LGBTTI Coalition work,Nationalistic Pride, Protests and Fundamentalistsin in DC

19th June, 2015

The coalition has met since 2007 in Panama, Medellin, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, Paraguay and Washington DC in 2015. Belize have been to all OAS General Assembly through the LGBTTTI coalition. Learning about thematic hearings, the Inter-American Court and Commission, resolutions process and its value. No where in the world, has any international institution adopted seven resolutions on Human Rights:Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

This year was different as our trans colleagues were denied visa to attend the meeting to attend the OAS meeting. The coalition was upset about it and issued a release in response. We engaged the LGBT Unit to speak about reporting process and followed up in regards to it internal programs on another day. We strategised about how to respond to the fundamentalists along with coordination process.

Belize has appeared in Washington three times, one for coalition meetings and twice for thematic hearings concerning Belize and Guyana. We have made reports directly to their L.G.B.T Unit and have gotten precautionary measures for one person in Belize.

It is clear, the success of the coalition has led to the arrival of the fundamentalists, in Guatemala, Paraguay and Washington DC this year. The clash was classic, in DC. In the middle of all this, our new (ASG) Assistant Secretary General in waiting, Nestor Mendez must navigate as Caribbean diplomats and Latin American Diplomats and activists push and pull the system towards the right side of history.

      In addition, Ambassador Mendez,  arrives at a time when the OAS is experiencing financial owes, where the OAS system has repeatedly looked at LGBTTTI issues at the country level through thematic hearings and Belize being challenged in its Belize Guatemala dispute.
    First, I beam with national pride to see one of our own making it to the post of ASG at the Organization of American States. As I have come to learn it was no easy feat. A feat, a small country  achieved nevertheless.It proves we can do anything in the international community, once a clear vision to act, is articulated, and action is taken to give life to the vision. While the new ASG Nestor Mendez, is in waiting, he has now has become a model of what is possible for any Belizean, no matter what political isle a person may belong. 

Still, while the ASG in waiting, is doing his thing at the OAS, we have Belizean, Erika Castellanos, focal point of T.I.A Belize, who added her mark in the OAS process. More precisely, we see a cultural first, the posing of a transgender Belizean with not only our Foreign Minister, but with the ASG in waiting at the OAS. A mile stone, for we do not know if the Foreign Minister or the ASG in waiting ever met a transgendered Belizean. She also met Belizean Emil Waight of SICA who knew her well through engagement work in HIV.

In Addition, she met with the US representative to the OAS to discuss, colleagues visa troubles and expressed signed to engage the new Secretary General in the informal dialogue section of the meeting. In the middle of it all, delegates exploded into thunderous applause as the Argentinean representative defended proactive protections for LGBTTTI people's across the hemisphere and shared their leading initiatives inviting member states to adopt them to ensure the human rights for all. Erika was present in supporting the statement and joined the LGBTTTI coalition in its applause. Canada, in contrast, spoke for less than a minute, saying nothing of note and Paraguay made a total anti progressive statement in which her main message was in favor of the protection of the right to life of the unborn child and spoke of the historical relationship of the church and state.

While Erika was expressing her solidarity with the coalition, the fundamentalists where out in droves. I met personally Helene Coley-Nicholson. A google search found a report done in July, 2014, that gives insight into her mind set and professional background.The interview reported the following,  

'Helene Coley Nicholson, a member of the Jamaica CAUSE Secretariat, the group finds the agenda of  the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex, LGBTI community, to be a cause for concern. Nicholson further stated that Jamaica CAUSE stood to oppose said agenda which, according to her, seeks to foster a society where all sexual expression is free and those in opposition are punished.'

Mrs. Nicholson was the President of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, in 2013, worked at the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation. She pursed a  law degree at the University of London and later entered the Norman Manley Law School. Coley-Nicholson landed a job as the legal officer for CVM Communications Group and while there was also the co-host of Drive Time Live. In 2004,s he opened her own law practice. Coley-Nicholson became a Christian in first form at Ardenne High School, and was very active in the Inter-School Christian Fellowship and Jamaica Youth for Christ. 
While Phillipa Davies of Jamaica  in an editorial of November, 2014.  '..But isn't forcing unwanted laws and behavior on the majority of a population an act of oppression? Where is the justice in that move, Minister Golding?..' about discussions by Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding about efforts under way to review, laws pertaining to sexual conduct. Both can be seen below.

Their presence is important to note, as the fundamentalists had their own press conference outside the OAS building with Helene Coley Nicholson who spoke of the Jamaican Coalition for Healthy Living and Lawyers Christian Fellowship supporting the fundamental rights of all human being, but rejecting  contentious political phrases to write ( in the working groups) , that are not compatible with faith nor moral law are not universal, fundamental or defensible see speech There was an Argentinean woman in the group, upon review by one person, he said, 'OMG! I am amazed by the way in which the Argentine woman can speak so much nonsense in such a carefree way. She is both ignorant and malicious in the worst way possible.' The response can be note in her comments that can be scene here,  another person, highlighted on facebook, the following,'A 72 year-old fundamentalist civil society representative from Argentina at the OAS claimed that a resolution on human rights for the convention for older persons should not contain any reference to sexual rights because SHE does not need them. To her, it was common sense that old people are here because of "normal sex" so why spell out these rights? And this summarizes the problem with fundamentalists. Because THEY don't need protection, then CLEARLY no one else needs protection.'

We saw the fundamentalists in the group for Human Rights, Democracy, development and security. Trying to take over the note taking and moderation. We saw how actual discussions in the working group was co-opted by the fundamentalists concerns especially in the working group for human rights.


        The result of that co-opting resulted in  Civil society recommendations prepared on the previous day on Democracy, Human Rights, Multidimensional Security and Integral Development, under the framework of the central topic of the Assembly: "Present and Future of the OAS!" being ignored. The coalition issued a release stating,"Spokespeople only had to read  the texts agreed by the thematic work groups. However, in a shameful episode, the spokesman of the Human Rights work group performed an arbitrary reading, censoring the points he disagreed with and adding paragraphs that had not been discussed. He also decided to use this time to personally attack the candidate for the Inter-American Court Eugenio Zaffaroni, violating previous collective agreements favoring  his own ideological and professional interests.
      The interventions of government representatives who defended advances in L.G.B.T rights and in the fight against discrimination in the region, again faced the rage of anti-rights activists, who yelled to interrupt the representatives.We denounce these methods of ideological violence and misrepresentation of reality that do not belong to a civil society working space, but to the exercise of power of military dictatorships. The LGBTTTI Coalition will remain vigilant to ensure that such behavior is not repeated. "
We saw the unwritten rules of democracy were alive when, we learn the position of the the new Secretary General, who said "we want no voice nor any rights of anyone in this room to be silenced". He added that "as a general rule we will promote the logic of non-discrimination, our motto is 'More rights for more people'" and that "any form of discrimination, every right that is not respected, affects the Americas, " while allies and coalitions members applauded, anti-rights groups in the room reacted aggressively and disrespectfully, shouting and booing the Secretary General.

The first civil society member to take the floor in the dialogue was gay activist Yonatan Matheus, a member of Venezuela Diversa, who highlighted "The importance of the OAS member states fulfillment of their obligation to guarantee the rights of LGBTTTI people in the region, without interference of partisan ideological and confessional positions that oppose  social inclusion and full exercise of rights of this and other vulnerable groups in the Americas".
Iren Rotela, Paraguayan trans activist emphasized the need to implement the right to equality and affirmative action to ensure non-discrimination against groups and historically excluded populations.
In the second part of the day.

The coalition did not stop at the release for it shouted down the shameless human rights speaker, can be seen with allies turning their backs when the speaker spoke, and countering positions in other areas of the OAS meetings on other days. We saw fundamentalists trying to undermine the Convention for Older persons and worked to counter their process.


Caribbean Activists where no slouch either as they held up signs, took notes and tweeted about the event in any space they could. Zenita Nicholson of Guyana's SaSOD, did her thing with her sign and in trying to engage the secretary general, while Maurice did his thing with Jamaica and Belize. There was another fellow who had a sign for Trinidad, it was interesting to see the combinations at work.  

We made due with the space as we were told that the space would be a confined area. So we coordinated imagery were every we could fine a socket, or where we could sit and twitter, facebook and email.

On the side, time was taken out to to share our experience with the Futures group, and international NGO that worked closely on USAID projects in Central America. We spoke to their Caribbean team on work on the ground regarding what opportunities may exists. I made it clear that my story was not just about victimhood, but it a story of resistance and explained what I meant. I had invited other activists, but they could not make it on short notice. Maurice Tomlinson, spoke of his work in the region around police security and LGBTI issues. I must mentioned Ryan who has crazy energy, a good heart and whom I met accidentally at a latin club during pride week. He even allowed me to embarrassed him with the introduction to the Kiki. I have no idea, the concept, but I sold him out. Until the next general assembly.



Phillipa Davies



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