I get this question often. Most commonly, I get this question on YouTube, since I’ve recently started a channel about life and travel here. It’s a question that’s difficult to answer in a YouTube comment when you have a limited amount of time and space, and the additional difficulty of not being able to “read” the person you’re talking to in order to determine if they’re really hearing you. The more I get this question, the more I do want to address it somewhere because the answer is both simple and complicated.
“Is Saint Lucia gay-friendly?” The short answer is no.
In the Caribbean, there’s a strong sense that feminism and LGBT liberation are two separate issues. However, I worry that this separation is less for practical reasons such as different needs from society and the community. I suspect a large portion of the separation between Caribbean feminists and the LGBT community is flat out homophobia.
Think I’m wrong?
Hear me out…
Guest Post Authored By: Kira Ann Buchanan
Co-authors: Jennelle Ramdeen and C.R.W
Being a bisexual counselor-in-training, I feel like I need to utilize my education and privilege to advocate for the LGBTQiA community. Mental health has become a passion of mine that has provided me with an exciting career path. Though I do not live in the West Indies, I’ve spent a lot of time between Trinidad and Jamaica. I have been discriminated against and I’ve also witnessed anti-gay scenarios mostly while in Trinidad. Being a bisexual women, I’ve felt more accepted than many because I have straight passing privilege. I grew up with a heavy West Indian culture, which was also a bit homophobic. I will always identify as West Indian before American. Mental health and lack of resources for the LGBTQiA community within the West Indies is an issue I plan to combat.
I didn’t want to speak for individuals actually living in the West Indies so I did an interview with a friend of mine that lives in Trinidad. She identifies as lesbian and has a wide variety of queer friends. She participates in several advocacy campaigns as well as safe space groups at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. Queer women in Trinidad seem to be the most prominent group that advocate for the community. My friend noticed gay men are not too active in advocacy. She said, “they seem to be too preoccupied partying and liming,” which added some humor to this serious topic. She believes men should use their privilege to help make a change and I couldn’t agree more. It seems like the queer women that do advocate in Trinidad have had the privilege to go abroad and study. They are lucky enough to go back home and live within the upper class of the society. I was encouraged to “take activism in Trinidad with a grain of salt.” There is a generational and gender divide within the community. There is no solidarity.
Viewing mental health through the lens of intersectional feminism calls for us to examine the specific mental health issues faced by the LGBTI community. While all mental health issues are largely ignored by the greater West Indian community, another group of marginalized people face specific oppression at the hands of medical professionals; they face specific issues regarding their sexuality and gender expression that other West Indians do not face.
In a society where non-cisgender and non-heterosexual people face massive amounts of physical/emotional and sexual violence, there is no space for LGBTI+ individuals to receive help or support for their unique difficulties. Not to mention, the people who cause these difficulties don’t believe that their problems are real. While I’m not qualified to speak on behalf of anyone in the community, I can advise my readers, especially those in positions of privilege, to pay attention to how our society creates toxic conditions for the mental health of LGBTI+ individuals.
LGBTI+ individuals face bullying and abuse at the hands of their family and friends. Abuse has a definitive negative impact on mental health. (Source: CDC, Google it)