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The courtyard, tucked off a quiet road here and ringed by mango trees heavy with immature green fruit, was bedecked with a rainbow of balloons. One proclaimed “Happy Valentines Day!” though it was May. Another advertised specials at the fast-food chain Red Robin, while a third was imprinted with the Whole Foods logo. There is no Red Robin or Whole Foods in Haiti, but the energy in the courtyard of SEROvie, Haiti’s best-known LGBT health organization, had the flavor of an American gay-pride parade.
Beats blared from speakers as Ralph (who requested that his real name be withheld) slunk onto the makeshift concrete catwalk, a space cleared between mismatched chairs crammed mostly with flirting 20-somethings in bright party outfits. Statuesque in sparkly black stilettos and a red velour unitard, Ralph twirled, jutted his hips and flipped the tresses of his long black wig.
“You better work, bitch!” he mouthed, as onlookers laughed, squealed, took selfies and applauded wildly.
For all the raucous festivities bubbling over the high walls of the compound, the day had started on a somber note. It was the International Day Against Homophobia; before delineating the catwalk, organizers had arranged chairs in rows under an awning, where a smaller crowd had listened that morning to speakers discuss the state of rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Haiti.
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