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Lobby group says LGBT community needs voice

Thursday, May 30, 2013

LGBTQ (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) lobby group I Am One hosted a public meeting in Belmont, Port-of-Spain on Tuesday night to address  Gender Minister Marlene Coudray’s most recent statement about the gender policy. Earlier this month, Coudray said the draft gender policy, which is currently before a Cabinet committee, did not include any provisions for LGBT rights.



I Am One founder Jason Jones  said he organised the meeting because he believed it was time for the local LGBT community to “mobilise and vocalise” in the struggle for equality. He also said Coudray’s most recent statement contradicted previous reports about the inclusion of LGBT rights in the gender policy. The meeting was attended by approximately 12 people who were both members of the LGBT community and supporters.  


The topics discussed included marriage equality, the need to decriminalise homosexuality, policing and hate crimes, hospital visiting, immigration policies, leadership and strategies for activism. 



I Am One will be setting up focus groups in the next few weeks to reach out to religious organisations, media and possibly educational institutions. Jones said large religious bodies such as the Inter-Religious Organisation had been very vocal in their stance against LGBT rights, but never met with lobbyists or even individual LGBT people. One member of the audience said there were members of the local religious community who preached in support of gay rights but ithat was not reported in the news.


The discussion also covered the existence of a visible LGBT community in T&T. Timmia Hearn Feldman, Trinidad Theatre Workshop assistant creative director, said she felt part of the problem with LGBT lobbying in T&T was internalised homophobia. Jones responded by saying he believed what the community was dealing with was apathy and not hatred. Others said  Trinidadians were hypocrites because LGBT people were accepted socially, but not legally.


HIV/Aids and LGBT activist David Soomarie said it was easier for  young people to “come out” than it was 20 years ago but “it’s not a political statement for them and they have no real sense of threat and no idea of why they should be mobilised.” He said the community needed an intelligent voice because there was too much misinformation and miseducation concerning LGBT issues. Jones said the meeting was also organised because the community needed more visibility. 


“No one is speaking up except people like Colin (Robinson of the Coalition Advocating for Sexual Orientation). Where are our straight allies? We are not calling on our strengths and we need to start working.” Robinson was also at the meeting. For more information about I Am One, visit its Facebook page “I Am One TnT” or e-mail: [email protected]com


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