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Hostility fails to dampen gays’ spirits on awareness march

Published: 
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
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 yesterday 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.” Robinson said there was a lot of work to be done on the situation in T&T regarding gay and transgender people.

“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. Other groups also have called for decriminalising of homosexuality. Robinson said the first step was for protection of gays from discrimination and violence which CAISO wanted Government to ensure.

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. “We want a reasonable environment where people can disagree on issues of principle and still afford basic civilities and human dignity and with the same rights for everyone.” (GA)