Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Naked Truth About Homosexuality in the Caribbean

                Tuesday’s Brown Bag was titled “The Truth about Homosexuality in the Caribbean” and was co-sponsored by LGBTQ Initiatives. This talk was organized by Colgate’s Caribbean Student Association, a club aimed at spreading and celebrating awareness of Caribbean culture and history. The panel was led by Asabi, an international student from Trinidad & Tobago, Andrew, a student who grew up in Trinidad, and Aisha, a student of Jamaican heritage.  The panel touched on the stigma surrounding homosexuality and the degree to which traditional gender norms are entrenched in Caribbean societies.The issue of sexuality is not one that is talked much about in the Caribbean because of religion and politics. Oftentimes, religion is used as a means of rationalizing homophobic sentiments. One thing that I found particularly interesting to learn about is the use of anti-gay language in Jamaican and Soca music.
             Andrew discussed the small but visible LGBTQ movement in the Caribbean, the ripple effects of President Obama’s announcement of support of same-sex marriage, and the lack of resources available to gay youth. He also touched on the topic of the Trinidad pride festival being one of the few public spaces for performance where LGBTQ identified people can express themselves. I found it interesting tbut not surprising hat this is only acceptable because of the performance aspect. We then got an overview of discriminatory policies on homosexuality and laws in Jamaica and the first gay organization in the country.I think a key part of understand the history of discrimination in the Caribbean is understanding that the disparity between perception of gay men and women has its roots in slavery. Slave owners used the denial of masculinity as a means of control and after the era of formal slavery, former slaves built a culture on grounded in the development of masculinity as identity to retake the freedom that was once denied to them. I think this information really  illuminated the part of the reason behind the stigma on homosexuality. The panel was later joined via video by students from the Jamaica study group who  spoke about the experiences in and out of the classroom on the topic of homosexuality.  


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