Special 10th Anniversary Edition| Issue 2
IT’S YOUR EDITOR’S NOTE
here has never been a better time to address the issues of human rights, justice and equality. In an era of widespread violence and injustice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, these civil liberties have never seemed more important – or more discarded. The concept of human rights is still beyond the individual definition of moral excellence and propriety. More than religion, philosophy or a facade of righteousness: they represent the framework by which we live and allow others to live. It is, however, the ―allow others to live‖ part that often leads to a legal and complex battle of what is subjectively right and wrong; and we fail to realise that the real issue is ―what are our basic human rights, what is fair, just, and what leads to a safer and more equitable society?‖ As we celebrate a decade of LGBT activism in Guyana, we do so with full understanding that the fight for equality is far from over. There are still many battles to be fought by ‗gay warriors‘, as awardwinning, international recording artiste, and one of our very own, Nhojj, chose to call us. And while this special anniversary edition of Spectrum Vibes celebrates SASOD, it also celebrates Nhojj and his many achievements.
As the recent Arab spring has demonstrated, the movement for justice, freedom and equality can take many forms. Late last year, a small, motley group of Guyanese formed what became known as the ‗Occupy Guyana‘ movement. They declared a stand against injustice, oppression and violations of human rights. In ―Your Silence Will Not Protect You‖, SASOD member, Sherlina Nageer, shares how she challenged homophobia and transphobia in the ―People‘s Parliament‖ - the public park opposite Parliament Buildings which the movement occupied around the clock. No celebration can be complete without highlighting the reason for the occasion. We therefore feature some of our major achievements over the past year. This include our work on children rights which culminated in the launch of our Child Protection Policy and a joint submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Our International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) celebrations as well as our International AIDS Candlelight Memorial service are also spotlighted. These and many other activities are an integral part of SASOD‘s work. Finally, staying healthy is just as important as ensuring that our rights are respected. As we continue to highlight health issues that are relevant to LGBT Guyanese, we feature Viral Hepatitis in this edition. We discuss the two most common forms - Hepatitis A and B - and examine transmission, symptoms and prevention/treatment options, in our Spectrum Health column. Thank you for joining us in the quest for equality.
Alana Da Silva Spectrum Vibes
Nhojj, who has been the ‗first‘ in several respects – among them the first gay Indie artist to reach #1 on the MTV Music chart and the first black male to win an OUTMusic Award – was the headline act at our 10th anniversary celebration. In between radio interviews, media briefings, a panel discussion and his performance, he managed to sit down with one of our founding members, Keimo Benjamin, for an interview.
IN THIS ISSUE FEATURES Your Silence Not Protect You [ Page 2 ] Nhojj: Bigger than Music. [ Page 3 ] Every Child Deserves To Be Protected [ Page 5 ] IDAHO [ Page 7] AIDS Candlelight Memorial [ Page 8 ] Gay Warriors In Guyana [ Page 13 ] ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT Revival In The R&B Music World? [ Page 9 ] SPECTRUM HEALTH Viral Hepatitis [ Page 10 ]
FEATURE: International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) | Pg. 7
OTHERS Loving Lalita [ Page 11 ] Ask Jumonica [ Page 11 ]
Special 10th Anniversary Edition| Issue 2
YOUR SILENCE WILL NOT
PROTECT YOU BY SHERLINA NAGEER
The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. Your silence will not protect you. Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. We can sit in corners mute forever while our sisters and ourselves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid. I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”Audre Lorde ―Eh eh, is who that anti-man shaking off?‖ She rolls her eyes and sucks her teeth.
us to get to their work. I had forgotten about this. We had other things on our mind when we were scouting out the location for our action – proximity to public thoroughfares, transportation, bathrooms, other facilities, security, etc. I had forgotten all about Leopold Street.
Revolution brings together strange bedfellows. We who initiated this action knew that we‘d have to reach out and grow our numbers in order to succeed. There were just four of us women, several with dependent children, ailing parents, and a multitude of other responsibilities. We knew we could not do it alone. Still, compelled to ―Hello! What is that? Look! Is a man or a act, we did, and allies appeared. Strangers woman? These people, boy! Anti-man. at first, who we now spend more time with Batty bwoy. Fyah!‖ Suck teeth. Laughter. than our blood relatives and loved ones. Damn. I said nothing that first night; hesitant and unsure how to talk about it. The movement is young; still fragile, and we are just now building community, trust, and understanding. Also, this is Guyana; homophobia/transphobia is just a part of life, right? ―Don‘t tek them on,‖ a friend advised. They don‘t have to accept – ―just tolerate,‖ said another.
overwhelming silence in the face of widespread injustice and abuse”
There is no discrimination against gay people in Guyana, said the Minister. There is tolerance. Yes, hatemongering goes unchecked. In fact, there is overwhelming silence in the face of widespread injustice and abuse. Gay people simply walking The down the street, minding their own pounding in my head increased. I was business, are subject to daily/nightly pained. This is my community, see, and I harassment. felt the taunting personally, as if it were directed towards me. Forget the police ―But is not as bad as Jamaica, they are not getting killed in the streets,‖ they say. Also – ―Is just words; nothing to get so worked up over.‖
This was an issue from night one. We had successfully launched our action, and from the initial handful of determined women, our numbers had more than quadrupled. We were ecstatic; we were the righteous warriors, on the side of justice, freedom, equality, and all that was good and right. Though a migraine was forcing me to lie down in the tent with a rag over my eyes, my heart and soul were soaring among the stars. I could not rest; the excitement from the gathering I have a hard time with was too palpable. I police and politicians. I was also thinking try to remember that ahead. I knew that they are somebody‘s Protesters at the "People's Parliament" October, 2012 many of those now son/daughter, mother/ with us would have father… It‘s not easy. But when we talk to leave in the morning, and that the police harassment and confiscation of our tent, the about human rights and demand justice and rain, and hot, hot sun. Forget the name were sure to appear. calling by passersby, the ignoring – all ―that‖ equality, that is for *all* Guyanese – not just Before police though, the cross dressers I can deal with. Harder, though, is the homo/ the ones that look like us, act like us, think like us, and believe all the same things we showed up. Many live around the corner transphobia of the ‗comrades‘. do. We cannot from our encampment, and they had to pass Continued on Page 6
Special 10th Anniversary Edition| Issue 2
June 2013 The road to success hasn‘t always been a smooth one for the dreadlocked crooner. Growing up he endured bullying and teasing by the other kids, and he has attracted criticism from some sections of the religious community. Through it all, he has always used music as his escape and has managed to channel those negative experiences into positive artistic expression through his music. ―I did have rough moments growing up though, other kids would sometimes tease me and call me names - I think music was my savior, it has always been a place I could go to heal my wounds.‖
NHOJJ: BIGGER THAN MUSIC
By Keimo Benjamin
rank Ocean created a huge uproar in the music industry earlier in the year when he became the first black R&B/Hip-Hop star to publicly declare his attraction to persons of the same sex. But long before Frank Ocean came out to the world, another young, black Neo-Soul singer has been steadily climbing the road to fame, success and stardom as an openly gay artist. He is known to the world as Nhojj. Boasting flowing locks, effortlessly smooth vocals and striking good looks, Nhojj has indicated to the world that he is a force to be reckoned with. A preacher‘s son from our own Georgetown, Guyana, Nhojj displayed tremendous talent and an inclination towards the arts at a very young age. He grew up singing in his father‘s church and can only be one of a few persons who can boast that they have performed for the Presidents of both Guyana and Trinidad. Today, Nhojj has shared the stage with such iconic figures as Norah Jones, Regina Belle, Taylor Dayne, Crystal Waters, and Out, Jamaican Writer and Activist, Staceyann Chin. Nhojj has accomplished quite a lot in a short space of time, and he has been the ―first‖ in several respects. He was the first gay Indie artist to reach #1 on the MTV Music chart with his same gender loving video, Love. In late 2009, Nhojj opened doors when he became the first black male to win an OUTMusic Award (the Alliance of LGBT Recording Artists & Performers voted ―Love‖ OUTStanding R&B/Soul Song of the Year). Despite his amazing vocal talent, Nhojj has also taken on the role of advocate and champion for the rights of sexual and gender minorities, and remains committed to the fight against homophobia wherever it exists. Most recently he dedicated his 2010 OUTMusic Award winning, #1 Reggae CDBaby single, ―The Gay Warrior Song‖, to The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD). He is very aware of his heritage and expressed his intent to continue to work with SASOD to eventually wipe out homophobia in Guyana. ―I'm really proud of the work SASOD is doing in Guyana - when I do interviews, I always try to find a way to talk about SASOD's accomplishments in building community, changing discriminatory laws, and health education. What I'd love to see, and I'm sure this is already in the works, is a community center - a place of refuge for LGBTQ youth and adults.‖
“I want to help spread the message that you are OK”
When asked what he seeks to achieve through his music, his response is deep and heartfelt: ―I want to affirm... especially to LGBTQ people, I want to help spread the message that you are ok, actually you are more than ok - you are Divine... regardless of what other people think or say. It took me a long time to understand that there isn't anything wrong with me my sexuality is in my DNA. I wish more people understood that, so I'm playing my part, using music.‖ His music has done just that. On the mellow and meditative ―Live Your Life‖, the artist croons ‗Life‘s too short for spending time\Trapped in someone else‘s rhyme\Don‘t let that noise drown out your voice.‘ Throughout the song, his hauntingly soothing vocals reassure listeners to have the courage to be themselves and enjoy life to its fullest.
Special 10th Anniversary Edition| Issue 2
“My sexuality is in my DNA. I wish more people understood that, so I'm playing my part, using music.”
homophobia in the black community, but I think there is also a lot of support from the black community that often goes unnoticed. When I received my first OUTMusic award in 2009 - Centric TV's Soul Sessions blogged a public congratulation to me and when President Barack Obama came out in support of gay marriage, one of the polls showed 53% of blacks supported gay marriage. So I Nhojj‘s music is deep and real. It transcends genre and borders on think the world is changing and the black community is changing being hypnotic in its nature. His musical influences are diverse. He along with it.‖ lists Bob Marley and John Lennon because they helped make this world a better place. He loves Michael Jackson because he is pure One thing is crystal clear: Nhojj is here to stay. He has enjoyed genius. He loves Sade and Maxwell because they are smooth and critical success from his collaborations with other artists and organic. However, despite the differences in musical style of the filmmakers: from the feature Love in The Cannes Film Festival, persons he is influenced by, the impact on his music is pretty clear. Spring Rain and Dream in the TLA hit film ―Finding Me,‖ to the Each of these artists is known for their championing of love…love music video collaborations with Def Jam Poet, Buttafly Soul, and for one another, self love or a profound romantic love. This love is fellow OMA winner, Baron.‖ With new projects, such as his new the pervading theme throughout all of Nhojj‘s music. On ‗He & Him‘ empowering single Live Your Life (nominated for 2 OUTMusic he describes an enduring love between two persons, with strong awards), Nhojj‘s future is bright. Last month he released his 13th undertones of melancholy especially poignant by the strumming single, and he‘s currently in NYC working on his 5th studio album. violin on the bridge of the song. He believes the secret of his longevity has everything to do with having the courage to stay true to who he is. In his words, ―You will His music has been embraced by gay and straight persons alike. A never win everyone's approval, even if you become super true visionary, Nhojj is clear to point out the role music has played successful, people would find one reason or another to criticize you in uniting persons divided by race, sexual orientation and culture. - they criticized Michael Jackson, President Barack Obama, and ―When I started down this path I didn't think that would happen, but everyone who has ever tried to do something worthwhile. You just I get messages from straight and gay people alike, and it has really have to ignore it and focus on the people who love and appreciate made me realize that music connects us. In 1960s, blacks and what you do.‖ whites listened and danced to the sounds coming out of Motown and Philly - it bridged the gap between people of different races and He has summed up the essence of his music quite aptly: Says I think was instrumental in ending segregation. Now I believe music Nhojj, ―there is a deep spirituality that flows through my work. I like can help bridge the gap between gay and straight people. Music is to think that it creates a sanctuary for my listeners.‖ Whatever his powerful.‖ But being a young, black, openly gay artist has its fair music does for you, be sure to keep supporting true artistry and share of challenges. Homophobia has been notoriously strong in keep expecting great things from this ‗Gay Warrior‘ the black community. Nhojj has somehow remained unfazed by it and is extremely optimistic that things will get better for sexual and TO LEARN ABOUT NHOJJ AND HIS MUSIC, CHECK OUT HIS WEBSITE AT gender minorities in the black community. ―I believe there is a lot of ‗Live Your Life‘ being his current favourite song, the artist had this to say about it, ―It‘s my favourite because I believe that mindset is the key to happiness - staying true to yourself, celebrating all of who you are... it's not always easy, but I believe the answer is that simple - live your life.‖
Special 10th Anniversary Edition| Issue 2
BE PROTECTED BY ALANA DA SILVA
ith a seriousness that conveyed her purpose, Carol Innis (Counselor and Child Protection Officer, Help and Shelter) spoke of a mother beating her child. The little guy told a fib – stating that school was cancelled for the day, when in fact, school had not been cancelled. Much later, in counseling, the mother realised that because she was severely beaten by her husband the night before, her son was afraid to leave her alone the next day. Hence, he decided to avoid attending classes in order to stay home and protect her. According to Innis, children should not be the ones aiming to protect us; but rather, adults should be protecting children – at home, school, and in every area of their lives.
Why Child Protection? The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) held its first child protection training workshop on December 6, 2012 – facilitated by a social worker from Help and Shelter. This initiative is part of SASOD‘s quest as a rights-based organisation to ensure that the rights of Guyana‘s children are respected and protected in accordance with international standards, like the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The launching of SASOD‘s Child Protection Policy on December 13, 2012 can also be considered a milestone for the organisation‘s human rights work in Guyana; and was made possible through collaboration with their partners such as Help and Shelter, Child Link, and the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security‘s Child Care and Protection Agency.
Scenes from the SASOD’s Child Care & Protection Policy Launch
initiating this policy should not be considered a mere process that produces a document. ―This is all about accountability, responsibility, and protecting children,‖ she stated.
SASOD‘s experience in engaging the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Guyana, and its current efforts on child protection, there now needs to be greater collaboration with organizations such as the Ministry‘s However, as many would debate the under- Childcare and Protection Agency (CCPA), lying purpose and significance in drafting and the Ministry of Education. this policy or participating in the training workshop, SASOD is cognizant of the merits Almost like adding the harbinger, she also in conveying the experiences and teachings said that, with renewed collaborations, all of advocates who confidently assert their efforts should be made by SASOD in ethical position on the rights of children – providing training on how to effectively while endeavoring to assist child victims to communicate with LGBT youth – while access justice and stop perpetrators from working to prevent the abuse and further abusing them. discrimination of all children, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or Child Protection Training expression, and any other characteristics. Seated at the head table, Innis spoke of counseling another family in which a mother The Future of Child Protection In and her children were repeatedly beaten Guyana and abused by the children‘s father. Nevertheless, she stayed in the relationship because – despite her dilemma – she believed It‟s November 6, 2012, and a 19 year old that being a parent was tantamount to mak- lesbian with the street name „Starboy” sat ing these kinds of sacrifices. However, ac- down for an interview with SASOD. She was cording to Innis, adults should never unilat- also an orphan and lived – from time to time erally or collectively decide to inflict harm on – at a Government Residential Agency. In her statement, she said: “I met a girl at the children for any reason. home and was sexually active with her. Staff, everyone found out...” Then, “One day This also led to the essence of the I got a call to start packing my clothes – that workshop, which reminded us that even I could not stay there anymore. I had nocertain gestures and minor utterances of a where to go... I had to go to my sister, who child are sometimes desperate cries for was living in an abusive relationship. I had help. As such, the actions of abused no counseling… There were other girls in children – and those at risk of abuse – must there, who were caught, but they were not be carefully scrutinized to identify the true put out.” She also said, “At school, I was causes of their pain and discomfort. teased for being masculine: I dress masculine, acted different. They suspected Launching The Policy because of this…”
At 11:10 am on December 13, 2012 – It is occurrences such as these that amidst the handshake and applause at The prompted SASOD to ―action‖ -- by ensuring Sidewalk Café, the words echoed, ―We are that our children are given all the available officially launched!‖ resources to succeed beyond society‘s scorn, ill-conceived notions, and failing According to Zenita Nicholson (Secretary, Following the launch, Kean Chase, (Project infrastructure. Board of Trustees, SASOD), drafting and Officer, Child Link) offered that, given Continued on next page
Special 10th Anniversary Edition| Issue 2 Submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) In case you are wondering what issues are being raised in the forefront of the fight against discrimination: SASOD, along with its partners, made a submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – broaching some very detailed and substantive issues to be resolved immediately.1
Responsibility of Local Government and NGOs Not only is it our responsibility to highlight these issues, but SASOD and its partners have taken the reigns to ensure that significant and systematic changes are made in the near future, while proposing infrastructures that are conducive for learning and personal development. Anything other than this is a travesty; a failure to our children, and a failure to society. No longer should these issues be ignored, cast aside, or negated – as in the case of the young lesbian, Starboy. What these measures reiterate is that, our children are more than gender, more than their sexual orientation, religion, or whatever other attributes they represent – and thus, they should be treated with equal respect and dignity.
Recommendations made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) in Guyana:
Based on the consolidated reports submitted by SASOD and its partners (Red Thread, FACT, AIDS): At its 62nd session of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (January 14 to February 1, 2013), the United Nations Committee – CRC – made some concluding observations in reference to Guyana and its responsibility in dealing with issues surrounding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI). These included recommendations to eradicate discrimination against children based on SOGI (paragraph 24 and 25); sex and reproductive health policy, and education for children (paragraph 50); as well as HIV and sexual health services, and information for children (paragraph 52).2
YOUR SILENCE WILL NOT
Continued from Page 2
have equal rights yet still perpetuate discrimination and intolerance against gay people. Everybody means everybody. Societal transformation begins with the individual – and how we relate and deal with each other is at the core of it all. There is nothing more revolutionary than that. I went home and brought my rainbow flag and pinned it onto the Guyana flag; no more quiet, safe living – it must be all out in the open now. We cannot continue to stay silent any longer, to simply endure. We must stand up and speak out. We exist. We are here, we are an integral part of this movement and this society, like it or not. It will be hard and uncomfortable, but we are going to have to deal with this – you with me, and me with you. Because we are in this together; and we need each other. The cross dressers still pass all the time. Sometimes comments are thrown, some still taunting, although less than before. We are working though, on taking it from mere lip service to respect, and more than tolerance. When a gay man is stabbed the block over, it is the one among us with the big bible (who seems unable to stop himself from saying ‗fyah‘ every time a cross dresser passes) who ends up taking the victim to the hospital. After the pageant, the queen stops by to show us photos and pose by our sign. Others from the community, gay, but not necessarily cross dressers, also show their support in ways both tangible and intangible. And one Friday night – revolution. Three young gay men came and sat down among us. “My family is real Christian.” “I got kicked out of the house when my father found out I was gay.” “I feel really sad about that boy who got killed in Agricola.” “Next time we come back, we‟ll bring some food and drink for y‟all.” We are all family. Revolutionary love
According to the Co-Chair of SASOD, Joel Simpson, ―These clear references help make a strong case for the government to work with us, and to which we will hold them accountable, on many of the LGBT children's issues we are grappling with in Guyana, including homophobic bullying in schools, discrimination in state-care facilities, etc‖ 1Sexuality
and Gender Issues Affecting Children in Guyana: A Joint Submission under the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Submitted for consideration at the 62nd Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child --January 14, 2013 – February 1, 2013, Geneva. Submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC): Red Thread; Artistes In Direct Support (A.I.D.S.); Family Awareness Conscious Together (FACT); Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD). NGO Group for the CRC: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/docs/ngos/ GSASOD_Guyana_CRC62.pdf 2 Concluding Observations: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/crcs62.htm
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future, we must remain committed to eliminating all forms violence and discrimination meted out to all Guyanese – including discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAISNT HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA
he Guyana Equality Forum and its partners gathered together on May 18, 2013 at 3:00pm to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) by painting a section of the seawall between Vlissengen Road and Pere Street. The GEF is a local network of civil society groups who support equal rights and justice for all Guyanese. The coalition is chaired by Red Thread, while SASOD serves as its administrative secretariat. IDAHO is celebrated annually on May 17 by millions of people around the world and marks the 1990 anniversary in which the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. For the Guyana Equality Forum, this year‘s event was titled “Painting a Brighter Future” under the theme, “The Children are our Future” to raise awareness of the issues children face in Guyana, such as violence, abuse, and discrimination based on sexuality and gender. IDAHO was also utilized to keep a local spotlight on the Select Committee of the National Assembly that is currently holding consultations on the abolition of corporal punishment in schools and the need to create a safe and enabling
BY ALANA DA SILVA
environment for children, regardless of race, religion, social status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. IDAHO was therefore celebrated by highlighting the immense work of Guyanese groups advocating to advance human rights protections of all citizens, especially our vulnerable children. The painting activity was supported by scores of members, supporters of SASOD, Red Thread, and other civil society groups including, Youths for Guyana, students from the University of Guyana and their recently-formed Human Rights Group. As Renuka Anandjit (Programme Coordinator, SASOD) said in a brief remark, “We are all here because we believe in the protection of human rights.” The event was experienced with laughter and cheer as the group lined up to paint the IDAHO symbol in black and pink; silhouettes of children holding hands under a rainbow; and plastered colorful handprints on the white concrete wall. In keeping with the theme of this event, SASOD believes that in order for us as a nation to move forward and protect vulnerable children, marginalized groups, and all Guyanese from the dangers and inequalities that seek to rob us of a brighter
Guyana‘s record on children‘s rights was reviewed under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in January 2013. Red Thread, Artistes In Direct Support (A.I.D.S.), Family Awareness Conscious Together (FACT) and SASOD partnered and presented a submission on sexuality and gender issues affecting children in Guyana to the CRC Committee. The Committee‘s recommendations included that Guyana:
Take all appropriate measures to explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, particularly in the domestic and school contexts;
Strengthen and expand awarenessraising and education programmes and campaigns, in order to promote positive and alternative forms of discipline and respect for children‘s rights, with the involvement of children, while raising awareness about the adverse consequences of corporal punishment on children;
Address harmful cultural practices involving child abuse and exploitation;
Prioritize the elimination of all forms of violence against children;
Establish procedures and guidelines to ensure mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse and exploitation cases pursuant to the Sexual Offences Act 2010; and
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Address the prevalence of discrimination against Amerindian children, and children with disabilities and on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
SASOD and the Guyana Equality Forum believe that part of their work is to ensure that days such as IDAHO are commemorated as a reminder that the path to achieving human rights for all is a continuous struggle, but one that can pave the way for a brighter future for all Guyanese
AIDS CANDLE LIGHT MEMORIAL
BY ALANA DA SILVA
his year marks the fourth consecutive year of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination – SASOD hosting the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial on the steps of the St. George‘s Cathedral, Georgetown, Guyana. On May 26, SASOD‘s candlelight vigil commemorating the 30th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial under the theme, ―In Solidarity,‖ got underway around 5:00pm. Hosted by SASOD‘s Secretary Zenita Nicholson and member John Quelch the event was flavoured with singing, short commentaries, tributes, a poem - Zero, written by Fabian Thomas and recited by Quinton Anthon, whilst Lloyda Nicholas recited one of her poems titled ―Dear Death‖ . Red Thread Coordinator Karen De Souza lit the first candle in the fading light, as feature speaker, Pandit Deodat Tillack urged the gathering to recognise the importance of inclusion, the need for a multiplicity of voices advocating for change from an intolerant and homophobic society, to one that is accepting of all Guyanese, regardless of social, economic, or religious status, and which is against any form of discrimination based on HIV and AIDS, sexual orientation and gender identity. Pandit Tillack exhorted everyone
to - ―let no one make you believe that you are not deserving of equal rights under the law - and let no one tell you that being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender is wrong - there is nothing wrong with you‖
of HIV and AIDS, show support for people living with HIV, remember those we have lost to the disease, while working towards eliminating discrimination on the basis of this epidemic.
According to the Global Network of People SASOD, in expressing appreciation for the living with HIV this year‘s Memorial theme - participation and attendance at the event, ―In Solidarity,‖ emphasizes the need for thanked the performers and volunteers for people living with and affected by HIV to join hands and work together in the response to HIV.
deserving of equal rights under the law”
Pandit Tillack at the St. George’s Cathedral Human rights activists, SASOD members, volunteers and partners such as Red Thread, University of Guyana Human their support in recognising and striving to Rights Group, among others, attended the protect the vulnerable in society - as well as event. being a voice for the voiceless and working with civil society to promote equality for all The International AIDS Candlelight Guyanese, keeping true to the meaning of Memorial is held internationally every third this year‘s theme ―In Solidarity‖ Sunday in May with activities across the globe attended by millions of people. The annual memorial seeks to raise awareness
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Special 10th Anniversary Edition| Issue 2
REVIVAL IN THE R&B WORLD?
here has long been talk of R&B being dead. With most R&B acts going the route of the Euro-Pop wave that has hit the music industry, R&B music has been shoved to the back shelves of many record stores. Record sales have been down drastically; while fans, critics, and artists alike have been crying out for a revival of true R&B music. Recent releases by two extremely talented young men have given hope to many that there may be life yet in this genre. Frank Ocean is no stranger to the gay community. Back in July, he created a firestorm in the R&B/Hip Hop community when he posted an excerpt from the booklet of his subsequently released album, Channel ORANGE, on his Tumblr page. His posting was poetic, heartfelt and endearing. It spoke of love, pain, hurt, and regret… things we have all felt and can connect with. Here‘s an excerpt from that Tumblr entry: “Whoever you are, where ever you are… I’m starting to think we’re a lot alike. Human beings spinning on blackness. All wanting to be seen, touched, heard, paid attention to. My loved ones are everything to me here. In the last year or 3, I’ve screamed at my creator, screamed at clouds in the sky, for some explanation. Mercy maybe. For peace of mind to rain like Manna somehow. 4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence…. until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping. No negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love, it changed my life. Back then, my mind would wander to the women I had been with. The ones I cared for and thought I was in love with. I reminisced about the sentimental songs I enjoyed when I was a teenager… the ones I played when I
experienced a girlfriend for the first time. detail – "your family stopped inviting you to I realized they were written in a language things," he notes of the addict on Crack Rock. By any stretch of the I did not speak.” imagination channel Orange is a huge Fans and artists alike heaped praises on the success. Hopefully, the lesson learnt is that singer for his bravery and honesty. Some of when it comes to music and almost his songs penned for other artists made so everything else in life, sexuality is much more sense now. His expressions of completely irrelevant. You should definitely longing and want were real, and although give this album a listen and hopefully while it the songs were being sung by other plays, you forget about everything else, and persons, it was still HIS pain we were just indulge in an incredibly original talent. feeling. On the melodic track “Freedom” that he penned for superstar Brandy, which R&B star, Miguel, is another artist that has in hindsight can only be described as been continuously plagued by rumours about his sexuality. Known for his odd prophetic, he wrote: fashion and silky smooth voice, the 25-year “I see the cloaks on the judges, flaws in old heartthrob burst onto the scene in 2010. the judgment, beast in the dungeon/ that His smash hit “Sure Thing” topped the don’t scare me/ And I'll say it on a R&B/Hip Hop charts for an impressive mountain, say it all in public, hold a number of weeks and he has since then press conference/ to speak about my cemented his place as a force to be freedom, my freedom/Just us looking reckoned with in the genre of R&B. This upon a city of towers soaring/Just us past October 2nd marked the release of his standing our ground in a crowd of lions latest album, Kaleidoscope Dream. And if roaring/Just us, I won't be held, I won't you haven't already, you should add this album to your rotation immediately. The back down no more…” track list as a whole is solid, and can work as easy listening for the soulful among us, or just when you need to wind down from all the manufactured cookie cutter music out today. In an interview with iHeart Ra-
Singer, Songwriter and Poet, Frank Ocean On Channel Orange, Frank Ocean is a storyteller, strumming his pain through a cast of characters with each song. R&B is clearly his genre, and he‘s taking it to new heights, from the dramatic, single chord piano stomp of Super Rich Kids, to the disconnected gospel confession of Bad Religion; and the blissful, jazzy jigsaw of Sweet Life, which seems to assemble itself as it goes along. Ocean's songs draw compelling, nonjudgmental portraits of dark subjects. They're packed with affecting
R&B Star, Miguel Jontel Pimente dio‘s Power 105.1 Breakfast Club Morning Show, the crooner addressed the gay rumours. The singer admitted his image was a little odd, saying it was a mixture of the marketing of the record company, mixed with his desire to keep his individuality. ―I was just trying to be myself in the midst of being pressured to be something that I wasn‘t. So I found myself making choices — Continued on next page
Special 10th Anniversary Edition| Issue 2 you know when someone‘s rushing you to make a decision? Sometimes you don‘t make the best decisions because you‘re just trying to keep up,‖ he said. He isn‘t fazed by the rumors. As a matter of fact, he‘s aware it‘s something that comes with fame; it‘s the music that‘s important, after all. ―I don‘t want to do anything that detracts from the authenticity of who I am as an artist. People are going to say what they‘re gonna say. You can‘t really try to please other people, but as long as what you‘re doing is real, then they have to respect that,‖ he stated. When asked about Kaleidoscope Dream, he expressed his satisfaction with the project and vowed to remain true to R&B. “The whole album is more my perspective on my life… my first album was more about romance, this is kind of like, just my lifestyle.” Miguel vows to stay true to the creativity that, he says, used to be in R&B. He says this album stays true to the genre in the sense that the soul is present in the music, while creativity is its delivery; in essence, you can‘t put R&B in a box because it gave way to other forms of musical creative expression. “There were bands like Funkadelic, there were artists like Jimi Hendrix, groups like Hall & Oats… they all were pulling from soul, and people forget R&B put hip hop on, really put rock on.” While there is no doubt that the death knell hovers above the genre of R&B, it‘s refreshing to see some artists staying true to it and fighting for its survival and a possible resurgence. Author‘s Picks - While I couldn‘t do a detailed review on them, the following albums are also critically acclaimed and highly recommended: Brandy “Two Eleven;” The Weeknd “Trilogy;” Frank Ocean “Nostalgia Ultra;” Jhene Aiko “Sailing Souls;” and Jaiden “Shades of Grey”
VIRAL HEPATITIS WHAT GAY AND BISEXUAL MEN SHOULD KNOW By Khemraj Persaud
e all face some level of risk every time we have sex; that is something none of us can avoid. However, for gay and bisexual men, these risks become amplified when a culture of discrimination and intolerance exists within society, and by extension, the health care system. The onus, therefore, is on us to educate ourselves on the possible risks and how we can better protect ourselves against disease and infection.
are intimate with someone, but because it is rarely grouped with other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), it often slips off the radar for many of us.
Hepatitis infection causes inflammation and swelling of the liver. As a result, the liver‘s function to process nutrients, filter the blood of toxins and waste, and help support a healthy immune system becomes impaired. The two most common forms of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A and hepatitis B, and although each can be spread in a variety of Viral hepatitis is one of the many risks that ways, they both can be transmitted through gay and bisexual men face every time they unprotected sexual contact.
Modes of Transmission
Hepatitis A is caused by the Hepatitis A Hepatitis A is spread by coming into Virus (HAV).
contact with the stool (or faeces) of an infected person. Common modes of transmission are oral-to-anal sex (e.g. rimming) and when oral sex occurs after anal sex. Transmission can also occur through the ingestion of food or water contaminated with faeces from an infected person.
Hepatitis B is caused by the Hepatitis B The main mode of hepatitis B transmission
Virus (HBV) which is present in the bodily is unprotected sexual contact. It can also fluids (blood, semen, etc.) of an infected be contracted through injecting drug use; tattooing (when equipment is shared); person sharing sex toys, razors, earrings and even toothbrushes. HBV is much more infectious than HIV and is therefore more easily transmitted through unprotected sexual activity.
Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis Infection Hepatitis A is the least serious of the hepatitis viruses. The most common symptoms of an infection are fever, nausea, fatigue and yellowing of the skin (called jaundice). Continued on Page 12
Special 10th Anniversary Edition| Issue 2
remember the first time I actually, maturely fell in love with another woman. It so happened that I was almost eighteen and ridiculously confused about the whole thought of love to begin with. And yet, from across the room, as she graced us all with her authoritative figure, I immediately fell head over heels in love with her. That said day, I was quietly sitting on a chair revising for an exam when her visit was announced. Mind you, before that day, she had been nothing more to me than a family friend; the pretty Bollywood looking woman that was successful and earned a lot of money; and lived overseas; and married, but then divorced and… I could go on and on about how many good things were said about her. But never before had I ever cast my eyes so intently upon her, to have myself blush two shades deeper than usual. Lalita came in the front door in her usual mode of dress: a lovely, dark blue, tailored pants suit, with her pretty smile, and upbeat, yet strict persona. Yet all my eyes were focused on, was her hair, and the way her slim yet graceful fingers moved quickly over her high heel shoes to slip them off. And when she came in and smiled my way, I can honestly admit that I wanted to run out of the room. For years I had not seen her until that day. And I guess one can say that I had an ‗awakening‘ or something like that. But it was inevitably surreal; new to me. The feelings that stirred up inside of me when she‘d sit nearby – or hold me in conversation – were astounding. I‘d try as hard as I could to gather composure and appear as if I was holding it together, when truthfully, I always ached to somehow find a way to touch her. There was this one time when she made me feel a little more overjoyed than what should have been accepted. There was a religious ceremony taking place at her grandmother‘s house, and since she is Hindu by birth, she took to sit on the floor upon the cloth that was spread out. I chose to sit on a chair. That day, I had a mini- heart attack when she quietly got up to come sit next to me; for
June 2013 BY FELI ANNE
in my mind, that was what I had been longing for. And with her back against my knees, I remember being engulfed by her distinct perfume that made my heart flutter and my eyes water. I remembered exactly what she was wearing and how the back of her Indian blouse was low enough so that I could get a clear glimpse of her small, not-so-secretive tattoo etched there. And whatever happened, I didn‘t know; for the next minute, I had my fingers meeting the soft tendrils of her hair. It‘s funny how things can occur, yet you don‘t really think it through. All my life I can honestly admit that I was always the odd girl out. When my friends who were girls were dreaming of their picture-perfect weddings with the most handsome man awaiting them at the altar, I‘d dream otherwise. Since I was around the age of 7, I can remember squeezing my eyes shut – and what I saw was someone in a lovely white tuxedo awaiting me; yet that figure wasn‘t that of a man, but of a woman with lovely long hair and the kindest eyes ever. I could never tell any of my friends who are close to me – and are girls – what goes on in my head because most of them are not comfortable with that part of me. It‘s hard for me to live as a closeted lesbian in a family that is seriously religious. Every single day I am surrounded by family members that are so engrossed in their faith that if they were to know that all I dream of is spending the rest of my life with another woman, they‘d probably send me away to rehab. I don‘t think I can ever gather up the courage to tell my parents about who I truly am and how I feel. Lalita knows about that ‗other‘ side of me, but am I brave enough to tell her ‗oh I love you and it‘s not just as a friend, but more than that?‘ No. Whenever she calls around here or I do see her, somehow my mind just says, ―How dare you fall in love with a woman twice your age and expect God to love you for that?‖ All I can hear most days of my life is ‗sin, sin, sin‘ coming from within me. Yet I somehow gather the courage to override those doubts and live happy.
Whenever Lalita comes around, I do sneak glances at her, and grin as I imagine her kissing me or admitting that she loves me – and wondering what kind of kisser she is, and why is she still single after all these years? And yes, I have been in love with other females who broke my heart simply because – as one friend put it, “the wiring in your choice box is messed up.” But every single heart-break I‘ve been through by falling in love with a straight girl, I get a little stronger. And I guess now, all I can do is wait. Yet deeply, I do wish the reason why Lalita divorced her husband is simply because she‘s a closeted lesbian like me – and inside, she‘s just dying to find a way to tell me that she loves me. Wink! ;)
Our Advice Guru Answers Your Questions
Q I've had a crush on a teacher that ended up becoming sour when he found out, somehow. He signed me up for counseling to which I took as an offence, and I ended it off there, vowing to hate him forever. Should I ever make a move to speak to him again? Or should I just forget he exists? Mark
Special 10th Anniversary Edition| Issue 2 A Mark, As my mother use to say, ‗don‘t get me on the other side,‘ and since we pon de other side, is the other, other side. Yuh going to school to study, not to ‗wet yuh place,‘ running after a teacher.
June 2013 seek, but remember everyone‘s circumstance is different. Coming out is something people do in their own time. And ah know that we got we lil codes and gaydar in operation, but be careful because some people codes and radar like EZjet – it does breakdown fass and put yuh in a tight squeeze.
Look mah chile! We all have/had crushes and maybe your teacher had to follow procedure to protect his integrity and profession. Since your crush has gone public, he had to act to avoid any perception of inappropriate behavior. Sometimes it is easy for a crush to seem like a relationship, and next ting yuh know, de whole town gossiping that Sir is in a bromance with Mark.
Guyana indeed has limited safe space for ‗happy hangs and limes,‘ but you may have gay and lesbian friends that you can link with and go ‗fishing.‘ There are some ‗straight‘ hangout spots that are ―gay friendly‖ that you can lime and eye up a fresh meat, and mek a lil move. If not, plan a lil lime where friends can invite friends; it can be a meet and greet - and yuh might meet yuh future suga plum in your I don‘t know if the counseling was seen as aquarium. corrective therapy because of same sex attraction, or for focus on school work and There is also online dating. But be careful how intimacy between teacher and student because even some divas are crooks - and is compromising. If it was for corrective elements have no limits. So, when you log therapy because of your sexuality, this is on, don‘t give too much of yourself, but with unacceptable. But if it addressed the the little you give, be honest and carefully inappropriateness of the relationship, then scrutinize the profiles of those that engage you online. yuh teacha is simply doing the right ting. Once you have to speak to this teacher again, it should be strictly professional, about school work, and not any after-midnight homework business. Be reminded, he is your teacher, and I guess you can day dream, but don‘t touch de people gems. Patience is virtue, and you might be making noise for silver - when you will get diamonds. Yours, Jumonica
Q I always have the tendency to fall for straight women; never really finding the right girl who's interested in me romantically. Since Guyanese are so reserved on 'coming out' the closet, what's your best advice on me finding that 'compatible someone?‘ Rose
A Rosie, We know some divas like play hide-and-
symptoms. If symptoms do develop, they usually appear between six (6) weeks to six (6) months after exposure. Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue and muscle or joint aches. Some persons might also develop jaundice and dark coloured urine. It is important to remember that a person can still spread the virus even if they have no symptoms. Acute hepatitis B can – but does not always – lead to chronic hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis B is a long term illness that occurs when the HBV remains in a person‘s body. Only about 5% of people develop the chronic form of the disease. As with the acute form, people can have chronic hepatitis B and not have any symptoms. Chronic hepatitis B significantly increases the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. Hepatitis A and hepatitis B are both preventable by vaccination. The hepatitis A vaccine is given in two (2) shots, six months apart.
Prevention and Treatment
If hepatitis A infection occurs, it usually clears up on its own without any medical treatment. However, persons are encourThe important thing is to be adventurous. aged to avoid drinking alcohol until they You can plan trips out of town and have fully recovered. overseas, meet people, network, and expand your horizon. I am not saying go The hepatitis B vaccine is given in three (3) snuggle up under any and every cat and shots over a six (6) months period. The first hoodrat. Often, finding the right person is shot is administered, followed by the second premise on trial and error, with the hope that shot two to three months after, and the third someone you meet becomes your future shot – five to six months after the first. In until they mess up - because we divas never Guyana, the hepatitis vaccine is available at the Dorothy Bailey Health Centre and make mistakes. *winks* other health clinics managed by the Ministry of Health. Good luck hunting, Jumonica
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There are no medications to treat acute hepatitis B. Persons therefore have to wait until their body fights off the virus. There is Continued from Page 10 also no cure for chronic hepatitis B. However, there are a number of antiviral drugs available to treat it. Infected persons should also visit a doctor for regular ome persons may also experience monitoring to evaluate any signs of liver dark coloured urine and grey col- damage or liver cancer . oured stool. These symptoms generally appear between two (2) to Gay and bisexual men are at elevated risks for both hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Howevsix (6) weeks after exposure to the virus. er, despite the availability of safe and effecHepatitis B infection occurs in two stages: tive vaccines, many gay and bisexual men acute hepatitis B and chronic hepatitis B. have not been vaccinated. Spectrum Vibes Acute hepatitis B is a short term infection would like to strongly advise all sexually and many people tend to have few or no
Special 10th Anniversary Edition| Issue 2
GAY WARRIORS IN GUYANA BY NHOJJ
Human Rights Council with the goal of repealing all laws that criminalize same sex intimacy and cross dressing. On other fronts, SASOD has produced "Painting the Spectrum." Now in its 9th year, it is the only LGBT film festival in the English speaking Caribbean, and if that wasn't enough, this year marked their 4th annual International AIDS Candlelight Memorial held on the steps of the St. George‘s Cathedral. As I listened, I felt a deep sense of pride for what this small organization has managed to accomplish in spite of the insurmountable odds. I grew up in Guyana and I spent too many nights crying because of that prejudice and ignorance. I left as soon as I could, but there is a group of individuals who, for whatever reason, stayed, and I will always be in awe of this fearless band of LGBT warriors. We headed back to the Sidewalk Café for a press conference and I was floating on my usual cloud of optimism when someone asked, quite innocently, my thoughts on the reaction my LGBT affirming songs would have on a Guyanese audience. Um… now I truly believe music brings people together - I believe music's purpose is to break down walls that divide us… but I have to admit, at that moment, some childhood fears managed to creep in. How would songs like "Bromance" and "Gay Warrior Song" go over?
arrived in Guyana late Thursday night, and promotion for SASOD's 10th anniversary started early Friday morning with radio interviews on 94.1 Boom FM and 98.1 Hot FM with SASOD‘s Co-Chair, Joel Simpson, as well as Trustee, Ulelli Verbeke.
“I am a warrior...preparing for war I am a warrior...I step through this door The enemy is ignorant The enemy is hate I am a warrior...I’m fighting for LOVE”
Now I've done my share of interviews and I'm fairly good at not rambling or taking too many… um… pauses, and as a mental pep talk, I remind myself of this before every interview. But, on this particular morning, I got distracted from my private pre-interview ritual as Joel started sharing SASOD's story.
I didn't have long to wait, as it turned out, we had one more interview to do on Voice Of Guyana's ―For a Better World" 102.1FM. The host was a kind motherly woman. She played "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong and sprinkled her programme with positive quotes. During the course of Joel's interview, he shared that I dedicated the "Gay Warrior Song" to SASOD's activism – and right afterwards, she turned to me and asked me to share one of my songs - I start-
I am a warrior… preparing for war I am a warrior…. I step through this door The enemy is ignorance The enemy is hate It began in 2003 with about 10 university students responding to an I am a warrior… I'm fighting for injustice - in Guyana's constitution there is no legal protection for LOVE LGBT people. Over the past 10 years, this small group set about creating change and now the Society Against Sexual Orientation I believe she was moved, I know I was – and I remember singing Discrimination (SASOD) is awaiting judgment of a suit filed against somewhere in that radio station as a child the songs my parents the state for violation of the rights of four (4) transgender taught me; now I was singing the songs I taught myself, surrounded individuals. SASOD has also been reporting to the United Nations by people who knew what I was singing about. Needless to say the
Special 10th Anniversary Edition| Issue 2
concert that night was amazing. Big shot-outs to the local means wearing a mini-skirt or super tight jeans that show your acts: Natasha Yhap, Keimo Benjamin, Keep your Day Job, Lloyda curvature and female anatomy to remind the world you are a womNicholas, Andrew Tyndall, Isaiah Luther, Maria Rosheuvel, Anthony an. Stayman and Francis Bailey for invoking music to work its magic. However, clothes do not make the woman; the woman makes the After the concert, we cleared the chairs and danced together - clothes, and you are woman. Changing your clothes will not change straight, gay, lesbian, trans, bi, queer, questioning and I'm sure perceptions that linger. The scolding may start with your clothes, some groups we haven't found names for yet. It is a night I will then your hair, then your ‗swag,‘ then your friends… you get where I always remember. am going? On Sunday night, Bishop Francis Alleyne, Head of the Roman Catholic Church in Guyana joined us for a panel discussion following the screening of this year‘s feature film – ―You Are Not Alone,‖ a documentary about depression in black gay men. During the discussion the Bishop reaffirmed his support for the repeal of Guyana's discriminatory laws, but given the Church's history on LGBT issues, it sounded like many empty words, until one trans woman made a comment. She was one of the four(4) involved in the suit, and she publicly thanked the Bishop for his support during those difficult times.
One wears clothes that make them comfortable, and once you are comfortable, it‘s three snaps and a head twirl. Your sexuality is your business, but your mom‘s contention on your dress may be a subtle attempt to better understand the person behind the clothes. This is perhaps a good opportunity for you to talk with your mom about your differences… clothing or otherwise. Remember tho, don‘t get brazen pon the woman because sha might ‗dash yuh out‘ sha house if you are living under her roof. Keep it respectful. If the issue leads to your sexuality, then we gon have to address that in another letter over lil Cherry Brandy.
Now any organization that can bring the Church and the trans community together, get radio hosts excited about LGBT rights, sue Hugs, the government for discrimination, and throw a damn good party Jumonica has my support. Congratulations SASOD… and all the best for the next 10 years!
PUBLICATION PRODUCED BY
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Q I have problems with my mom telling me that I should dress more girly and fashionable. And I'm afraid to even mention to her that I am bisexual. Do you think that she knows that I swing both ways and she's trying to change me? Ann
A Ann, It is very difficult for me to do a psycho-analysis of your mom, since you merely mentioned her distaste of your mode of dress. Your mode of dress can be seen by your mother as a form of non-verbal communication of your sexuality, but in this day and age, one‘s style of dress is not the primary reason to determine orientation, unless your clothes say ―I like catfish and sausage rolls.‖ Firstly, what is ‗more girly?‘ In Guyanese culture, I guess it means wearing a dress with a big hideous sunflower pon it. I guess it
Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD-Guyana) 180 Charlotte Street, Lacytown, Georgetown Guyana, South America. Phone: (592) 225-7283 Cell: (592) 623-5155 / 600-5124 Email: email@example.com Website: www.sasod.rg.gy
SASOD AT 10