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

13 January, 2011

Who will protect you?

Feeling safe?

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

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

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

So we did in fact:

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

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

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

1 November, 2010

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

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

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

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

29 October, 2010

Lying, ducking and hiding

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

click for a musical farewell to Pastor Lee

Lying

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

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

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

“Legislation is being introduced”

– Judy again

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

“Gay people like you represent the vast minority”

– ex-gay/”reformed” homosexual Phillip Lee

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

almost everything they said about homosexuality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ducking and hiding

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Research assistance by Nadine & Soraya

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

26 July, 2010

CAISO calls on the new Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 July, 2010

Pride (noun) a sense of one’s own worth; the occasion or ground of self-esteem;

self-respect; pleasure or satisfaction taken in an achievement; sexual
desire, esp. in a female animal; a flamboyant or impressive group

July 2010 is the 16th annual celebration of Pride in Trinidad & Tobago
How are you showing yours?

At London Pride this past weekend, one of the first Caribbean young people to head a GLBT campus group in the UK sports his CAISO jersey. The British-born 21-year-old supported CAISO's work by ordering the shirt and making a donation online.

For a fuller calendar of Pride 2010 events, contact Velvet Underground
369-5351 • velvetunderground.tt@gmail.com

July 6
Pride Arts & Craft Workshop I: Paper Making, Clay & Plaster Sculpting

July 7
Friends for Life Pride Chatroom opens

July 8
Financial Planning for the Future 5pm

July 10
Two parties
Lesbian (women only) Pride party
Pride & Prejudice

July 14
Lesbian chatroom

July 15
Pride Arts & Craft Workshop II: Poetry, Music & Dance

July 16 &17
Social events

July 18
Rainbow Movies

July 20
All Fours Competition

July 21
Chatroom: Gay-Straight Alliances

July 23
Velvet Underground Annual Pride pool tournament

July 25
Annual Pride Memorial celebrating the lives, joy,
laughter and memories of our lost brothers and sisters
6 pm, Bohemia

July 28
Chatroom

July 30
CAISO anniversary ecumenical thanksgiving service

July 31
Party

August 14
Tobago Pride/Las Lap

pride audio (prd) KEY

NOUN:

  1. A sense of one’s own proper dignity or value; self-respect.
  2. Pleasure or satisfaction taken in an achievement, possession, or association: parental pride.
  3. Arrogant or disdainful conduct or treatment; haughtiness.
    1. A cause or source of pleasure or satisfaction; the best of a group or class: These soldiers were their country’s pride.
    2. The most successful or thriving condition; prime: the pride of youth.
  4. An excessively high opinion of oneself; conceit.
  5. Mettle or spirit in horses.
  6. A company of lions. See Synonyms at flock1.
  7. A flamboyant or impressive group: a pride of acrobats.

TRANSITIVE VERB:
prid·ed, prid·ing, prides

To indulge (oneself) in a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction: I pride myself on this beautiful garden.

ETYMOLOGY:
Middle English, from Old English prde, from prd, proud ; see proud
Visit our partner’s site
Provided by Houghton Mifflin
logo eReference — Download this interactive reference software to your desktop computer

17 April, 2010

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

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

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

PRINCIPAL STEPS

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

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

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

Kee-Chanona Ltd.

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

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

ADDITIONAL STEPS

(one each for four key Ministries)

T&T Police Service

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

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

tkon04, panoramio.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VOTE on
MAY 24

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

29 March, 2010

Proud to tell it: Sean Drakes’s film gets T&T talking about pride

Proud to Tell It was a simple idea. In 2002, Sean Drakes, a self-made lifestyle photojournalist, picked up the new video camera he was teaching himself to use and travelled around the US to four Black Pride celebrations, in Washington DC, Los Angeles, New York City and Atlanta. The Black Prides had emerged as ways for African American communities in larger US cities to celebrate GLBT pride on their own cultural terms, often in more inward-focused ways that looked different from the larger, public, White-dominated Pride celebrations that occur around the country every June. Some of the Prides, like L.A.’s, had evolved from a group of friends getting together to throw a beach party.

Drakes had another simple idea earlier this month. In town to photograph Carnival 2010 professionally, he pitched to Bohemia‘s promoters the thought of screening the work-in-progress on the Pride events he had shot in 2002 for community members here in Trinidad. To Drakes’s surprise, within days an ad was up on Facebook, A/V equipment had been ordered, as had stocks for a bar. He pitched in for chairs.

In another seemingly simple gesture, Drakes thought to invite an NGO to facilitate a discussion about the film’s significance for organizing and community in T&T. His idea bounced around CAISO, where one person after another was charged to make it into something grand: tie it into our vision for a project documenting the community’s history? use it to launch a base-building effort that would lead into a campaign for law reform?

We ended up with a really simple discussion. But what a rich discussion it was!

One hundred and twenty people showed up on March 11th. They applauded heartily whenever CAISO was mentioned by name, including when we introduced our logo designer. One person boasted she had supported the group “from Day 1”. Evangelists on Isaac radio, we learned, are still quoting our very first press release.

Parade? A lot of the conversation the film generated was about how ready T&T’s is for the idea of a Pride parade. One participant reminisced back to when Pride in T&T first started 16 years ago (when the idea of march came up and was quickly dismissed), sharing that he never thought he would live to see people think they might be ready to march, as some attendees at the screening clearly felt they were. He noted the positive changes he’s seen over the years – people donating time, people of standing standing up, mainstream hospitality businesses seeing T&T Pride events as a market.

But what’s the right fit for Pride here, several people who spoke asked. Parade of the Bands, one person was convinced: community members should play mas together in the same Carnival band, perhaps in Pride colours; didn’t the GLBT Bajan posse show out here this year? And, although one person warned us to be more modest (Barbados and Suriname may challenge us in that regard), speaker after speaker talked about pride in how far “ahead” of the rest of the region things are for our community in T&T. Aren’t there ways outside of a parade to gain visibility, one person wondered: Why not have winners of the very popular gender illusion pageants appear on TV and do newspaper features.

 

"B. Conduct which adversely affects the USC community: 10. Public or clandestine meetings/relations with members of the same or opposite sex, which may include illicit behaviour such as homosexuality, lesbianism," (p. 48) © University of the Southern Caribbean

CYAISO? Students from UWI, USC and COSTAATT were all present, and shared some amazing efforts, small but brave, that they are undertaking to support each other and make their campuses safer spaces. Some are exploring ways they can share the skills and training they are acquiring with the GLBT community, offering peer counselling as a community service to others struggling with sexual orientation, gender identity and family issues.

What do we want? Nobody at all talked about same-sex marriage. Many people talked about the need to do internal work within the community to build dignity, self-respect and pride as being a priority of the first order. One young man talked about how the gender pageants did that for him. Make activities like Friends for Life’s chatroom happen more regularly, and do better work at publicizing them. Create similar activities for women. Plan workshops during Pride month. Create mentoring programmes. Routinely have information and resource tables set up at community events like the film screening. People talked about the need for legal protections against employment and housing discrimination; about the continued ability of murderers of gay men to successfully use as a defence the assertion that the victim came on to them. People told personal stories about the cost of coming out, being forced to leave home and losing relationships with family. One student shared that her school’s handbook says you can be expelled for being gay. And one person advanced the idea of CAISO forming constituency groups in each of the nation’s 41 constituencies, “like the PNM did in 1956”.

Velvet Underground. Organizer Angela Francis talked at length about the recent growth of her group to close to 1,000 members, and her vision for creating a lounge in the East providing sexual and mental health services, other community supports, and office space – as well as her challenge in getting community members to support the vision. The founder of Queen Mother touted the new blog.

Well-known people were there, and spoke up. The DJ for a controversial radio host promised to back us up with a big truck whenever we were “ready to be serious” about a Pride parade. (So don’t let him off the hook!)

The event worked so well and so simply, we’ve simply decided to do it again. And maybe again and again every month or two.

Look out for notices from us and Bohemia about something in April. Probably Sunday the 11th.