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Haiti Holds First 'Openly Gay March' to Mark World AIDS Day

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A march yesterday was the first time demonstrators have declared their sexuality publicly in the Caribbean island nation of Haiti. Yesterday, 500 took to the streets in St. Marc wearing T-shirts saying "I am gay" ("Mwen Se Masisi") and "I am living with AIDS."

The AP reports:

"Organizers said they hoped the march will break barriers to reach more HIV-positive people and gay men with programs that have helped decrease the country's infection rate by two-thirds in the last decade. 'They suffer double the stigma and double the discrimination,' said Esther Boucicault Stanislas, a leading activist known as the first person in Haiti to publicly declare that she was HIV-positive after her husband died of AIDS in the early 1990s. About 500 participants that included health ministry officials and workers with United Nations programs followed a speaker-truck through the dusty city, chanting and carrying banners en route to the mayor's office. No officials received them. AIDS awareness marches have taken place before in Haiti, but Boucicault and organizers with New York-based AIDS service organization Housing Works called this one the first march to include an openly gay group in Haiti."

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  1. Wow! I'm speechless. I have a couple of haitian friends in Montréal who are gay and I'm glad their home country is changing its attitude towards sexuality. Kudos and thx Andy for sharing this!

    Posted by: Shabaka | Dec 1, 2008 12:00:34 PM


  2. Hi, SHABAKA,

    I'm glad to hear that Haiti is more liberal, but it doesn't surprise me.
    It seems that those contries in Africa and the Caribbean that were ruled by Roman Catholic colonial powers (France, Spain, Portugal)are not as anti-gay as those ruled by the Protestants(Britain). Of course it isn't fun to be ruled by any foreign power, but you can see the effect of tbe foreign power's religion on the people who lived under them.

    Posted by: Derrick from Phillly | Dec 1, 2008 12:37:41 PM


  3. Hmmm....

    I can see were you are coming from Derrick...but with situations it's just 'pot luck'. Whoever you have in power....

    :/

    Posted by: Rowan | Dec 1, 2008 4:31:27 PM


  4. You're right to an extent,Derrick...But in some cases,like Rowan said, it depends on the kind of leaders the nation has. Where I grew up(Burundi), the senate is in the process of passing a bill that would send a "convicted" homosexual to prison for up to two years plus a fine. This is the same senate that just abolished capital punishment. Go figure.

    Posted by: Shabaka | Dec 1, 2008 5:55:46 PM


  5. Roman Catholic versus Protestant colonialism has very little to do with Haitian attitudes towards homosexuality. It is the strong remnants of indigenous African spirituality and culture as practiced through Voudou (or "voodoo" as it has been disparagingly called in US popular culture) which provide a more open structure for understanding human sexuality (there are many well-written books on the subject -- my quick post could never do the topic justice). It was and continues to be the imposition of male-centered, western religious and cultural traditions which threaten indigenous/animist religions and beliefs -- even though "civilized" society has supposedly "enlightened" itself to different modes of spiritual understanding.

    And by the way, Derrick, Haiti was the first established black state in the world, winning its independence from France in 1791 by defeating Napoleon himself. We, as people of color, need to expand the understanding of our complex histories in the "New World" or risk losing them to cultural hegemony, whether it be that of the religious right or the mythic "black monolith."

    Posted by: Foochy | Dec 2, 2008 3:02:10 AM


  6. Thanks, guys, for clarifying the situation for me... and your very patient way of saying, "Derrick, you don't know what you're talking about." My analysis of African/Caribbean colonial history and its effect on contemporary Afro/Caribbean views on sexuality is rather simplistic. Slavery/colonialism were damaging for generations whether committed by Catholics, Protestants or Muslims...just because it's French don't mean it's sexy.

    In fact, a poster on Rod McCullom's blog who is from one of the French-speaking islands said the same thing y'all are saying--that this kind of boldness by Haitian Gays will take longer in Martinique and Guadeluope.

    Foochy, your input about the defiance of some Africans in the New World is really interesting--their determination to keep their ancient faiths while having Christianity forced on them. I have friends who've converted from Christianity to traditional Yoruba. There is so much to learn for those who want to know.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Dec 2, 2008 10:25:09 AM


  7. For those of you who are interested, I just discovered that the book, "Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions," is available on-line at books.google.com -- although it isn't exclusively about Voudou, it is a fascinating read on gender identity and orientation in the more established African-derived religions in the Americas.

    Now, everybody go get some griot and riz ak pois to eat!

    Posted by: Foochy | Dec 2, 2008 9:39:27 PM


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