Hostility fails to dampen gays’ spirits on awareness march
Members of CAISO walk out of the Port-of-Spain waterfront complex as they embark on what was intended to be a gay rights awareness march through the streets of Port-of-Spain yesterday. From left are Pamela Rodney, Colin Robinson, Kevin Brendt, Stephanie Leitch, of the Network of NGOs of T&T, Kennty Mitchell, activist and walking behind is Cyrus Sylvester. PHOTO: KARLA RAMOO
A little hostility." That's what gay and transgender citizens met on May 17 when they went about presenting packages to several ministries to raise awareness of gay rights. But it wasn't enough to dampen their spirits.
The Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO) walked to 15 ministries to mark the country's first observance of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO).
The event observed the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness. Despite the "little hostility" they received, CAISO's Colin Robinson said: "We weren't deterred and people warmed up anyway. "We didn't hear any name-calling and we haven't been treated as anything but citizens and we also noted the (Gender Affairs) minister in the Guardian has commented positively on our effort."
“The glass is half full but there’s a lot of opportunity. Because of this particular Government there are openings to begin to create the T&T I would like to be able to live in. There are real opportunities in the current moment,” he added. CAISO is advocating sex education in schools to equip youths to deal with life better, protect themselves against sexual abuse and understand the mechanics of sexuality.
He said the group met former Gender Affairs Minister Mary King earlier this year and raised the issue of the damage which debate in Parliament in February had caused. Robinson noted that one Government Minister in the debate had shouted reminders about a Leviticus verse. He added: “That sort of thing doesn’t help. It only polarises society. That’s not the kind of climate we want to foster.
It is the date which marks the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Colin Robinson, president of the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), told reporters at the International Waterfront Centre that he had handed over to ministers' representatives "six politically feasible steps that our government can take to end and to address homophobia in Trinidad and Tobago".
These steps include Government speaking forcefully about embracing the full citizenship and humanity of Trinbagonians who are gay.
The other steps include equal opportunity for members of the community, reduction or eradication of crime against the gay and lesbian community and the police's treatment of members of this group.
The other three proposals include the creating of measures which would steer members of the gay and lesbian community away from sex work, a solid gender policy for the gay and lesbian community and safe schools for all sexual orientations.
Robinson said that yesterday morning they encountered, "some hostility", but were able to "charm" their way through to the ministers' representatives.