Love won. Two simple words that matter to LGBTIs in Trinidad and Tobago who have been continuously told they are less than human because of who they are and who they love.
The news that Trinidad and Tobago has decriminalized homosexuality meant love won.
Across the seas in a foreign land that has offered me safety, I felt it. I felt the carnivalesque energy and beauty of a land whose watchwords include tolerance.
Trinidad and Tobago is the land of my birth. And it is the land that robbed me the full enjoyment of my human rights, denied me protection when I needed it and policed my sexuality. This land that now presents me with hope that I can return in my later years and retire with my husband.
Outside the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain, the wave of emotion matched with the wave of rainbow flags signaled that justice had come.
I also remembered the people who had fought and died in the quest for this day of decriminalisation, and who never got to see it.
Trinidad and Tobago’s great LGBTI heroes
I remember Godfrey Sealy, the first openly gay HIV positive man in Trinidad and Tobago who spent his life educating and challenging HIV related stigma. He used not only his voice but his playwriting skills staging One Of Our Sons Is Missing which addressed HIV and bisexuality, at a time when it was considered a taboo.
Godfrey’s backyard was home to many community meetings, performances and Pride celebrations. His home had become a place of safety for many, including trans sex workers who ‘worked’ the streets at night.
I remember Geoffrey Stanford, a gay rights and HIV activist and educator who facilitated weekly MSM chat rooms in Godfrey’s backyard. This was the early days of an organization known today as Friends for Life.
And I remember Deni James, a relentless advocate for men-who-have-sex-with-men and HIV-positive people. Deni single-handedly spearheaded an MSM organization devoted to the HIV/AIDS awareness and education, who wrote my first coming out story as a gay man living with HIV.
Then there was, Matthew Crawford, a cross-dresser who was well known in our community. She stood and lived in her truth by confronting gender norms.
They, along with so many others, added a stone in the movement that paved the way. Their boldness and courage in a time of intense ignorance and fear must never be forgotten.
I never thought I’d see this day
To be honest, I thought I would never live to see this day. Jason Jones, a Trinbagonian LGBTI rights activist did it. And as the song goes: ‘He did it, his way.’
He took the blows but never lost sight of the dream. A dream of equality and justice for his Trinbagonian brothers and sisters.
Crowds greeted Jason as he left the court. They stood united in a rainbow of diversity against the tide of hate and bigotry. They sang the national anthem with a new found sense of national identity. We all know the words ‘Here every creed and race find an equal place’. And this time, they had special meaning to those who felt that they had no place in a society that they lived, worked and loved.
Now more than ever they must stand united. Too many people have responded to the decision to decriminalise with more hate. So our community must continue to demonstrate that love is love.
While they have won this fight, they still have a long battle ahead. They are facing harassment and veiled threats of violence. But despite this, they must demonstrate more than ever before ‘Your love not better than mine, my love not better than yours.’
They must stand. Yet, they do not stand alone. The diaspora stands with them. I stand with you.