Take a bow, and press the government even harder

stabroekTrinidad is a “partial exception” to the region’s deadly and fanatical homophobia, Guyana’s Stabroek News suggests, in an editorial yesterday that addresses news reports about a Thai HIV vaccine trial and reflects on the Micah Funk material on the relationship of  homophobia to HIV which has been very visible in the international media this past week. “It is time that we faced…reality” – that Caribbean homophobia “can no longer be seen simply as a cultural quirk, it is an anachronism which is costing lives,” the editorial reads. In the region

with, perhaps, the partial exception of Trinidad, old fashioned ideas about human sexuality need to change quickly…

Well, if you live here, you might not quite agree. And while gspottt has typically tried to show the half-full nature of the glass here (highlighting the forward thinking nature of our Appeals Court, some clergy, brave citizens, the national media, our NGOs and some aspects of our culture), there are few examples of 20/20 thinking about human sexuality on the part of our elected government that account for the Stabroek view. (Sources tell us that the journalists’ views were formed in part by seeing images of our current Queen of Queens pageant displayed online.)

But what the Stabroek editorial, and last week’s Guardian reader poll, do point to is that there is hope for real change here. And that is a tribute to the work each of you has done to make Trinidad and Tobago a place where we can dream of – and work towards – a future where stigma and exclusion based on how people express their sexuality consensually, or their gender, are things in our history.

So stand up, take credit; take a bow. And commit to working harder, and more collaboratively, to press our government to catch up to where you are!

The stories in Anton Nimblett’s new book “Sections of an Orange” sneak up on you, hidden between lyrical descriptions of everyday life

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Photo: Leslie Ward

Writer Anton Nimblett is a tall, dark Trini with long locks framing his angular face. He’s the kind of man who, depending on your stereotypes, could be your dreams or your nightmares made flesh. But once you meet him, hear his quiet voice and jokes for days, you see that Nimblett is a bit like his short stories – so understated that you don’t realize you’ve been sweet-talked until the end. His new – and first – book, Sections of an Orange, does that. The stories’ emotions sneak up on you, hidden between lyrical descriptions of everyday life.

Daily activities such as cooking, eating, and commuting to work, are told as though you were talking to a best friend on the phone – a best friend who lingers on details such as the colour of plums and evocative descriptions of how and why people behave the way they do. And then, slowly, love and death, anger and grief seep into those details. The man who reminisces about an affair while he lies next to his unconscious lover in a car wreck, the man who mourns the loss of his now-grown niece as she falls in love, the old man who laboriously makes a last meal for his beloved wife.  Several stories shift often between time frames with surprising ease, pointing out how the past informs every moment of our present.

The stories take place in Trinidad and in the USA, and sometimes, as in “Time and Tide,” travel between the two places as so many of our lives do. Nimblett has an excellent ear for Caribbean language – and not every writer who is from the Caribbean does! Betty in “Into My Parlour” is a familiar figure as she explains, “In the thirty something years that I living here on Reed Street with Emelda Johnson, she and I was never no set of friends, nothing more than ‘Morning Miss ’Melda’ and ‘Howdy do Miss Betty’.” And he gets people’s mannerisms right as well, from Trinis who insist on feeding people even when they bring bad news, to the picong friends toss to each other, to some men’s unwillingness to show tenderness outside of sex.

Before “Sections of an Orange” those looking for writing about gay Trini men have had to content themselves with a single novel

Though these stories mostly focus on men, unlike the generation of Caribbean male writers before him, Nimblett is also able to portray women, and relationships between them, as well as friendly, erotic, and romantic relationships between men. (Men who love men appear in most of the stories – though often unexpectedly or fleetingly, as in “Visiting Soldiers.”) While Trinidadians Dionne Brand and Shani Mootoo have written about Trinbagonian lesbians and transgender people, those looking for writing about gay Trini men have had to content themselves with a single novel, Aelred’s Sin. So Sections of an Orange is not only a refreshing contribution to Caribbean literature, it is also perhaps the first work of literature to portray Trinidadian men who both love other men and are not psychologically conflicted or destroyed by their sexuality. In a recent online article, Nimblett states that he did not begin writing seriously until relatively recently. His style, though, has probably been in development for much longer – evidence not only of talent, but also of a writer who is a devoted reader.Sections_of_an_orange_front_cover(2)

The stories in Sections of an Orange are not always easy to read and can call up deep and conflicting emotions. In the title story I wondered whether Brian was crazy, sick, or just misunderstood. And in “On the Side” I was angry with the narrator for having an affair, but still wanted him to survive the car crash. By the time you realize Nimblett’s characters are not always simple or sympathetic, they’ve snuck up on you, and you care about what happens to them.

Several of the stories are linked – “On the Side” and “Time and Tide”, Just Now” and “Marjory’s Meal”, “Sections of an Orange” and “Ring Games”. This implies that Nimblett’s next work might be longer fiction – a novella or, perhaps, a novel. His time-traveling prose could become a Marquez-like epic – or it could develop into a more experimental style. Either way, I trust he will not lose the intense lyrical voice and emotion these first stories hold.  The author’s online commentary centers on the theme of asking for and being given permission to write. With the success of this deep, subtle first collection, Nimblett should never need to ask permission to write again.

Sections of an Orange (152 pp.) is carried by Nigel R Khan (with stores in eight malls: Ellerslie Plaza, Grand Bazaar, Gulf CityLaRomain & Lowlands/Tobago, Long Circular, Price Plaza, Trincity, and The Falls/West Mall); independent bookseller Paper Based (at Hotel Normandie in St. Anns); and can be shipped directly from the publisher, Peepal Tree press, in the UK. Or: win a free, autographed copy if you’re the first to tell us where the titles of the eight stories mentioned here are hidden in disguise throughout the blog.

Reviewer: Rosamond S King, PhD is a critical and creative writer, performer, and artist.  She lives in Brooklyn when she’s not living somewhere else, and is a full-time faculty member of Brooklyn College.

Also read Heather D. Russell’s May 2010 review on Geoffrey Philp’s blog!

and Natasha Gordon-Chipembere’s July 2011 review in SX Salon Issue 5

What are you dreaming about this Emancipation weekend?

As we approach Emancipation Day (the international celebration of one of the biggest and longest human rights struggles ever), gspottt turns our attention to questions of human rights, with a series of posts over several days.

I want to be the revolution
by Stacy Warwick

I want to be the revolution
I want to be the revolution
You heard me
I want to be
The revolution that ends all revolutions
I want to be the reason
That government minister’s hearts quake
And they stand and shake
In their Italian design leather shoes
Because they know that this time
They choose to snooze
A little too long
And I will no longer
Dance to their song
Because my mind
Has grown too strong

No longer am I contented
To fall
By the waste side
While you wine and dine
On the fruits of my labour
Reaping a harvest
Of trees you didn’t sow
Dragging your family along
In tow
Benefiting from the sweat of my brow
And the blood of my soul

Well I say no more
I’m shutting the door on you
And lifting the blinds
In comes the sunlight
Of my revolution
Breaking the silence
Suffocating my nation
I’m breaking free
It’s the dawn of a new creation

So I am going to be the revolution
I going to be the revolution
I am going to stand up tall
Even when they try to make me small
And try to force me to fall
I will be as unmoving
As a brick wall

I will be the revolution
I will be the revolution
By refusing to give in
To the illusion
That I am free
No longer pretending
That the social ills
Aren’t terrorizing me

I will be the revolution
I will be the revolution
By reminding the politicians
That I do have a voice
And I do have a say
Remind them
That they are answerable to me
To earn their pay

I will be the revolution
That tells them to account to me in the light of day
For the secrets they keep hidden in the dark of night
I will be the revolution
For whom their sweet word will have no sway
Because I am shining a spotlight
A light that keeps burning bright
Dimming their sight
Because I know that I am right
And it’s a freedom fight
And freedom must prevail

So I will be the revolution
I will be the revolution
I will be the revolution

Stacy Warwick is a 26-year-old assistant accountant who loves to write in her free time. Send her your feedback or request more information at: stacywarwick@gmail.com

gspottt hopes to be a home for community voices and creative expression that trigger passionate advocacy: talk to us about featuring yours

CAISO in the media

July 10
July 18
June 29
June 29

As we hope you’ve been noting, CAISO has been appearing in the media repeatedly over the past month since our formation. Today’s half-page feature in the Guardian marks our ninth instance of coverage since our launch.

We started with radio: I-95, as they love to, were the first to cover us, two days after we formed, even before we’d finished writing our release. The TV morning shows followed quickly: Gayelle, always cutting-edge; and the mainstream TV6, where Andy Johnson’s longstanding interest in the National Gender Policy helped get us airtime, in early July. Columnists provided our first print coverage: Lennox Grant taking the lead in the Sunday Guardian with a touching personal story; Lisa Allen-Agostini

July 3
July 3

following two weeks later. A Newsday journalist who has covered these issues diligently for some time now provided the first print news article. TV evening news was next, with a piece many of you complained about to us that fell out of

July 20
July 20

CNC3’s 7:00 pm broadcast on July 22, and appeared in a blink at 9:30. But CNC producer Ken Ali made up for it by doing a substantive interview on their morning show two days later.

On the front page of the Guardian’s well-read Friday features section, “Life Today”, editor Peter Ray Blood calls next week Thursday’s calypso event in tribute to CAISO “a most interesting and topical event”, and a link to the page B14 article appears on the home page of the paper’s website. The article also lists the link for gspottt.

July 5
July 5

And look out for another feature in Sunday’s Newsday; and coverage of Pride events on “Cock-a-Doodle-Doo” on Monday.

July 21 & 23
July 21 & 23

We salute T&T’s journalists for their 20/20 vision in “dealing with sexual orientation” by covering us and our issues in an open, balanced way; and Keith Clifford in particular for his firmness in handling abusive callers. CAISO is also fortunate to have lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual leaders and friends brave enough to appear on television carrying our message. Three women and two men have formed that growing team. CAISO salutes them.

To follow our media appearances and learn of upcoming ones, you can always click on the CAISO in the media link near the top of the right hand column of the website. Where links to the coverage are available, we’ll post them.

July 24
July 24
July 8
July 8

If you have a reaction, positive or negative, to coverage of CAISO or anything else that matters to you in the media, use your civic rights and write to the media house in question to share your views. And if you ever see or hear sexual orientation issues being covered somewhere in the media or addressed by a public figure, please record or save it and contact us.

July 30: Patricia gone with…Millicent? The ingenious imagination of homosexuality in calypso

Missed the original presentation of this amazing Pride month 2009 programme?
hanks to Alice Yard, there’s an audio document of the full event. E-mail us to request
to our online file of the presentation slideshow with an accompanying audio
Help us identify opportunities to present the work, or develop its recording.

Believe it or not, in sharp contrast to dancehall, homosexuality is one of the topics that calypso has handled with some of its sweetest ingenuity and subtlest imagination. Not all the time, of course. But surprisingly often.

Come and listen, nah!

Invader, Growler, Atilla (in dress) and Lion in a calypso tent in 1943
Invader, Growler, Atilla (as Eve) and Lion performing at the US Army base at Ft. Read, February 1943 (US Army Signal Corps)

Whether you simply love the calypso artform and Trini culture or you have a personal or family connection to the topic, join in a tent-like atmosphere where we will take in some two dozen recordings of fascinating calypsoes from the 1950s to the present that display surprising wit and intelligence in their treatment of same-sex love.

Share your own thoughts and calypsoes in the following brief discussion on calypso, soca, dancehall and sexual orientation in regional music and society and some ideas about next year’s Carnival.

Lime afterwards.

Thursday 30th July
7:30 pm
Alice Yard, 80 Roberts St., Woodbrook
btw. Brooklyn Bar (Carlos St.) & the Augustus Williams Playground (Murray St.)

This is a free event in honour of Pride month and in support of CAISO’s mission to promote a 20/20 vision of sexual orientation in sweet T&T. Let’s use the national artform for which the coalition is playfully named to bring folks together in fun.

Click for newspaper and television promotion of the event.

with sincere gratitude for the generosity of calypso historians Gordon Rohlehr & Zeno Obi Constance and Alice Yard