On trying to make “Heterophobia” a thing

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” – George Orwell

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On a relatively normal day, Madame Commissioner, Nicole Cole lies in bed, thinking about the country’s anti-buggery laws. She sits on two commissions, the Women and Gender Equality Commission and also, the Rights of the Child Commission – but Nicole has always known that her true calling was to set up an Anti-buggery unit in the country. These plans would face hindrance if the buggery laws were to be struck off the books and she could not have that.

She wasn’t too sure how she would do it, but lack of information had never stopped her before. She wondered briefly whether the gender neutrality of Sections 352 and 353, of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act, which criminalizes buggery, would be a hindrance in setting up her unit. Its neutrality meant that anyone who engaged in buggery, even heterosexuals could be charged in the face of the law.

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She was a bit conflicted about this because as a champion of the rights of heterosexuals, she wondered whether even this was maybe, something that could be called “hetero-phobic.” Ignoring her cognitive dissonance, she reasoned that even if a few heterosexuals were to be imprisoned once her unit was set up- the fact that Section 351 specifically criminalized any form of intimacy between men who have sex with men MSM- it just might be worth it. In every revolution, she mused; we lose some of our own.

It has been several days now since Nicole realized the depths of hetero-phobia in Guyana. Living in a heteronormative society where anyone belonging to another sexuality is seen as deviant and castigated, she never thought she would see a day when heterosexuals would be under such strong attack by those queer folks. She just didn’t understand it.

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She was a commissioner on the Women and Gender Equality Commission, she believed in equality. Yes, true to Orwellian philosophy she believed that some were more equal than others but that’s only because that’s the way God and Rastafari wanted it to be. Hell, she wasn’t that bad. She had even marched with queer men and women in the Guyanese leg of the Life in Leggings movement. She remembered that one Thompson girl asking her whether her marching with queer folks was the equivalent of, “I can’t be racist, I have many black friends,” when it came towards the LGBT community. Nicole had only responded by speaking of her self-proclaimed ‘bonafide-ness.’

Surely, she was ‘tolerant,’ yet those heterophobes were accusing her of discrimination. Since when did telling consenting people they do not deserve the same rights as others, discrimination? Even those liberal loving pansies at the W&GEC were calling her discriminatory in their press release. That one had hurt her. Even though the press release had absolutely no teeth to it, it still had hurt her and she was beginning to think there existed some heterophobic persons on the commission also. How come they didn’t issue a press release against the buggery of children? She wondered. “They would bugger the boys until they lose consciousness,” she said.

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It didn’t matter that the number of hetero rapists of children are much, much higher than that of homos. As a scientist, she was not too concerned with facts, because science is about feelings after all. Could it be that they were able to see through her airtight argument that she was not being homophobic but was merely trying to protect children from buggery?

She was a respectable activist for women’s and children’s rights, that was not up for debate, but all of a sudden everyone was calling her a homophobe and she just had to deflect to the protection of children. ‘It was needed,’ she uttered to herself, staring up at her portrait of Haile Selassie.

That Thompson girl is such an upstart, she muttered bitterly. So what if my initial aim was not to bring attention to the buggery (rape) of children and was instead to denounce an entire sexuality? So what if heterosexuals are statistically more likely to rape and abuse children? So what, she expounded, that homosexuality and pedophilia were not the same thing? The fact remains, that that Thompson girl needs to mind her language. It doesn’t really matter Nicole mused that she tried to form dialogue and I only responded with my many hashtags of heterophobia and how evil LGBT persons are, she should have remained respectful always. ‘I am a commissioner after all, a champion of equality. I am bonafide,’ she said puffing her chest.

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Nicole was becoming slightly worried, not much though. She had survived threats to her job already. But still, she was worried. That Derwayne Wills boy who wants to be both a journalist and an activist told everyone about what is said in the Constitution about the rights commissions. She knew it well, she had read Article 212H (1) several times before because it stated that a new commission “… be appointed for three years and shall be eligible for re-appointment.”

The fact that it had been more than three years since she was appointed sat heavy on her mind, and since they were victimizing heterosexuals now, she did not see herself being re-appointed to the commissions.

She knew she had people on her side though and she found some comfort in that fact. She was grateful for Joseph Harmon’s pet boy, Darren Wade for coming to her defense and even taking it one step further and claiming religious persecution. Those were the kind of leaders we need in this place. Those who are not afraid to stand up for discriminatory practices and who grab at any opportunity they can to feel victimized. Yes, those were the people who would see her through this tough time, thought Nicole. Even if they were to eventually abandon her, she would survive against all the hetero-phobic attacks she received, because she was and remains ‘Madame Commissioner.’ She was, hashtag bonafide.

Love makes a family

Last night, I gave a speech at an event hosted by the European Union and Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination in observance of IDAHOT. Due to my clumsiness, I did not finish my speech and I was asked to post it up in its entirety. So here it is, with a few edits and additions.

As a child, it seemed like everything had definitions. Not only definitions, but stringent ones; ones that you could not necessarily change because it did not seem to apply to you. Just like how I learnt that us humans are basically made up of stardust and I learnt how to differentiate between water type and grass type Pokemons, I also learnt that a family was made up of a man, a woman and their children. There were some slight deviations from this of course. We not only had the nuclear family, we also had the extended and single parent ones too. What all of these definitions had in common however, was that they were all centered on heterosexuality. There was not a hint of queerness to be found anywhere, but I never questioned it. I didn’t question the erasure of my people in the education that my family was paying for. I didn’t know how much I had been conditioned in the heteronormativity of family until I saw depictions of queer families and felt like there was something wrong with it. It was quite an ironic but jarring experience because it made me realize that our entire system is based on these little oppressions of erasure.

We keep trying to wrap a neat little bow around the concept of family. But it is much too diverse, much too chaotic and full of hurt, pain and rejection at times. It is much too fulfilling and special to be tied down to just one meaning or subtle deviations of it.

When I realized that my experimentations with women were not just a passing phase and that it was an intrinsic part of who I was, I often thought about my family. They were a religious bunch, not fiercely religious but they were religious all the same. I wondered about how my mother would feel, I was her only child and she wanted me to be perfect, I wasn’t. I was my father’s eldest child and he wanted me to be a role model, I wasn’t. Then there was the rest of the family who banked and continues to bank their hopes on me. They wanted me to be a lawyer or a doctor so as to have a secure future and they wanted me to be straight.  For a while, I thought I wanted these things too. Instead, I turned out a bisexual writer, drenched in activism, an uncertain future and many, many mini-existential crises. I want to be none of those previous things I wanted. I no longer get a feeling of disassociation when I see queer families represented, what I do get is the hope that there will be more representations that are not rooted in stereotypes. What I do hope is that in those families, there is an abundance of love.

Due to societal expectations of what normalcy is, I see so many persons belonging to the LGBT community be castigated and treated as unimportant by their families. As a mother and as a queer woman, I know it is my responsibility to untie and continue untying all the little bows that society tries to impose upon my daughter and me. She is turning five next month and some people find it weird that I have such in depth conversations with her. They believe children should not know certain things, but she asks questions. Just as I’m sure I might have asked questions or my brother and sister had asked questions that might not have been answered. We talk about how gender is a social construct, how everything really is a social construct. We talk about how persons belonging to the LGBT community, like her mother, are people deserving of respect and love. It is often hard to try to get her to unlearn everything she learns when she is not with me but occasionally there is a ray of sunlight. She no longer believes that clothes and colors are specified to gender and if she passes a trans person on the road, she does not bat an eyelash. If I ask who that person is she tells me that they are a person. She is only five, yet she understands these things, why is it so hard for us a society to understand? Can it be because our parents believed that we should not know certain things?

What we end up with here is a culture in which any deviation from normalcy is punished. We have queer men and women afraid to be themselves because they want to remain a part of a traditional family. Or they want to remain protected from the violence society will mete out against them. Often, we get a bit of hope that our identity will someday not be attacked when we hear the words of the leaders we elected to represent us tell us that they will respect our right to exist. Instead, what we get are threats of a referendum that is set up to further marginalize us, and commendable but still empty unfulfilled promises to recognize our rights.

I know it can be hard to be disowned or despised for who you are by the people who surround you, but just know that you have an entire community behind you. We are here to support and love and annoy the daylights out of you. I know I am.

I’m not that little child struggling to understand definitions that seemed right but felt wrong. I am relatively, a big woman now, even though that in its self is up for debate. I know now that often when definitions do not paint the entire picture, we might have to make our own definitions. So if someone were to ask me, what is a family, my thoughts I hope should not go towards hetero, homo or asexuals but towards collectives. Because family is not about ones gender or sexuality, family is about love, acceptance and support. Family is about waking up every morning, or if you’re like me, sometimes in the afternoon and knowing that there are people out there who care deeply for you and will do all that is in their power to protect you. The sooner we stop letting stoic definitions define our love, we’d all be better off.

Why “Hidden Figures” matters

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Katherine Johnson- Physicist and mathematician who was instrumental in NASA’s journey into space and their landing on the moon

I’ve long since become accustomed to seeing leading black women in movies as slaves, love interests and/or maids. Other times, I’ve become accustomed to seeing them as caricatures; either they are women who do too much or too little, women who act but don’t inspire because their characters are one dimensional and overdone.

For years, we would ask for not only minority representation but strong minority representation that doesn’t reduce us to either eye-candy, sassy black woman and/or a mammy characters. We were told that what we wanted just was not possible. Our underrepresentation in films were not a result of some active and implicit bias but simple Mathematics. We were told that movies with lead black women would just not do well at the box office. Only movies focused predominantly on white heroism, pains and struggles would. So, they would give us things like Madea, The Help and so on, not yet knowing that their argument would soon be riddled with holes as “Hidden Figures” (based on the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly), has even beaten Rogue 1 (as it well should because Star Wars is crap) at the box office while having far fewer theatres available to it. Now that their argument is demolished, I hope that this movie will represent a tide of changes to come within the film industry.

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Mary Jackson- Mathematician and aerospace engineer at NASA. She was the first black black engineer at NASA

I went into the movie the day it opened at Giftland, excited but slightly skeptical. Would this movie fall prey to the common trope of the tiara syndrome and that of the white savior? Would this be NASA’s version of ‘The Help’?

While on surface level there might have appeared to be elements of both, there weren’t, not really.

Harrison, the leader of the mission in a nice scene breaks down segregated washroom signs. I was a bit dubious about this part until I realised that he did not do it because he feels particularly sympathetic to Katherine, he did it because it was in his and NASA’s best interest to do so. They could not have their lead mathematician running off everyday for close to an hour because she did not have access to bathrooms close by. Meanwhile, the women are not silent persons waiting to be recognised, but actively pursue and adapt themselves to achieve what they want and that is highly refreshing.

People often shirk at the idea about positive representation in the media. Entertainment is entertainment and in the larger scheme of things it doesn’t matter. While that may be true to an extent, seeing not only one but three trailblazing women who look like you accomplishing so much in a much more oppressive system, does wonders on the minds of little black girls everywhere and lets them know that they too can do great things.

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Dorothy Vaughn- Mathematician who was the first black woman to supervise staff at NASA

Within five minutes, I was in tears. This silly tear spilling over the women, their triumphs and their struggles continued sporadically throughout the film. I was thankful that it being day, not many persons were in the theatre, but I did gain a strange look from the ticket collector on my way out because of how red my eyes were. If such a movie can matter to me, someone who has by and large been very privileged and grew up hearing that I could be whatever I wanted and throwing away my family’s lofty ambitions and aiming to become a writer, then imagine what it means to those less privileged and who are told that their stories and lives do not matter. Just imagine.

I liked that the movie was not this idealogical pipe dream which saw the white people all realising that, “Oh, they’re just people like us and as such we should treat them equally.” No, it is a movie rooted in reality and as such, the evolution of the central white characters are subtler and one gets a sense once again that they are not being accepting because they particularly like these women, but because it is in their best interest to have the best minds working for them. The movie offers a very sobering question about equality, biases and the implications these have for our advancement as a people. While we see the barriers the women face with regards to advancement due to their race and gender, we begin to wonder how many persons never got a chance to make their genius known due to the prevailing biases surrounding them.

I know no prince but the prince in the North!

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It has been very interesting reading several comments on the small protest that was held on Harry’s visit to the Commonwealth War graves yesterday. I found it both amazing and slightly disturbing that four protesters were able to incite such widespread condemnation from the same people we were trying to stand up for. For those who think that the protest was some “attention grabbing act,” yes, yes it was. We made the unpopular decision to protest against a monarchy that encouraged the marginalisation of our people and we did it where we knew we would get media attention. We did it because people need to be reminded of our history and to be reminded that the effects of colonisation still lingers on. This fierce ethnic divide we have here, yeah, thank the crown Harry represents for that.

There are so many things I want to say about the majority of Guyanese and their colonial mentalities which insist that they must grovel at the feet of Massa’s offspring’s and protect their empire from accountability because we like our histories rewritten and whitewashed-but I won’t.

What I want to do is address this misconception we seem to have that in order to move forward, we must not look back.While I understand that there is the desire to move on from the dehumanization and commoditization committed against us by the British Empire, it is extremely narrow minded to believe that the past does not shape our future and that its effects are not lasting. To quote William Faulkner in Requiem to a nun, “the past is never dead; it is not even past.” Demanding an apology is not holding unto the past, it is asking to be shown a bit of human decency that was not afforded to our foreparents and to let us know that their lives are just not remembered in terms of dollars and cents. I will not even broach the subject of reparations, another post for another time, because there can never be an amount suitable enough to cleanse centuries of suffering.

While I understand that an apology will not automatically (or ever) heal old wounds; it is a steppingstone we can work from to help us get over our histories. One cannot continue hiding under the excuse that slavery was at the time legal and that it was very long ago. Not because something was/is legal means that it should happen and not because something happened long ago means that its horrors should not be addressed and accounted for.

To be clear, this has absolutely nothing to do with Harry nor Elizabeth as individuals, this has to do with an empire which plundered and stunted growth in our countries and islands and are yet to apologize for its role in it. It matters not who was or was not born, you are a representative of a system that stifled us for centuries and your refusal to even address it shows us what we really mean.

I went into the protest fully aware that the chances of actually getting an apology approached the chances of zero, but protesting is not always about getting what you want as that is largely ideological- it is about making statements and letting them know that we may be few, but we are here and we will not be silent. For those of you who considered the protest action and the protesters to be “an embarrassment” to the country, I am perfectly okay with that label. I would rather be a pariah than to sit by idly and wave, smile and fawn over a man whose family’s legacy was strengthened off of the back of my people.

*Nalini Mohabir, Kevin Brice, Jermain Ostiana and Robert Jones, thank you guys for initiating this protest. #notmyprince

 

My four year olds’ thoughts on the police

Since U.G closed last month, I have had the opportunity to pick my daughter up everyday from school. It is tiring work, especially since the school is a good distance from me but it is also often amusing and offers me insight into my four year olds’ mind.

Today, on our way home, like most days I asked her what she learnt in school. Of recent they have been on occupations so she would always state the name of the occupation she learnt and the duties of the person. Today however, when she replied that they had learnt about policemen, I waited to hear her description of a policeman’s duty, expecting her to say ‘protect me’ or something of the sort. Instead, her reply was, “policeman does kill you.”

I of course sought to correct her, but she was adamant that those were the roles of an officer sworn to protect her. She can be a headstrong child, so realizing I was getting nowhere as she insisted that “policeman does murder you,” I tried to explain dualities to her by telling her just as there are good and bad people, there are real policemen (good ones) and bad policemen (the pretenders.)

She pondered upon this bit of information for about a minute and then asked, “The real policeman does put you in jail too?” I told her yes, but only if you committed a crime such as stealing, murder or assault and told her that she had nothing to worry about because she was a good little baby.

She did not seem to buy this, instead saying that policeman does beat good babies too. At this point I was flagger basted and I asked her where she was learning these things.

She explained that her teacher told her that policemen jailed people and that her friend told her they beat and kill you. Asked whether she really believed that, she said yes, so I wondered why it was that she would take the word of a four year old such as herself and a teacher who was not too big on making distinctions for the children.

As we continued to walk, I continued my attempts on changing her mind on the police and their role in society, admitting that a lot of them strayed from their roles but many remained stringent and dutiful.

As we neared home, I asked her again, “what does the policeman do?” and while she did say, “protect me” I know she did not really believe it.

Guyana: Culture & musings

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Often, whenever people talk about Guyana in a good light, they mention our diverse and rich culture and how it remains unmatched by many countries.

While this is true, not many of us realize the greatness that lies in our diversity and culture and as such, shun it. It was only last year in Haiti that I myself had a small glimpse of how various cultures can merge to create something truly wonderful when I bought plantain chips from a vendor who had no sour for me to pour on it. Haiti did not benefit from the same influx of Indians as Guyana did; as such there was never the chance for cultures to merge and people to figure out that plantain chips tasted better with sour.

Our cultural makeup goes far and beyond ethnicity and food though, and while we are a country of varying ethnicities, religions and customs, we are all unified in our shared history. This is not realized however, as we have sunk deeper into a culture of mimickery, superficiality, suppression and self-loathing as we cannot make links with our history and learn from it.

Knowing the History of one’s country and ancestors has its benefits, as it will show how the self-loathing of our culture is not something we are wholly responsible for as it was conditioned into our ancestors by plantation masters and then into us. Being aware of history will make one realize that every time they don American accents and upend their positive traditions for more Western ones, the plantocracy wins.

The plantocracy, suspicious of anything it did not understand chose to ban and denounce cultural practices and traditions different from their own, labeling them as being paganistic. As a result, we began to feel contempt for our culture as we were conditioned to think the “white man’s” own was better. So we adapted his God, his mannerisms and even his biases in an attempt to become more like him and have an advantage in the world.

The dying of languages, cultural erosion, diffusion and infusion all seek to upend Guyana’ already fragile cultural atmosphere. We have reached a point in which we seem to be struggling for an identity and grasping any one, which is dangled before us. While I do believe the state has a role to play in the preservation and promotion of varying cultures, the people have depended too much on the state to make changes regarding the values and attitudes of their cultures. Instead, we have traded in our own creole for that of Jamaica and other Caribbean islands and we twist our tongues to match that of the hackneyed Americans. We celebrate people “outside” making small ripples but do not celebrate our own who make large waves. We forget our mythology such as the Churlie and Water Mumma while celebrating the ghouls and ghosts of Halloween. We even thwart our Mashramani celebration to align with that of Trinidad’s carnival.

Then of course, Guyanese wonder why our country has such a low tourism rate. That is because tourists recognize that we have no real culture as we rush to mimic rather than create and embrace our own.

I know, nothing is fixed, changes are necessary and no one culture can claim to be pure as they have all undergone mutations when exposed to others but, these cultures have seemed to develop their own cultural uniqueness, a task which Guyana is yet to complete.

Guyanese need embrace their color, their creole, what’s left of our culture and release themselves from the shackles of colonial mentality as only then can we hope for a semblance of national identity free from biases and mimickery.

 

 

 

 

 

UG failings

12961143_10208374724393306_2337419433725831354_oIt has been two unfortunate years since I have began studies at the University of Guyana and I will soon be entering my third. People ask why I continue to attend the university if I despise it so. Truly, the reasons are twofold. 1) I have no other options at the moment 2) I do not despise it as much as I am disappointed in it.

There are so many things wrong with UG but for the moment, I just want to focus on a few, one of which is the lack of proper seating for students.

The struggle for proper seating on the Turkeyen campus is a daily struggle, even more so when it is time for mid or final examinations. On a regular day, scores of students can be seen sitting in chairs that have no desk and can even be seen trying to hold up desks with their hands as they jot down notes with the other. I can say this because I speak from experience and I will probably be experiencing the same next semester also.

During finals, particularly this last one, hosts of students were left standing for long periods, unable to write their examinations because they lacked seats. I was able to write my examination on time because I fetched a chair from another classroom as the classes that were assigned to us had ten chairs if so many, when our class had over forty students.

I read of another incident in which students were advised to use the light from their cellular phones to continue their examinations after the power went out. I know many students must have been happy for that opportunity but the incident goes to show how very little the university respects its students and their supposed facilities fees.

While I am on the issue of finals, I want to comment upon the invigilators who are assigned to us and who act as if they are there to act out the Gods greatest mission. I do not go so far as to hope the invigilators be friendly, but a little courtesy goes a long way. During this past academic year I have had two invigilators pull rules out of their arses about the examination. The first arse pulled rule was that I could not sit with my back slouched and my legs out. The fact that my feet were in no one’s way and my posture had nothing to do with her seemed lost upon the woman. She stopped me from writing and proceeded to call upon the lecturer to discipline me as I was not following her rules. The lecturer fortunately was not as silly as she and told me to stand on my head if I wished, as long as I wrote the exam.

Then, there was the other invigilator who wanted to bar me from writing an examination because I did not have the new student I.D card. I am sure many can understand my reluctance to uplift my new I.D card given the friendliness of the UG staffers who always scowl whenever you disturb their Facebooking or live tweeting or whatever it is that they do. Despite the fact that it was not specified that one needed their new student ID card and the fact that I wrote three other examinations without question about my ID card, this woman felt that I should not write the exam. I asked her whether she would be the one to stop me from writing the exam but it didn’t seem so, so I went and wrote my exam still.

 

While I only speak about my experiences with these invigilators, I have seen several students humiliated because they felt the student was not up-keeping with what they believed to be the right thing.

Now, back to UG’s facilities. UG now imposes a $50,000 facilities fee which they claimed would have helped to improve (you guessed it) the facilities of the university. Failure to pay this extra fee on top of your normal tuition will result in one not being able to write their final examinations.

Of late, I have heard murmurings of increased university tuition, despite the fact that we have not seen much improvements in the university’s facilities since it was last raised.

The majority of the campus remains poorly lighted and the guards do not seem to know their purpose. I do not know whether there is a system in place which see’s the guards doing routine checks around the campus but if there is, they might have forgotten about it. The guards seem more interested in ensuring that I have some form of identification on me rather than ensuring my safety. 

The administration does try in some areas. Every-time I grace one of the washrooms and find running water, hand sanitizers, paper towels and flushable toilets, I rejoice a little. The same happens whenever I pass by the empty garbage bins because I know that while the university’s administration would have us believe that these few improvements were borne out of the their promises attached to the facilities fee, I and many others who would have marched along Turkeyen know that these improvements only came when we demanded them and even so, they are spotty at best and our larger demands have remained forgotten. 

Why have they remained forgotten? Merely because we have stopped speaking, many see the sight of hand soap and forgot they still need to have their education and money respected. They choose to sit about because there is nothing they think they could do. They choose to remain silent because they think the revolution has ended, not realising that the revolution only ends when significant positive changes are made and when the people are respected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of hot suns, picketing and black cars

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Earlier today, my university friend and I, along with one who recently graduated decided to ditch our afternoon lectures and go to a Red Thread picket opposite the Ministry of Social Protection and show our support.

We arrived about 15 minutes late and immediately noticed the small band of women standing in the hot sun. In their hands they held placards denouncing Minister Volda Lawrence and her statements regarding the alleged child molester Winston Harding and accusations leveled against him as being a “family issue.”

The sun was no longer an issue for me and I walked over with renewed purpose and stood at their side with a placard expressing similar sentiments. Regardless, I was still in a state of disbelief over the small number of persons willing to call out wrong when they see it and whether they even understood what they would be allowing to continue if they leave transgressions unchecked.

I slowly began to realize that there were several reasons why not many people were there in protestation as I began to sense the general feelings of unease and anger from Afro-Guyanese passing us and the feelings of amusement from Indo-Guyanese and the disinterest in the others.

(1) They do not want to stand in the sun (I can get behind that);

(2) They believe that criticism against the government and its ministers is a criticism on their ‘people’

(3) They believe that we got the ‘change’ we deserved

(4) They did not grasp the importance of the Minister’s comments and what it represented.

I can understand these varying views, even if I’m not in agreement of them (except number 1). Living in a largely divisive country in which politics and race have seemingly become one, I understand why many persons who would have voted for the coalition believe people are just trying to stir up trouble for trouble’s sake. They fail to realize that while we are allowed to like our leaders and expect them to do great deeds, they should not be coddled when they have erred lest they grow into the familiar monsters we have all come to despise and fear.

Child rights and issues, I would like to believe, go far and beyond race or class and very few seem to realize how dangerous their silence on issues such as men, women and children rights can be in the future.

As the minutes went on in our picketing, our placards screaming about the injustice and insensitivity from Lawrence who now seems to be on a redemption tour despite never offering an apology or explanation, our numbers grew.

About half hour into it, a black, fully tinted vehicle pulled up to us. In it, was a man who was clearly annoyed as he surveyed us and our placards. After offering an explanation as to what we were doing there when he asked, we told him to park his car and join us as he was holding up the traffic, he said that he would not come as “they (coalition) is my people.”

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We explained that they were our people too and the reason we were out there was because we want them to learn from their mistake of protecting an alleged child molester.

Scanning our faces and placards, he went on to ask, “Is who paying yall?…Is got to be the PPP paying yall to come here.”

I felt defeated as it began to dawn on me how stupid most Guyanese are and how they have allowed race and politics to cloud their judgement of what is right and wrong. The man sat in his car, eyeing us menacingly and hurling derisive statements until he was told to move or wait until the police came. He left but shortly after that, another man passing in a car, shouted out, “Yall leave the woman alone and go home.”

As the protest ended, I felt dissatisfied as I realized that not much had changed from us standing there and most likely, not much will change the next time but I know that I must continue, because victims of abuse deserve more than silence.

 

 

UG Rape Allegation Source Rescinds

The University of Guyana engineering lecturer upon whose account the story of an alleged gang rape on campus last Friday was based is rescinding his story.

In his original recorded interview, the lecturer had stated, “today (Friday) some U.G student, males, had drugged and gang-raped another U.G student, female then carried her to the medic and so far I haven’t heard any police reports… Even though she (victim) shouldn’t have been there, it shouldn’t have happened and she needs satisfaction. These students are behaving like animals…this is a human life and they have ruined it, mentally, physically and spiritually.”

When contacted yesterday, the lecturer, in spite of the recording claimed the contrary, stating “when I spoke to you, I didn’t say anyone was raped…things were said and taken out of context.” Upon further questioning he stated that he said, “allegedly.”

He stated that he believed the article to be “ill-timed” “inaccurate and “did not address the issue at hand.”

The issue he said he had been addressing was that “students can go anywhere they want to and nothing happens…. I was arguing because students were at a location and they shouldn’t have been there and because of their (guards) inactions an incident occurred.”

In his previous statements he had said, “students are getting drunk, wild and doing ungodly things, its now up to me to do something about it cause I can’t let this go, look what has happened now, it’s elevated to sexual assault and I don’t know what’s the next level.”

Despite saying before that a student informed him of the alleged gang rape, upon further contact he stated, “no student told me that, no student told me anything.” He went on to say that “I was frustrated and I wanted that issue (security) to be addressed, not the rape issue.”

He stated that he does not know whether there was a rape or not, adding that any further dialogue would have to be had in front of the PRO and he would speak to his superiors and take it from there.

I also got a chance to speak to the university medic who would have attended to the student who was allegedly raped.

The medic, who refused to give his name, said that he was “finished with the issue already,” stating only that the student had been treated for dehydration and no rape claims were made to him or any other staff.

“A student came seeking help, that’s all.”

This is in contrast to the lecturer’s previous claims that he had spoken to a clinic employee about the alleged rape and was trying to gain the parents contact information but was unsuccessful.

Asked whether any tests were done to determine the substance the student was intoxicated with, the medic stated that no tests were done as “one could use their five senses…we could detect from seeing the students what is wrong.”

He stated that no examinations were done to see whether the student was sexually assaulted or not as no allegation was made.

Questioned as to who escorted the student to the clinic, the medic seemed unsure. First, he stated that the girl was escorted to the clinic by one person, then he stated two and upon further questioning stated that a group of students brought her.

The University of Guyana had originally sent out a brief press release denying that any alleged rape had taken place. Sources inside of U.G’s community stated that an internal rift over the university’s release is developing, labeling it as “inept,” “defensive” and “inappropriate response to the report of the alleged rape.”

Questions sent to the Public Relations Officer have not been answered.

Valentines day and the right to be gay

I have always been fond of Valentine’s Day, not because of its connotations, but because of what it brings out in others. That being said, I know that this year’s celebration will be extra special. Given President Granger’s recent promise to respect LBGT rights, I do believe that at least some persons belonging to the LBGT group will celebrate this holiday with an easier mind.
Guyana is the only South American country in which homosexuality is still illegal, and by not changing the archaic laws, Government is not only encouraging bigotry but also shamelessly violating minority rights.
I know that most people are against homosexuality for the sole reason of religion, and my penning an article is not going to change that. However, call me idealistic, but I have hope that most people are capable of both critical thought and the respecting of views and lifestyles outside of their own.
Many believe that marriage is a sacred union between man, woman and God. They also believe that same-sex marriages are unnatural, and will affect heterosexual couples. Unfortunately, these arguments are among the weakest against same-sex marriage and relations.
Marriage is a societal construct, which means that it is defined by what society thinks it should be. As such, the concept of marriage is constantly being redefined. I must point out also that marriage predates many religions, including Christianity, as it dates back to the Code of Hammurabi 1790 BC. So while one is free to imply that same-sex unions are a threat to the construct of marriage, the fact remains that marriage existed long before Yaweh became a word you weren’t allowed to say.
While homosexuality may not be the predominant sexual orientation, labelling it as unnatural is inaccurate. Homosexual behaviour has been documented in hundreds of species, from fishes to humans. Given the wide range of homosexuality within both the animal kingdom and that of Man, homosexuality is, by definition, a natural occurrence. As for how homosexual couples affect heterosexual couples, I do not even know how to begin tackling this view, due to its inanity.
Then, of course, follow the other arguments: that children “would not be here had their parents been of the same sex”, as stated by one letter writer, Reverend Gideon Cecil. Unless there is a pandemic wiping out heterosexual couples, I fail to see how same-sex marriage can lead to a world devoid of children. By trying to equate marriage with procreation, one is just making excuses to discriminate against LBGT persons.
On the topic of procreation and marriage, I know of several heterosexual couples who are infertile, or do not want children. Why aren’t these people barred from being married?
Being an atheist, I am one of those persons whom Cecil says “are trying to corrupt the morals of the world.” As such, I am a bit murky on the Bible, but granted that God killed Onan for spilling his seed on the ground, we really should look into banning these “non-procreating” persons from getting married.
Finally comes the other two most popular arguments against homosexuality: The slippery slope, and, according to Cecil, the “insult to God.”
Let me address the insult to God first. If the God one prays to expects hate and intolerance against minority groups such as the LGBT, then maybe it is time to reconsider your religious ideology.
Now, back to the slippery slope theory, which states that legalization of same-sex marriage will lead to marriages between persons and animals, and children and inanimate objects. Seeing that children cannot consent to marriage, and the fact that neither can animals nor my laptop, I can only hope that persons would stop scraping the bottom of the barrel as they search for justifications for their bigotry.
Most, if not all, of the objections to homosexuality are rooted in religion, whose convictions are based on faith, and not logic. Just as there were no logical arguments against miscegenation between blacks and whites and against gender equality, there are no logical arguments against homosexuality.
Asking for gay marriage and equal rights is not an issue of the minority trying to impose their lifestyle on the majority. This is about the minority’s civil rights, and the right to love and marry whomever they choose being respected. Many don’t see the reason behind fighting for LBGT rights; but that’s only because they have been privileged to grow up in societies in which their heterosexual orientation is considered normal; and as such, they have not had to fight for their rights.
Guyana, as a secular State, has been pandering to the religious sector for way too long on this issue, and while I know those in office are hindered by their own religious views, their religious convictions should not supersede the secularity of the State as defined by the Constitution.
As I close, I find it interesting to note that a lot of the arguments being used against homosexuality today were used against miscegenation yesterday. Below is a quote which I find interesting because it encapsulates one such argument:
“The underlying factors that constitute justification for laws against miscegenation closely parallel those which sustain the validity of prohibitions against incest and incestuous marriages.”