Whose Caribbean?/What are we all hollering for?

Whose Caribbean?

As reported by the BBC:

“The United Nations General Assembly has voted to remove sexual orientation from a key resolution that calls on member countries to investigate extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions that are motivated by prejudice.”

Many Caribbean countries either voted against or abstained from the UN motion to eliminate sexual orientation from a list of protections which includes members of ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities. Some US-based LGBT sites and blogs are arguing that “the Caribbean voted to kill gays”.

As the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission argued:

“This decision in the General Assembly flies in the face of the overwhelming evidence that people are routinely killed around the world because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, and renders these killings invisible or unimportant.”

The resolution is shameful and the Caribbean’s stance is indeed cowardly, disappointing and homophobic. However, reports like the one at the link below from the Dallas Voice smack of privilege and imperialism. It represents the Caribbean as a tourist playground and threatens to boycott travel to the region.  I am reminded here of Jacqui Alexander’s essay “Imperial Desire/Sexual Utopias: White Gay Capital and Transnational Tourism” which demonstrates how both homosexual and state-endorsed heterosexual tourism have been exploitative, imperialist and renativizing.

The challenge really is to conceive of a politics which is larger than ourselves and larger than any single issue.  We have witnessed increasing LGBT activism in at least one Caribbean territory.  As Thomas Glave’s anthology insists this is Our Caribbean.  Many of the Caribbean’s marginalised and disenfranchised are loving and living in this region (regardless of the lack of political will of governments to address entrenched inequities).  There is never a single story. Especially when that story is an imperialist, nativizing one.

http://www.dallasvoice.com/votes-remove-protections-gays-lesbians-transgenders-protection-execution-1053744.html

Response to the above post by another CODE RED member:

What are we all hollering for?

Sounds like Butler’s recent critique of secularism… Imperialism and racism repackaged under the guise of a ‘progressive’ outlook. In applying Butler’s writing to an examination of the ‘progressive’ posture of the US gay rights lobby, I find it intriguing that their outlook once again positions Caribbean peoples as uncivilised, primitive, backward and in need of redemption.

This is problematic. I believe that debates on homosexuality decreasingly centre on questions of morality and increasingly take on questions of national superiority, sovereignty and progress. Within this narrow framing, the struggle for the rights of gays becomes the ‘burden’ of a privileged and enlightened few.

Many parallels can be drawn between the American gay rights lobby and the British anti-slavery movement. Some planters argued that the quest for the abolition of slavery challenged the right of colonies to self-determination. Similarly, some who oppose homosexuality in the Caribbean argue that it is an European and North-American perversion that has been imposed on Caribbean societies.

Perhaps, I’m wrong… I have noticed that many who wish to appear as progressive within the Caribbean offer a merely cosmetic support to the rights of gays and lesbians in the region.

So I ask:

Should we ever take it upon ourselves to fight ‘on behalf of others’?

How do struggles for improvements in of the quality of lives become questions of national sovereignty and progress?

In all of the racket, can we in the Caribbean even recognise the voices of those that we claim to be fighting for or against anymore?

Have we lost track of what impelled us to fight in the first place?

Or will we all ultimately lose our voices or become voiceless?

It is always problematic to be debate an issue on terms that have been taken as given. There is little room to manoeuvre for those on either side of the debate. The same old answers to the same tired questions will always resurface…

Many Caribbean feminists echo Alexander’s work in calling for the removal of barriers to the attainment of full citizenship.

However, I believe that their aims and intentions, though similar on the surface, diverge sharply from those of the American gay rights lobby.

Members of social movements in the Caribbean should be vigilant about the alliances that they form. They should also interrogate the terms upon which they are asked to articulate their visions for social change. After all, if we as members of these movements advance our projects under the banner of progressiveness, then do we not (to play on Wynter’s terms) become complicit in ‘niggering’ and ‘nativising’ our own as well?

As my Dad says: When you see a group of people standing up and hollering, don’t assume that they are all shouting for the same thing…

So what are we all hollering for?

M.N.V.B.



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