and related leaders (Principals Patricia Ramgoolam and James Sammy, and Moderator Elvis Elahie), as well as PNM Political Leader Keith Rowley, Education Minister Tim Gopeesingh, Youth Affairs Minister Anil Roberts, Health Minister Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, Gender Minister Mary King, People & Social Development Minister Glenn Ramadharsingh, National AIDS Coordinating Committee line Minister Rodger Samuel, NACC Chair Angela Lee Loy, and National Parent Teachers Association President Zena Ramatali will be engaged regarding their commitment to protecting young people from harm, to ensuring scientifically sound health, family life and HIV education, and on their understanding and position with respect to the beliefs and practices of HWOM regarding young people and their sexual development. A few prominent local individuals also seem to have been included in the planning of the HWOM visit. It is quite curious whether they would publicly support legislative repeal of sections 8(e) and (f) of the Immigration Act, which prohibit entry into Trinidad & Tobago of Lee and similar homosexuals who are not citizens or residents here.

Public education. Efforts will be made to make available for public viewing dramatic and documentary films that treat in educational and solution-seeking ways with homosexuality, discrimination, mental health and faith. These include “Children of God” by Kareem Mortimer, a Bahamian filmmaker with Trinidadian heritage, which won both major prizes at the recent Trinidad+Tobago Film Festival. The film, set in the Caribbean, dramatizes the violence and hypocrisy of religious homophobia. T-shirts with affirming messages about sexual inclusion and faith are also being produced. Get yours!

Take a pride in your liberty! Get involved in protecting the dignity and respect of all Trinbagonians. Contact us at 758-7676 or caisott@gmail.com, or follow us at www.facebook.com/caiso.

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!

9 March, 2010

“No, but I do not want to tell people how to live their lives”

Filed under: faith,laws,media — caiso @ 16:12

“Person in the street” responses to the Express‘s “Big Question” on legalising same-sex marriage illustrate how, notwithstanding their religious teaching, members of the T&T public are fundamentally supportive of gay people’s equality and self-determination.

The results of the text poll are still a mystery, however. On several calls to the Express newsroom, no one, including editors Darren Bahaw and Irving Ward, could provide the results. They’ve promised to look into it, and we’ll keep you posted.

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