One thing to be said for TT’s LGBTI community: some of us punch far above our weight. Ask the public to list famous Caribbean LGBTI people. Belize sodomy-law litigant Caleb Orozco should come up. Gulliver McEwan, first-named litigant in Guyana’s groundbreaking “crossdressing” case by working-class black and Indian transgender women — less likely. Marlon James, star Jamaican novelist — for sure.
Most others, I think, would be Trinbs: parliamentary candidate and national awardee Jowelle DeSouza sued police 20 years ago and won. Jason Jones, our own sodomy litigant’s name is all over international media. As is Dillian Johnson, featured last week in a BBC documentary on UK immigration. Some might put me there.
But how many on that list pull over 100,000 views and 7,000 comments on a Facebook Live?
Kia “RB” Hosein can.
Over recent weeks, the brilliant young non-binary Trinb with the worst gender politics I’ve ever encountered has proven, once again, incredible smarts at tapping into populism in a way few political or civic leaders here know how to. With nominal help from Winston Ragoo, Kia turned out a historic demonstration to rattle Venezuelans lining up in the last days to register outside the Oval. If, as Fitzgerald Hinds suggested on the Parliament floor — reprising Darryl Smith’s schoolyard stunt of 2015 — “she…or ‘he,’ I’m not sure” was paid, payors got their damn money’s worth.
Kia copped a page 3 Sunday story in another newspaper back in 2016, bursting onto the national scene with a comedic brilliance and sense of audience that had hundreds across the Trinb diaspora stopping work mid-afternoon, watching a white chair, waiting for Kia’s Live to start.
Kia gave our national vernacular iconic expressions like “dohrunslack,” a description of the elasticity of a $250,000 work of art by a Venezuelan gender-reassignment surgeon, Kia declared. Unlike Dillian, despite hopes of winning humanitarian protection in the UK, Kia landed back in TT, victim of those very social media confessions, some speculate. Kia’s hopes of displacing Rachel Price ended up in a bar in Morvant; and of becoming a radio star in selling barbecue.
Perhaps because Kia quickly showed up as deeply troubled, and with toxic gender politics — outing and demeaning people living with HIV; calling gay men godless and confused, whereas she was a woman; and tainting brilliant satire on Price with rank misogyny.
But Kia’s back. Hardly ironically, with “plaque cards” and followers calling for us to close the “boarders,” rallying a noisy chorus for the PNM to go, over people seeking humanitarian protection here (like Kia did abroad) who are Venezuelan (like Kia’s surgeon).
Kia might be a dunce speller, I responded to another PNM politician’s picong, but a way better organiser than folks starting political parties with a bagful of ideas and no ground game. Kia understands how to harness populism; and people who want to be political and civic leaders, including me, have a lot to learn. We all laughed at Donald Trump; Boris Johnson; Silvio Berlusconi — how’d that turn out?
The Venezuelan influx has led me to self-reflection. My great-grandmother arrived in San Fernando from Venezuela in the late 1800s. My sister lived and worked in Caracas, witness to legions of Trinb economic migrants during the NAR years. But we’ve had remarkably little curiosity about our family’s Venezuelan heritage. I’ve been much more intrigued by Grenadian migrant grandparents on the other side, the patriarch who started in St Kitts, making a stop — and child — in St Vincent. By my great-grandmother’s son, remaining in Ghana as the family returned home after her husband’s colonial civil service tour a century ago.
My grandparents’ children chose spouses from Antigua, Barbados, Canada, Guyana, Hungary, Nigeria and the US. I spent a decade undocumented in New York, building nonprofits and doing HIV policy advocacy, reviewed state applications for funding, served on federal government panels.
So that’s my position on borders.
Speaking of positions, I posted recently in Rhoda Bharath’s Facebook thread on the Media Association position on police seizure of Devant Maharaj’s phone. Grossly unpopular as Devant might be, I commented, let Government come for him, and they could come for all of us. Someone screenshot it, it toured WhatsApp, and ended up in an Express headline, attributed to CAISO. But I own my own mouth. When I make love, go to the toilet, say things on Facebook, or here, I’m not my organisation’s indenturee. The paper issued a correction.
People (some threatened PNMites) are coming for Kia. More ironic than Kia’s hypocrisy is how xenophobic Trinbs affording a transperson inclusion and leadership has licensed transphobia among politically correct humanitarians, who’ve forced gendered pronouns onto Kia. On Bharath’s page, LGBTI leaders and groups are now being demanded to stake positions on Kia. Like we were on Ivor Archie.
Fascinating: Kia’s gone masculine — to remove gender as a weapon.
My position? That Saucy Pow, Dillian and Kia are all examples of what homo/transphobia does to queer talent. My other position: Soy venezolanx.