By Danielle Greer
The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) has been observed globally since 2004, to commemorate the removal of homosexuality from the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems — a big step in acknowledging the validity of all individuals regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
This day draws plights faced by the LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex) community which cannot be ignored, to the attention of policymakers, leaders and social movements. In Grenada, like many other Caribbean islands, there are no anti-discrimination laws especially relating to sexual orientation; LGBTI people are still treated as second-class citizens and individuals within the community can feel unsafe in an environment that blatantly oppresses their existence.
GrenCHAP, a sexual and reproductive health advocacy organisation with a focus on the LGBTI community and sex workers, has been working in Grenada since 2001, to mitigate and reduce discrimination. A major calling card for the organisation is the Safe Space Initiative, where GrenCHAP provides a safe space for individuals from the community to come to, as an avenue for self-expression without judgement, for help with any issues, as well as for referral to services needed.
Community-building is a big part of fighting homophobia. Growing up in the Caribbean where there is constant preaching that you are evil for who you love, can produce some internalisation and self-hate. GrenCHAP helps by promoting self-love and acceptance through our peer lead forum and outreach work. These fora tackle issues faced by the community and are led by those within the community as they take responsibility for themselves and for educating each other.
GrenCHAP works with the general population to change the stigma and discrimination surrounding the LGBTI community, and has produced several public service announcements (PSAs) addressing discrimination and human rights. Videos on human rights and its application in Grenada distributed via social media have garnered much attention and provoked discussion on the issues facing LGBTI individuals here.
GrenCHAP has hosted several educational booths at various venues, and is a certified rapid testing site for HIV and Syphilis. Apart from providing this service, we also use it as a teaching opportunity for the general public in understanding that HIV is not a gay disease and that anyone can get it. The idea that HIV is inherently gay is sometimes what fuels the hate and stigma associated with the LGBTI population, especially towards Men who have sex with Men.
We produce a Facebook Live Chat on sexual health issues and other issues affecting the community. Individuals can ask questions and get informed answers, mitigating misinformation and fostering a greater understanding of the LGBTI community.
GrenCHAP is in constant discussion with policymakers about the treatment of LGBTI individuals in public sectors such as housing, law enforcement, and healthcare. We have held several training sessions for civil servants within these spheres to create a more inclusive and equitable environment for all. The GrenCHAP family believes we are all equal and we fight for the rights we all need and deserve. We are dedicated to creating change, one small activity at a time. So today as we commmemorate International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia we stand our ground in a world that is just as much ours, as it is yours.