LGBT Tuesdays: Anti-buggery laws

Striking anti-buggery laws are not a big priority for West Indian politicians, despite the fact that these homophobic laws are relics of a hateful past. We are willing to hang onto harmful colonial ideology as long as it's homophobic. Politicians do not even see it as a priority to protect LGBT citizens from violence.Government officials use their "Christianity" as an excuse for this, apparently missing the hundreds of passages in the Bible about being loving, just and non-violent. Their egos and their addiction to hatred impact policy that affects hundreds of thousands of people in the region.

We will never have a society that is committed to any kind of positive ideals as long as we have anti-buggery laws. We should not take any moral high ground or presume ourselves to be "good people" as long as these laws are still on the record. West Indians should feel ashamed of the fact that in 2017, we are barely committed to providing equal rights to life for all of our citizens. Of course, there are many other areas where we fall disturbingly short.

Our culture should not be wholly dependent on our laws -- and it isn't. Here, it's clear we need a legal shift as well as a cultural shift. But let's be real. We know West Indian politicians don't give a rat's...behind... about equality for all. Our laws and their behavior reflect this. So what can communities do? In Saint Lucia, we can work towards supporting United & Strong, an LGBT activist group that works for LGBT rights within our country. (Supporting = give money, in case that wasn't clear.) We can support individual LGBT citizens and campaign against homophobia in our families and groups of friends.

If we ever want an equal society, we won't let this slide. LGBT issues are not "minor" issues to be dismissed. We're talking about people's lives here. If your beliefs exclude viewing these people as human, you need to toss out the whole belief system and start again.

5 Ways Caribbean Journalism Disrespects ALL Caribbean Citizens

On the rare occasion when I actually want a migraine, I'll open up my web browser or my email and see what's new in Caribbean regional news. Sometimes on Facebook, against my will, I'll also be exposed to various local news sources. Often, what I encounter stimulates deep feelings of embarrassment and disappointment. I've finally put my finger on why that is.

Journalism should abide by a code of ethics. In fact, in other parts of the world, journalists codes of ethics tend to be agreed upon. Here's a summary that was taken from the preamble of U.S. Journalistic Standards And Ethics (written by the Society of Professional Journalists):"...public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility." 

Fairness is one of the primary values of journalists. This means that reporting should not embody a bigoted perspective or seek to further a bigoted agenda. Truth and honesty mean portraying situations with their full historical context. Journalistic integrity means that publications should seek to publish accurate information and take into account all the facts that comprise of a particular situation or news story. This journalistic integrity is totally lacking in regional news sources and some of the prime offenders are local, St. Lucian news sources themselves. Here are five ways that Caribbean journalism is unethical, with examples to illustrate my point.

1 Bigoted bias against marginalized communities like women and the LGBT community

In Barbados, the Nation newspaper came under fire for this headline, "‘Gentleman’ gets taste of male medicine" written to cover a story about a lesbian who was raped by a straight man. The fact that this headline was published (even in a gossip column), shows how easily casual homophobia, as well as misogyny, slips past editors. Even in the report of the "scandal", the authors include the fact that the rape victim was under the influence of alcohol -- a detail that is not relevant to the story and serves to further scapegoat the victim.

Another story published in the St. Lucia Times entitled, "Antigua: Gay men urged to get tested", reassures readers that gay men are urged to come forward about their sexuality "not to put their lifestyle on display". Small statements like this cement bigoted biases against the LGBT community in the Caribbean. LGBT identity is not a "lifestyle" and the language used here suggests that not only is LGBT identity something to be ashamed of, but it's something that the Caribbean community should be policing by ensuring that it isn't put on display.Another St. Lucia Times story reports, "Barbados: Gays Reported Happy This Crop Over". Using the phrase "Gays" instead of "gay people" or the "LGBT community" is another example of this seemingly small-scale denial of personhood that contributes to the Caribbean's overall bigoted and violent treatment of such a marginalized community. I can't go on ad nauseum with my news sources, butI can't go on ad nauseum with my news sources, but these three display a lack of journalistic ethics when it comes to serving the public -- especially the marginalized public, which is in need of fair media more than the majority.

2 Classist Bias In Reporting Crimes Against Foreigners vs. Crimes Against Locals 

Most local newspapers also send the message that crimes against foreigners are a greater travesty than crimes against locals. While news reports of sexual assault, brutal violence and the like against Caribbean nationals is written in quickly, foreigners receive lengthy diatribes describing all of their contributions to society.We can all (hopefully) agree that all murder is wrong. But the death of foreigners is not more significant than the death of locals. Compare this article on the murder of Colin Peter or the hotel electrocution of a 20-year-old tourist to these articles reporting local murders [x] [x]. While the deaths of foreigners beg many questions, the worthless lives of St. Lucian citizens are diminished. Here's your gossip bulletin. There is no cause for concern, no call to end bigotry. There is no call for public consideration about the worthiness of the lives lost. There is no mandate for public action.The death of tourists calls for philosophy, but the death of black locals calls for a footnote alone. There is outrage for white deaths, but shoulder shrugging for black deaths. This is a blatantly unethical bias in reporting, and it would be disingenuous for anyone to claim that local lives are valued as much as foreign lives here. This belief in our own lack of significance permeates the St. Lucian (and Caribbean) psyche so heavily that it is almost invisible. However, it is present and it's furthered by media that refuses to give black, local lives the same value as foreign lives

.3 Publishing Pseudoscience to Back A Personal Agenda

One of the main examples of this occurs regularly in a popular, regional media source, Caribbean News 360. One of the articles they publish -- they publish many about the evils of marijuana -- says that "Long Term Marijuana Use Can Make Your Teeth Drop Out". They make these claims, only loosely referencing the "scientific study" that they refer to. But I did my research and got right to the source, a single study published in JAMA Psychiatry by an Arizona State University professor.The truth is that the news published by Caribbean 360 is totally false. Not only does the study not make this claim, but the researcher's most surprising findings (in her own words) were, "In the second surprising instance, we found no association between cannabis use and cardiovascular risks, (e.g., high blood pressure and worse cholesterol levels)". There were signs of a slightly increased risk of gum disease, but this is hardly the biased fear-mongering statement that marijuana use "makes your teeth drop out". Publishing such a claim is highly unethical. Not only is choosing a SINGLE study to make a global claim not scientifically sound, the claim that Caribbean News 360 published was not the claim of the researcher and they neglected to include other information contained in her article about chronic marijuana usage that portrayed marijuana usage in a different light.This is an example of many such claims published by Caribbean News 360 as well as other media sources throughout the Caribbean. By not linking or citing the precise study where their clickbait headlines are drawn from, they deny readers the right to make informed decisions for themselves and publish false propaganda to further what I can only assume is a personal agenda.

4 Uncritical Support Of Tourist Industry Expansion 

Media with integrity owes it to the public to report critically of unmitigated expansion of the tourist industry. No, we don't need to hear more about resorts "saving our economy" (we already have so many and we haven't been saved yet). We need to hear the truth about the economic impact of resorts. What about real investigation and research? (We don't have this. Op-Eds here are uninformed opinions, not well-researched pieces.)When you read reports on the tourism industry, you would think it's all sunshine and roses. There is no critique of the large-scale environmental destruction that occurs when a resort is built. There is no word on the true economic benefit of resorts for locals. The truth is, most of the highest paying jobs as well as the profits go towards exploitative (and often foreign) landowners. The scraps of the hotel industry are left for locals.Failing to report the truth of the tourist industry, failing to highlight the largescale environmental destruction as well as interpersonal exploitation that goes into these neo-plantations, does not serve the needs of the public and represents this continuing lack of integrity.

5. Inflammatory Headlines And Tabloid Newspaper Structure

All you have to do is look at the links included in this blog post to see what I am referring to by "inflammatory headlines" and "tabloid structure". The news is not for disseminating information or informing the public, but for attention. It is entertainment in its purest form and all it takes to be a journalist is to have an opinion, whether or not that opinion is ill-informed or utterly ahistorical.This need to have news be "entertaining" as opposed to "informative" lies at the center of the unethical nature of Caribbean journalism. Entertainment doesn't require integrity. Entertainment doesn't require critical thinking. All entertainment is supposed to do is stimulate your emotional hot buttons and get you to respond. This is a part of the reason why we see bigotry published so uncritically.

This is a part of the reason reports on the tourist industry are unchecked by factual information. The media sees its role as entertainment.As Caribbean citizens, our first order of business should be declining to engage with media that does not respect our history, our intelligence and our fellow citizen's right to be informed about the condition and events of our country. We need to publicly demand better reporting and lambaste the blowhards who think they have successfully constructed a media that is above reprieve. Finally, we need to work on supporting media that does communicate with integrity and respects the rights of all Caribbean citizens for fair and accurate reporting.


by CJG Ghanny

CJG Ghanny is a nameless nobody of Indo-Caribbean heritage via Trinidad who is currently living in Boston. He is a co-founder of coolie collective, a digital space for exploring Indo-Caribbean identity through the lenses of social justice and postcolonialism. He is allergic to social media, but welcomes feedback and camaraderievia e-mail.

His début novel NMQP is forthcoming, inshallah.

Carnival is this weekend in my city, and like many metropolitan Caribbean kids I’m stoked beyond belief. I’m not really a crowds person and I don’t like being drunk in public, but Carnival to me is about unity with my people, Caribbean people, bonding through shared music and culture and foodstuffs with a touch of j’ouvert oil and feathers for good measure. I’ll be linking up with my Indo-Caribbean sisters for brunch in the morning and then roll up looking my absolute cutest in red and black all over.

At the same time, I’m scared. I’m scared because I am very gay and in a relationship with a man, and I don’t know if Carnival is the space for me, or any gender non-conforming people for that matter. We hear the horror stories about genderbending folk on the Islands being chased down and strung up from trees, but surely it can’t be that bad in our liberal big city way north of the West Indies, where Carnival is a sponsored and corporate event with plenty of PD on sight, right?

I’m not convinced. Caribbean-Americans can be just as violent in perpetuating homophobia and transmisogyny as anyone else, and it’s up to us as a community to recognize this and address it, so we can truly dwell together in unity like we’re supposed to.

After all, if you don’t live in the deepest part of Queens or Midtown Miami, the notion of a Caribbean American community may be an abstract one to grasp. Growing up I knew plenty of Caribbean people, mostly Dominicans and Puerto Ricans on the block and family friends and former lovers from all over the Antilles, but I didn’t have a sense of what our shared identity was. My coming out somewhere in my teens pushed me further away from embracing any identity other than my orientation; above all else, I could be safe among the ranks of the flamboyant and flaming rather than shave a slit in my brow and fake machismo. Seemingly overnight I traded in the Capleton and Sizzla records of my youth for Bad Romance and Britney Spears’ Blackout and accepted my place as another wayward gay in the metropolitan mix.

Caribbean music, after all, is notorious for its strict enforcement of gender roles. Yeah, we may have Spice, Destra, and J Capri (RIP) to show us that ladies can spit bad as de mandem, but Caribbean music which truly preaches a message of gender equality is hard to find. Patriarchy and transmisogyny go hand in hand as a result. Consider even the “clean” edit of Konshens’s 2012 dancehall anthem, “Pull Up to Mi Bumper”, when he makes it clear that first on his priorities with a whining vixen is to “make sure dem parts dem genuine”. A while back, the Stop Murder Music campaign aimed to curtail blatantly violent anti-gay lyrics, with limited success aside from a few cancelled visas. Some artists are coming around — I refuse to believe that Nadia Batson’s soca banger “Cyah Change” is anything but an anthem of tolerance made palatable for island audiences. But for many LGBTQ West Indians including myself, feteing often means putting aside parts of ourselves, tailoring down our appearance, falling prey to gender roles so as not to attract unwanted attention.

On the surface there are many Caribbean Americans whose music can be a more accepting substitute for shanties from the island. Take Nicki Minaj’s recent odes to her Trinidadian heritage, “Pound The Alarm” and “Trini Dem Girls”. On the underground, LGBTQ-identified rapper Hoodcelebrityy is out here making diasporic dancehall where she directs the gyaldem wining in front of her, herself playing the role of the stud, the bumper bully. In major cities like New York and Boston groups like Chutney Pride and IslandPride respectively are representing for LGBTQ West Indians and putting on gay-friendly fetes featuring DJs within the community. From chaos we are forging friendship, camaraderie, and a shared sense of belonging behind the DJ booth.At the same time, members of our community repeatedly bash LGBTQ folks publicly and violently, replicating the same attitudes that have caused many LGBTQ folks to leave the islands for “safer” shores. I am putting aside my own anxieties specifically about being gay bashed to turn attention to the related and increasingly more acute phenomenon of violence against trans women. We are experiencing a severe wave of anti-transgender violence across the country, and our Caribbean communities are not exempt from contributing to these atrocities. Worst of all, it’s not just our men who are largely committing the acts of violence, but also our women who are inciting violence in their statements and actions.

Recent celebutante Cardi B has done the most (as is her style) in regards to spreading transmisogyny to the masses. Consider this vine, where she plots a threesome with a transgender woman to “get even” with a cheating boyfriend. The vine is not only, uh, gross and violent, but relegates the trans woman in question to a subhuman position; the hypothetical she only exists to spite the “valid” man, her boyfriend. Honestly, you don’t even need me to elaborate on her remarks; just listen to “Foreva” where she literally says that men with vaginas are “disgraceful”, or reference this tweet where she calls a detractor a “sensitive bitch” and “soft” for being offended at the above controversy.Part of this callousness can surely be found in Cardi B’s no-nonsense, banji girl aesthetic, the one she honed in order to turn an Instagram account into a multi-million dollar TV contract and music career. She was a stripper before that, and in that role she probably met plenty a trans woman or two, maybe even befriended a couple as she claims in the tweet above. And Cardi B is a certified baddie anyway; there’s no way a trans woman could ever make her feel threatened. So let’s dig deeper.Cardi B is biracial and multiethnic; “Triniminican” (Trinidadian and Dominican), as she self-identifies on her verse on best friend Hoodcelebrityy’s “Island Girls”. The two islands are about as far apart as two islands can be in the Caribbean, Trinidad skirting the coast of South America and the DR sitting atop the Antilles like a crown. They share neither language nor culture for the most part. One key mutuality: they were both colonized, by England and Spain respectively; their native and enslaved black populations were stripped of their origin cultures and indoctrinated into oppressive and violent mentalities entwined in religion. Now, we don’t know very much about pre-colonial systems of gender in the Spanish Caribbean, as Taina trans woman Alyssa Gonzalez might tell you. But the colonial man/woman binary that was imposed on both societies is inextricable from the violent enforcement of gender roles across the Caribbean. This isn’t to say the Caribbean is unique in its level or intensity of patriarchy — pretty much all regions and cultures are affected by it at this point — but it does make for a particular landscape onto which gender can be mapped.But the colonial man/woman binary that was imposed on both societies is inextricable from the violent enforcement of gender roles across the Caribbean. This isn’t to say the Caribbean is unique in its level or intensity of patriarchy — pretty much all regions and cultures are affected by it at this point — but it does make for a particular landscape onto which gender can be mapped.Jamaica has made the most headlines in recent years for many violent incidents of homophobia and transmisogyny. Vice, for whatever reason, has been the foremost purveyor of the stories of Jamaica’sgully queens, the gender-nonconforming youth who live in the sewers of Kingston. These stories followed the well-publicized murder of Dwayne Jones, a youth who went to a house party dressed in woman’s clothing, and run in tandem with gay Jamaican author Marlon James’s quiet exile to the United States after winning the Booker Prize. But are Jamaicans in the States any different? Let’s ask Junglepussy, Brooklyn-based rapper and fashion icon of Jamaican and Trinidadian descent:“Every time I go to sleep, I could be on my deathbed, so I always confess my sins. Actually, some people think I’m a tranny, but they are stupid. Do they really think I’ve got money to be getting a new pussy? I’m definitely not a tranny. Don’t you see my throwback Thursday pictures of me when I was a baby on Instagram?”

This is one of many instances where JP has used the t-slur, to describe either herself or others. Now, JP might not be slinging the same island invective as Cardi B, but the message is the same. Only real women have vaginas, and how dare some hater confuse her — a real woman — with a lesser example of femininity, a bitch with a dick? Normally this would only be run-of-the-mill transmisogyny, except for the fact that for a moment in 2013 JunglePussy and her crew were praised for bringing feminism and queer-positivity to the mic. What does it say when even those who are “progressive” or “woke” or whatever the buzzword is these days still don’t take trans women into account?This is hardly even confined to Caribbean Americans in the diaspora either. Kittitian-British rapper Lady Leshurr caught heat upon her release of her viral single “Queen’s Speech”, where she microaggressively demeaned and deadnamed American trans woman Caitlyn Jenner. Now, we’re not gonna sit here and pretend that a black female Youtube rapper is capable of oppressing a rich white Republican former Olympic athlete. At the same time, Leshurr’s lyric was low-hanging fruit and just plain rude aside from dehumanizing of trans women and disrespectful of one of the most important transgender coming-outs in world history. On the other side of the equation you have folks like Guyanese-British Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange, whose avowed love for fucking trans girls has led to him being branded as a fetishizer by the trans women of the tumblrverse. It goes without saying that just as interracial marriage hasn’t ended racism literally anywhere, a few odd of our men taking walks on the wild side won’t magically turn our spaces safe.

This is what allows folks like Jamaican-American Kareem Ruddock to stab a gay man on a subway train while yelling homophobic slurs. This is what allows members of an Indo-Caribbean tasa group to brawl with fellow coolies in a bar in Richmond Hill because some of those coolies happen to be gender-nonconforming. This is what allows LGBTQ Caribbean youth of all colors to become homeless upon their coming out. So long as we are haunted by the colonial ills of our homelands, we can never know peace no matter where we go.This doesn’t mean, like many white gay leaders would like you to believe, that the Caribbean is a unilaterally homophobic or transphobic place devoid of any compassion. Caribbean-American womanist Audre Lorde famously said in “The Uses of Anger” that“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” It’s a bit unclear if that statement, published in 1981, was truly said with trans women in mind, but it’s a good paradigm to work off of and one that resonates with contemporary feminists West Indian and otherwise.One of those contemporary West Indian feminists is Eriche, the Saint Lucian-born editor of The West Indian Critic. Eriche considers the battle against homophobia and transphobia to be paramount in the priorities of West Indian feminism and speaks about it at length on her YouTube channel. Jamaican-American feminist, mother, and slam poet Staceyann Chin has also been vocal in the need for respect for the LGBTQ community from Jamaica across the diaspora.The rest starts with us. Those of us in the North Indies are part of communities too, whether it’s among family, friends, cousins, cookout-cohorts, social clubs, or nightlife fetes. My main Caribbean connection is the Indo-Caribbean Facebook collective I started, where we confront the expectations of our traditions and histories with our multifaceted realities. I also have Tumblr, where I follow the feeds of beautiful coolie girls and dougla dudes living between Richmond Hill and Laventille, the majority of whom are rad individuals committed to social change. For those of us with family back home, it’s imperative that we start conversations with them as much as our own safeties and mental healths will allow. We can also materially support organizations likeSpectrum Human Rights that work with Caribbean LGBTQ folks seeking asylum. Taking a step back to music and cultural expression, don’t pretend like your problematic faves aren’t all over Twitter and Soundcloud — let them know how you feel!

We should not aim for a world of tolerant cores and intolerant peripheries. We must strive for interlocking communities within and beyond our day-to-day interactions which all seek to protect the vulnerable and marginalized among us. So even if we’re not all brave enough to wear rainbow feathers to Carnival, let’s do all we can to appreciate and pelt waist with those who do.

***DISCLAIMER: This work is not the intellectual property of Eriche or West Indian Critic but is being shared on my blog at the express permission of the author. However, all my copyright warnings STILL apply! Do not steal this work! Stay blessed.***

Intersectional Feminism: Mental Health And The West Indian LGBTI Community

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)LGBTI+ individuals face legal discrimination at work and in society at large. (Source: Anti buggery laws, instances of hate crimes.) It's not difficult to see how this large scale discrimination could lead to depression and anxiety, among other conditions which may end in suicide and overall impact society in a negative way.LGBTI+ individuals must live in constant fear of hate crimes considering our Christian society's inability to empathize with them. Living in fear is not a healthy position for anyone to exist in.

Transgender and non-binary individuals may experience gender dysphoria as well as a whole host of other psychological issues caused by living in a violently oppressive and intolerant society that prescribes one way for men/women to behave and a society that doesn't except people who are neither.LGBTI+ individuals might reasonably see no hope for the future considering their family/friend's comfort in using harmful+violent slurs and may see nothing but hatred from people who are supposed to love them.This is just a short list of ways that our violent society oppresses LGBTI+ individuals in a way that denies them the human right to live freely. Due to this violence, LGBTI+ individuals may need special therapy and medical professionals with deep understanding of their specific needs.

Doctors here might be bigoted themselves or otherwise unable to provide LGBTI+ individuals with proper assistance or medical treatment.Some particularly violent people might believe that this doesn't matter... But it does. While there are commonly touted lies that LGBTI+ identity is a choice or a fad (two things which shouldn't affect civil rights anyways), this is not the case. Most people don't know who is on the LGBTI+ spectrum. You should safely assume that someone you know or someone in your family suffers due to our violence against this marginalized group. Even if this didn't affect your friends or your family, anyone with the ability to empathize should be able to see how these issues are important... All people deserve the same human rights.Differences are not a reason to continue enacting violent oppression.

We would do well to shed these colonial habits of discrimination and prejudice! Going further, I recommend reading up on LGBTI+ identity and learning FACTS outside of what religious fundamentalists present you with. I recommend listening to members of the community and learning about their demands and their specific needs. Since it's LGBT history month, I also recommend learning about the stories of LGBTI+ identifying West Indians specifically... There ARE quite a few out there who are writing and sharing their stories.

This is a great primer to get you started: responsibility to care for LGBTI+ mental health is on everyone in our society regardless of your sexuality or gender identity. It's time for the oppressors to take charge of making these changes and assisting in bringing acceptance and justice to our region. Speak out against those who use slurs. Speak out against those who spread misinformation and violent propaganda.

We need to start protecting our greater Caribbean family.