Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Perfect, Imperfect Evolution of The Equal Rights Coalition as a mechanism

August 9th, 2018

When Belizean L.G.B.T.I colleagues hear The Equal Rights Coalition (E.R.C.) mechanism, immediately, it generates questions about its value to Belize's national L.G.B.T.I concerns.  When we consider 2,343 trans persons murdered around the world alone in 9 years, according to the T.M.M. 2017 Press Release; 202 murders of L.G.B.T.I people that occurred in Mexico alone between 2014-2016; 445 occurring in Brazil in 2017 and  the 54 murders & attempted murders and suspicious cases (14) adding up to 68. The E.R.C. means nothing to the dead victims. 

While states in the E.R.C. may have many human rights issues impacting their citizenry governance structures like the judiciary, opposition parties, constitutional frameworks have not devolve to exclude L.G.B.T.I citizenry from seeking redress or deny that fundamental rights does not apply to them.  It is under this context the E.R.C  exists as an imperfect  political human rights mechanism on L.G.B.T.I issues. Though its potential to impact millions around the world exists, getting the rights formula to reach that impact is an extraordinary global undertaking. So what is the E.R.C?

The Intergovernmental Equal Rights Coalition (E.R.C) is dedicated to the protection of the rights of L.G.B.T.I people. It was launched in July 2016, under the leadership of Uruguay and the Netherlands at the Global L.G.B.T.I Human Rights Conference in Montevideo. The E.R.C advances the human rights of L.G.B.T.I persons and promotes inclusive development in both member and non-member countries. With 40 member states, the E.R.C. advances its agenda by engaging with civil society organizations and multilateral agencies. While the ideal is for state to state exchanges of strategies and interventions, with C.S.O involvement being secondary. The reality is, that it is Civil Society which has acted as a driver for social and political progress, not the states. The E.R.C has six Latin America country as part of its membership, with many more located in the Europe and North America. It has created thematic groups under the following areas:
  • international and regional diplomacy
  • L.G.B.T.I inclusion in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  • coordination of donor funding
  • national laws, policies and practices
As I look back at the Equal Rights Coalition meeting in Vancouver, Canada, I ask myself, did I just waste five days of my life at a worthless meeting. Randy Boissionault , Special Advicor to the Prime Minister of Canada on LGBTI issues  on L.G.B.T.I announced that Canada will fund $1M peace and stabilization program to support LGBTI people living in global conflict zones. Was it a matter of optics for Canada as Co-Chair, to present an actionable outcome? As an activists, it seems like a cynical last minute commitment that was not well thought out.

But what does this mean in practice? We have seen a signing in July, 2016 of what state commitment in principle. We have seen, a Montevideo meeting in 2016 and Canadian meeting 2018. Four pages of recommendations was developed by Civil Society in Montevideo in 2016 and one page in Vancouver in 2018. We have seen a Co-Chair mechanism developed between states,  but not substantial allocation of resources or actionable outcomes. The U.K  recently announced a 5.6 million pound fund to support LGBT issues, but not all the organization who got the money are LGBT led. We have seen the Australian support E.R.C meetings along with regional Commonwealth meetings, but no broader action. This time around, a C.S.O secretariat was developed, but without a budget. Canadian C.S.O's mobilized funds to get civil society participating at the conference which led to the development of a page of demands. So what was the value of Vancouver?

The meeting in Vancouver was about "a room of updates," that did not get us to a place of recognized actionable outcomes. We were reminded that C.S.O's carry the burden to push governments to act or to express a basic interest in support and that we have no guarantees for automatic outcome that can be felt on the ground in the years to come. The process is about transforming political mindset which takes years to achieve through Civil rights systems that are C.S.O. led at the national level. Interventions include, but not limited to, litigation, demanding legal reform, lobbying, creating advocacy networks and complementing that with a liberation framework which developed communities across regions of the world.  The E.R.C. foundation is about 40 years in the making that has led to a basic global mechanism for organized political dialogue.  What we do with that will be telling in the years to come.

In addition, we need some moments of truth telling,while  the .E.R.C offers hope, it offers us all a reality check that inequity and inequality is a generational concern that impacts many groups across all states in the E.R.C. Are we being complicit or pragmatic about our desire for protection and rights defense? For some, as a mechanism, it may be tainted with elements of pink-washing that is legitimized by high level political engagement across states, but for others, its an opportunity for change. For me, asking governments for money opens up the risk of loosing our ability to negotiate concrete outcomes in political advocacy. It may be the reality of doing business at the global level. Smart compromises are in order!

Before the next  E.R.C meeting, in two years will there still be, no money for a secretariat, and demands for C.S.O to work for free in thematic groups We are conscious about the pink-washing habits of states who wish to support LGBT issues, but how do we leverage an imperfect mechanism and make it better? Aside all this, C.S.O. unity maybe obscured by our national, regional and identity politics and "my concerns mentality." Will we continue talking to each other, but not to a room of power to influence, the political leaders, as seen here?

What was missing?  Direct engagement that included a round table event that allowed C.S.O's to ask questions to Co-Chairing countries at minimum. Ideally, there should have been several round tables. Understanding, who would monitor opportunities among states and defined low hanging fruits that could be achieved within two years. We needed to have a baseline of lessons documented to strengthen communication and that had a margin of actionable outcomes.  How do we define measurements of success after year four of the E.R.C.? How do we solve the content and structure issues in organizing? How do we create or leverage a C.S.O monitoring mechanism that is strategic in added value to identify global opportunities? I don't have the answers, but I will say, the E.R.C. is 40 years in the making and its Civil Society around the world who have built the E.R,C. political  foundation and acted as a loose accountable mechanism to drive interest around L.G.B.T.I issues. Let's see what the next 20 years brings us.

 E.R.C. website:

Mexico Hate Crimes

Brazil Hate Crimes

TMM 2017 press release

Monday, July 2, 2018

Dear CARICOM Ministers

June 22nd, 2018

As a Belizeans and a citizens of CARICOM I write with concern about the comments political leaders have made in recent years. I believe it was Bruce Golding who once said," not in my cabinet!" in 2011 on the BBC when ask if he would allow homosexual to serve in your cabinet. In 2018, it was former speaker of The House, Micheal Carrington, in Barbados who said, "“If she is gay she should come out and say so and let you know what we are getting as a Prime Minister. .." referring to the Barbados Labour Party leader Mia Motley. Former Minster Denzil Dougal of St. Kitts& Nevis has been caught making  homophobic statements calling his opponent Timothy Harris, a  " little girl" and a "hog" joking that Harris begged him to" breed" him in April, 2013 at a rally. People were heard yelling," batty man hog." so much for principled leadership.

At The UN Commission on the Status of Women negotiations, state representatives had difficulty with the language of human rights defenders- calling it code for L.G.B.T.I issues. At  the O.A.S, representatives tried to remove all reference to sexual orientation and gender identity from the OAS L.G.B.T.I resolution, arguing that national constitutions do not acknowledge for term X and Y, ignoring that their constitution protects all citizens, no matter the term. Taking the position that the will of the majority, must prevail over the dignity and the rights of the minority, is fundamentally flawed because states are not governed by individual morality, but a constitutional framework.  As states you seek reparation claims from our colonizers, but have sought to retain a colonial system that marginalize and oppressed your own citizens. Is this leaving no one behind? It is the only region that fought  for independence and developed constitutions, only to retain old oppressive colonial laws  that impact your own citizens. May I remind you that no constitution among CARICOM states, and the broader Commonwealth, has ever referred to fundamental rights applying to just its heterosexual citizens, but ALL. So stop the bullshit!

It is convenient to speak of culture with moral imperative, but ignore the culture of carnival, daggering, sexual violence with an estimated one in three women in the Caribbean at least once in their lives, according to Untied Nation statistics of 2015 experiencing partner violence, but still, diplomats and state leaders pretend that each nation is a Christian Country in CARICOM with a moral imperative.

In the Eastern Caribbean, UNICEF reported that there were an estimated 20-30% of children having experienced sexual abuse and about 300 women were murdered in Trinidad and Tobago between 2005-2015. Yet, the region's diplomats proclaim that states in CARICOM values all its citizens. It seems certain women, and children and any marginalize group is less equal under the law than others. How is that so?

It must be noted that  between 2015-2017 Grenada, Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti, Dominican Republic,  Suriname, Guyana, St. Lucia ranked 48 out of 100, St. Vincent and Grenadines (40),  Dominica (42),  Bahamas (28),  twelve countries in the Caribbean with corruption issues in the region. I will not add Belize to the list as its has no ranking, but I am aware we have corruption issues that have not been fully ventilated. but yet, diplomats and politicians like to throw the phrase around that states have sovereign rights. How about the sovereign responsibility to ensure that your L.G.B.T citizens have the same visibility in law like all others. you have a principled backbone for being complicit in corruption affecting your governance, but not one to ensure that your most vulnerable citizenry concerns are addressed in the governance of the state.

Finally,  each country citizen's had endorsed national constitutions which spoke of its citizenry,  that did not implicitly nor explicitly exclude citizens base on sexual orientation or gender identity. Commonwealth Courts, in Uganda, Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Canada and Belize have pointed out that fundamental rights apply to ALL. In addition, I feel I must remind you that any attempt to practice erasure of our existence as citizens in any UN, regional or OAS document, is an act of re-colonization through ideology which seeks to undermine the value of good governance. It is a direct attack on every constitutional framework that exists and a direct imposition of ones personal moral believe that is about self-interest not the nation 's interests. If one learns anything from history, one should learn that respect for diversity, is about balance, responsible and constructive action, ensuring that the dignity and rights of your citizens have an equal chance to be visible in law. Denial, is just state complicity by inaction, omission or indifference to perpetuate marginalization and oppression. We are not less than, we are equal to and demand, not ask, to be visible as citizens in the governance of the state, in law, in development and policy documents. 

For breathing, having healthcare, employment, housing, an education, to live freely from violence and discrimination, to have access to justice is not controversial, its expected as a citizen. My right to demand my fundamental rights to be enforce is not controversial is is part of the pillars of governance to ask the court to arbitrate such a concern as a citizen. your concern for retaining power, should never come at the expense of my dignity. As I am a citizen of CARICOM!


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

LGBTTI Coalition Celebrates Adoption of 2018 LGBTTTI resolution at the OAS

Washington DC, June 14, 2018

The Coalition of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, Transsexuals, Travestis and Intersex (LGBTTTI) people of Latin America and the Caribbean working within the framework of the Organization of American States (OAS) celebrates the adoption of the Omnibus Resolution on Human Rights (OEA/Ser.P/AG/CG/doc.5/18 rev.2), which includes section (xii) focusing on the “human rights and prevention of discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons,” during its 48th Regular Session of the General Assembly, which took place in Washington DC, June 4 and 5, 2018.


During this Dialogue we saw an increasing number of allies integrate a message of equality for all and acceptance of sexual and gender diversity, including a newly established coalition entitled Religions, Beliefs and Spiritualities in the Dialogue with Civil Society. We continue to see anti-rights and conservative groups promote messages that violate human dignity and undermine the human rights of LGBTI people in the Americas. Some of these messages include a narrative that fails to recognize the legitimacy of the organs of the Inter-American Human Rights System, including the competence of the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights to monitor States’ compliance with the most basic and undisputed international human rights obligations, such as the obligation to ensure the rights to equality and non-discrimination.

We highlight that despite notable progress in terms of policies, laws and judicial recognition in the Americas, there are many challenges that curtail the full enjoyment and exercise of our rights. We continue to see high levels of violence and discrimination at all levels against LGBTI people, or those perceived as such, in the Americas. This violence is exacerbated when we face multiple factors of discrimination, including because of our race, ethnicity, gender, migration status, age, deprivation of liberty, disability, among others.   There are still laws, policies and state practices that criminalize our relationships, and our gender expression, and violate our human rights. Further, we express our concern due to the crimes based on prejudice committed on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, without the States maintaining official records or disaggregated data on said crimes, which hinders their prevention and investigation.

While in Belize and Trinidad & Tobago progress has been made in decriminalizing same-sexual intimacy, countries in the Anglo-Phone Caribbean remain challenged to recognize that no CARICOM state has language in their constitution which are retrogressive in undermining our human rights.

Regarding autonomous sex work, even though it is not explicitly prohibited in the majority of countries in the Americas, there are legal provisions and laws criminalizing different acts surrounding sex work. This, coupled with the absence of clear regulations recognizing it a work, creates the conditions for institutional violence -including sexual and physical violence, extortion and illegal arrests- as well as obstacles to access basic health and justice services.

Further, we see with great concern the introduction of bills or passing of laws that seek to criminalize HIV transmission, non-disclosure and/or exposure, or the misuse of criminal law to criminalize people living with HIV. 

Also, we believe that in those countries of the region, such as Venezuela, where the AIDS epidemic continues to affect gay and bisexual men and transgender women, efforts must be strengthened to provide comprehensive medical care and treatment access, as well as how the design and implementation of a prevention policy that considers the particularities of risk groups due to their sexual orientation, identity and gender expression, as these actions are fundamental tools to end the AIDS epidemic.


The LGBTTTI Coalition welcomes the reelection of judges to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (I/A Court H.R.): Humberto Sierra Porto (Colombia) and Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor (Mexico). Sierra Porto and Ferrer Mac-Gregor were sitting judge and vice-president of the I/A Court H.R., respectively, when the highest human rights tribunal in the Americas issued its Advisory Opinion 24/17 in November 2017. This important and binding Advisory Opinion recognizes that the human rights obligations of States vis-à-vis the principles of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, include the obligation to recognize families composed of same-sex couples and the right of people to rectify their identification documents to match their gender identity, through non-pathologizing processes. This Advisory Opinion reinforces the urgent need of States in the region to adopt measures to ensure both formal and substantial equality of persons with non-normative or diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions in the Americas (see full Advisory Opinion, here. Access a short summary by the LGBTTTI Coalition of this Advisory Opinion, here).

We also congratulate Ricardo Pérez Manrique from Uruguay, as the newly elected judge to the Inter-American Court, who has already publicly expressed his support for Advisory Opinion 24/17. We encourage the Inter-American Court to continue protecting the rights of everyone, without discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics, there by supporting the adequate interpretation of the principles of equality and non-discrimination as enshrined in the inter-American human rights instruments. 


The Resolution has virtually the same content as in previous years: the OAS condemns acts of discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and urges Member States to prevent, investigate, and punish acts of violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons, and to ensure access to justice. There is also mention to the adoption of measures to eliminate barriers faced by LGBTI persons in access to political participation and to avoid interference with their private lives. Reference is made of the need to collect data on violence and 
discrimination, to protect human rights defenders and intersex people from medical interventions that violate human rights. The Resolution also considers the work of the LGBTI Rapporteurship and, for the first time this year, that of the Department of Social Inclusion of the OAS General Secretariat.

This Resolution is the result of the hard work the LGBTTTI Coalition has been developing within the OAS since 2007. As in previous occasions, its presence and ongoing participation in different actions and dialogues with OAS Member States during the General Assembly counteracted the bigot actions and hate speech of fundamentalist and anti-rights organizations who tried to stop the passing and adoption of the Resolution. Thanks to the diplomatic dialogues carried out by Member States -both part of the OAS LGBTI Core Group and allies- the Resolution passed successfully again this year, in spite of the opposition of countries such as Paraguay, St. Lucia and Jamaica, all of which are countries that precisely are noted by their lack of protection of the human rights of LGBTI people. A small minority of OAS Member States included footnotes to the resolution. This is a notable decrease from previous years, particularly 2013/2014, when a larger number of countries had included footnotes to the resolution.

We congratulate Belize, for being the first CARICOM country to co-sponsor this Resolution this year, and Costa Rica for also doing so. We encourage these two Member States and other allies to continue supporting the OAS LGBTI Core Group.

The LGBTTTI Coalition acknowledges the engagement by the Member States of the OAS LGBTI Core Group, comprised of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, United States of America, and Uruguay. We congratulate El Salvador for being the first non-founding member to join the Core Group, and we encourage other OAS Member States to join the Core Group.


More than 40 LGBT activists from across Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Washington DC to attend our annual meeting prior and the General Assembly. We congratulate the incorporation to our Coalition of the Red de Trabajadoras Sexuales de Latinoamérica y el Caribe (RedTraSex) – a coalition of organizations of women working for the last 20 years for the recognition of independent sex work, and to give visibility to the egregious human rights violations faced by sex workers in the region. We also note the incorporation to our coalition of: Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) from the Eastern Caribbean region, Fundación Arcoíris A.C. from Mexico, and, as Associate Member, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network from Canada.


We would like to thank Akahatá – Equipo de trabajo en Sexualidades y Géneros, the Arcus Foundation, American University Washington College of Law and Professor Macarena Saez, COC Netherlands, IPAS, the Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Personas Trans (RedLacTrans), Mayer Brown LLP, Synergía – Initiatives for Human Rights, for their crucial support to ensure our participation in this OAS General Assembly and our annual meeting. 

The LGBTTTI Coalition remarks the commitment of both the Inter-American Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, as well as the leadership of the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, and the Department of Social Inclusion, under the leadership of Mauricio Rands and Betilde Muñoz-Pegossian, in the protection and promotion of our human rights.

We call on all OAS Member States to continue ensuring the protection and promotion of the rights of LGBTI people, and to bring down laws that criminalize us or discriminate against us. We urge all OAS Member States to take measures to promote the legislative, administrative and judicial reforms necessary to bring their legal systems, interpretations and practices in line with the standards established in Advisory Opinion No. 24, issued by the Inter-American Court in November 2017, and to respect the binding nature of this Opinion.

We strongly encourage OAS Member States to follow the leadership shown by Uruguay, which became the first country to ratify this past May 2018 the Inter-American Convention on all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.


The following people and organizations attended as part of the LGBTTTI Coalition of Latin American and Caribbean Organizations working in the context of the OAS:

  2. AIREANA – Mirta Moragas & Judith Grenno – Paraguay,
  4.  ASOCIACIÓN ALFIL – Rashell Erazo – Ecuador,
  5. ASOCIACIÓN ASPIDH ARCOIRIS – Ambar Alfaro – El Salvador,
  7. ASOCIACIÓN PANAMBI – Yren Rotela – Paraguay,
  9. ATTA – Marcela Romero – Argentina,
  11. COLECTIVO OVEJAS NEGRAS – José Ramallo – Uruguay,
  12. COLECTIVO UNIDAD COLOR ROSA – Gabriela Redondo – Honduras,
  13. COLOMBIA DIVERSA – Lilibeth Cortés Mora – Colombia
  14. COTRAVEDT – Nairovi Castillo – Dominican Republic,
  17.  J-FLAG/EQUALITY FOR ALL FOUNDATION JAMAICA LTD.– Renae Green & Suelle Alin– Jamaica,
  18. LIGA BRASILEIRA DE LÉSBICAS – Mariana Meriqui Rodrígues – Brazil
  19. ORGANIZACIÓN TRANS REINAS DE LA NOCHE – Andrea González – Guatemala
  22. RED MEXICANA DE MUJERES TRANS – Paty Betancourt – Mexico, 
  23. RED TRANS DEL PERÚ – Miluska Luzquiños – Peru, 
  24. SINDICATO AMANDA JOFRÉ – Alejandra Soto Castillo – Chile, 
  26. TALLER DE COMUNICACIÓN MUJER – Cayetana Salao S. – Ecuador, 
  27. THE CANADIAN HIV/AIDS LEGAL NETWORK – Maurice Tomlinson – Canada (*Associate Member) 
  28. TIA BELIZE – Zahnia Canul – Belize, 
  30. UNITED AND STRONG INC. – Jassica St. Rose – Saint Lucia, 
  31. VENEZUELA DIVERSA A.C. – Yonathan Matheus – Venezuela.
  • Also in attendance: 
  •  HONDUREÑOS CONTRA EL SIDA and SERO PROJECT – Alfredo González – United States, LAS REINAS CHULAS CABARET Y DERECHOS HUMANOS A.C – Luz Aranda Arroyo – Mexico.
Also, participating the organization supporting the coordination of the LGBTTTI Coalition: Synergía – Initiatives for Human Rights (Stefano Fabeni, Marcelo Ernesto Ferreyra and Fanny Catalina Gómez Lugo).


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Giving LGBT Visibility, through National Action, CHOGM and TCEN in 2018

16th May 2018

I will be the first to say that The Commonwealth, as an institution, was perceive as useless, as it operates with political leaders who have had no qualms of jailing, hanging, beating, murdering it own citizens. There is no enforcement mechanism and no redress mechanism. The only moments of exception was when South Africa had to withdraw from the Commonwealth in the 1960's while Pakistan was suspended in 2007 along with Fiji in 2009. As a system its, does not consistently follow its own principles of Democracy, Good Governance, Human Rights, Rule of Law, Tolerance, Respect and Understanding among others. Proof of this, points out that leaders in Africa have made many homophobic remarks like the President of Tanzania, John Magufuli, " even cows disapprove" of homosexuality in 2017 following a crackdown on gay men in his country while in 2014, former Gambian, President Yahya Jammeh said "We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively,” he said in a speech made to mark the country’s 49th anniversary of independence from Britain. Even South Africa is not immune in a lapse in leadership as President Zuma once called same-sex marriage, "a disgrace to the nation, and to God". While in the Caribbean leaders have their own brand of homophobia. In Belize the former Minister, Boot Martinez said, in 2011 at an anti-right rally, " “My position is that God never placed anything on me for me to look at a man and jump on a man. I’ll be clear on it … How would you decriminalize that, I am sorry, but that is law. Not only is the law made by man that is a law made from the Bible. Why do you think God made a man and a woman, man has what woman wants, and woman has what man wants, it’s as simple as that. I’ll fight tooth and nail to keep that law.” In Jamaica, former Prime Minister Golding spoke of " not in my cabinet!" when asked about gay men serving senior position in his cabinet. While T.C.E.N was a dirty little secret at the beginning, is clear that with its accreditation, as the only LGBT Network in the Commonwealth,  the doors are slowly being unhinged for better dialogue with political leaders whether its at the Foreign Ministers Roundtable, asking questions between the People, Business and Youth Forums, conducting sessions with T.C.E.N members or getting news coverage we have certainly help to shift the tone of visibility at the moment.

But what about the substance of the Network.When it has access to rooms of power, it raises visibility to advance the policy norming efforts. The work is complemented by experience at the national level. We know that Human Dignity Trust is a player in 15 commonwealth countries supporting litigation work and regionally and U-RAP work in the Caribbean remains of strategic importance to Belize. The decriminalization work in Belize allowed information exchange about advocacy lessons to inform work in Trinidad and Tobago on decriminalization along  with members of E.C.A.D.E in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. We know that South Africa is playing their part and in Pakistan litigation and political work led to the passage of a Gender Recognition Law. We know in Kenya there have been constitutional challenges among other countries in Africa. One can argue that national work, is now feeding the effort to get the commonwealth to become more inclusive of its citizens in law and development planning. Despite many state criminalizing adult intimacy, no state constitution has ever said that fundamental rights are for straight people only or have used the word, except, when referring to Fundamental rights for LGBT citizens in the commonwealth.  When Climate change is spoken of, leaders speaks to citizens, when economic concerns are addressed leaders speak to citizens. Now, the work is about giving life and values around protection and security to LGBT citizens if the Commonwealth.  

For Belize C.H.O.G.M 2018, continues to add value to The United Belize Advocacy Movement work as a broader advocacy framework that uses , as leverage, a transnational strategy to facilitate information exchange that speak to a long-term outcome of legislative reform that is inclusive of LGBT Belizeans. The United Belize Advocacy Movement saw for the first time a unplanned delegation of individuals from Belize attending sessions that included a session on legal reform that discussed Belize's hybrid strategy of litigation and parliamentary approval of the criminal code amendments. in fact, Belize set the model for the rest of the Commonwealth in how the value of good governance can facilitate arbitration, between two social groups successfully without the sky falling. In addition, we saw Belize's Mayor of Belmopan talk about local government accountability, Belize documented as a best practice in a UK sponsored toolkit on LGBT engagement work,our House Speaker meeting the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity for the first time at Canada House, Senator Woods working the Open for Business Event at Parliament, along with her colleagues from the Parliamentarians for Global Action. At the Canada house meeting the House Speaker, who double as the Chair for the National AIDS Commission for Belize spoke of her efforts to advance PANCAP model Anti-discrimination legislation. At the Foreign Ministers Roundtable with Civil Society and I mentioned in the room," no commonwealth wealth constitution speaks to fundamental rights  that it is only for straight people, it does not say except, it speaks to citizens." I added, no "Commonwealth state ever spoke about climate change as affecting straight people, they often speak to citizenry." I took great care to transition into the point and said, "which brings me to my point. Great care has been given to ensure that Commonwealth Leaders have security. Could that same care in security be extended to LGBT Commonwealth  Citizens." Boris Johnson, The UK Foreign Secretary answered,"yes!as long as it does not cause harm." But the External Minister for Saint Lucia, Sarah Beaburn Flood could not help herself. Separately, ensured that she had an intervention which spoke to protecting families that are affected by economic and social conditions. Code, for ensuring exclusion of LGBT protections in national law and in any communique. Slightly after, the Canadian representative spoke up and said, "Canada was stronger when it was inclusive and supported diversity and made a reference to the lost of productivity that in business." The rest was a private conversation  that included agreeing that families should be protected," in all its forms" and a small discussion on self-care. what was fascinating was to see our CEO for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the next table and our Speaker of the House at the corner of the room. What is clear, in such room, is that substantive decisions are not made at a round table, they are made in small rooms with technical people. We found out much later that the Communique issued said, " Head Affirmed their unwavering commitment to the Commonwealth fundamental Political values, reflected in the Commonwealth Charter and"emphasized that the full social ,economic and political participation of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race,ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status, is essential for democracy and sustainable development to thrive." TCEN, for now, have done their job. What next, time will tell and show us the way forward in giving life to language.

For Belize the issue is how do we transform language into action at home. It means introducing legal technical experts to the Chair of the National AIDS Commission, partnering with Parliamentarians for Global Action to engage parliamentarians in Belize and opening the conversation among both national parties, setting the psychological and physical structure in place to make things happen like an advocacy and civil rights organization like The United Belize Advocacy Movement. It means sharing our knowledge and best practices with other marginalized groups, conducting research and focusing on socio-economic and legal reform as outcomes. Our work is for the long-haul and its not for the faint of heart. as it means, pissing people off as needed, not waiting for support, risking everything to do the right thing.Along they way, testing our humanity along with our resolve to succeed. the work brings no popularity in society for its about one's conscience. Many will desire, but few will chose such a journey. Welcome to the reality of human rights and knowing the level of expendability and collateral damage in the lost of human lives that occurs as we try to change a process which seeks to maintain the status quo of systemic marginalization which pushes from all corners. The struggle continues!

South Africa Withdraws from Commonwealth
Pakistan Suspension
Fiji suspension

South Africa


Not in My Cabinet

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Belize: Challenges and Hopes in Building a LGBT Movement !

29th March, 2018

In Belize's movement building process we are writing our own rules. Over the years we saw a focus on systems, we had no visible pool of leaders. So an investment was made to build a social infrastructure of leaders, but then we discovered visibility in a hostile environment require time to recharge. Many movements focus on strategic planning, resource mobilization and project management and collaboration which are all important and forget that their human capital, the leaders are mortals who are not limitless in their invincibility to challenge social norms in a hostile environment. What we fail to realize is that the human element in the collective must take the time to manage their well-being. Many are affected by cancer, death of a parent, hypertension, depression, personal intimate relationships, violence, back problems, heart diseases and a myriad of other health and psychological issues. healing is as important as organizing.

When one looks at leadership, we don't immediately realize that the humans come with quirks, frailties that include inability to cope with criticisms, stress, impatiences, diverse management and communication styles. More importantly, no human being likes to be pigeon-holed into an expectation.  I have been working on LGBT Health and human rights policy issues for over a decade and this is what I have learned over time. Self-care matters; use your experience to instruct your strategies to mobilise; study the problem and look for social patterns; be solutions oriented at all times;  any effort is a long-term investment in managing the efficient use of human capital.  Last weekend, The United Belize Advocacy Movement coordinated a Cohesion Retreat that was as much about community strategy as it was about self-care. We did massages, ziplining and yoga. In zip-lining I was reminded about the need to, set the example. No screaming, no shaking, just listening to the instructor on how to stop when I was near to the next platform. The result, I simplified my thoughts and focus on the experience! 

I had never done ziplining before, I was nervous, full of anxiety and found it ridiculous, until I saw our trans sister Honey Bee, with legs and hand shaking stepped up to the challenge. I even heard her say later, " if i can do that, I can overcome any fear I have!"  While Honey Bee was shaking all the way, she never wavered in her commitment to reach the end of the platform which had 4 stages. Others joined in the action-oriented effort in setting the tone of silent encouragement to participate.It was a team effort which included, no drama, lots of jokes and a laser sharp focus to reach the other platforms. While one person was not prepared to zipline, she re-purposed herself to be the group's photographer. Without her, we would not have any of these images. Her action reminded me that in movement building, we have an opportunity to define, believe and take ownership of community process and that it is not just defined in strategic plan, project implementation and community. The key lesson here was that she volunteered her time to support collective action of team-building. I never saw an objection to her decision. As we all intuitively knew the value of her decision. This is how leadership advances, we initiate, learn to take risk and set the standard to act.

We learned, as well, that we cope differently with the same challenges. I was chewing gum with a stoic face while other were in a strike a pose moment and making noise for fun while moving done hundreds of feet in the air. I was told ,"My God, you moved like you did this before!" I smiled only, because it was my first time. Movement building,  requires a psychological shift in the impossible , an ah ha moment that leads to defining  your contribution, even if its just, but for a time. What I learned was that a pioneer may volunteer their time to an issue, but the people around study the patterns of social engagement, creating social expectations around that person efforts. I discovered that it not about being liked or validated, its about recognizing that there is an outcome to reach that involves a process that is dynamic. A process that involves listening, strategic communication to motivate, to inform, to inspire, to structure and give life to a vision to act. It is a process of centralized analysis and feelings-based responses. The most intangible things are being able to cope with  fear, lost confidence,failure and to refine disagreements as opportunities to act. We began in fear, but we posed as  individuals in a team prepared to act with all its diversity.

When we finished we took time to reflect about our physical bodies. Yoga, might be a simply act, but its quite effective to raise ones consciousness of breathing movements. Listening, allowed us to examine our psychological and physical limitations as individuals living in a hostile environment. this is important as LGBT work, exist in an environment of hostility. "Faggit!", "battiman!" "Shitty cock!" "You will not make it pass 2016!" "Orozco should be put infront of an Orlando style massacre"  has been words used to attack my dignity and many in the community. And I will be the first to say it has a cumulative effort. Of note, I am reminded that one of our colleagues sister dies, another father died from prostate cancer, my own sister was breathing on 3 pints of blood before the retreat and I had to deal with an attempted murder in our community. The result, is that family issues and work related issues can take a told on our sleep patterns which amplifies our exhaustion and burn out in this work.  Yoga offered us all a short time to be still, to clear our minds to listen to our bodies and what it needs. For me, it was about internal peace! More importantly, we discovered in partner yoga that empathy is a big part of how we negotiate our differences as a movement. I was smiling with my partner, touching his inner thighs as part of our poses to discover that in that moment, we both could touch each other without conflict, feel awkard about the poses and honest about our reactions. We laughed most of the time. In the back to back yoga, it was about feeling the breathing of the other with a deliberate effort to synchronize our breathing patterns. It was clear feeling the patterns of breathing was difficult because we were easily distracted by a minutia of things in the environment. As each person could be easily distracted in their act of coordination, in movement building, personal stress, family conflict, death, depression,  job loss, limited resources can all derail  the pool of leaders involved in a moment. We took the time to be reminded that the work to find balance is a constant struggle. The work to internalize a process of internal peace is about timing and its different for every person.

Our the Two days was not only spent on working on ourselves, we invested time and energy in strategic thinking, in Political, Economic, Social and Technology-base (PEST) analysis, in community mobilization work. the workshop offered the representatives a base-line structure that examined our function and progress in a hostile environment. It offered us a peek into the limits of our leadership base, it offered us insight into the limitations of strategic thinking and advocacy among our community and informed us about our operational values as a collective in how we engage each other. At its core, movements require a diver in a position to find resources, document strategic direction, provide technical, financial and mentoring support and leaders who have a basic support structure to thrive in their visibility and advocacy. Many will exist, but few will be tenacious to stay the course to see social transformation occur. The final lesson is that social inequity will remain in Belize for its our shared silence that will sustain it.  Movement, don't come with a magic bullet or a one size fits all guide book.  

Finally, we closed not with an evaluation, but a pause that our effort to organize is challenged by how we frame a National Social Marketing Research Strategy to take advantage of preliminary data which tells us that there is over 12,000 men who have sex with men and over 1200 Trans Belizeans. We are challenged to leverage the private sector and structure our own community economic productivity and political voice in Belize. One thing I have learnt as a Belizean, there will always be someone who finds the social solutions to transform our society for the better. Many will want to lead, few will be effective, even less will be tenacious to make a long-term investment to stay the course. With luck and tenaciousness, Belize will set the standard among CARICOM member states. The struggle continues!