Americas / Commentary

Celebrating can ache: Canada, the Caribbean and IDAHOTB

Jamaican activist Maurice Tomlinson discusses the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia:

IDAHOT Toronto MTToday I had the honour of delivering the keynote speech at the inaugural IDAHOTB Leadership Breakfast hosted by the Mayor of Toronto. I joined in celebrating the fact that this multicultural city has indeed become a sanctuary for many LGBTI activists from across the globe who continue to support and work for liberation in our home countries.

But there was also a tinge of melancholy. You see, the government of my host country announced today that to mark this significant date — when homosexuality was removed from the list of mental illnesses by the World Health Organization (WHO) — Canada had also decided that it is time to extend equality protections to Trans* persons.

Maurice Tomlinson poses with Toronto Mayor John Tory (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Maurice Tomlinson poses with Toronto Mayor John Tory (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson)

Ironically, the WHO has not yet depathologized transgender identity and expression, but Canada has rightly seen it fit to do the right thing and protect and respect the dignity of all human beings however they identify.

And despite these dramatic and hopeful signs, my country, Jamaica, and 10 other Caribbean states remain at the starting gates as we still criminalize private acts of intimacy between consenting adults.

I ache with sadness that members of my own Christian faith tradition have contributed to many Caribbean states remaining way behind in according even basic human rights to LGBTI people.

My country, which gave the world such anthems of equality as “One Love” and produced champions of equality such as Marcus Garvey, is now painfully absent from the forward march towards respecting gender and sexual diversity. We remain firmly on the wrong side of history and it distresses me to have to constantly answer the question “Why?”

Sadly, our elected representatives appear to be mere pawns in the hands of the regressive right. And the world is moving on without us.

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