VOICES: Young #LGBT Barbados Speaks Out!

These young people have shared their stories with us. We have a responsibility to respect these stories, to receive them with gratitude for they are an example of fierce generosity, to treat them with tenderness and compassion because learning to trust your own consciousness is to live life radically on your own terms.

Pride Mubarak

Guest post by Lina Free

So does Ramadan mean no sex for the whole month? Hello- I’m not that kind of Muslim! Ha ha, I just troubling u girl; I kno the thing- my father was Muslim. Eh heh? Yes, Salahuddin was his name. But is only me outta my brothers and sisters get that name. How come? He was always drunk, never had time for us. But I was the last chile; my mother said he felt sorry by then. Salahuddin sounded just like my grandfather Shaheed. Another ‘fullaman’ yes, but that didn’t stop him from drinking and womanizing. When my grandmother ‘ran off’ her head after he got another woman pregnant the same time as she and had to be committed to the Berbice mad house after giving birth to my father- the last child of eight- Shaheed amended his ways. But by then it was too late, the damage already done. Decades afterwards, when I sat behind him in the masjid, watching him prostrate himself in prayer, all I could think about was why I had to sit behind and not beside him. Stop asking all those questions I was scolded. Just keep quiet and do as you are told. Continue reading

Who’s next?

Guest post by Colin Robinson

Who’s Next? is a free noon event on Thursday at NGC Bocas Lit Fest at the Old Fire Station in Port of Spain. Seven intriguing new voices offer a tease of T&T’s writing future. The literary festival is overflowing with treats. I’d promised to unwrap more today, but life has overtaken literature.
Allegations about Delmon Baker pose one of the toughest ethical and political challenges the local LGBTI movement has faced. The only thing I’m clear about is that if I were a parliamentarian who was gay or bisexual, I would come out this week.
Media houses report claims by an articulate 27-year-old man (who cites scripture to deny he is gay or bisexual) that,in a four-year friendship, on at least three occasions in times of need he visited the home of the now 37- year-old MP, who touched him sexually or intimatelyThe accuser is described as “vulnerable,” related perhaps to his children’s home upbringing. He says the touching was unwelcome, and showed e-mails in which he shared his distress (but I’ve seen no timeline of the alleged incidents and communication).
Gabrielle Hosein reminded us last week how easily accusers get demonised. But this one has not painted a sympathetic picture of himself. He says he was inspired to break his story by Patricia Singh, who accused Minister Ramadharsingh of soliciting oral sex for help getting a house. But his demand for a public apology for private acts seems odd. Another newspaper reports he has fraud charges and court matters pending.
Homophobia skews public discussion about such allegations, and Baker’s legal team’s preaction protocol letters have silenced legitimate debate about them, leaving much of it up to scandal rags and social mediawhere it is least helpful.
Peeling away the feeding frenzy by those who smell a badly bloodied government is hard too. One test I’ve tried to apply to clarify the ethics of the matter is to change the sex of the complainant. But so much is genuinely different about this. Including the Government’s responses—like refusing Baker’s resignationpastor Rodger Samuel counselling the alleger to pray; and he and the communications minister invoking the legal response to dodge comment.
It’s complicated. Many ask: why did the accuser go back, after the first unwanted sexual advance? I know I’ve gone back. What sort of sexual advances are legitimate between friends, and in relationships that have nothing to do with any office?

In a 2002 decision soundly criticised in a UWI-commissioned law paperby SeShauna Wheattlea former Chief Justice freed Marvin Marcano for Christopher Lynch’s murder, saying his victim’s same-sex sexual advance was so unnatural it would send any right-thinking person crazy. Women don’t enjoy that protection. Twelve years later, a few months after the paperthe retired CJ mused that same-sex love is not repugnant and hurts no one.
But take Baker out of the picture. What about the other MPs, on different benches in both houses, who are lesbian, gay or bisexual? Who is “vulnerable” when they make sexual advances? Does our culture of scandal and stigma around same-sex desire make such office holders especially susceptible to sexual blackmail? Do our unenforced laws that make such behaviour illegal, even when it’s consensual, drive talented people away from—or out of—public service? Does the forced secrecy around such desire drive powerful people to seek sex from the vulnerable?
Public debate has also not yet turned on the fact—perhaps because few know this—that 25 years after Independence, the PNM created a new law criminalising with a five-year jail sentence a man playing with another man sexually in private— regardless of consent (though no one may have ever been prosecuted for consensual conduct). No parliamentarian is calling for such laws—which could be used to prosecute them—to be repealed.
But some things are refreshing. Despite the “No man, woman or goat is safe from this Government” picong—the titillation of prime time TV reporting—and the broadcast of a purported recording of a grown politician in tears on the phone—I’ve heard no loud voice say no homosexual belongs in the nation’s CabinetLast week the chief justice, attorney general, police commissioner, house speaker and arts minister all turned out to embrace the visiting American couple whose son, Matthew Shepard, was murdered, and listen to their message of acceptance and equal rights (though Rodger Samuelput in charge of national diversity, was notably absent.)
Hopefully Dr Baker and his accuser will be judged on the ethics of their conduct and not the other’s sex.
Forging the liberty to love: one nation…many bodies…boundless faith.

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PHOTOS: CODE RED Women’s Circles

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The members of CODE RED for Gender Justice at the UWI Cave Hill Campus have been hosting weekly women’s circles (on and off campus) from October 2013. The circles provide a safe space for women [of all sexual orientations] to have heart to heart discussions on intimate topics such as relationships, love, and family, as well as current gender issues. The members also use tools, such as the peace line activity, to encourage introspection at the circles.

Women have shared tears, laughter, fears, secrets, and love at these circles. Guided by rules to ensure everyone feels respected and receives a chance to be heard, all members that attend enjoy the moments shared in the spaces. Members have used the following words to describe the circles: “Enlightening, empowering, safe, inclusive, comforting and important.”

If you are a woman attending UWI Cave Hill Campus or residing in Barbados and would feel comfortable sharing a space with women of all different sexual orientations, we encourage you to join our circles. Contact damarlieantoine [at] gmail [dot] com, or m.hutchinson1988 [at] @gmail [dot] com to be added to the mailing list. 

Below are some photos from our activities:Image

 

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love note to the Caribbean

Guest post by Sherlina Nageer aka Lina Free

“When are you coming?” my family asks. “When are you coming?” my old friends ask. “Just now. Soon, soon! I’ll let you know.” I reply. I have yet to buy my ticket. I know that I’m a mere ghost to my nephews and niece, that my parents are getting older, that see you next time is not guaranteed, that there is still love and possibility there, that I’m abandoning career success and my cats, but I just can’t help it. You have a hold on me, Caribbean, a grip on my innards, a winch on my soul that keeps me anchored no matter how often or far I might stray. Don’t ask me to explain it; I can’t really. It’s not just the sunshine, the mangoes, the ocean. I have sat on the beach eating mangoes in other places, oui. It’s much more than that. There are days when I’m out and about, whizzing to or from someplace, and I feel myself just smiling, for no particular reason. I’ve looked at the moon more in these past four years than I did in the 20 I lived up North. It’s not just that my navel string and grandparents are buried on one particular spit of land; after all, just one generation back abandoned such trifles and crossed the Kali Pani. Indeed, emigration remains the primary story of my family, like so many in the Caribbean. They all think I’m mad for ‘coming back home’. I am more than slightly ‘touched’, oui, but I think they’re madder for remaining there. No, it’s not perfect here, not by a long shot. Not for my fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or questioning peeps, not for those slaving daily to put food on the table, and fighting the powers that be trying to downpress them. Every day is a struggle, oui, but here in the Caribbean is where I want to be battling. From the beach in Tobago where I spent my first New Years Eve after coming back, drinking too much and hugging up everybody too much, just abrim with love, to the tent cities of Port Au Prince where women bathed, bare breasted, in plain sight of every tom, dick, and harry passerby- you continue to succor as well as challenge me, Caribbean. This, I love. 

The post was submitted as part of our Dear Caribbean Blog Carnival. Please check out all the amazing submissions.

Everyday Acts of Solidarity and Mutual Support

What stands out for me are the everyday acts of solidarity and mutual support.  Support networks are crucial as in Haiti there is always a crisis but just the energy needed to live and work through the week is tremendous and sometimes overwhelming. The violence of poverty is overwhelming – we of the privileged speak about it, write about it, and stare at it through tinted or even open windows but really we don’t know.

Check out this interview with Nigerian writer Sokari Ekine who is currently living in Haiti.  We’re happy to have this interview as part of our #dearCaribbean blog carnival.

Read all the blog carnival entries here!

It’s not too late to participate!  Blogs, vlogs or phlogs welcome.

#ICYMI This week’s RED Reads

Five things you MUST read this week:

We heed the lesson of Esu and forgive what we thought we saw the first time round.  All around me are black men so full of love and tenderness for their children that I’m often on the edge of weeping for joy when I see us on the street, give dap to us when we get together.  We can let statistics that want to tell one story ‘prove’ one thing to us, but we must watch what is actually happening and seek out stories on the ground; walk to the other side of the mountain to find out the real truth.

1. Trinidadian writer and father, Roger Bonair-Agard, pens the must-read piece on black fatherhood.

There is a difference though, between mere survival and a good life. It’s the difference between having bread in your belly but fear in your head. There are a lot of frightened people in Guyana. They can seem to be in the majority, drowning out all signs of hope. But as long as there are people standing on the street corner, in the rain, holding soggy placards, I know we have still some humanity left. And as long as we have that, we have a chance. Join us. Be the change you want to see.

2. Feminist organisation, Red Thread, along with other progressive movements and people in Guyana, took to the streets in the pouring rain to seek justice for 23-year-old Colwyn Harding. Colwyn alleges that he was raped by police officers and treatment of his extensive injuries was delayed. In this letter, Red Thread outlines what keeps them going amidst the apathy and fear.

I remember the gentle sing-song sound of her Hausa float off the tip of her tongue (a tongue I knew too well and for more than just its words).

3. The passage of Nigeria’s anti-gay marriage bill signals deepening homophobia across the continent as well as criminalisation, not just of same-sex relationships, but of LGBT organisations and persons working with and for these organisations.  This tenderly written, playfully erotic story of love and friendship between two Nigerian girls is a timely reminder that queer relationships are part of human desires for connection and community. Enjoy 😉

4. Reports out of St. Lucia are that cases of sexual violence made up more than 30 of the 80 cases on the docket on January 16.  These cases included a man charged with the rape of three nine-year-old boys, multiple cases of rape and sex with a minor committed against girls and a man charged with two counts of incest against his daughter. 

Activists from St. Lucia are part of CatchAFyah’s Eye2Eye project which seeks to raise awareness about violence against women and girls.  Please stay with us for updates about this project and information on how you can get involved.

5. A diverse group of Jouvayists from Haiti, Antigua & Barbuda, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana and the diaspora have responded to the #dearCaribbean Blog Carnival call with words, images and lots of love.  Check out their stories and don’t forget that you too can share your own with us!

6.  A Belizean 19-year-old trans girl was murdered this month.  While her family reports that she was killed because of her gender identity expression other reports suggest that the killer’s intentions were to rape her and they murdered her after discovering that she was a trans woman.  This most recent murder recalls the murders of trans women in Guyana and Jamaica last year.