Wednesday, July 2, 2008
With the release of police sketches of suspects in the Wilson murder and ultimately the naming of a Person of Interest: Troynico MacNeil with respect to the Taylor murder, speculation as to the commitment of the police force to solving these murders in particular and their commitment to serving the GBLT community to the same degree they serve the Bahamas as a whole can hopefully end. The Bahamian criminal justice system for all is anachronism still functions. It is important to note that the vast majority of all serious crimes reported to the police end in the arrest of a suspect and a charge before the courts. The danger posed by the belief that the police can not be trusted to respect the rights and dignity of GLBT persons is that these persons will not report serious crimes to the police when the occur or share information with the police that could potentially assist their investigations.
The naming of a person of interest in the Taylor murder is a significant step in demonstrating that the police force in the Bahamas can be trusted by the GLBT community. Still it is only a single step, much work remains to be done if the community is to extend it's trust. Sensitivity training for officers with respect to human rights in general and GLBT concerns in particular should be introduced. However, the community should not expect the police force to formulate and implement such training on it's own. Representatives of the GLBT community in the Bahamas should reach out to the leadership of the RBPF and together work out how such an initiative can be put in place. Other Human Rights organizations within the Bahamas should also champion the cause of further training of officers with respect to human rights and diversity.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Coming Out is often not even a consideration for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Bahamians. Like much of the English speaking Caribbean gays and lesbians face fierce and virulent homophobia and bigotry. The vast majority of religious communities actively exclude homosexuals and often forms of discrimination are entrenched in the legal code. For example, teachers can still face dismissal were they to publically come out of the closet as gay in the Bahamas. Even in what can be condidered the more liberal professions in the media, openly gay and lesbian Bahamians have faced discrimination and dismissal. This does not include the many instances of violence aimed at gays and lesbians, particularly in the vicinity of so-called "gay clubs" that all to often goes unreported to the authorities for fear of further victimization. In short, there are a host of good reasons why gay Bahamians often do not Come Out to their families, friends, co-workers or the public.
Yet, none of these intolerable pressures that the GLBT community in the Bahamas will ever ease unless more of us have courage to take some steps toward coming out. Bahamian families will never move toward tolerance and acceptance of their gay and lesbian sons and daughters if we don't ask them to make progress in that direction. Bahamian churches will never embrace a more liberal theology without the visible presence of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender worshipers in their pews. Each of us should consider what steps toward Coming Out we can reasonably take, perhaps sharing the truth of who we are with a close friend or family member is as much Coming Out as we can deal with for the moment. And perhaps observing National Coming Out Day can be a mechanism to help empower us all.
It is time for the non-straight community in the Bahamas to join with other progressives from around the world and acknowledge the powerful benefits that can be reaped from observing National Coming Out Day. In the Bahamas our own community and our Allies can come together to offer resources and support to LGBT individuals, couples, parents and children, as well as straight friends and relatives, to promote awareness of LGBT Bahamians in a country that so often does it's best to marginalize us.
Coming Out is a process as opposed an event. It is when an individual acknowledges the essential truth of his or her identity or orientation first to himself or herself, then to loved ones, perhaps to coworkers and sometimes, eventually, to the public.
While many there are almost always events planned that provide opportunities for discussion and awareness of GLBT issues as well as opportunites for disscussion of the personal journies of GLBT persons, a great part of the message of Coming Out Day is found the open display of GLBT symbols like the pink triangle, the pride flag and rainbows. I would focus a great deal of energy for the Bahamas National Coming Out Day on GLBT Allies. These family members and friends who are often the only safe harbour we can find in this homophobic culture. They are an important element of our community and a special effort empower them to come out of the closet as heterosexual supporters of GBLT persons creating "safe spaces" for GLBT persons in our hostile climate.