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