Members of the gay community are calling for calm and tolerance as three young men who were at the forefront of a human rights rally celebrating the historic court ruling on the unconstitutionality of the buggery and serious indecency laws, last Thursday, have been kicked out of their homes.
The three men, social worker Luke Sinette confirmed yesterday, were evicted for being gay. Among them, one young man who was asked to leave his family home because he embarrassed them because he was seen at the rally. Another man was accosted and taunted as he arrived at his rented apartment and a third was told by his landlord that after his display at the rally he had to leave.
Sinette’s organisation, Friends for Life, has put out an appeal for people to open their homes for temporary accommodation for the displaced men who no longer have a home. Friends for Life is also asking for resources including couches and mattresses for them. He said the response has been good.
Colin Robinson, head of Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), blamed the homophobic reaction on the protest mounted by several religious organisations including the T&T Cause and the sentiments expressed by its member Bishop Victor Gill that the ruling would be met with resistance.
Robinson appealed to the politicians and religious leaders to end the violence by speaking out and joining their call to share the nation with all the diverse groups.
“That is the most important thing that can happen now. Homophobic violence, the worst kind, psychic violence, happens in the home, in schools and in the workplace. It is sad that some of our brave folks who stood up with us have no place to live today.”
Robinson said they intended to sit with the police and work out a strategy to protect their members from hate crimes.
Sinette remarked that there had been precedent around the world where laws favouring same sex marriages and other gay rights had sparked violence against members of the LGBQTI community. He called on people to deal with the outcome in a rational adult way.
Activist Jason Jones who dared to seek the decriminalisation of Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act, said, he was expecting this kind of push back here as well.
Gill, one of the advocates for keeping the laws intact, also said the court ruling was not only biased but could lead to some form of anarchy.
Snippets of the backlash that could follow was demonstrated on the steps of the Hall of Justice on Thursday when activist Rudy Hanamji filmed a video which went viral, showing the tensions between the religious and the LGBTQI groups after the ruling. Insults were hurled, threats made, and one member of the community was allegedly spat on.
Sinette said one of the men who accompanied him and the female victim to the Port of Spain CID to report this matter was among those evicted.
“Strangely enough, I was talking to this young man at the rally and he accompanied me to the police station to make a report that another demonstrator got spat on and pushed by a Muslim guy. I got a message from him yesterday, that his landlord said he had to leave.
“The landlord identified his visibility at the rally for the decision he took,” Sinette confirmed.
“Another member, who is ‘out’ with his family, they know he is gay, was out front and centre at the rally, holding the banner and was covered by every media and in every newspaper. Because of this, his parents would have asked him to leave. I mean we were really shocked because his parents know, but perhaps he misjudged them or perhaps he embarrassed them because maybe their friends and relatives did not know.”
Sinette referred to the third situation in which a member who lives at Belmont, was attacked.
“He was going home, when he got to his gate, he was attacked and taunted and had to make a report at the Belmont Police Station. Now he wants to leave his home, because he is terrified, afraid that he could be in the sanctity of his home or walk out of his gate and be attacked because people know where he lives. This guy, like most of the people who were at the rally are people who have come out. They are not in the closet, but I guess because they are more visible, having been seen on television, other people are now more emboldened to attack them. “
Sinette said the police have been very professional so far in their dealings with them. He said they were now documenting every case, and were encouraging people to make reports because human rights abuses had been perpetrated on gay people in the past, but they had been too afraid to report them.