Last week, a friend of mine called me and told me that the had some important news to tell me when he saw me. When he did finally see me, he called me outside quietly and spoke softly, like it was something that he knew I would overreact about. After about fifteen minutes of mustering the courage, the man finally told me “I’m speaking at a political rally.”
I watched him and laughed. Never pegged him as the type.
And now, the guy’s in the papers. And if I thought that was surprising, wait till I found out what he said…
Earlier this week, a good friend of mine named Joshua Hamlet went on a People’s National Movement political platform and spoke about an end to discrimination for LGBT people. It’s important to me in a number of ways. For starters, it’s probably the first time that people have heard a clear and direct statement about LGBT rights on a political platform in this country. Secondly, the statement came from a young person, calling politicians to action in their own house. Thirdly, the man had the courage to make the statement in Laventille, maybe one of the most homophobic places you can come across in Trinidad & Tobago in my view. And lastly, the person’s a good friend of mine that didn’t have a desire to touch this issue until two weeks ago.
I don’t like to toot my own horn…well, actually I do, so I might as well. I genuinely think that some of the reason why he started thinking that this was important was because I told him it was to me. Over a year of talking with him, advising him on some things and working with him on a number of projects, the fact of my activism came up in casual conversation more than once.
At first, he thought that I was going about it all wrong, and had told me on more than one occasion that he would not get involved because it’s not his battle and it doesn’t look winnable the way that the entire argument is framed for Trinbagonians. And I agree – the way we’re talking about LGBT issues in countries is almost intrinsically troublesome. The religious conversation that takes place too closely to it (mainly the fault of the religious folks) further riles up religious folks and alienates those without a deeply rooted faith from the discussion accidentally. We can’t completely ignore the religious argument that stigmatizes people when talking about LGBT stigmatization, but once that can of kick-ass opens, someone’s getting some kick-ass.
And that’s why Joshua doing this is so cool to me – this guy who subtly said that he wasn’t going to touch this ends up coming and telling me that he’s going to speak about it after all. And not to his mother or his work friends or the next person that he meets, but in one of the spaces that LGBT activists have been waiting to hear statements like these – a room full of voters at a political rally.
I can’t take all the credit for the guy’s work. He’s always been a guy with a keen eye on the politics of the place that we live in and how that affects the average person. And, more importantly, he was the person who went before a room of people and said “We cannot afford to allow fundamental convictions to prevent us from addressing issues of sexual orientation and gender equality.” And I want to applaud the guy for that.
It’s too early to tell if we have fresh young activist blood in the local LGBT rights movement just yet, but at least we can have a fresh discussion about what those in power are going to do for everyone in society to be protected against discrimination and free to love.