IS SAINT LUCIA GAY FRIENDLY?

 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.This answer should be a national embarrassment, yet it's one that many of our residents who rely on tourism as their bread and butter hold proudly and dear to their hearts.I've heard all the excuses and justifications of homophobia stemming from slavery (true) and also from Christianity being used as a tool of violence to keep enslaved people obedient to European rule (also true). While these historical facts paint the picture of why the Caribbean is homophobic, they don't excuse it.The violence Christians enact today in the name of misreading an excessively butchered translation of the Bible, is 100% their fault. And I'm going to come right out and make a controversial claim:

We deserve every dollar lost due to our violent intolerance and discrimination. 

I'm not sorry to make that claim because discrimination of any kind is unacceptable. End of story. There is no "religious" justification that can take away the ultimate alleged message of Christianity: LOVE THY NEIGHBOR.Love is not conditional and if you believe it is, you need to hit that Bible once more and correct the hell out of your poisoned definition of love. The religious justifications for homophobia in this country are no longer an excuse. The legacy of slavery is no longer an excuse. While it may explain why our country is homophobic, this doesn't excuse it.

What are we doing right now to change the oppressive system enacted into law by slave masters? Answer: The majority of us are doing nothing.So yes, I'm tired of coming up with excuses and yes, Saint Lucia is very much a homophobic country. You know you're starting off on the wrong foot when you refer to sex as "sodomy" on the books. "Sodomy" is forbidden under Saint Lucian law.Now, let's get to where things get a little more complicated.While legally, two men are not permitted to have sex and as you can imagine, getting married is out of the question, the law is difficult to enforce. Also, I've asked and there's no word on whether two women having sex is forbidden. Loopholes on loopholes, I suppose.I know a number of people in the LGBT community in Saint Lucia who get by here. I'm not sure how happy they are so I really don't want to portray a message that I have no evidence of. Happy or not, LGBT Saint Lucians consider this place their home and have hope that the country will move forward in the future. Some people live with their partners in Saint Lucia as well and as far as I know, have not been arrested for doing such.I will not promise that existence is without fear, threat or discrimination. However, it is a reality that we have an LGBT community in Saint Lucia and some people live openly.

To act as if gay people do not exist here is an act of violence itself, and I don't wish to perpetuate that. (If you want me to expand more on this, comment down below.)Now, the question at hand that often accompanies "IS SAINT LUCIA GAY-FRIENDLY?" is, would I recommend that a tourist visit Saint Lucia?Let me put it to you this way. I would not put my money in the hands of a government that had "banned" black people or interracial relationships, lets say.If the question isn't a matter of where you're putting your money, I would say that if you come to Saint Lucia as an LGBT person you can remain unbothered if you conform to the standards of dress acceptable for men and women in our culture. Also, I would not recommend public displays of affection towards your significant other or anyone of the same sex. (Usually, I find it's more acceptable for women to dress "like men" than the other way around down here but I'm open to correction from women who have lived this experience.)

Would I recommend you traveling here? Hell no! That's messy! I don't like taking responsibility for people's decisions like that. I would not feel comfortable assuring a tourist 100% of their safety in any homophobic country. My recommendation is to assess the situation and determine what you're comfortable with.If more tourists vote with their dollars and take a stance against homophobia here, I am certain the profit mongers in our tourism industry would inch slowly towards progress. However, that's going to take a lot of dollars considering homophobia is not just a Caribbean issue, but a global one. If it's your dream to see the Caribbean before then, I don't think you should deny yourself the opportunity.It's possible to be safe. It's possible to be unbothered by anyone. If you've survived anywhere else in the world where homophobia exists, you can certainly do it down here. Sadly, none of this prejudice is new.

Be warned that while the country's laws may be lax, some of the rules of the resorts here are not and the white foreign resort owners are the ones most likely to enforce the rules that LGBT couples cannot stay there. Be mindful of this and do your research beforehand.We have a lot of work to do in the field of human rights. Homophobia isn't the only rampant discrimination that exists here, as with most other places in the world. I won't sugar coat it and pretend it's all a fat mug of cocoa tea. We have a lot of work to do as a country, let's get to making a change rather than jumping through hoops to avoid accountability for the reprehensible.If you hope to visit Saint Lucia and you have any more questions, I recommend that you check out my YouTube channel. My latest vlog is right here: https://youtu.be/7-SZQ5Sv_oc  

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.

Black Feminism: Menstruation Taboo

I recently felt challenged to condense my thoughts regarding my experiences with menstruation and taboo in Caribbean society. I don't think it's completely necessary to frequent fliers here but I will add the disclaimer that the experience that frames my experiences and observations about menstruation in the Caribbean are the experiences of a cisgender Caribbean woman and I'm applying my knowledge of black feminism and black feminist thought to how I view the subject.

Like most things considered to be "feminine" in the Caribbean, menstruation faces heavy stigma within our culture. There is both shame and pride surrounding the first menstrual cycle. Shame is one of the first lessons that we are taught about menstruation and it's a lesson sowed so deep that the shame becomes instinct -- and therefore, goes unquestioned. This root of this shame is a socially backed feeling that during menstruation, your body is disgusting and repulsive.

There is also shame surrounding your choices for handling menstruation, perpetuated by parents, peers, and educators. For the majority of Caribbean people who menstruate, it's far more common to use menstrual pads than tampons due to this shame. Menstrual pads are considered to be "appropriate" for people who have not had sex whereas tampons are seen as "inappropriate". This has the effect of sexualizing children considering the average age of the onset of menstruation is 12. There is nothing "inappropriate" (in reality) about a 12-year-old using a tampon; their vagina is not a vessel for sexual activity and treating it as such leads to shame surrounding the entire menstrual process.

Even as a child, I was cognizant of this, although my awareness might not have been conscious. I was aware however that tampons were all but forbidden and it would have been deviating from expectations to wear them.This can actually carry damage to a child's psyche as they approach adulthood. For people who menstruate who are nonbinary or transgender, I can image the damage is even deeper due to the unexamined transphobia embedded in our post-colonial society. For cisgender people who menstruate, the damage might include feeling anxiety about deviating from using pads or carrying other beliefs of humiliation surrounding their bodies that are unshakeable despite technical knowledge of the "facts" about menstruation.What informs this seemingly harmless cultural preference of pads vs. tampons is nothing positive and the stigma against tampons is steeped in patriarchal assumptions about virginity and sexuality. To be blunt: people believe that tampons damage your sexual purity. Some people might deny it and claim that it's preposterous but it's the truth of the majority of our society.

Largely, the discomfort around tampons has to do with how "improper" it is to insert anything into your vagina. Now this is ridiculous on a number of levels but namely, there is nothing sexual about menstruation regardless of your age and there is certainly nothing sexual about a two-inch tampon.

A "lack of education" doesn't explain it all away because it isn't simply education. The expected shame surrounded menstruation is rooted in misogyny. And the lack of education simply feeds into this misogyny. However, they are separate entities that feed off of one another to inform our culture's attitudes on the human body.

Shame about menstruation doesn't just apply to your choice between menstrual pads and tampons. (Note: There are other options for menstrual management but I'll get to this at the end.) Through each menstrual cycle, a healthy amount of shame is required to ensure you keep your menstruation a "secret".There is a high value placed on keeping menstruation hidden from people. Just keeping periods from cis-men isn't the limit to the stigma. For the two years I attended secondary school here, teachers and administrators placed great emphasis on being "discreet". Even in an all girls school, there was still supposed to be a significant shame attached to menstruation and it had to be kept a secret. This isn't about menstruation being disgusting in that example... There's nothing disgusting about going to the bathroom with an unused pad to change your own. This is about how our culture perpetuates patriarchal beliefs about our bodies; even educators are in full agreement that patriarchy is correct and doesn't deserve questioning. It is a way of forcing us to stay "in our place". Now, there's an argument (albeit a weak and unnuanced one) to be made about this "shame" surrounding menstruation being related to the fact that menstruation is "dirty" or "private". I do believe that certain amount of privacy makes practical sense when it comes to menstruation but the level of shame expected and propagated goes beyond privacy and protecting young people who are experiencing their first menstrual cycles as well as the uncertainty that goes along with it. Menstrual blood is not actually dirty and much of the stigma surrounding menstruation is not based on scientific fact but patriarchal mythology intended to shroud a body's natural process in humiliation and discomfort.

A big part of the culture surrounding menstruation revolves around keeping menstruation a "secret" from cis men as I mentioned before. Tampons and menstrual pads must be obscured. The realities of menstruation are hidden (and often times, not even really understood) and menstruation becomes something "disgusting" and something deserving of mockery. This comes from the fact that schools and families are both unaware of the scientific truth behind menstruation and our patriarchal culture requires cis men remain protected from the realities of "the feminine" as it is repulsive and to be avoided at best, despised at worst.My first academic encounter with menstruation in primary school in St. Lucia involved the girls in the class being separated from the boys to learn the truth because the boys would laugh? Because they didn't want to make the girls ashamed? But the only reason for either of those things to occur in reality would be because of the teachers.

Teachers and educators set the tone for what is acceptable in a school environment -- not nine-year-olds. Education surrounding menstruation should not be gender specific. For this to be the case is transphobic and it's sexist. Every person alive should know how the human body functions. Othering bodies of those who menstruate serves no practical purpose in our society.Another facet to the poor education surrounding menstruation includes poor education about complications surrounding menstruation which are actually quite common. Conditions like endometriosis (affects in 1 in 10 people who menstruate), Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (affects 1 in 10-15 people who menstruate) as well as PMDD (3-8% of people who menstruate) affect many people yet these common disorders are not included in a comprehensive education regarding menstruation. Combatting stigma comes first with a comprehensive education based in reality, not myth or pseudoscience.

The ways mainstream feminism chooses to combat this stigma is incongruent with Caribbean culture. Largely, the stigma surrounding menstruation is discussed from a first world white American ciswoman's perspective. Combating the stigma doesn't take into account the specific ways misogyny is enacted in the Caribbean. It doesn't take into account the religious fundamentalism that's widespread in the Caribbean and how that might affect attempts to eliminate the stigma surrounding menstruation. It doesn't take into account that the shame surrounding menstruation runs so deep that transitioning to complete comfort with the subject of menstruation will not happen overnight and might make the target audience (people who menstruate) less accommodated by a movement to de-stigmatize.When people are not properly educated about menstruation from an early age, there is room for patriarchal culture's myths and pseudoscience to take the place of scientific facts. Removing stigma is not about shocking the population into blindly accepting "okay periods are fine now, I guess".

We can remove uneducated beliefs with factual evidence and ensure that we talk about menstruation casually (not necessarily crassly) like we do any other facet of life.The Caribbean does have an advantage here where we understand that women should be able to breastfeed publicly (and this has never been up for debate). We do tend to have open conversations amongst our family members regarding the sometimes unpleasant truths surrounding our own menstrual cycles. However, this is not culturally widespread enough for there to be no room for positive change.

Going forward, I think what the average person can do is:

- Educate themselves about menstruation from reliable sources (Google it.)

- Speak candidly to their children or the children they're responsible for regarding menstruation.

- Educators and those involved in education can work towards changing their classroom environments to be more accommodating towards people who are menstruating, setting the example that menstruation is not shameful or disgusting, but a natural process.

- Communities can work together towards providing free tampons, pads or menstrual cups to people in need.My mention of menstrual cups here brings me to my final point.

In a previous post, I wrote about my foray into using menstrual cups and all the benefits associated with them. Now, menstrual cups are not for everybody but they do provide an option for managing menstruation that is simple, sanitary and doesn't require multiple changes throughout the day. A push to increase the usage of menstrual cups in the Caribbean and provide free menstrual cups -- especially in communities where buying tampons and pads might be too costly -- would be positive for the people of our region. You can check out my previous post for a more in-depth explanation why.

We have a lot of work to do with removing the stigma surrounding menstruation. We do not have to do this the way mainstream feminism dictates; rather we can fit our solution to our culture. Honest conversations, practical discussions and individual changes in our mindset are a good place to start followed promptly by organized community action.

Guest Post: DWELLING TOGETHER? HOMELAND HOMOPHOBIA HAUNTS THE DIASPORA

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.***

West Indian Patriarchy Defined

... And putting a name to West Indian patriarchy.

Content Warning:

mention of rape, homophobia, violence, harassment

Black feminism allows us to acknowledge that patriarchy extends into all parts of our lives in the Caribbean. We may not even realize it is there for it is so deeply embedded in our thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs. This does not make us culturally impoverished as first-world nations would like us all to believe. Patriarchy exists everywhere but its manifestation in the Caribbean is unique due to the scale on which it presents itself and the way it manifests.

Patriarchy here refers to a heterosexual male-dominated power structure, for those of you who may not know the ins and outs of feminist theory but may still care to read this and perhaps learn something.I'll identify some examples of patriarchy that we probably see in our everyday lives as Caribbean women and hopefully explain why each of these things is problematic. Of course, this cannot possibly be a comprehensive list without becoming a small novel.

Homophobia/Transphobia: Homophobia is consistently justified by the excuse that homosexuality "not a part of our culture". Sexuality and gender are not caused by culture. Homophobia is not Christian. Hate is not Christian either, so the excuses used to lay the blame on God do not apply. If you follow the book of Leviticus when it comes to homophobia, you should also see what Leviticus says on eating shellfish and on wearing two different kinds of fabrics. Homophobia exists and is perpetuated only to uphold the current power structure within our society.Heterosexual, cisgender (those who identify with the gender assigned to them at birth) people feel like their identity is threatened when gay people exist freely and even more threatened at the existence of transgender men and women. Identities that oppose the status quo are discriminated against; this is a result of a patriarchal culture that only allows for one kind of masculinity.

Street harassment: From a young age, girls/women walking down the streets have been subjected to street harassment in the form of whistles, catcalls, kissing noises or a "pssst" sound. This is an exercise of patriarchal power not only because it is objectifying, but because it causes women to feel unsafe. That kind of attention is not flattering, although some perceive it as such. People who are not gender conforming or who are openly gay also experience street harassment, even if it is not sexual attention. This conveys the simple message: You are not safe.

Rape/Rape Culture: We think of rape as a situation when a man jumps out of the bushes and forces himself on a woman. Patriarchal oppression relies on this definition when we think of rape as something that occurs between strangers we don't hold male perpetrators accountable. Rapists are more often people who the victim knows. Rape can occur between a husband and a wife. It sounds abstract, but the system of male domination needs us to believe that rape is normal, not a problem or the fault of the victim. This allows the domination to continue because we can never identify the problem.Of course, there are male victims of rape too (with female perpetrators); patriarchy ensures their stories to go unheard as well.  The system of patriarchy causes male silence due to the fear of being labeled as gay (something that is only a fear due to homophobia).  There is also a stigma against men/boys who face rape or sexual assault at the hands of other men. The survival of patriarchal rape culture relies on their fear about coming forward too. Male victims' fear is born from patriarchal notions of masculinity and sexuality.

Strict Gender Roles:  Strict gender roles ensure a system of patriarchal domination by preventing women and LGBTQ individuals from having as much political, economic and social power as heterosexual cisgender men. A system with no room for flexibility where men "must" pay for the dates (for example) or where a "woman's role" is housework ensures that we have a culture of inequality.For more information on patriarchy and the damage it can have to our culture, I'll point you to a few resources at the bottom of this blog post.

Also, click on my Feminist FAQ page for more information (Feminist FAQ page currently under construction 7/2018). Resources:Questions on feminism and patriarchy? Check out this great blog: finallyfeminism101