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Gay Sex Legal in Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago decriminalizes consensual gay sex.

Gay Sex is Legal in Trinidad and Tobago....and Beyond???
Gay Sex is Legal in Trinidad and Tobago… and Beyond???

Two months ago Trinidad and Tobago decriminalized consensual gay sex, which was previously punishable with up to 25 years in prison.

While the news has invigorated LGBT rights advocates, the picture for gay rights in the region is still far from ideal: Same-sex relations are still illegal in nine Caribbean countries, all of which are part of the British Commonwealth. And while laws are not always enforced, they have a chilling effect on the local LGBT community, which can often face harassment, discrimination and even violence. Sodomy laws also inhibit many LGBT Caribbeans from reaching out to police or HIV/AIDS agencies for help. [1]

I applaud Trinidad and Tobago for this watershed decision! I pray that decisions such as these spread throughout the Caribbean Diaspora and beyond. And yet, the above paragraph failed to go beyond “violence” and name “death” as a consequence in this region. Although activists are moving forward, the region has a far way to go.

I want and demand better for my people of the Caribbean Diaspora. When my Jamaican spouse and I had a child we were living in New York. We knew that we would not raise a child in our beloved homeland. We asked ourselves, “Suppose our child were queer or gender non-conforming? How would she be treated at home?” We went with the “safer bet” of raising her in this country. We wanted, for our daughter, what we wanted for all children.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my nephew, Kirk. I remember when he came out to his grandmother, my aunt. He subscribed to “Out” magazine and made sure that she got the postal mail. Smart move. Kirk never seemed to worry about homophobia. To be sure, my aunt adored her self-assured, kind, and loving grandson. Looking back, I truly believe that most members of my family easily accepted Kirk’s sexual orientation. We were raised that way.

Kirk lives in Berlin. Germany is one of my second homes. Over ten years ago, as an “out,” gay young black man he chose to move to a country where he believed that he would be comfortable. He owns a “happening” Jamaican restaurant named Rosa Caleta, in honor of his two grandmothers. Next year, he’s moving to the USA to reopen the restaurant in Miami. I hope and pray that he will be as safe in the USA as he has been thus far in Germany.

One day, two years ago, Kirk was running errands and greeted two gay Jamaican young men near the restaurant. They had no idea who he was but shared with him that they were shocked to see him coming out of that restaurant. They further asserted that they would never go in that restaurant because it was not gay friendly. “Why not? “Kirk asked. They answered that the presence of the Jamaican flag proudly displayed outside the restaurant meant that the owners and clientele had to be homophobic. Well, the very next day, Kirk purchased a huge Pride flag and displayed it beside the Jamaican flag. As Kirk noted, “It was a shock to me, really a shock, that the Jamaican flag might be a deterrent.” [2]

Fast forward to a couple of months ago when my 80-year old godfather called to share the news that his beloved country, Trinidad and Tobago, had finally changed its legislation on Thursday, April 12, when Judge Devindra Rampersad “determined that sections of the Sexual Offences Act… criminalised consensual same-sex activity between adults, and were unconstitutional.”

I listened to him. I was delighted to hear this good news. It gave me hope and the sense that other Caribbean countries would follow suit. And, oh my, dare I think that even my beloved Jamaica might be swayed to vote on the side of justice. And my joy is bittersweet. It was tempered by a secondary feeling that had crept in; that of regret and sadness recognizing that this wonderful man had spent his many years hiding his sexual orientation. Better, much better is needed across the generations. My faith demands that I do my part to right these wrongs.

  1. Homosexuality Is Still Illegal In These 9 Caribbean Countries
  2. RosaCaleta: Jamaica’s Gay Embassy in Berlin

About the Author

  • Dr. Janice Marie Johnson joined the Ministries and Faith Development staff group in January 2019 as Co-Director of Ministries and Faith Development. She supports the professional lives of religious professionals, especially those of color, from the trans community, and other marginalized groups.

For more information contact lgbtq@uua.org.

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