Children of God: a stunning new film about gay life and the Caribbean • Chaguanas (Sep 23) • UWI (Sep 24) • PoS (Sep 25, Oct 4) • Tobago (Oct 3)

Bahamas International Film Festival Opening Night • Miami International Film Festival • Queering Roma  Opening Night • Melbourne Queer Film Festival • BFI London Gay & Lesbian Film Festival Closing Night • Miami GLBT Film Festival • Boston GLBT Film Festival Closing Night • Turin GLBT Film Festival Audience Award Best Narrative • Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival • Fairy Tales Film Festival • Hawaii Rainbow Film Festival Best Film • Ft. Worth Q cinema Best Gay Film • Jacob Burns Film Center Closing Night • NewFest: New York LGBT Film Festival Audience Award Best Narrative • Oakland Black Film Festival Opening Night • QBC International Film Festival Opening Night • Frameline: San Francisco LGBT Film Festival • Philadelphia QFEST • Outfest: Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival • Out Takes: Dallas Lesbian & Gay Film Festival • Budapest Pride • Queer Lisboa • Out on Screen: Vancouver Queer Film+Video Festival • New York International Latino Film Festival • NewFest at BAM • Atlantic City International Film & Music Festival • MGLCC Outflix Programming • Cinema Diverse: The Palm Springs Gay & Lesbian Film Festival • Q Filmfest Indonesia • Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival • Southwest Gay & Lesbian Film Festival • ImageOut: Rochester LGBT Film & Video Festival • Hamburg International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival • Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival • Rehoboth Beach Film Festival • Puerto Rico Queer Filmfest • Chillfest Jersey City • trinidad+tobago film festival

PLEASE NOTE CORRECTED LOCATIONS FOR OCTOBER 3rd and 4th SCREENINGS
Screenings are $25 at 8:00pm at MovieTowne (Invaders Bay/Price Plaza/Lowlands Mall)

The UWI screening is free and is at 5:00pm at the Institute for Critical Thinking

Children of God is the story of two individuals who learn that in order to live a truly happy life you have to risk speaking and acting on your true feelings, and in order to fulfill your potential you have to risk emotional vulnerability. • Set against the backdrop of a nation grappling with violent homophobia, this film tells the story of Jonny, a Bahamian artist who faces losing his scholarship at a local university, and Lena a conservative religious woman who is struggling with a crumbling marriage. • Rosie O’Donnell’s gay family cruise ship decides to have the Bahamas as a port of call. Mass hysteria divides the island in factions, as some fundamentalists lead widespread rallies. After severe beatings from homophobic bullies, and rejection from his alcoholic father, Jonny escapes from his gritty inner-city life in Nassau to the under populated and dramatic Bahamian island of Eleuthera. Lena Mackey, an extremely conservative forty-year-old anti-gay activist who upon finding out that her husband is not who he represents himself to be, believes that the only way to fix problems in her life is to limit the rights of homosexuals. She heads to Eleuthera for the purpose of galvanizing the community to oppose gay rights. • Their worlds collide. The audience is taken on a journey that is humorous, brave, shocking and a one of a kind surprise ending that will shake them to the core.

Director Kareem Mortimer will speak at the Sep. 24 and 25 screenings. Born in 1981, Mortimer considers himself as an Eleuthera, Long Island, Inagua, and Turks Island, Trinidadian boy. He wrote and served as one of the producers for the 1998 Bahamas Games documentary at the age of 17, and has worked on a number of award-winning films in the US and his native Bahamas since. These include short music documentaries for Hip Hop Nation: Notes from the Underground, the comedy Varmint Day, feature length documentary Where I’m From, short narrative, Chance, The Eleutheran Adventure, Best Documentary at the 2006 Bahamas International Film Festival, the gay-themed short narrative Float, winner of five international awards, Chartered Course: The Life of Sir Durward Knowles, and his most recent film I Am Not A Dummy. A second feature film, Windjammers, is in production, and three others in development. In January, The Independent named Mortimer one of ten directors “to watch”.

Read reviews by Angelique Nixon/Black Camera, Clay Cane/BET, and Nicholas Laughlin/Caribbean Review of Books.

UPDATE: Children of God won the Film Festival’s Jury Prize for “Best Film in the
Spirit of the Caribbean”, as well as the People’s Choice Award for Feature Film

Have you been discriminated against…

Have you been discriminated against
because of your sexual orientation or gender expression

when you went to the doctor? by your employer or coworkers? by the police? in your school? by a landlord? in some other way?

Have you felt afraid or unsafe

on the streets? in your neighbourhood? in your home?

Have you been physically threatened, or attacked?

Have you been taunted or harassed?

These are violations of your human rights!

CAISO is travelling to Washington DC
to report on violations of gay/lesbian/bi/trans people’s human rights in Trinidad and Tobago
at a special hearing before the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights

We need to know your stories
Stop by this Saturday, have lunch, learn more about the InterAmerican human rights system, and have our volunteer human rights professionals document your story confidentially

Saturday 11th September
12:00 noon to 5:00pm

4 O’Connor Street, Woodbrook
street beside the Stadium
(blue two-storey building opposite Woodbrook Youth Facility
upstairs of the doctor’s office)

Lunch served

Call ahead: 758-7676


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.

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.

Government must set policy for its GLBT citizens’ needs: CAISO comments on the Gender Policy


It was Cabinet’s announcement on June 25th of last year that Trinidad & Tobago’s Gender Policy would exclude “issues related to…same-sex unions, homosexuality or sexual orientation” that led to CAISO’s formation two days later.

The Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs solicited public comment on the Government’s draft of the National Policy on Gender and Development, which was released to the public in September; and responses were due last Sunday, February 28. Over the past six months, CAISO took a detailed look at the draft, participated in forums and discussions on the Policy, and reviewed comparisons between it and the document widely circulated in 2004 that is now described as the University of the West Indies-St. Augustine Institute for Gender and Development Studies consultants’ report.

Speaking as “a voice for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) Trinidadians and Tobagonians”, we submitted a 1,400-word commentary on the new document last week. Friends for Life also submitted comments.

CAISO’s key message is that our Government cannot shirk its responsibility to set clear domestic policy to address the concerns of the tens of thousands of GLBTI citizens of Trinidad & Tobago.

We said our Gender Policy cannot exclude sexual orientation:

Rather than offering a laundry list of things to fix or add in the Policy, or listing scores of places where our issues were omitted, we made just five very feasible proposals for changes to the document that Government could take as a first step to setting national policy on sexual orientation and gender identity issues:

  1. Reinsert the two (and there were only two) policy measures on sexual orientation contained in the 2004 document:
    • §1.14 Restore the following 33 innocent words that were expunged: “In keeping with its international legal obligations, the state should facilitate public debate on the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms of all persons, irrespective of sexual preference or orientation”
    • §1.7 Extend marital rape and domestic violence protections in the Sexual Offences Act to all couples, regardless to gender or sexual orientation – something Barbados has already moved to do
  2. §1.10 In programmes aimed at fostering healthier masculine roles, address the ways homophobia limits the opportunities and harms the health of all men and boys – Caribbean Studies Association President Prof. Linden Lewis discussed this cogently in delivering the Ministry’s distinguished lecture in January
  3. §1.7 Include violence based on perceived sexual orientation or whether someone is “acting how a man/woman ‘should’” in gender-based violence initiatives and policy
  4. §1.11 Name the GLBTI community as a special interest population, as the Policy does for youth, the elderly, and disabled people
  5. §1.12 Build government’s capacity to deal with these issues of sexual orientation and gender identity and to make the nation ready to do so
    • hire staff with relevant expertise
    • get technical assistance from international agencies and other governments (e.g. Cuba, Brazil)
    • support local research on these issues
    • train everyone.

We offered again to sit down with the Ministry, and hope we will meet with the Minister herself and with other Cabinet-level decisionmakers to discuss how we work in partnership on these issues.

Is Carnival season…six tips for safety

images courtesy Bohemia

Happy Carnival, family! Is winin season. Have real fun. But please do so safely. In blockin, in sexin, in drinkin, in drivin, in travellin, in leavin de party, in playin yuhself in public.

Welcome, too, to our foreign visitors. We’re proud of T&T’s reputation as the GLBT capital of the English-speaking Caribbean, where there’s no mob violence, little police harassment, a whole lot of social spaces, especially at Carnival, and certain people can walk down certain streets certain times in certain ways and not get bashed. But laws against homosexual sex are still on the books here (up to 25 years in jail, an HIV test, and listing in the sexual offender registry), even if they’re not usually used. And just like any other small place, public authorities and most police aren’t sympathetic to gay issues, individual attitudes vary, and you might be in trouble if you act “inappropriately”. So when you’re in public, pretend you’re in an ethnic or working class neighbourhood in your city; and listen to the natives.

Special warning: Over the past couple years an unacceptable number of us have found ourselves robbed, sometimes filmed in sexual poses, in some instances raped, and in a few cases killed by guys we met online, through A4A. These attacks were in people’s own homes as well as in strangers’ places, and not all were instant hookups. A few attacks have also happened as people left gay clubs. And Carnival is always a season of opportunity.

Unprotected – and unexpected – sex also happen quite a lot every Carnival. So make some plans. Guys: the chances the person you have sex with will be HIV+ are as high as 1 in 5; and he may not even know himself. You’ll find free condoms in most parties and events this season, but not necessarily lube and usually not dams. So walk with your stuff.

Here are six simple tips we hope you’ll remember throughout this season:

  • Talk about safety with each otherthink about safety for yourself
  • When you’re thirsty, sip
  • Start on the outside
  • Always tell somebody
  • If you get hurt, get help
  • Look out for each other

1. Talk about safety with each other. Think about safety for yourself. When you dress up, when you do up, when you do stuff, when you go out. Keep your friends safe. Just talk about it. Make safety a part of how you do Carnival.

2. When yuh tusty…Sip! When yuh real tusty is when you’s make de wuss decisions. So when yuh know yuh tusty, try an sip!

3. Start on the outside. If you are going to meet somebody you met online for the first time, consider doing so in a public place you are familiar with, where there are other people. Don’t agree to have them come to your residence, and don’t go to meet them somewhere strange. You can always decide to go somewhere else once things check out.

4. Always tell somebody. Make it a habit. Point out who you are leaving the party or the band with. Ask who knows them. Text somebody where you’re going. Text the licence plate. Call somebody to say you reached. Text to say you got back safely. Tell whoever you are going off with or you are going to meet that you have people who know who they are and where you are. Even if it’s not true. If they think you have nobody or that you’re ashamed to let anyone know, you become the best victim. If you really can’t tell anybody, make files: write the information down, text yourself.

5. If you become a victim, get help. Get medical care. If you’ve been raped, don’t hide it from the doctor. Ask for “PEP” (drugs that if administered quickly can prevent you from becoming HIV+). Talk and scream and cry about it with somebody you trust. Don’t suffer alone. Call the Carnival Safety Line at 857-7676 if you need to talk, you don’t know where to go for care, or if you’ve been mistreated by a service provider. We can’t answer 24/7, but we can call you back, we’ve helped other people, and we want to prevent people from getting hurt.

6. Look out for each other. Don’t abandon your friends. Encourage them to be responsible. But help them reach home safe when they don’t.

If you want to read more about ways to be safe, or suggest some: click here.

CAISO 2010: putting you at the centre

With boundless faith in our destiny: CAISO 2010

Happy New Year, family! And what a year it will be.

a "1919" vision of sexual orientation

CAISO holds our first meeting of 2010 today. In it we will look back on the magic of the past year: our unplanned formation, our unexpected success, and our unprecedented achievement. On the pleasures and memories that these brought us and many of you.

Stacy, sole survivor from Haitian support group

We will do so chastened: by the lives we lost to violence and illness over that same period; and by the horrible tragedy of Haïti’s earthquake, including the news we received this week that 14 of 15 men attending a support group at our partner organization SEROvie’s office in Port-au-Prince perished together. The sobering idea that everything can crumble in minutes.

Notwithstanding, we look forward with an incredible excitement to the possibility of a new year.

With the inspiration of Linden Lewis’s talk a week ago, and a hope in alliances. With the new vision our work with the international GLBT partners who joined us for CHOGM inspired in us of how our nation is blessed, and of what is possible here.

A vision of a new year that builds on the last one, that builds a bigger base, that builds more focused leadership, that builds more strategic direction, that builds more ambitious projects, that builds better relationships and more pleasure in our work, and that – whatever each of us believes spiritually – builds our faith in our own divine worth and our access to the power to achieve our vision.

A year in which faith will continue to be critical to our work.

We embark on the new year with a new logo that we’ll unveil to you, our community and allies, along with our plans for 2010, in the coming days.

Click and read on as a number of CAISOnians share their visions for the New Year with you. Continue reading “With boundless faith in our destiny: CAISO 2010”

Linden Lewis focuses Gender Ministry’s distinguished lecture on homophobia

To judge by the energy in the packed ballroom at the Crowne Plaza on Wrightson Rd. tonight, 2010 is off to a promising start. Even before the programme started, the room was filled close to capacity…with men – most of them African, many of them very young. The lobby was full, too, with a crowd browsing the agency tables with materials on men’s health and wellness. (Hmmm: they didn’t invite us to table…)

The fifth? “distinguished lecture” by the Trinidad & Tobago government’s gender ministry focused on masculinity and violence. The grey-bearded 56-year-old Guyanese university professor began his talk, “Abandoning Old Shibboleths of Masculinity in the Struggle against Violence”, by explaining the funny word in the title. He cited the Old Testament’s Judges 12: 5-6, where the term originates, then hauntingly brought the story of the lisp that kills home to Hispaniola in the Caribbean and the 20th-century Parsley Massacre – both cautionary tales of how social groups try to police who does and doesn’t “belong” with violence and with snap judgements about people’s behaviour that don’t always get it right.

Then sociologist Linden Lewis, president of the Caribbean Studies Association, former UWI instructor, international consultant, and current chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Bucknell University in the US, addressed another “concept” in his title: violence. He wanted to highlight three aspects of violence – structural violence; symbolic violence; and denial of rights – though he wasn’t saying that these three things were more important than what we normally think about as violence, issues like domestic violence, kidnapping, rape; but they were aspects of violence that don’t usually get talked about. They could offer us different conceptual lenses on violence than the ones we are accustomed to.

He started off reminding us that the explosive Small Arms Survey report was published by an independent research institute in Switzerland and of its statistic that East Port of Spain is more deadly than Baghdad. He recapped the per capita murder rates in Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica. He cited that the Caribbean has three of the top ten rape rates in the world. He noted that prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Trinidad & Tobago – exceeding breast cancer.

Then dry, dry so, according to UWI gender scholar and activist Gabrielle Hosein, the man start talking about homophobia. And talking about homophobia. And talking about homophobia.

That the incidence of prostate cancer is linked to the fact that Caribbean men refuse to undergo rectal exams because they associate a doctor’s finger in their ass with bulling. The story of the 80-year-old blind man who would rather pee on the floor every time than sit down to do so – because if men stoop, the whole ideological infrastructure falls down. Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, a Puerto Rican 19-year-old from Cayey stabbed, decapitated, dismembered and burned by a man who took him home without realizing he was a man. So you get vex; but then you cut off his head and his limbs and you set him on fire… Then he lingered on Jamaica: MP Ernest Smith’s Parliamentary rantings about gays organizing, carrying licensed firearms and serving in the police; PM Bruce Golding’s “Not in my Cabinet” statement on BBC television; still images of the April 2007 mob beating of a Trans person in Falmouth, Trelawny. And then he just let the entire cellphone video of the same noisy attack that had horrified folks around the world play, pointing out at the end how many of the assailants were women, who responded equally to the young victim’s trangression of masculinity with violence.

Continue reading “Linden Lewis focuses Gender Ministry’s distinguished lecture on homophobia”

GLBTIQ Issues Make Inroads at Commonwealth Summit

For the first time at a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, at CHOGM in Trinidad & Tobago, there was significant representation of GLBTQ (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender/queer) activists among civil society participants, and a concerted effort to highlight issues of sexual citizenship and rights. A delegation of GLBTQ activists from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean participated actively in the thematic assembly discussions and drafting process in the November 22-25, 2009 Commonwealth People’s Forum (CPF), a gathering of civil society organizations that meets in advance of, and sends a statement to, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Working in partnership with gender, disabilities and other human rights advocates, they achieved visibility for a number of key concerns, and won inclusion of these issues in the broad civil society agenda for the Commonwealth.

The issues cut a wide swath: repealing laws criminalizing non-normative sexualities and gender expression; preventing and prosecuting bias-related murders and violence, including punitive rape of Lesbians; ending discrimination in accessing health services; creating safety in the school system from violence and bullying; addressing the need for support and resources for parents; and developing training and sensitization for a range of public servants and service providers. Both scheduled speakers and participants from the floor made moving contributions related to human rights violations on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Commonwealth member countries. Especially powerful speeches came from Ashily Dior, a Transgender activist from Trinidad; Canadian Stephen Lewis, co-director of AIDS Free World and former UN Special Envoy on HIV in Africa; and Robert Carr, director of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition. Together, contributors raised a comprehensive range of concerns in several of the assemblies, particularly those focused on Gender; Health, HIV and AIDS; and Human Rights.

The final Port of Spain Civil Society Statement to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting includes language calling on “Commonwealth Member States and Institutions” to “recognize and protect the human rights of all individuals without discrimination on the grounds of…sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression”; to “repeal legislation that leads to discrimination, such as the criminalisation of same sex sexual relationships”; and for “the Commonwealth Foundation to facilitate a technical review of such of laws”. Further, it issues a call for “Commonwealth Member States to ensure universal access to basic” health “services for marginalised and vulnerable groups”, including “sexual and gender minorities”, and to “work to actively remove and prevent the establishment of legislation which undermines evidence-based effective HIV prevention, treatment and care available to marginalised and vulnerable groups, such as sexual minorities”. Its Gender section includes a distinct item on “Transgenders, Gays and Lesbians” (“We call on Commonwealth Member States to include gender and sexuality as a specific theme on sexualities, sexual and gender minorities, related violence and discrimination, making them no longer invisible”) and echoes the recognition in the human rights section “that gender equity implies equality for all and therefore issues related to non-normative sexualities, such as sexual and gender minorities”.

The Statement also makes reference to proposed “Anti-Homosexuality” legislation introduced in the Parliament of Uganda, home of current CHOGM Chair President Yoweri Museveni. The legislation would require reporting of homosexuals, provide a sentence of life imprisonment for homosexual touching or sex, and the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”, if the offender is HIV-positive. In remarks in more than one CPF assembly and in a special press conference, Lewis, Carr and a representative of the Caribbean HIV & AIDS Alliance, spoke out forcefully against the legislation, asking Museveni to take a clear position on it, and calling on others to condemn it. The Trinidad & Tobago Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation joined these voices, asking its own Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who will assume the chairmanship of CHOGM, and other CARICOM leaders, to do the same.

Eighty-six countries in the world currently have legislation criminalizing same-sex conduct between consenting adults as well as other non normative sexual and gender behaviours and identities; half of them are Commonwealth member states. Criminal provisions in these countries may target same sex sexual conduct, men who have sex with men specifically, or more generally any sexual behaviour considered “unnatural”. Some countries criminalize other non normative behaviours, such as cross-dressing, or utilize criminal provisions on indecency or debauchery, among others, to target individuals on their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. These criminal provisions not only constitute a violation of civil and political rights in and of themselves because they violate key provisions established by international human rights law; they also have significant human rights implications, representing a serious risk for the exercise of other fundamental rights, such as the right to association, the right to assembly, and the right to expression, the right to health, the principle of non discrimination, to mention a few. Furthermore, the mere existence of these laws is in many countries is an avenue for other human rights violations by state and non-state actors.

We acknowledge and welcome the civil society consensus on the above mentioned issues, and call on Commonwealth member states, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation to implement the recommendations of the Commonwealth People’s Forum.

You can access the Port of Spain Civil Society Statement to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 25 November at: http://www.commonwealthfoundation.com/governancedemocracy/CPF2009/NewPublicationsCPF/

·     Alternative Law Forum (ALF) – India
·     Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana (CEPEHRG)  – Ghana

·     Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO) – Trinidad & Tobago
·     Gay and Lesbian coalition of Kenya (GALCK) – Kenya
·     GrenCHAP – Grenada
·     Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays – (J-FLAG) – Jamaica
·     Knowledge and Rights with Young People through Safer Spaces (KRYSS) – Malaysia
·     Lesbians and Gays Bisexuals Botswana (LEGABIBO) – Botswana
·     People Like Us (PLU) – Singapore
·     Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) – Guyana
·     The Independent Project (TIP) – Nigeria
·     United and Strong – St. Lucia
·     United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) – Belize
·     United Gays and Lesbians against AIDS Barbados (UGLAAB) – Barbados
·     Global Rights
·     International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)

Links:

Human Rights Defenders Look to the Commonwealth

Mia Quetzel on Caribbean Transgender Issues

“Law to protect gays, lesbians”, Barbados Nation, 26 November 2009: Minister of Family, Youth and Sports Esther Byer-Suckoo promises domestic violence protections the day after participating in the Comonwealth People’s Forum

Fridae: Letter from Trinidad

LGBT Rights in the Commonwealth

Can’t Every Body Be a Commonwealth Citizen? Making Safe Space for Sexuality on the People’s Forum Agenda

Taking responsibility for creating spaces at CPF for discussion and action on questions of sexuality, gender and development

gspotttlight: IRN

IRN website
IRN website

When we launched, CAISO said our plans included “a website, monthly meetings, fundraising at home and abroad, educational activities with public and religious officials, and collaboration with local and international research, advocacy and human rights groups”. In fact, our emergence has been received with quite a bit of excitement within the region and beyond. We’ve been called on by UNAIDS (the UN’s joint programme on HIV, who asked us to share ideas about addressing homophobia and violence); UNDP (the UN’s development programme, through its new, Port of Spain-based initiative on sexual minorities); the regional Coalition for Vulnerable Communities whom we welcome back to Trinidad for a human rights consultation at the end of the month; and CariFLAGS (the Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities), a 12-year-old regional GLBT coalition who have asked us to join and, with other partners, sponsored a local community member to attend their groundbreaking Regional Transgender Training and Strategy Consultation two weeks ago. The Commonwealth People’s Forum blog and the blogger portal Global Voices Online have both taken notice of our online work. As evidenced by yesterday’s City University of New York webcast, CAISO is helping strengthen links between Trinidad & Tobago and a range of regional and international work on GLBT issues. As we participate in these regional and international meetings and build relationships with partners, a periodic gspotttlight will try to tell you a bit about those meetings and allies.

launching the Caribbean IRN at the Caribbean Studies Association conference in Kingston
launching the Caribbean IRN at the Caribbean Studies Association conference in Kingston

Vidyartha Kissoon, Caribbean IRN Coordinator, talks about the entity that gave rise to yesterday’s webcast, and its consultation in Jamaica in June that a CAISO member attended.

A gathering of buller, sadamite woman, man-rayal, batty-man, anti-man and dey friend (or, if you want, a gathering of people whose political, creative and scholarly work focuses on genders and sexual minorities in the
Caribbean) meet up in Jamaica in June this year. (Jamaica, you ask? Well Jamaica was the venue for the Caribbean Studies Association conference, which had many discussions on Caribbean sexualities.) The gathering was organized by the Caribbean board of the International Resource Network (IRN). The IRN is a project based at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) of the City University of New York. It is funded by the Ford Foundation and seeks to connect academic and  community-based researchers, artists, and activists around the world in areas related to diverse sexualities and genders. The web platform is at http://www.irnweb.org.

What opportunities does the IRN present for the Caribbean? It provides a mechanism to promote the work being done by groups lIke CAISO and to network across the Caribbean and in the diaspora in a very visible way. The Caribbean is evolving in terms of how the different countries respond to LBGTT citizens and their right to achieve their full potential. The Caribbean IRN web has started to build a listing of related resources – syllabuses, films, books, papers, people. And other activities have started in the background: