PRIDE celebrations around the world were started 50 years ago by black trans women who were fed up of the police victimising them because of their gender identity and sexuality.
Pride makes one think of rainbow flags flowing in the wind as gay and proud people dance in the streets celebrating their ability to be themselves. At least, those are the images seen in Western countries like the US, where anti-discrimination laws such as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act give extra jail time if a person is found to have committed a hate crime. TT however, still explicitly excludes sexual orientation from the Equal Opportunity Act.
However, in the 1960s, even in the US, being gay was not considered okay. At that time, the City of New York refused to grant liquor licences to bars that served gay people, and the police used to get paid off by gay bars not to shut them down. Trans women were even harassed by police who would "shake them down" – stop, threaten and search them – and steal their money in the process.
Stonewall Inn is the historic home of Pride around the world. On June 28, 1969, the community had enough. Trans women such as Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera led riots against the police, and began throwing coins at officers who wanted to "shake them down" so they could get more of a "pay-off" than they bargained for.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, PrideTT is dedicating this month to the transgender community and the issues they experience living in TT. Newsday spoke to Rudolph Hanamji, chief co-ordinator of PrideTT, who said Trans people experience a great danger by merely existing in TT.
"The riots are what people know as Pride. Those riots were started by two trans women. That is why on Friday we are kicking things off outside Parliament to highlight the trans community. “This year we are focusing on trans identities. They founded Pride, after all. Transgender people remain the most marginalised group. Over the course of the month we are hosting several public events such as movie nights and workshops.
“The general public is welcome. Allies are welcome," he said.
He said the transgender community faced threats of violence, discrimination in the workplace and harassment.
"There is still a lot of misinformation and a lack of understanding regarding the trans community. Protection of life remains a key issue we have to deal with.
“Their personal challenge is re-identification of their gender markers. There is no formal process to have that gender re-identification process happen. They see themselves as one gender but society reads them as another."
Inability to legally have their gender identity match their official gender documents is not the only legislative issue the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual) community has to deal with. To date, TT's laws still technically prohibit homosexual foreigners or people who are funded by homosexuals from entering the country.
So PrideTT will also commemorate last year’s historic Jones versus TT ruling, which removed non-consensual same-sex intimacy as illegal from TT's laws, in front of Parliament today, as a way to show that change can happen and colonial homophobic laws can be changed. The gathering will be led by the Trans
Coalition and the King's Conference, a group that represents male-identifying trans people. Tonight, I Am One will host The King Show at Euphoria Lounge.
The point of PrideTT, Hanamji said, is to increase visibility in the community. Previously, the stereotype of the gay hairdresser was the only visible sign of a gay person in the country. The default assumption of a person's sexuality is heterosexual until shown otherwise. That was the perceived idea of a person's sexual identity because many gay people were highly closeted for self-preservation. They would not reveal their sexuality unless it was with close friends and allies.
However, Hanamji said last year's Pride was the first time such a large group of non-heteronormative people gathered in one place showing that the LGBT community comprises doctors, lawyers, teachers, baristas, engineers, media personalities, marketers, artists, mas makers, playwrights, actors, business people and so many more working people other than hairdressers.
Hanamji said, "What that Pride parade showed was that there was a large enough (number of) people. People can no longer dismiss that sector of our society. They can no longer say we don't have these people here. The objective of Pride is to highlight the positive contributions."
June is typically the month of Pride internationally, but Hanamji said he did not want TT to compete with the rest of the world. Many people often fly out for other Pride events, such as New York or Toronto Pride. So Pride month for TT kicks off on June 28 every year and ends in July.
Hanamji said, "We don't want to be a replica of any other Pride around the world. We are catering to the needs of Caribbean
people. We were invited to the Beyond Homophobia Conference. There were counties such as Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados, but when we looked around the room as to what Pride offered, PrideTT had the most diverse events."
PrideTT has partnered with more than 50 stakeholders who are invested in the success of the month-long celebration. The police, the Canadian High Commission and a slew of LGBTQI+ groups including I Am One, the Woman's Caucus and the Institute of Gender and Development Studies are among the partners.
The hashtag for PrideTT 2019 is #equALL, as in Equality and Equity for all. All information for PrideTT events can be found on its Facebook page.
Tomorrow, there will be a ceremonial flag-raising of the LGBTQI+ rainbow flag and the pink and blue trans flag at Calvary Hill, Arima, Fort George, Port of Spain; Mt St Benedict, St Augustine; Caroni Savannah Road; and San Fernando Hill. There will be aGay Gala hosted at Studio Lounge on Tragarete Road, Port of Spain, where “dress to impress” is the only mandate.
The first-ever LGBTQI+ art exhibit will be hosted on Sunday at the LOFTT Gallery, Rosalino St, Woodbrook, and will display work by queer artists. Among them will be the late masmen Wayne Berkeley and Carlisle Chang, who was also responsible for designing the national flag, the coat of arms and a number of famous murals around the country. That night will also be the Pride Memorial, when members of the community who fought for equality but have died will be honoured.
On December 5, 2017, the body of trans woman Sasha Fierce, whose given birth name was Keon Alister Patterson, was found in Nelson Mandela Park. To honour her memory and fight for the
safety of all in the trans community, PrideTT chose to host its celebrations every year there. Hanamji said the group had the full support of the police for the safety of the PrideTT Parade.
PrideTT event schedule:
7.30 am: Pride TT’s social media campaign launch
11 am: Pride TT’s Stonewall 50th and Jones v TT Commemorative Gathering at Parliament
7 pm: The King Show by I Am One at Euphoria
7-10 am: Pride TT’s Trinidad island-wide Pride Flag Raising at five locations
10.30 am: Curry-LGBT-Q by South T’dad LGBTQIA
9 pm: Model Gay Gala competition by KL Promotions at Studio
3 pm: Remembering our Legacy by South T’dad LGBTQIA at Rumors Sports Bar
5 pm: Pride TT’s Memorial by Friends for Life at Big Black Box
7 pm: Pride TT’s opening OUTspoken and Gaymes night by Studio
6.30 pm: Formal opening of Iere, Pride TT art exhibit in association with LOFTT
8.30 pm: Pride TT’s live stream: Trans-Power at LOFTT
7 pm: Talk It Out: Understanding Us by South T’dad LGBTQIA at Rumors Sports Bar
10.30 am: Talk it Out: Living with HIV/AIDS (Venue TBD)
7.30 pm: Pride TT’s OUTspoken by Central Pride at XS Arum
7 pm: Acting OUT: Reading of Pink Mussels &High Heeled Parrotfish at LOFTT
8 pm: FemCom’s Pride TT Edition at Drink Lounge & Bistro
10 am: Pride TT’s Tobago Pride Flag Raising at Signal Hill
4 pm: Workshop Allies & Me by Nicole Hendrickson (venue TBD)
4 pm: Health & wellness fair, LGBTQ & Allies South
9 pm: Bald Babes Bashment by Bald Babes Ink at Euphoria Lounge
10 pm: Events4Us presents Femme Fatale Lesbian Pride 19 at Studio Lounge
10 pm: Pride Party by Boycode at Fuzion Night Club
10.30 pm: South T’dad LGBTQIA hosts Pride in Jammetry at Rumors Sports Bar
6 am: OUTdoors – hike and yoga – Chaguaramas Tracking Station
6 pm: Stage – A Pride Talent Explosion by Women’s Caucus at Studio Lounge
7 pm: Alternative Rock Night by Central Pride at XS Arum
7.30 pm: PrideTT’s live stream: Macho Man 2 at LOFTT
6 pm: Opening of LGBTQI+ mini film fest – Canadian High Commission presents Crazy at MovieTowne, Port of Spain.
5.30 pm: LGBTQI+ mini film fest – Stonewall Forever
7 pm: LGBTQI+ Mini Filmfest – screening (film TBD) at Art Society TT
6.30 pm: LGBTQI+Mini Filmfest–SLF presents Boy Erased at UWI Film Hall
5 pm: LGBTQI+ Mini Filmfest – Pride UWI presents The Danish Girl and Imagine Me & You at UWI Film Hall
8 pm: Iere Auction & Closing Party at LOFTT
2 pm: She Right! Workshop by Amanda McIntyre at (venue TBD)
Time TBD: LGBTQI+ Mini Filmfest – Campbell X’s Visible with UK support (venue TBD)
10 pm: Dragcode by BOYCODE at Mazzo Club
9 am: Sports Day by LGBTQI+ & Allies South
5 pm: PrideTT’s Generation GAP at Studio Lounge
7.30 pm: PrideTT live stream: She Right! Interventions by Amanda McIntyre
7 pm: Movie night by South T’dad LGBTQI+ at Rumors Sports Bar
6 pm: Amore = Love (LatAm-T&TMeet & Greet) at Studio
7.30 pm: PrideTT’s OUTspoken by South LGBTQIA (venue TBD)
8 pm: Central Pride presents Pride-Tease Party at XS Arum
9 pm: #equALL – the Pride Week kick-off party at Studio
•7 pm: We Are… Strong- PrideTT concert at Little Carib Theatre
•10 pm: Girlcode Pride by Boycode at Matazzo Club
10 am: Pride pholourie sale by South T’dad LGBTQIA at Palmiste Park
7 am: Columbus Bay excursion by LGBTQIA & Allies South
10.30 am –2 pm: Gay ol’ Brunch at Drink! Lounge & Bistro
7 pm: Cabaret by Central Pride at XS Arum
7.30 pm: Pride TT live stream: Allies & Activism at IDGS, UWI
5.30 pm: Love Makes a Family – by Patti Garcia at Mamatoto
6 pm: What is Coming Out? – by Marcus Kissoon at IDGS, UWI
7 pm: Fierce! A Fashion &Cabaret Experience with Bohemia at Big Black Box
7 pm: Acting UP! – Part 2 by Mervyn deGoeas & Friends, Drink! Lounge & Bistro
7 pm: Diva Returns! by Choo Kong, Medina, Ramnarine at The Little Carib Theatre
Day of rest in remembrance of the 1990 attempted coup
All-day: PrideTT fair, fun day, parade and concert
Las’ Lap: Studio, Drink!, Mazzo
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