World AIDS Day: HIV and LGBT Stigma in the Caribbean

Published: December 6, 2014

HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN
Original Article:  bit.ly/1qn8qBL

I grew up on a small Caribbean island, a small space where notions of what you could be were limited. The “master narrative” did not accommodate difference; and avoiding shame and having “a sense of common decency” were top concerns. In this world – the universe as I knew it – sex, sexuality and sexual orientation were taboo subjects and being LGBT was anathema to notions of decency. In my 20s, when HIV appeared, these taboos rose in unison; HIV opened conversations that were difficult and often bigoted but essential.

I learned about prejudice at an early age, in the schoolyard. That playground taught me who I was supposed to be prejudiced against and who was supposed to be prejudiced against me. And in that multi-ethnic Caribbean island, with a small, chattering middle class, the options for discrimination were endless. Being a “buller,” the local name for gay men, ensured your isolation. The yard had boundaries, and fears and offered protection – if you stayed inside and kept quiet.

The Caribbean media’s discussion of homosexuality has always been in everyone’s yard, in every boys’ school. What has changed is the code – the way of speaking about it. Our small world has changed because of the media. People are watching Modern Family – and, enjoying it.

In 2013, in Trinidad and Tobago, the small island where I was born, a recent poll showed that 78 percent of people said there should be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 1 in 2 said that persons living with HIV should be protected from discrimination. This is not the island of my childhood. This is not the narrow school yard and its taunts.

Full text of article available at link below:  bit.ly/1qn8qBL
 

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